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Bookends: Randy Bachman and Talking Vinyl Tap Stories August 2, 2012

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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By Dan Davidson
April 25, 2012
– 806 words –

Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap Stories
By Randy Bachman
Viking Canada
224 pages
$32.00

When Randy Bachman sat down to write an autobiography some years ago, he had the assistance of John Einarson. They produced Takin’ Care of Business in 2000, a book which some reviewers criticized for being a little too much business and not enough rock and roll. An afterword to this book says that Einarson assisted in its production, though his name isn’t on the cover, but this book sounds a lot more like the voice we’ve been hearing on CBC Radio’s Vinyl Tap show since 2005.
The story goes that Randy used to enjoy Finkleman’s Forty-Fives on Saturdays and when Danny finally hung up his turntable and shelved his collection of early Rock and Roll 45 rpm records, Bachman thought it would be a great idea to take over than concept and carry it on into the decades beyond those that Finkleman frequented.
Thus was Vinyl Tap (a play on the spoof rock and roll movie title “Spinal Tap”) born.
The idea was quite simple. Randy, a founding member of both the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, has had a long career, and met a lot of people, including a lot of the stars of the latter half of the 20th century. As a cover band in their early days, the Guess Who played the songs that were famous at the time, and sometimes backed up the groups (especially the girl groups) and individuals who made them.
Later, when he became a member of rock’s royalty, his bands played with other bands, sometimes opening for them, sometimes having them open for him and his current band.
There were tales to be told, and Randy, assisted by his wife Denise McCann Bachman, who also had a varied career in the industry, developed into someone who was able to tell them. In the course of a two-hour show Randy spins about two dozen tunes and talks a bit about each of them, sometimes from personal experience, sometimes from research.
It’s a good mix, found on both Radio 1 and Radio 2 (on different nights), as well as the Sirius satellite system and online, after the fact. I’m a fan, listen when I can, and have exchanged some correspondence (with answers from Denise) though the show’s website.
This book captures the flavour of those shows very nicely in nine chapters. The first one is “Portage and Main” (what else from a guy who grew up and began his career in Winnipeg) and naturally talks a lot about growing up, musical influences, and early band days. It ends, as does every chapter, with a “My Picks” list of songs that he referred to in the chapter and which he felt were important to his development as a musician. Some of them are his own, but he is quite clear that not all of his songs are good.
“What’s in a Name” discusses, of course, how the Silvertones became Chad Allen and Expressions and eventually the Guess Who, but it also reveals some the stories behind how other groups were named and how a group called Brave Belt became BTO.
The rest of the chapters follow this pattern: some personal reflections are mixed in with information about other groups and individuals.  Two chapters called “Close Encounters of the Six String Kind” deal with Randy’s personal encounters with Chet Atkins, Van Morrison, the Who, Dion and the Belmonts, Jefferson Airplane, Frank Zappa, Les Paul, Bobby Curtola (Canada’s contribution to the Bobbies craze of the early 60s), the Beach Boys, Cat Stevens, Lawrence Welk, the Pointer Sisters, and Johnny Paycheck, just to name a few of them.
I suppose this could be seen as name-dropping in a big way. If so, other than his band mates Burton Cummings and Fred Turner, no name is dropped more than that of Neil Young, who is two years his junior. Young began his career in Winnipeg with the Squires, before moving on to Toronto as a solo artist and then to the USA, where he had a tremendous influence as a member of both Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, as well as on his own and when backed by Crazy Horse.
One of the better ideas that this show has come up with is that of theme shows. I’m listening to the first hour of four on the theme of “one hit wonders” as I type this column. But there are many other possible themes: times, seasons, girls’ names, death, food, driving, or favorite songs by particular groups or performers.
The book concludes with about a dozen of these lists, a major addition to the “My Picks” list at the end of each chapter.

-30-

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