Friday, June 26, 2009

Grand Funk Railroaded; Michael Jackson; Sky Saxon

THE SECRET MUSEUM: Michael Mooney & Jim Webb

Michael Mooney wrote:

If he never recorded another note of music, Michael Jackson would still be remarkable for the initial run of singles the Jackson 5 released between October 7, 1969 and August 28, 1970 (the day preceding his 12th birthday.) Four great songs, four number ones. Michael the single-white-gloved moonwalking pop phenomenon never meant a thing to me; neither did wacko Jacko, the surgically reconstructed baby-dangling friend to all children. It’s those four songs: I Want You Back, ABC, The Love You Save, and I’ll Be There that I remember when I think of Michael, and that sharp, soulful little kid and his brothers on The Ed Sullivan Show and American Bandstand. He’s been gone a long time.

Far more important to me is Psych/Garage Punk titan Sky Saxon, who, in one of those weird Rock coincidences, died the same day as MJ. The Secret Museum will prepare a full appreciation in the upcoming weeks.

One of our readers asks: But is it really Grand Funk Railroad without Mark Farner?

No. In order to make claim to the original name, even if you legally own the right, like that piggish opportunist from the Guess Who, Secret Museum rules
dictate that you must have a minimum of one irreplaceable member/extremely important person (Don Brewer does not qualify- even though he wrote and sang their biggest hit, and is definitely an important component to the band, he's not THE guy; plus, he’s a drummer) and (with rare exceptions) one original deputy/up-there-but-not-essential member (Brewer does qualify for this, as does bassist Mel Schacher.) If Brewer left and Farner returned, we'd have us a Grand Funk Railroad. If Brewer and Schacher remain, AND Craig Frost returns, AND Mark Farner's son joins on guitar and vocal, it's still not Grand Funk Railroad (see Blue Oyster Cult for evidence of how this is supposed to work.)

To expound further, let’s look at the Stones. In my opinion, there are four sets of Rolling Stones:

Stones with Brian
Stones with Mick Taylor
Stones with Ronnie Wood (up until Bill Wyman left)
Post-Wyman Stones

I prefer the first version, approve of the second, and tolerate the third. And while I agree with Bob Dylan that the Stones without Bill are a funk band, I’ll concede that they’re still the Rolling Stones. Take away Charlie, Keith or Jagger, however, and you’ve got a different band entirely.

Same goes for Led Zeppelin. I would trade Robert Plant for Terry Reid any day, but without Bonzo, there’s no Zep. No Page, no Zep. No Jones, no Zep. Instead you’d have the New Yardbirds.

The Beatles equals John and Paul. Pete Best is proof that you don’t need Ringo. So’s Paul. George was a fab SOLO artist while IN the group, but not essential TO the group.

Fairport Convention could survive Sandy Denny’s departure, but after Richard Thompson left, so went Fairport Convention. Were he to return now, it’s still only barely Fairport. They would really need Ashley Hutchings to seal the deal. And Simon Nicol has to be there.

Reader: But what about Herman’s Hermits?

Good question. Don’t be fooled by Peter Noone. As we all know, Leck Leckenby is no longer with us. Therefore, Keith Hopwood is required to be on the stage in order for Noone to call it Herman’s Hermits.

The Kinks are Ray and Dave AND Mick.

There are three Secret Museum-recognized Fleetwood Macs:
1. Peter Green version
2. Post-Green, pre-Buckingham/Nicks variants
3. Buckingham/Nicks version.
Everything else is fraudulent.

Jefferson Airplane would require Grace, Marty, Paul, Jorma and Jack. It doesn’t matter who plays drums.

Wire: three out of four original members doesn’t work. I wish it did.

(As Jim reminds me) The Fall: one original member. Mark E. Smith said, “If it’s me and your gran on bongos, it’s a Fall gig.” Absolutely.

Sex Pistols: four out of four equals zero.

The Who hasn’t existed since 1978.

No Yes without Anderson, Squire and Howe.

