March has been a banner month for Randy Bachman.
The Guess Who/Bachman Turner-Overdrive founder put out a new book -- Tales From Beyond the Tap, the follow-up to 2011's Vinyl Tap Stories -- and a new live album; his intimate, unplugged theatre show, Vinyl Tap Tour: Every Song Tells a Story, was recorded at a sold-out show at the Pantages Playhouse Theatre last year. (Both were inspired by his CBC Radio One show, Vinyl Tap, which has been on the air since 2005.) March also saw Bachman-Turner Overdrive release a remastered, 40th-anniversary deluxe version of its highest-selling album, 1974's landmark Not Fragile.
And, at the end of the month, Bachman-Turner Overdrive will be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame at this weekend's Juno Awards.
The honour may seem long overdue for the iconic Winnipeg band, but it wasn't for lack of trying on the part of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. CARAS wanted to induct BTO more than a decade ago, but the band was at odds over who had the rights to the band's name and which lineup should be inducted. On Sunday, the lineup behind Not Fragile -- Bachman, Fred Turner, Blair Thornton and Robin Bachman -- will be ushered into the Hall of Fame. That it's happening in Winnipeg is icing on the cake.
"I think it's absolutely wonderful," says Bachman, who has insisted there are no hard feelings among his bandmates. "It'll be wonderful to share that honour with our hometown. It's fantastic. This is where it all started. It wouldn't be the same if it were happening in Toronto."
It's also fitting that the man who penned such CanCon classics as You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet and Takin' Care of Business -- and co-wrote dozens more, including These Eyes and American Woman -- will be hosting the so-called jewel of the Junos, the Juno Songwriters' Circle, on Sunday at the Burton Cummings Theatre.
"First and foremost, the success of the Guess Who and BTO is owed to the songs," he says. "Songs are the currency of the music business. To share in a songwriting circle with other songwriters is a special experience, and I usually never turn down the opportunity to be a part of one."
The afternoon show, which runs from noon until 2 p.m. and will be taped for broadcast on CBC Radio in April, will feature Bachman in concert and conversation with some of Canada's brightest songwriters, including Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay of July Talk, Tom Wilson of Lee Harvey Osmond/Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Little Miss Higgins, Matt Epp, Shad, Dallas and Travis Good of the Sadies. Tickets are $25.95-$39.95 at Ticketmaster.
Bachman, 70, will perform some of his hits, to be sure, but he's also getting into the spirit of the event.
"I'm going to do some new songs for a change," he says, with a laugh. "I usually dwell on my hits. But I'm going to stick my neck out. I'll be up there saying, 'Here's a song I wrote -- I hope you like it.'"
It's also a chance for the younger songwriters onstage to pick his brain. After all, having been in the business for five decades, Bachman knows what kinds of songs get on the radio; he knows the power that lies in a three-minute pop song that reaches its catchy chorus within the first minute. As he says, "Cut to the meat and you'll cut to the heart." But while you can set it up right, there are no guarantees.
"You have no idea, when you're writing a song, if it's going to be a hit. You never really know what will resonate in the hearts and minds of the people. It's like finding a lottery ticket every day."
First impressions -- especially your own -- are false, Bachman says. He didn't know at the time of writing Takin' Care of Business it would become Takin' Care of Business.
"You love a new song at the time because it's your new baby," he says. "Of course, when you have a new baby, everyone says, 'Oh, isn't she or he cute.' I call that a living room hit. It's only when you put that baby out in the world that you know for sure."
Bachman also encourages emerging songwriters to explore co-writing. "You might have 11 great songs, but it might be the co-write that gets the radio play," he says. Bachman will offer advice to other singer/songwriters as a "song doctor," providing suggestions and punch-ups. "Even after songwriting circles, I'll offer suggestions -- like, you have six verses in that song and that's too much information.' Sometimes they'll tell me to take a hike. It's hard to take advice in that first moment."
For his part, Bachman would love to one day make his career writing songs for other voices. "That's always been my dream, to be just a songwriter," he says. "I had to get my own band because no one does my songs. Mumford & Sons are not calling me up. But I still have that dream."
Until then, though, he's got plenty on the go to keep him busy -- including, he hints, a new album. He's particularly excited about the next time he'll be in front of Winnipeg audiences, for Randy Bachman's Symphonic Overdrive, a new Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra show that runs Dec. 5-7. Acclaimed arranger/composer/conductor Charles Cozens is doing the charts for the show, which will see Bachman's hits transformed.
"They'll be totally unrecognizable," he says. "If a song is slow, we're making it fast; if it's a minor key, we're making it a major key. Hearing these songs in a brand new set of clothes is amazing."
While Bachman is looking forward, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame induction finds him reflective.
"I want to live to be about 120," he says with a laugh. "I got everything I want. I'm happy. I'm healthy. I don't want the party to be over. It's been a really great ride."