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Randy Bachman and Fred Turner keep rollin' along

When Randy Bachman and C. Fred Turner played the Sweden Rock festival in June 2010, they hit the stage stone cold, with no rehearsal, no soundcheck, no line check and rented amps, Bachman recalls. Flash forward a few months, and the Bachman & Turner duo was a well-oiled machine.

By Chris M. Junior

When Randy Bachman and C. Fred Turner played the Sweden Rock festival in June 2010, they hit the stage stone cold, with “no rehearsal, no soundcheck, no line check, [using] rented amps,” Bachman recalls.

Flash forward to that November, and the Bachman & Turner duo was a well-oiled machine, using state-of-the-art technology to document a full show for “Live at the Roseland Ballroom, NYC,” their two-disc CD and single-disc DVD from Eagle Rock Entertainment.

Recorded Nov. 10, 2010, the “Roseland Ballroom, NYC” packages include performances of familiar and fresh material. As one might expect, there are hit songs by The Guess Who (Bachman’s first big success) and Bachman-Turner Overdrive (the namesake members’ band after the short-lived Brave Belt), but there are also tunes that first appeared on the self-titled debut album by Bachman & Turner, released in 2010.

Bachman recently checked in from New York to talk about working with Turner through the years, how the “Roseland Ballroom, NYC” project came together, possible recording projects, plans to hit the high seas in 2013 and much more.

Randy Bachman Fred Turner photo by Christie Goodwin

Sure, Fred Turner (right) tried to retire. But his frequent partner in crime, Randy Bachman, told him to put down the fishing pole and pick up his guitar: "That doesn't work, Fred. You've gotta rock 'til you drop." Publicity photo/ChristieGoodwin.

Goldmine: By his own admission, Fred was retired for about five years when you called him to sing on a solo album you were recording around 2008. Can you recap your thoughts and feelings prior to and during that conversation, which ultimately sparked the current chapter in your career?

Randy Bachman: Well, I got an e-mail from him saying, “Guess what? I’m hanging up the guitar.” And I said, “What do you mean? … Are you going to learn to golf or fish? (laughs) That doesn’t work, Fred. You’ve gotta rock ’til you drop.” He said, “Well, we do have an offer from Sweden Rock; this guy Ingolf Persson has wanted you and me to play together.” [I told Fred], “I’m busy on tour with Burton Cummings, so let’s wait and see.”

I was working on a solo album when [Fred] did [a] track. I said to him, “Look, I’ll scrap my solo album; I’ll hold the Paul Rodgers track, the Jeff Healey track and the Neil Young track for something else, and let’s turn this solo album of mine — which was kind of a return to rootsy rock — into a Bachman & Turner album so we’ll have something to play [at Sweden Rock].”

So we did Sweden Rock in June 2010, and it was fantastic. And about a month later we played the High Voltage festival in London, and that was fantastic. So we came back [to North America] because our fans back here were hearing about us, and we did some gigs. Then we got offered to do a PBS 12-camera 3-D HD shoot at Roseland Ballroom, so we jumped at it.

GM: What’s it been like to work with Fred over the past few years compared with the heyday of Bachman-Turner Overdrive?

RB: Well, he was always the same, and I believe I’m the same. BTO was a split band in that Fred and I were older and married, and my brother Rob on drums was 10 years younger, and the other guy in the band, [guitarist] Blair Thornton, was, like, eight years younger — and they were single. So when were on the road, after a gig, Fred and I were always on the phone, talking to our wives and dealing with them and the kids at home, and Rob and Blair were out doing single-guy things. So there was always that difference.

Fred is my age — our birthdays are the same year — and we grew up together in Winnipeg and saw each other on buses, going to gigs with a little amp and a guitar. … Playing with him is very comfortable. He’s one of the great, I think, unsung-hero voices of rock ’n’ roll. It’s fun to be playing with him and basically reliving the ’70s with him.

GM: Talk about recording the live album in New York and specifically at Roseland. Were other cities and/or other venues under serious consideration?

RB: When we got asked to do a 3-D shoot for PBS, and then we could use the rights for our own DVD and Blu-ray, we thought this was a golden opportunity. So there was a place in Chicago that was chosen and/or the Roseland in New York. And because we were not one of their big shoots, we were put on hold, so we had to wait until these other acts either agreed to play Chicago or New York, and then the truck with all of the equipment [would be there] shooting 3-D material for PBS.

As it happened, there were two days off at Roseland in New York, so we took them. New York turned out to be great: My friend Paul Shaffer played piano on a couple of tracks, and Roseland Ballroom is a great place.

GM: The Bachman-Turner Overdrive catalog is well represented on the live album, and it closes with the enduring “Takin’ Care of Business.” Can you talk about the Elvis Presley version of the song that you mentioned a few years ago in an interview? Have you heard that version, and is it any good?

RB: I haven’t heard it. … That would absolutely complete my life when I hear that.

GM: Another BTO standard is “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet,” which recently appeared as part of a “Jeopardy!” question. Upon learning this, were you hoping that Alex Trebeck maybe sang the lyrics instead of delivering them in his straightforward, authoritative manner?

RB: Yeah, he being a fellow Canadian, I thought he might [stray from] the A.T. persona and do a little “Buh-buh-baby ...” kind of thing. You know, I’ve had about five or six or seven questions on “Jeopardy!” I watch it every night; I always watch “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” One shows me how smart I am, and the other shows me how stupid I am, so I come out of it pretty even.

GM: Is there a timetable for another Bachman & Turner studio album?

RB: We do have plans; we’ve discussed it. We don’t know if we’d do original stuff or honor some of the older stuff that inspired us, which a lot of artists are doing these days. I had the idea of Bachman-Turner, driving from Detroit to Memphis. In other words, we could do Memphis songs and Detroit songs. So I’m pitching Fred: “How would you like to do ‘Papa Was a Rolling Stone’? Or the two of us singing ‘Soul Man’ together?’ ”

We also thought of [doing a project called] “Nashville Jukebox” … Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash — all of that stuff is great Americana music, and that’s where rock ’n’ roll came from, Nashville and Memphis, that whole thing in Tennessee.

GM: It sounds like you’re going to definitely rock until you drop, like you said Fred should.

RB: I think so. We’re doing the Rock Legends Cruise II in January with Foreigner, Journey, Foghat — I can’t remember all of the bands. … It’ll be like going to rock ’n’ roll heaven without dying — and there’s a 24-hour buffet.