Here are some acts soon to appear locally, grouped by authenticity-


Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks
Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
Cowboy Junkies
Mighty Diamonds (all original members since 1969!)
Earth Wind & Fire
Motley Crue
Judas Priest
Heaven and Hell (this is how it should be done)
Los Lobos
Cheap Trick
Def Leppard


Asleep At The Wheel
Chicago (RIP Terry Kath)
The Spinners


Grand Funk Railroad
English Beat
Sha Na Na
Lynyrd Skynyrd
James Taylor

PS- Is that William Topley I see returning to Taos? Haven’t we suffered enough? Hello, Upper Colonias!

-Michael Mooney

Jim Webb wrote:

Mike –

On July 9, 1971 Grand Funk Railroad played to a crowd of over 55,000 at Shea Stadium in New York, selling out all tickets faster than The Beatles did in 1965. Everyone remembers Beatle mania, but not many will recall that Grand Funk Railroad dominated the LP charts in 1970. They were known as the first popular “people’s hard rock band”, setting the table for later 70’s groups like AC/DC, and fellow Michigan native Ted Nugent’s solo success. 2009 marks the fortieth anniversary of Grand Funk Railroad and they are appearing at Taos Mountain on July 10 as part of a biker festival. Sadly original lead vocalist/guitarist Mark Farner is not in the band, that’s like going to see The Rolling Stones without old big lips Jagger at the mike stand, or having a Tull concert without Ian Anderson - it just ain’t right. The current group of Grand Funksters deserves to make a living; I’d just like to know how Farner lost control of the band’s name (and reputation). Let’s blame their first manager Terry Knight who could’ve cheated the musicians out of their own name for God’s sake. Speaking of God, Farner found Jesus a while back and released some Christian recordings in the nineties. That shouldn’t have surprised any body; way back in 1970 Mark wrote a song called Sin’s a Good Man’s Brother. How he went from being a teenager in Flint, Michigan to shakin’ his ass and singing the devil’s music in front of 180,000 people at the Atlanta Pop Festival in 1969 – and winding up singing for Christ is one of those great journeys that make us all proud to be born in America where anything can happen.

Mike, could you please fill in for the people who do want to go- who the hell are currently in this band? Keeping track of all the roadies and ex- Kiss members who are now plugging in onstage gives me a head ache. I can’t go and be a part of this madness, I’ll stay behind and hope Farner turns up with his own band one day at Camel Rock Casino, and then we can listen to some righteous foot-stompin’ music from Grand Funk Railroad’s real main man.
-Jim Webb

Michael Mooney wrote:

This is what dares to call itself Grand Funk Railroad:
Farner fill-ins:
Bogus Kiss member Bruce Kulick on guitar, and
journeyman vocalist Max Carl (who’s actually pretty good, so what’s he doing here?)
In the “Craig Frost” position: Tim Cashion
Why can’t they take a hint from Heaven and Hell??
-Michael Mooney

Friday, June 19, 2009

Part Two

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Out Demons Out!


1969: The Beginning of the End of the Beginning of the End of ...

Michael Mooney wrote:

The “official” year in music goes something like this:

Elvis hits his “comeback” stride with the Memphis Sessions, Led Zep I is released, Beatles play on the roof of Apple Records, Tommy is released, John and Yoko conduct their “bed-in”, Brian Jones dies, Woodstock happens, Abbey Road is released, John gives back his MBE, Altamont happens, Sixties end.

I believe the Sixties ended between April 4 and June 6, 1968. By the following year, the music charts were in transition- awash in sickly nostalgia, half-baked social commentary, frustration, wishful thinking and Creedence. What blended seamlessly in 1967 appears factionalized by ’69. Here’s the Billboard Top 40 singles for 1969:

