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The Villages
Thursday, March 16, 2023

Randy Bachman ready to share songs and stories from decades in rock ‘n roll

Randy Bachman has a story behind the story of the song he wrote that inspired a gold pendant Elvis Presley wore around his neck.

After Elvis died, the pendant was given to Bachman – who plays The Sharon on Feb. 18 — by an associate of Presley, as a gesture of thanks.
The pendant bears these letters: TCB. That’s short for “Takin’ Care of Business,” a song Bachman wrote for Bachman-Turner Overdrive. It was released in 1973 and became a worldwide smash. Other BTO hits: “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet,” “Roll On Down the Highway” and “Let It Ride.”
During the ‘60s, Bachman teamed with Burton Cummings in the Guess Who. The Winnipeg Canada band was one of the most popular groups of that musically historic era. Their hit list includes “These Eyes,” “American Woman,” “No Sugar Tonight,” and “Undun.”

Randy Bachman will play The Sharon on Feb 18
Randy Bachman will play The Sharon on Feb. 18.

It was in the ‘60s, that the story of “Takin’ Care of Business” begins, as Bachman, 79, explained in a recent telephone interview.

Bachman was in a New York City recording studio with the Guess Who. He was intrigued by a blind recording producer/technician at Scepter Records named Stanley Greenberg.

“The Beatles had a hit with ‘Paperback Writer,’ basically telling the story of a guy’s life; like Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B. Goode,’” Bachman said. “I liked that concept, and was kicking around the idea of writing a song and calling it ‘White Collar Worker.’”
Greenberg, who Bachman said always wore tweed suits and white collar shirts, became the model for the song. “It could be 95 degrees in New York, and Stanley showed up in his tweed suit,” Bachman said.
One night around 10, Bachman decided to walk with Greenberg from the recording studio to Grand Central Station, about 20 minutes away.
“Stanley, you’re blind, how can you tell where you’re going,” Bachman asked. “I count the steps,” came the reply.
“We’re walking, and I hear Stanley counting: 101-102-103,” Bachman said. They get to Grand Central Station and Bachman asks Greenberg what he does to get to New York.
“I take the train,” Greenberg says. “I take the 8:15 to the City.” Then Greenberg says he can smell the cosmetics the women wear on the train.
Bachman starts writing a song. It begins:
“You get up every morning/from your alarm clock’s warning/Take the 8:15 into the city/There’s a whistle up above and people pushin’, people shovin’/And the girls who try to look pretty/And if your train’s on time you can get to work by nine…”

Here is a video of the song:

But Bachman’s original chorus is: “White collar worker” akin to “Paperback Writer.”
Nobody in the Guess Who likes the song. Bachman left the group around 1970, and tried the song out with a couple of other bands. They couldn’t stand it. Something wasn’t right.

One day in Canada, Bachman is driving and listening to the car radio. And the DJ says, “we’re taking care of business.”
A light goes off in his head, and instead of “white collar worker,” the chorus becomes “takin’ care of business.”

It’s a big hit and Elvis loves it and it becomes his motto. The King calls the rhythm section of his touring band Taking Care of Business. Replicas of the TCB lightning bolt pendant are still available at the Graceland Official Store for $10. TCB T-shirts sell for $19.99.

Bachman never met Elvis, but he was my idol and “changed my life,” Bachman told Louder.com. He added he was proud that Elvis adopted Taking Care of Business as “his anthem.”
The show at The Sharon is called “Randy Bachman’s Greatest Stories Ever Told.” His band includes his son, Tal. Randy Bachman will share his tales of the music business including meeting: Frank Sinatra, Neil Young, Ringo Starr, Tina Turner, Little Richard, Brian Wilson, The Who, and Aerosmith.
I asked Bachman to talk about some of his Guess Who hits and how they were born.
“Undone”: “It’s a different kind of song for a rock band, kind of a Bosa Nova. It reminded me of the Zombies ‘Tell Her No,’ but played differently. Burton (Cummings) played the flute and it was just great.”

“These Eyes”: “A real breakthrough for us. I met a girl and asked her for date. Went to see her the next day and she wasn’t ready.
“So I’m sitting in a room with a couch and a piano. I don’t play piano, but I start fooling around and singing to her, ‘These arms of mine long to hold you.’
“I show the song to Burton and we work on it for about 12 to 15 minutes. We change ‘these arms’ to ‘these eyes.’ I think Burton’s vocal on this song is one of the greatest of all time. He really hits those high notes.”

“American Woman”: “We were playing like a three-hour dance show in Canada and I broke a guitar string. It’s dark on stage and I’m trying to fix the string.  Burton’s still singing.
“Suddenly, the opening riff came to me: duh-duh-da-da-da-duh. I’m on my knees on stage sitting in the dark. I keep playing and Burton picks it up and the whole band starts playing.
“This is the late ‘60s and we keep jamming and singing about how we (Canada) don’t need: ‘ghetto scenes’ and ‘war machines.’ It just worked.”

“No Sugar Tonight”: “We were playing San Francisco, opening for Frank Zappa. I wanted to see some hippies. We didn’t have hippies in Winnipeg, it was too cold.
“So I went downtown in San Francisco to see a hippie and they told me to go to Berkeley if I really wanted to see hippies.
“I’m on the street and these three (biker) guys are bugging me and kind of pushing me around, like they would in a bar. A car pulls up and a little lady was driving. She starts yelling at the guys and two of them take off.
“She calls the other guy a no-good bum.” (Turns out she had left him alone that day to watch the house.) “He gets in the car and I hear her say to him, ‘You can’t have no sugar tonight.’”

Bachman and Cummings wrote the song, which was combined with another tune Cummings was working on called “The New Mother Nature.” It was Top Ten.

Tony Violanti covers arts and music for Villages-News.com. He was inducted into the Buffalo NY Music Hall of Fame as a music journalist.

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