By Stuart Nulman
Tales from Beyond the Tap by Randy Bachman (Viking, $30)
I was pleasantly surprised when I read (and reviewed) Randy Bachman’s first book Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap Stories when it was published three years ago. I knew he was a Canadian rock music icon thanks to his contributions as a member of two legendary Canadian rock groups: the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive (BTO).
But after reading his bestselling collection of behind-the-scenes stories that he shared with listeners on his weekly CBC Radio program “Vinyl Tap”, I never knew Bachman had the penchant to tell a good story, aside from his incredible musical talents. When Bachman just published a second collection of Vinyl Tap stories, I was expecting the same mixture of stories that dealt with his years with both groups, his career as a rock musician, as well as his vast knowledge of music and musical instruments. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed.
Tales from Beyond the Tap basically answers the questions that have been asked of him many times by his growing legion of listeners. Bachman deals with such queries as the recordings that changed his life, the people who influenced his musical career, what was life on the road really like, the rock legends he would have liked to have met, what it takes to write and record songs, and some of the more memorable gigs he performed over the past five decades.
His replies to these queries are in the form of stories, and Bachman spares no details in answering these questions through a series of fascinating anecdotes and opinions. What amazed me is how his passion for music has never wavered since he first took up the guitar in his native Winnipeg more than 50 years ago. Even if you are not familiar with the mechanics of how a song is recorded, how different musical gadgets and gizmos are used to create a certain sound or effect, or what’s the difference between a 1959 Gibson Les Paul guitar or one of the 380 Gretsch guitars that he collected over the years, Bachman manages to make those certain chapters so reader-friendly, that even those who are not musically inclined will be fascinated about the instruments, methodology and technology that are used to create and record music.
However, we also discover some other aspects to Bachman’s life and career that have not always been common knowledge that he reveals for the first time in this book. We learn about what Bachman’s career was like immediately after he left BTO in the late 70s (he set up another group called Ironhorse and even did a solo album called “Survivor”, which he hoped to turn into a stage play); he tells what happened to Chad Allen, whose group The Expressions Bachman joined in the mid-60s and had a huge hit with “Shakin’ All Over” in 1965, and whose lackadaisical commitment to being part of a rock group – not to mention an early departure – became the catalyst for both The Guess Who and BTO and their eventual rise to stardom; he talks about his on again, off again relationship with fellow Guess Who member Burton Cummings, and says if it wasn’t for Cummings’ unwillingness to change a music publishing deal with Bachman, the relationship would be a lot warmer; and he talks about how stardom in BTO affected the Bachman family, especially brother Robbie, the group’s drummer who became the black sheep of the Bachman clan, mainly due to his misconstrued sense of entitlement and fame, even though he contributed very little to the group’s development (in fact, he unsuccessfully demanded a piece of the music publishing action for the BTO hit song “Taking Care of Business”, because he played drums on it).
There is no shortage of interesting stories to read in Tales from Beyond the Tap. Randy Bachman gives plenty of insights on how to thrive and survive in the rock music industry (let alone the Canadian rock music industry); and that’s coming from a true iconic figure who enjoyed making and performing music – and still does – for more than 50 years. To paraphrase the title of one of BTO’s hit songs from the mid-70s, rock is his life.
And let’s hope that Vinyl Tap full of great music and stories never runs dry.
Stuart Nulman’s “Book Banter” segment is a twice-a-month feature on “The Stuph File Program” with Peter Anthony Holder, which now has almost 150,000 listeners per week. You can either listen or download it at www.peteranthonyholder.com, Stitcher.com or subscribe to it on iTunes. Plus you can find it at www.CyberStationUSA.com, www.KDXradio.com, True Talk Radio, streaming on www.PCJMedia.com, and over the air at World FM 88.2fm in New Zealand, Media Corp in Singapore and WSTJ, St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Stuart can be reached at email@example.com.