1. Aquarius—Fifth Dimension
2. Sugar, Sugar—Archies
3. I Can't Get Next To You—Temptations
4. Honky Tonk Women—Rolling Stones
5. Build Me Up Buttercup—Foundations
6. Dizzy—Tommy Roe
7. Hot Fun In The Summertime—Sly and The Family Stone
8. I'll Never Fall In Love Again—Tom Jones
9. Everyday People—Sly and The Family Stone
10. Get Together—Youngbloods
11. One—Three Dog Night
12. Crystal Blue Persuasion—Tommy James and The Shondells
13. Hair—Cowsills
14. Too Busy Thinking About My Baby—Marvin Gaye
15. Love Theme From Romeo And Juliet—Henry Mancini and His Orchestra
16. Crimson And Clover—Tommy James and The Shondells
17. Grazin' In The Grass—Friends Of Distinction
18. Suspicious Minds—Elvis Presley
19. Proud Mary—Creedence Clearwater Revival
20. What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)—Jr. Walker and The All Stars
21. It's Your Thing—Isley Brothers
22. Sweet Caroline—Neil Diamond
23. Jean—Oliver
24. Bad Moon Rising—Creedence Clearwater Revival
25. Get Back—The Beatles
26. In The Year 2525—Zager and Evans
27. Spinning Wheel—Blood, Sweat and Tears
28. Baby, I Love You—Andy Kim
29. Going In Circles—Friends Of Distinction
30. Hurt So Bad—Lettermen
31. Green River—Creedence Clearwater Revival
32. My Cherie Amour—Stevie Wonder
33. Easy To Be Hard—Three Dog Night
34. Baby It's You—Smith
35. In The Ghetto—Elvis Presley
36. A Boy Named Sue- Johnny Cash
37. Baby, Baby Don't Cry- Smokey Robinson and The Miracles
38. Only The Strong Survive- Jerry Butler
39. Time Of The Season- Zombies
40. Wedding Bell Blues- Fifth Dimension

Not bad, considering The Man was out to bust our music, but a helluva lot worse than, say, 1966. There is some well crafted Pop (Fifth Dimension, Friends Of Distinction, Tommy James, Lettermen, Zombies), Rock (Stones, Creedence) and Soul- including the initial stirrings of Funk (Isleys, Jerry Butler, Sly, Temps) mixed in with the Bubblegum (Andy Kim, Tommy Roe, Archies) and Pap (Oliver, Zager & Evans.) Still, it didn’t have to be this way. In the world of The Secret Museum, an alternate playlist of top 40 radio, circa 1969, would consist of something like this (listed alphabetically):

Acid Gallery- Dance ‘Round The Maypole
The Association- Goodbye Columbus
David Axelrod- A Little Girl Lost
Kevin Ayers- Girl On A Swing
Edgar Broughton Band- Out Demons Out
Dr. Strangely Strange- Frosty Mornings
Brigitte Bardot- Je Voudrais Perdre La Mémoire
Captain Beefheart- Old Fart At Play
Bubble Puppy- Hot Smoke & Sassafras
Can- Outside My Door
Dave Clark Five- Maze Of Love
Cowsills- Love American Style
Gal Costa- Meu Nom E Gal
Fleetwood Mac- The Green Manalishi
Free- Woman
Free Design- 2002- A Hit Song
Serge Gainsbourg- 69 Année Érotique
Gandalf- Can You Travel In The Dark Alone
Bobbie Gentry- Seasons Come, Seasons Go
Iron Butterfly- Filled with Fear
The Kinks- King Kong
Love- Always See Your Face
MC5- Ramblin’ Rose
Mott The Hoople- Rock & Roll Queen
The Move- Curly
Nazz- Take The Hand
New Colony Six- Come And Give Your Love To Me
Roger Nichols & The Small Circle Of Friends- The Drifter
The Open Mind- Magic Potion
Os Mutantes- Dia 36
Pink Floyd- Daybreak
The Pretty Things- what’s Good For The Goose
Procol Harum- A Salty Dog
Terry Reid- Superlungs My Supergirl
Catherine Ribeiro- La Solitude
The Stooges- 1969
The Troggs- Evil Woman
Turquoise- Mindless Child Of Motherhood
Caetano Veloso- Irene
Wendy and Bonnie- The Paisley Windowpane

