Rock great Randy Bachman, who lives on the Saanich Peninsula these days, has every reason and right to relax.
He has helped to make rock’n’roll music history, having written or co-written a long list of indelible songs, as a member of not one but two immortal bands, The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive. He has sold millions of records and entertained audiences across the globe. The Simpsons have enshrined Bachman into the pop culture Pantheon.
And yet he continues to endure the discomforts of the road, huddling under blankets to escape the cold of his hotel room when he spoke to Black Press Media three days before his appearance at Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre, the final stop on his current tour. The obvious question then emerges. What keeps Bachman going?
“It’s like having a dream that is really wonderful and you know that you are waking up and you try not to wake up, because it is some wonderful sexual experience or some wonderful food you are eating or you are in some wonderful thing, and then you wake up,” he said. “I’m trying not to wake up. My life has been a dream. I have wonderful childhood fantasies all fulfilled, playing rock’n’roll, meeting rock’n’roll stars and finding out that they are just normal people.”
Bachman has seen and shared those stars’ humanity with others through his long-running radio show, Vinyl Tap, where he educates listeners about music while sharing behind-the-scene stories like his frantic but ultimately successful search for a bootlegged version of Zeppelin’s Robert Plant singing the chorus of American Woman during rehearsals.
If Bachman keeps some stories for himself, others place audiences in the very middle of very emotional moments, like the moment he experienced while supporting Van Halen on their 5150 Tour.
“My phone rang at 3 a.m. in the morning, and the voice said, ‘Randolph,’ and I said ‘yes,’ and it said, ‘Edward – suite 206 right now.’ And I said, Eddie, it is 3 a.m. in the morning. ‘Right now – 206.’”
So Bachman went to Eddie Van Halen’s room. “I open the door – she (Valerie Bertinelli, Van Halen’s then-wife) is in bed in a nightgown, he comes out with a (classical) guitar, crying. I think they had a fight.”
Van Halen and Bachman then retired to a room in the basement. “So we are sitting down and he says, ‘my best friend just passed away in LA. I went to school with this guy and he is on his way to heaven right now and I want play for him. Sit down.’”
Van Halen then pulled out his guitar and played for 90 minutes. “He was crying, I started crying, I never heard guitar playing like that in my life. I was there in my sweatshirt and he is there in his sweatshirt.” Neighbouring doors soon opened as other hotel guests checked out what was happening, only to sit down and listen. “It was like a little church service and when he was all done crying, he gave me a big kiss on the cheek and said, ‘Thanks, man!’ and went back into his room.”
Another thrilling, unforgettable moment for Bachman was being part of Ringo’s All-Star Band, whose membership at the time also included pianist Bill Preston who had played with The Beatles on Let It Be. “For me to be the lead guitar and lead Ringo in With A Little Help From My Friends and I Want To Be Your Man, and all these other songs and have him play drums on Takin’ Care of Business was the most unbelievable dream-like thing come true,” he said. “When you are a kid in the 1960s, you dream of playing with The Beatles … when Ringo called, I thought it was a prank call. I would go with him (on the road) anytime.”
These days, others are vying to play with Bachman, who will be back on tour in 2023, with gigs across Canada and the United States. Plans are also in the works for another tour with Burton Cummings, Bachman’s song-writing partner with The Guess Who. “We have offers for next year for many, many big pop festivals. If there are any around in Seattle or Vancouver or Victoria, we will be there,” he said. “The big one we got is in Minnesota and it would be with Nickelback and a couple of other big ones.”
Audiences can also expect to see Bachman in an upcoming documentary detailing the story of his Gretsch guitar lost for 46 years, only to be found again in Japan. Plans call for a release in spring 2023 and Bachman promises a big payoff.
“It was a magic guitar,” said Bachman. “I bought it when I was very young. I learnt to play on it. I wrote all The Guess Who and BTO hits on that guitar and now that I got it back, we’re hoping that we can get a No. 1 (hit) again.”
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