When I was growing up in Winnipeg it was guaranteed that at least once a day you’d hear a Bachman Turner Overdrive song on the radio. Not only did the band produce some of the best drive-home music ever made, but when the city’s rock radio station was done playing 12 Led Zeppelin songs in a row, they’d throw on some homegrown tunes. That meant a lot of Guess Who and BTO.
I’m more of a Guess Who fan, but I was still excited to hear that Randy Bachman had recorded a new album with Fred Turner. It’s always a bit strange when a band you liked puts out a new album – it’s usually not very good, and I’m grateful that Randy and Burton Cummings have stuck to the hits, but somehow the duo’s self-titled, released next week, sounds vintage BTO.
I spoke to Turner this summer and asked him why they chose to replicate their sound – he says it was all Randy. “He wanted to go back to the 70s mindset,” Turner explains. It had a lot to do with the chemistry between the two musicians, he says; it felt like nothing had changed since 1973, when the band wrote their huge hit Takin’ Care of Business.
Of course, a lot has changed. Bachman left the band after 1975’s Four Wheel Drive, tried to start something new with Turner in the early 80s, joined BTO again briefly, then Turner left; BTO was in a perpetual state of near collapse until Turner officially called it quits in 2004.
Bachman and Turner “had our moments” over the years, he says. “We had a nine-year lawsuit through the 90s.” It was eventually settled, but even in the midst of the legal proceedings, the old friends found a way to play together. Turner recalls a time when Bachman had to play a gig in Winnipeg and wasn’t confident with his backup musicians. He called his former bandmate and asked him to join him, which he did.
Whatever happened between them seems to be history. Luckily, though, Bachman and Turner won’t get the chance to return to their old ways – this isn’t a full-time gig. Turner says that while he’s excited to play, he’s got no intention of becoming a career musician again.
“I don’t want to be as busy as Randy likes to be,” he says. “He’s still going 200 miles an hour and I’m a long way from that. I said 'This is your thing, you work it the way you want and I’ll be there.' It’s actually taken off so strong that it’s become a bit too busy for me. But I’m still willing to go with it.”