Some of these artists were winding down their careers by 1969; some were just getting started. Half didn’t even release any singles that year. All, however, put out fine LPs in 1969 and are worthy of a listen, at the very least to see how they rate against The Archies. Jim and I shall be revealing the Unheard Music of 1969 on Saturday, June 20 at Taosound Tape & CD. If it’s anything like the last couple of weeks, where we learned a thing or two from local Rock Lifers (including the likes of Clement, Greenberg, MacLean, Reid, Romero, Torres and Yaravitz), this week’s session could be a scorcher.
-Michael Mooney

Jim Webb wrote:

Mike -

The splintering of Rock Music into numerous sub-categories was in full force by the end of '69. While folk-rock and acid rock had "flowered" between 1965 and 1967, it was 1969 that gave us the first big hit of jazz-rock via Miles Davis, Blood, Sweat & Tears and the Chicago Transit Authority. Blues-rock was almost over, as evidenced by the deaths of Cream, Blind Faith and John Mayall breaking up his Bluesbreakers (for a jazzier sound). The Band came out from behind Dylan's shadow and brought a resurgence of "back to the earth" style traditional/acoustic music that saw everyone from Crosby Steals the Cash to Bonnie & Delaney promoting the rootsier sound of American music. It seems like the musicians at that time were tired of just playing good old pop or rock music. Experimenting with longer song structures and not even wanting a top forty hit were the new requirements for being a successful band. Disaster was coming for those who enjoyed a good tight, three-minute song with memorable hooks and a great melody. The purity of Rock music as the counterculture’s artistic expression, musicians as the "modern day painters" of the late twentieth century was changing. Moneychangers in the temple like David Geffen had corrupted everything down to simply dollars and cents. If all that weren’t enough, the cold wind of Prog arsery would soon be upon us all.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Arthur Lee & Love



Overt self-promotion:
The Secret Museum will be this week’s presenters at Taosound’s “Psychedelic Saturdaze” beginning at 5:30 on, um, Saturday, June 13 (Taosound: 314 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.) The first hour will feature a selection of Arthur Lee’s finer (and occasionally rarer) moments; the second is devoted to Forever Changes. There will be a Q & A period in between. Jim and I have already prepared the questions.
-Michael Mooney

Jim Webb wrote:

Mike –

What did you think of Michael Stuart-Ware's book Pegasus Carousel, detailing his time as Love's drummer during their "classic" 1966-69 period? The book varied wildly in my opinion between being a fascinating read into Love and the L.A. music scene circa 1967-68, and Ware reliving too many dull moments in his daily routine. He really takes leader Arthur Lee down a few pegs with various stories detailing Arthur's flakiness in canceling big money gigs at the drop of a hat, and his chronic / caustic put downs of other band members and fans. I think Ware was pissed off that everyone looked at Love as only being "Arthur Lee", and that the other guys didn't really matter regardless of how much they contributed to the songs.

Stuart-Ware seems to either think Love leader Arthur Lee’s talent and musical legacy will somehow be diminished by exposing a sarcastic, rude side to his personality or this is just a big payback for all of the drummers’ problems with Arthur. I’m not condoning any arrogant behavior by Arthur toward his band mates or fans, but it is obvious to me the drummer hasn’t gotten over the fact that he didn’t become rich and famous with Love. The drummer feels unappreciated (your kidding!), and thinks it was the collective strength of the musicians in the band that brought them to their peak.

After Love’s masterpiece Forever Changes was released in November1967 the band started to go though numerous personal changes. Drugs, specifically heroin and LSD, have been reported as a contributing major factor in the band becoming dysfunctional. Lee, guitarists John Echols, Ken Forssi and the other main songwriter in the band Bryan MacLean were all using drugs on a regular basis. Lee had an unusual arrangement with their record label Elektra where all royalties went to him, which also created a lot of tension within the band. Stuart-Ware writes about the ongoing financial issues, where they were promised money that never appeared. MacLean left in 1968 and Love was never really the same.

