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BACHMAN-TURNER OVERDRIVE PHOTOS BY BEN UPHAM
“KEEPING THEIR FEET ON THE GROUND”
BY MARY CAMPBELL
THE COURIER NEWS
DECEMBER 17, 1975
Bachman-Turner Overdrive isn’t one of those rock groups that flies off in all directions at once or goes broke while demanding chilled champagne in the dressing rooms and a fleet of limousines at the airport. Bachman-Turner Overdrive is, very much on purpose, highly organized and careful about keeping bills paid, money in the bank and feet on the ground.
“Our big production is on the stage where it really counts,” says Robbie Bachman, the quartet’s drummer. “We have one of the best light shows of any group. Our manager runs the lights and does the cues.” Rhythm guitarist Blair Thornton adds, -‘What we don’t do is lease a jet or wear flashy clothes. Some groups are trying so hard to look big. We are big. We started out carrying our own bags.
We still do it. We’re healthy. We’re a group that takes care of what money we have. If we don’t last, whatever we got from playing is going to last us.” “We’re not interested in limos. That really doesn’t count. We like to present Bachman-Turner Overdrive. We’ll go on telethons; at the same time we’re doing something good, we’re presenting ourselves.”
When the quartet, all Vancouver residents, first toured in the United States, they flew to their first engagement and drove from then on. When they perform, they arrive five minutes before the opening act finishes, so they won’t sit around and get bored. And each one eats when he’s hungry; there is no renting a restaurant for a big get-together feed after a performance. The planning includes playing a tour of about 10 dates a month, taking a month off, being scheduled for about four tours ahead and having access to an old warehouse in which to write and rehearse in Vancouver.
Also, when they started touring, their manager decided that, instead of opening for other acts, they would immediately be headliners — in small halls. Thornton says, “We worked our faces off. We hit every town three times. We’d be in 1,500-seat halls. We’d go back six months later and play a 2,000 seater and back again and play a 6,000 seater. “It works different in different places. Some places we caught on really quick. People couldn’t ignore us. They’d think, ‘There seems to be a demand. I don’t know what they’re demanding but I’ll be like everybody else and be in on it.”
Bachman says, “We got known without press — by our records being played on the radio. People started recognizing our music. We got a lot of airplay, which makes for instant recognition. “But a lot of groups have AM airplay and don’t draw people to their concerts; they don’t have any kind of image.”
The year 1974 was big for Bachman-Turner Overdrive, in record sales. “Bachman-Turner Overdrive,” “Bachman- Turner Overdrive II” and “Not Fragile” went gold and there was a hit single, “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,” all on Mercury. “Four Wheel Drive,” an LP out in 1975, also is gold but 1975 hasn’t been as big as 1974 in records sold. “Concert-wise it has been bigger ,” Bachman says. “We’ve made more money than we have before. “People are more selective now in their record buying, because of the economy. So am I. They go see a live show instead of buying a record.” Thornton says, “Everything helps everything. We do a concert and record sales boom up in that town. It is the kids that really help the group.”
The music Bachman describes as “Straightforward rock ‘n’ roll, foot -stomping, jugband, good-time music. It has a dancing sort of thing. People can remember it: the songs have a hook. It doesn’t appeal to specialized tastes, but to general tastes. Everybody can play our songs — bands in clubs where they play other people’s material. Both of us have done that. Everybody started that way.”
Randy Bachman, leader and lead guitarist of Bachman-Turner Overdrive, was with the Guess Who, and wrote or cowrote the five gold singles that group had in 1969-70, including “American Woman.” Then he formed Brave Belt, with himself, brothers Tim Bachman, rhythm guitarist, and Robbie Bachman, drums, plus Fred Turner, bass. After two albums on Warner Brothers trying out various musical styles, starting with country, didn’t sell, the group decided on a hard-rock approach. It sent tapes around to record companies, finally signed with Mercury.
In early 1974 Thornton replaced Tim Bachman, who now lives with his wife and child in his native Winnipeg. At the time of going to the new record company, Bachman says, “Randy said we should use our names so there would be nothing to explain. We tried the sound of Bachman-Turner Forecast, Bachman-Turner Caravan, Band, Ensemble.
“We were in a 24-hour truck stop in Windsor, a pub where groups play three sets a night on weekends and they had Overdrive magazine for truckers. We all said, ‘Bachman-Turner Overdrive!’ It sounded driving and seemed to be us.” Bachman says, “Now we have high tape sales. We make real driving music. Car music.”
BACHMAN-TURNER OVERDRIVE DISCOGRAPHY:
1973 Bachman–Turner Overdrive
1973 Bachman–Turner Overdrive II
1974 Not Fragile
1975 Four Wheel Drive
1975 Head On
1977 BTO Live (Japan Tour)
1978 Street Action
1979 Rock n’ Roll Nights
1984 Bachman–Turner Overdrive
1986 Live Live Live
1994 Best of BTO Live
1996 Trial by Fire: Greatest and Latest
1997 Motorcity Detroit USA Live
1998 King Biscuit Flower Hour- BTO
2010 Rock n’ Roll Is The Only Way Out
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BACHMAN-TURNER OVERDRIVE PHOTOS BY BEN UPHAM