For a look at the quintessential Canadian
rock band (1974-79) we turn our eyes and ears to Bachman-Turner Overdrive
(BTO), who had a steely grip on 3 & 4-chord rock from the get-go, and still
get radio rotation time worldwide. Their hit Takin’ Care of Business
ranks number 10 of the 100 most covered songs in history. They had 5 albums in
the top 40 for the decade, and 6 of 40 top singles in the U.S., same decade.
They have sold some 30 million albums globally (and counting).
Originally from Winnipeg Manitoba, the band comprised Randy Bachman-lead guitar/vocals, Tim Bachman-guitar/vocals, Fred Turner-Bass/vocals, and Robbie Bachman-drums. At a time when soft rock, glam, and disco were cutting into sales and public consideration, BTO remained steadfast in their blue-collar, simplistic, true-grit approach, and it worked (see above). But for our Jukebox section today, we’ll take a better look at the album that set them off skywards, Not Fragile (1974). It was their most successful non-compilation effort, selling over 8 million albums to date.
Not Fragile is just that: not fragile. Like the album cover depicts, this is a hard box of metal cogs, gears; an engine of the combustible genre: road music. The title song Not Fragile features Randy Bachman in ‘the zone’ on his solos. An eerie howling solo has you in the middle of the pack, backed by pounding second guitar, bass and drums. It’s a real treat if you’re looking for that 70s throbbing volume. He likes to play many guitars such as the Epiphone Les Paul Ultra, and Fender LTD, and Strat. In fact the man has a collection of over 500 guitars, but his favourite, or most prized is the Gretsch G6134 White Penguin, which he says is worth $200k. On the hit track Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet, Randy offers a funny story on the most famous line in the song. Turns out he was just ribbing his brother for his stuttering in the rehearsals, “b-b-b-baby you ain’t seen nothing yet…”, and the producer heard it, thought it was orgasmic, and it stuck! (ahem) A clever ploy, for the whole world sings it that way! It became the #1 hit in 21 countries!
When we said it was quintessentially Canadian, we meant ‘road music’. Canada is a vast land with few cities, very far apart, connected by, you guessed it: roads. BTO pulled the country together with their arena rock; the arena is also home to hockey, the national sport/ religion. Put this, and the simple ‘get it done’ nature of the people together and you get the tracks Free Wheeling and Roll On Down the Highway to attest to this. An electric guitar band through and through, Bachman-Turner Overdrive strove to keep it real. Track 5’s ‘Free Wheelin’, puts new guitarist Blair Thornton in the spotlight with some brilliant classic 70s riffs. Bring back the Hoyer Bianka, a guitar “whose sound holes look exactly like the lightening bolt painted on David Bowie’s face on the cover of Aladdin Sane”, according to Randy, “ the back is scalloped...which compresses the sound and makes for a really unique tone...like it’s got its own built-in EQ, tight but crisp..”. An ear for beauty indeed.
It is this writer's view that soon, when NASA sends Voyager 3, with its cache of the enormity of human culture is shot forth into the cosmos, there may be 100 rock tunes on it. And may the aliens get a taste of B-B-B-Baby You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.
Rock on Bachman-Turner Overdrive!