Volume 96, Issue 89
Wednesday, March 19, 2003

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Guess Who? The legendary Randy Bachman speaks

By Christopher Hodge
Gazette Staff

Gazette file photo
"THESE EYES CRY EVERY NIGHT FOR YOU." Randy Bachman cradles his guitar and reflects on love lost.

The big man is back in town. Randy Bachman, the architect of two of Canada's most successful bands – The Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive – is rolling into Woodstock this Saturday night for an intimate acoustic performance entitled "Every Song Has a Story." The hook of Bachman's new show? All your favourite Guess Who and BTO tunes, and the stories behind them.

"People are thrilled to hear these dumb anecdotal things about why I wrote a song," Bachman says. "Everyone assumes a certain song was written for them, and that it applies to their life. When you find out what it means to the guys that wrote it, it just gives it more meaning."

The proud father of a soon-to-be-wed daughter, Bachman guards his songs like a mother wolf. They are his little cubs, and he refuses to leave them orphaned and at the mercy of overzealous corporate advertisers.

"I won't let my songs be used to sell alcohol, tobacco or explicitly gonzo sexual movies," Bachman says. "If my mother and my grandkids can't sit through it, then I don't want my song in that type of movie."

Bachman says the inspiration for "Every Song Has a Story" came to him when he was forced into the spotlight during a legends night at the reopening of Grand Ole Opry, the recently restored Tyman Auditorium in Nashville.

Surrounded by musical legends Steve Winwood, Michael McDonald, Justin Haywood and Alan and Marilyn Bergman, among others, Bachman admits that even he was a bit starstruck.

"I remember thinking, 'Gee, this is the first time I've ever done this. I can't wait to see you all play, then I'll know what to do.' And they said, 'You'd better figure something out 'cause you're first, it's alphabetical.' And I was just in shock!"

"So, I went out there and started singing 'These Eyes,' and it was the first time I had ever sung it alone in my life. I remember thinking there was some feedback from the monitors 'cause my voice was too loud. And as I leaned back I realized it wasn't my voice feeding back, it was the audience – they were singing with me! Suddenly I had this Sally Field moment like 'They like me, they really like me. They don't care that I'm not Burton Cummings.' And from that point on I just rammed into the stories, rambled on through them, played the songs and everyone clapped and sang along."

The success of the performance inspired Bachman to develop a show encompassing three decades worth of rocking and rolling. Gone are the Marshall stacks and screaming hordes: it's a slimmed down show with Bachman, an acoustic guitar, a few close friends to back him up on stage and a slew of colourful, entertaining stories.

"It's really turning out to be an incredible project for me. I'm getting to tour and do the same songs I did in the past three decades with the Guess Who and BTO, and people are coming to hear them in a slightly different way in an acoustic setting."

Bachman even encourages the audience to participate and ask any specific questions they might have about songs, drugs, rock 'n' roll or his close friends Neil Young and Eddie Van Halen.

"Every song has some hook as to why it was written," Bachman says.

One song that has regained a lot of attention is The Guess Who classic "Albert Flasher," which appeared in the film Almost Famous. Although it's one of Burton Cummings's songs, Bachman puts a captivating spin on it.

"He had a party one night that went all night long and he didn't get any sleep. He went to a radio station the next morning for an interview and was a little bit [out of] form before going on. He could hardly see straight. They said to him, 'When the flashing light comes on, that means you're on the air.' The thing flashed 'Alert Flasher,' and he thought it was 'Albert Flasher' and he said 'What is this thing that says 'Albert Flasher?' over the air!"

Randy Bachman plays the Woodstock Collegiate Institute on Saturday, Mar. 22 at 8 p.m.. For ticket info call (519) 539-4220.


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