Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bachman-Turner Overdrive: Blue Collar

Bachman-Turner Overdrive grew out of a failed project called Brave Belt that rejoined former Guess Who members: lead singer Chad Allen and guitarist Randy Bachman. Drummer Robbie Bachman and brother of Randy also joined in the Brave Belt project in support of what originally would have been a solo album for Allen. Because of the work by both Bachman brothers, it ceased being a solo project and morphed into an actual band.

Based out of Winnipeg, Manitoba, the band signed with Reprise Records and began touring – but needed a bassist for the tour and Fred Turner joined the band. When Chad Allen left Brave Belt, Turner took over the lead vocal duties and became an official band member. Tim Bachman, another brother, joined as second guitarist. A new name was suggested by Mercury Records’ staff to give the band a fresh start. Seeing the trucker magazine Overdrive, Randy Bachman suggested Bachman-Turner Overdrive and the initials and they stuck. Both appeared on the cover the band’s first LP released in 1973.

Their first single “Blue Collar” is our bubbling under hit as it only charted at #68 in the US. I love the guitar on this song as Randy Bachman illustrates his versatility. There is the bossa nova feel that he used previously used on the Guess Who’s “Undun.” The octave runs are reminiscent of jazz guitarists Tal Farlow and Wes Montgomery.

Bachman uses a wah-wah pedal in two of the solos. Another solo sounds as though the effect of tape print through was used as the left channel has a solo that is at lower volume and later repeated note-for-note in the right channel. Print through is found on the vocal track of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” I don’t think this is actually print through as the volume is consistent and the placing in the song is exact.

Some of the guitar sounds on “Blue Collar” were reprised for another bubbling under hit by BTO, “Looking out for Number One.” Both are great tunes that didn’t get the recognition worth their due.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this! To me, as someone who grew up in Toronto and loved Canadian music of the 70's, "Blue Collar" is one of the great unappreciated gems. To me it's BTO's finest hour, although one can make the point that such a sound would have been unsustainable for commercial success in the long run. This song had a lot of airplay here at the time, but wasn't high on the charts. (The BTO II album changed all that of course).

    Besides this being one of Randy's best moments ever (including with The Guess Who) it also shows the versatility of Fred Turner, who wrote this song. Instead of his usual power vocals, he adds a real human element to this song, one can just visualize the narrator being in a work van outside a donut shop at 4 in the morning.