Love never became a big concert draw outside of California. They did some weekend tour dates in the rest of the country, but it was only in their hometown of Los Angeles or in San Francisco that they played regularly. A stable income from concerts would probably have helped the band weather some of their personal changes. Changing band members seemed almost routine for the big L.A. groups in 1967/68. Neil Young quit The Buffalo Springfield, Gene Clark had already left and David Crosby was fired from The Byrds in ’68. The rock scene was so new and continually changing that everyone thought their “next” lineup or group would be even bigger than what they were leaving (ultimately true for Crosby & Young). Big ambition coupled with big egos created a volatile music scene, and Love was no different than the rest of the aspiring groups of that era. Personality conflicts between members, poor management and drugs were three key areas’ that could help break a band apart, and Love had its share of all three.

I’m not knocking Michael Stuart-Ware’s ability as a drummer; I just think he needs to be more realistic about what made Love’s music so unique. It was always the songs that made Love special, and without song writers Arthur Lee and Bryan MacLean the band would never have been heard from. Arthur still wrote some great stuff after Michael left, all Stuart-Ware did was supposedly turn down Neil Diamond to drum on a summer tour of his. I did enjoy the book though, because The Pegasus Carousel gave us some interesting anecdotes about Love, and a musician’s view of the Los Angeles music scene in the mid to late sixties. I’m riding with Arthur though on the question of who was the driving force in creating such timeless and varied music for Love. Arthur wasn’t just an above average musician like the other members in Love; he was also an extremely talented songwriter. What made Arthur Lee great was his ability to meld different strands of folk, rock and rhythm n’ blues together into a new beautiful whole. Love’s enduring musical legacy will always be directly associated with him.
-Jim Webb

Michael Mooney wrote:


Definitely a case of sour grapes on Michael Stuart’s part, though I don’t know if the Love story could have ended any differently. While Arthur Lee appears to have been fond of playing mind games on both his audience and band mates, it’s doubtful he was capable of playing the music game under any circumstances. Despite the remarkable beauty of his music, Arthur’s work is too full of idiosyncrasies to ever appeal to the mainstream. Still, Forever Changes transcends its time and place, and remains a benchmark Rock recording.
-Michael Mooney

Too bad! You missed it. About a dozen people showed up last Saturday for Peter Greenberg’s DJ set at Taosound, a whirlwind blitz of the finest 60s Garage Punk. Peter had the joint rocking with two hours of classic cuts (Seeds, ? & The Mysterians, Trashmen, Rivieras, Elevators, Moving Sidewalks, Sonics, Remains) along with mega-obscurities (Jolly Green Giants, Alarm Clocks, Bad Seeds), all prime examples of America’s Greatest Art Form. Those in attendance got a breathtaking refresher course in Rock 101: Greenberg is the Professor of the Blazing Decks; he’s the North Shore Shaman- dropping 7-inch Sound Neutrons over Paseo Norte every 2 minutes, 5 seconds in an awesome display of turntable pandemonium.
-Michael Mooney

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009

Lucinda Williams/ The Flatlanders


June 1st / Paolo Soleri Amphitheater, Santa Fe

Jim Webb wrote:

The highlight of the evening was a superb seventeen song set uncorked by Texas natives Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock (a.k.a., The Flatlanders). There must be something in the water for Lubbock to have so many great singer/songwriters hail from that “flat” part of West Texas. Their first album together was recorded in 1972, and then it only took them another thirty years to get the follow up release finished. In between all three established solo careers, and tonight was one of their infrequent concert appearances.

Joe Ely, who is known as The Lord of The Highway due to his never ending tour schedule, is the real deal in working class authenticity. Jimmie Dale Gilmore sounds just like - no one, except Jimmie Dale Gilmore. His high, lonesome tenor I’m sure made any coyotes wandering down nearby arroyos feel at home. Butch Hancock was just in Santa Fe this past February for a solo show at Gig Performance Space, and you can also occasionally hear him when he accompanies over night raft trips on the Rio Grande River at Big Bend National Park in Texas. Together they take turns on lead vocals, and asking who the best songwriter is among them is like trying to pick mint chocolate chip ice cream over double chocolate chunk or rocky road.

