Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s origins can be traced back to the substantial commercial achievements of The Guess Who in the late 60s.
Randy Bachman (guitar/vocals) was a prominent member of that band but left in 1970 when his Mormon beliefs began to rankle at the excesses of a touring rock ‘n’ roll band.
After recording an unsuccessful solo album, he teamed up with his drumming brother Robbie Bachman, C. F. Turner (bass) and another former Guess Who colleague, Chad Allan, to form Brave Belt.
Two non-charting albums for Reprise followed before the group changed name to Bachman-Turner Overdrive and replaced Allan with guitarist (and brother) Tim Bachman.
The suffix was taken from a trucking magazine, Overdrive, and typified the group’s straightforward bar-room rock ‘n’ roll.
An eponymous debut album followed in 1973 for Mercury, after which the group embarked on the sort of strenuous touring schedule which would become something of a trademark.
While the album contained nothing revolutionary in terms of songwriting or execution, few denied the energy or authenticity of the performances. However, a casualty of the first tour was Tim Bachman, later replaced by Blair Thornton on guitar.
In December 1973 they enjoyed their first US chart hit with Blue Collar. Subsequent singles and albums would all fare well in the US charts.
Taken from Bachman Turner Overdrive 2 (1974), Takin’ Care Of Business provided a substantial US hit, before the November release of You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet. The group’s signature tune, it was originally written for Bachman’s brother and manager Gary, who suffered from a stammer – hence the song’s stuttering hook. The single became a US #1 and peaked at #2 in the UK charts.
None of the group’s subsequent releases had the same impact. Randy Bachman was clearly losing interest and left the group in 1977. Jim Clench replaced him in the wake of the Randy-dominated Freeways (1977), after which the group shortened its name to BTO.
Their achievements in this form were minimal, and Bachman’s subsequent work with Ironhorse and Union proved similarly undistinguished.
He re-formed Bachman Turner Overdrive in 1984, and they continued to tour throughout the decade while Bachman himself would split his time between the band and Guess Who reformations.
The band underwent personnel changes until half of it was new. Then, at almost the same time, the “old” band formed to play with Ringo Starr‘s nationwide tour. It was messy, and the names of their new record didn’t help. Bachman Turner Overdrive had completely different songs from the 1974 record of the same name.
Bachman-Turner Overdrive are still touring live albeit with a much-changed line-up.
C. F. Turner