A few months ago I was given Shakey, a biography of Neil Young, surprisingly it took a false start and a few months to read it. But after finishing Jimmy McDonnough’s work I knew the next book I had to read; Randy Bachman’s Tales from Beyond the Tap. The reason for this is amount of ink that Neil Young gives Randy, was it reciprical by Randy? They are Winnipeggers, the early pioneers of rock and roll in Winnipeg (and Canada). They made it and got away from Portage and Main.
The two books are not that different; McDonough asked Neil Young a TON of questions while also getting more about the music and life of Young by talking to many people that have been part of his life and and his music. There are the tales of being on the road; accounts of being in the recording studio and the politics of the music industry. In Tales from Beyond the Tap, Bachman answers questions from listeners of his CBC Radio Show “Vinyl Tap”. The questions range from his life influences, tales of being on the road and his adventures in the recording studio.
What emerges from the two books are parallels in experiences in Rock and Roll. Freindships and rvialries and many stories about the music. The two books also reference the other Winnipegger. In the index of Shakey, Randy Bachman is mentioned in 18 pages through Bachman directly and indirectly via The Guess Who, Bachman Turner Overdrive and Chad Allen. Unfortunately, In Tales from Beyond the Tap, there is no index to count the number of times Bachman refers to Young, whether its about recording, guitars and gizmos, touring and songwriting Bachman has great respect for Neil Young and he mentions his fellow Winnipeg rock pioneer on numerous occasions. Cleary though when reading the two books, there is a mutual respect for each other.
As songwriters, the two came about it differently; Young seems to have been writing from the moment the guitar was in his hands. For Bachman the reality of being a serious songwriter came as a a result of a business deal offered to him and Burton Cummings by producer Jack Richardson. Both have been prolific writers in their prime churning out great songs, while their output may have slowed, they have not stopped challenging themselves.
Both Randy and Neil love life in the studio, they thrive on achieving a sound and for both it’s a sound that they’ve thought about before recording. This brings with it disagreements and causes division. In Bachman’s case 1977’s Freeways was the end of his time in BTO as he sought to bring in a different texture to the classic BTO on their 6thLp. It seems that Young has constantly been in conflict with everyone when it came to beng in the studio. He rebelled after Harvest was released as everyone wanted a Harvest 2, but more accurately no one knew what the result of Neil in the studio would be until he delivered the final master tapes.
Neil and Randy have always looked for something new, what would their next project be? For Young that often meant a new kick at the can at CSN&Y, or touring with Pearl Jam and embracing the era of grunge and the return to playing with Crazy Horse. Bachman, like Young, often went back to what was familiar; there was the Guess Who reunion tour, the Bachman-Cummings songbook and 2010’s Bachman-Turner that brought him back to the straight ahead rock of BTO with Fred Turner.
I think the best insight into these two Canadian music icons comes from an interview that Randy did with Guitar Player magazine in 2015 after the release of his Heavy Blues CD.
Geoff Kulawick, who is a friend of mine from Canada, had taken over True North Records, and was interested in signing me to a record deal if I would do something “new and exciting.” At the same time, I was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in January of 2014, and Neil Young was there, because his pedal-steel player, Ben Keith, was inducted as well. Ben had passed away, so Neil was there to accept for him. I told Neil I had a new record deal, and he said, “Great opportunity. Do yourself a favor: Don’t do the same old stuff. Get a new band, get different guitars, get a different producer. Do something scary that you’ve never done before or haven’t done in a while. Go into a strange room, challenge yourself, and see what happens.” (Full interview is available here: https://www.guitarplayer.com/players/randy-bachman-delivers-heavy-blues-with-a-power-trio)
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