The only knock on their solo careers is that each studio release always has two or three really good tunes, but the rest tend to be just average. What do they sing about? Their styles as writers are somewhat similar in that they all have a sharp eye for detail in making people’s daily lives and their relationships more important than anything else. They are a throw back to the classic country writers of the forties, fifties and sixties. Their song writing bloodlines run from Hank Williams to Willie Nelson, and special reverence is reserved for their departed guru - the legendary Townes Van Zandt. So far this was easily not only the set of the year, but as good an American roots music set I’ve heard since I saw Emmylou Harris in 2005. Being fifteen feet from their three mike stands didn’t hurt (no brag, just fact).

After playing tunes from each of The Flatlanders four cd’s Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s classic song Dallas was turned into a honky tonk rave-up and it ended their one hour set on a triumphant high note. They encored with Van Zandt’s White Freight – Liner and the nearly full Paolo Soleri crowd roared in appreciation.

Lucinda Williams and her band Buick 6 came out about twenty minutes later and went right to work playing selections from throughout her thirty year catalogue of music. She is one of our most gifted songwriters, as well as a powerful singer. The only complaint I have in her first forty minutes was that it was loaded with her more introspective material. Coming right after The Flatlanders spirited set, it made these songs seem even quieter than usual.

There are two different sides to Lucinda’s writing, the smoldering poet, and her razor sharp rockers that could musically and lyrically slash anyone apart who’s done her wrong. I prefer her hard stuff myself, but we got a large helping of both last night. Drunken Angel, Concrete and Barbed Wire, Metal Firecracker and Joy came from her 1998 Car Wheels on a Gravel Road release. Blue, Essence and Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings were also played during her hour and twenty minute performance. Her most recent cd Little Honey gave us the up tempo Honey Bee, Real Love and a surprising set closing rendition of AC/DC’S – It’s a Long Way To The Top.

A solid show, but a little bit of a spark seemed to be lacking at times. She is a better songwriter than any of The Flatlanders (and that’s saying quite a lot), but their stage presence and overall exuberance gave them the upper hand in my opinion. I think Lucinda Williams only problem last night was that she got knocked off stride by a West Texas storm that blew in from Lubbock, and never really recovered.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bachman-Turner Overdrive

Jim Webb & Michael Mooney

Jim Webb wrote:

Mike –

I have found myself again prowling around the back catalogue of famous bands, listening to their albums that didn’t have the big hit. A couple of these tracks got some airplay, but this was the last decent BTO sandwich before it all went to hell.

Bachman-Turner Overdrive- Head On (1975)

I have to confess that in the 1970’s I was not a BTO fanatic. Never saw them live and didn’t own an album of theirs. You basically didn’t have to buy their stuff because it seemed like it was played nonstop on the radio. My only credentials would be that whenever they did come on the radio, I would instinctively reach for the volume dial to turn it up. Let it Ride, Takin’ Care of Business, You Ain’t Seen Nuthin’ Yet, and Roll On Down The Highway are still classic road rock tunes for driving around.

1975 had a glut of guitar bands from Foghat and Ted Nugent to Aerosmith, Blue Oyster Cult and ZZ Top blasting away with stacks of amps all pointed at our heads. Bachman –Turner Overdrive had been selling out arenas since 1973 and was starting to be looked at as yesterday’s hard rock heroes. Selling tickets to their concerts wasn’t a problem, but leader Randy Bachman was getting a little bored with their never changing two guitars, bass and drums sound. Head On still has the wall-to-wall heavy sound in rockers like Find Out About Love, and Wild Spirit, but also slipped in to the mix is an early proto type Power Ballad titled Woncha Take Me For a While. You know that style from the eighties - when long haired, emotionally challenged singers break down and pledge their undying love to the women in their life for the first time publicly, with a slow crescendo of guitars building in the background to a frenzied peak. Fred Turner does his best on making that vocal believable, but Randy still wasn’t done tinkering under the hood. Lookin’ Out For #1 was a full fledged cocktail jazz workout that you could expect to hear at any nondescript Holiday Inn lounge buried in the Midwest. The song does have a great melodic guitar solo from Randy that would have made jazz guitarists Joe Pass or Jim Hall proud. Bachman had a brief moment of clarity and knew that the end was coming somewhere up ahead and wasn’t quite sure what to do. He just wanted to change the formula a little bit, it was time to put down the beer and maybe have a glass of Chablis for a change. Fred Turner basically told him to f**k off and that he ain’t no wine sipper, he was going to ride their classic rig as long as he could. Randy left in 1977 after the Freeways release, he had put too much time and energy into building BTO to want to be around when it finally ran out of gas. Fred parked it in 1980 and the legal battles between Randy and his two younger brothers that wanted to continue using the name started. It has been claimed that Head On was mostly leftovers from the two previous albums. That sounds about right to my ears because a lot of older BTO riffs seem recycled on tracks like Average Man and Down To the Line. If you are tired of your BTO Greatest Hits cd, this wouldn’t be a bad pickup. Even with a couple of softies, it mostly rocks with solid riffs and production.

Music critics, non-fans, and mellow James Taylorites from the seventies all claimed that a hundred apes locked in a room with musical instruments for a hundred years would ultimately sound just like BTO. Why do I like an occasional blast of Bachman –Turner Overdrive? It’s simple really, sometimes I just feel like an ape.

-Jim Webb

Michael Mooney wrote:


I’m a fan. Randy Bachman is responsible for some of Rock’s most-enduring riffs. He’s a totally underrated guitarist (just ask Neil Young.) Tuneful and Jazzy, he can also rock with the best and make it seems effortless.

I first caught BTO during their initial arena tour in 1974, opening for Black Oak Arkansas and Foghat (though it might have been Ten Years After and the J. Geils Band- ...pity youth, etc.) at the Spectrum (aka Rectum) in Philly. Bachman-Turner Overdrive II had just been released, and Let It Ride was getting lots of airplay (I don’t think Taking Care Of Business had hit yet- it would be massive later that summer.) BTO held their own against the big guns: Fred Turner was no Peter Wolf or Jim Dandy, and Randy wasn’t flashy like Alvin Lee (or Rod Price for that matter), but their workmanlike approach won over the typically fickle Philadelphia audience.

Bachman-Turner Overdrive II was a big record in Philadelphia that year, blasting from every suburban kid’s Pioneer car speakers- via 8-track tape of course- and no sooner had it begun its descent from the charts when Not Fragile appeared, cementing Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s reputation as the working man’s Rock Machine. Spearheaded by Roll On Down The Highway and You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet (check out John Otway’s version from 1982, flipside to his take on Roy Orbison’s In Dreams- both songs are must-hears), this was BTO’s biggest album, and the perfect soundtrack to working class keg parties circa autumn, 1974.

I was able to study Randy Bachman’s guitar technique up close when BTO reconvened for a new LP (self-titled, 1984) and club tour in 1985. The Music Machine in LA was the perfect venue for the group. It had a good PA system, and was neither too big that the sound would get lost, nor too small to constrain the volume. BTO delivered. This wasn’t just a greatest hits machine playing by numbers. Randy had the fire that night, and seemed almost surprised by his own playing. Not a lot of movement on stage (they kind of bopped in place- like Rush Limbaugh- and that didn’t stop the stage floor from sagging a little; these were some seriously large guys), but BTO rocked furiously. In a sense, they reminded me of Television- just stand there and let it burn. It was a stunning show.

Randy Bachman’s touring with Burton Cummings this summer (Canada only), but there’s talk of a Bachman-Turner reunion (literally Randy and Fred so far.) If they manage to appear at a Casino showroom, State Fair or biker rally within 3 hours of Taos/Santa Fe, The Secret Museum will be there.

-Michael Mooney
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