Taking Care of Business
Bachman Turner Overdrive (BTO): Taking Care of Business
Quiz by Sharon Michiko Yoneda
Randy Bachman and Fred Turner in Bachman Turner Overdrive. Who you don't see is Robbie Bachman, drummer, who recently passed away.
The pizza deliveryman who arrived on the scene at the correct time. Norman Durkee, played the hot piano in one set of BTO's Takin' Care of Business.
artists: Bachman Turner Overdrive (BTO)
songwriter: Randy Bachman
date released: 1990 by BTO
As a newly-converted Mormon, Randy Bachman wanted to avoid the problems of drugs and licentious behaviour typical of a rock band's lifestyle. He decided to leave The Guess Who to pursue a solo career with his own backup band. As Bachman stated in a 2004 CBC Life and Times interview, "For me, it was never sex, drugs and rock and roll; it was just rock and roll."
At the same time Burton Cummings splintered from The Guess Who and went solo. Bachman began recording in 1972 as Bachman-Turner Overdrive. This band enjoyed great success in Canada and the USA, performing as headliners by late 1974. Bachman's songwriting and guitar-playing skills again proved to be crucial elements in the band's success.
Bachman has been noted for his strong work ethic and considerable business acumen, notwithstanding past disputes with former colleagues over creative issues. He played a leading role in the Canadian recording industry at a period of its significant growth. With The Guess Who, Bachman was inducted into the Juno Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2002, and was recognized with a 2002 Governor General's Performing Arts Award. Collectively, the band's members have been credited for laying the groundwork for the successes of later Canadian international pop and rock stars such as Bryan Adams and Alanis Morissette. Neil Young is among those who count Bachman as an influence.
Randy Bachman's autobiography, Takin' Care of Business, was published by McArthur and Company in 2000. He was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Order of Manitoba in 2005 and the Order of Canada in 2008.
Randy Bachman had developed what would later become "Takin' Care of Business" while still a member of The Guess Who. His original idea was to write about a recording technician who worked on The Guess Who's recordings. This particular technician would take the 8:15 train to get to work, inspiring the lyrics "take the 8:15 into the city".
In the early arrangement for the song, which had the working title "White Collar Worker", the chorus riff and vocal melody were similar to that of The Beatles' "Paperback Writer". When Bachman first played this version for Burton Cummings, Cummings declared that he was ashamed of him and that The Guess Who would never record the song because the Beatles would sue them...so much for that idea.
Bachman still felt like the main riff and verses were good. It was only when the song got to the chorus that everyone hated it. One day when Bachman was driving into Vancouver for a gig and listening to the radio when he heard local DJ Daryl B's catch phrase "We're takin' care of business".
In a serendipitous turn of events, lead vocalist Fred Turner's voice gave out before the band's last set that night. As a result, Bachman had to perform some cover songs to get through the last set, and on a whim, he told the band to play the C, B-flat and F chords (a I-VII-IV progression) over and over, and he sang "White Collar Worker" with the new words "Takin' Care of Business" inserted into the chorus with "taking care of business."
Recalled Randy: "When we finished the song that night, people kept clapping, stomping, and shouting 'takin' care of business' over and over. So we picked up the tempo again and reprised the song for another ten minutes. Afterwards, we all knew we had something." Necessity is indeed the mother of invention.
After this, he rewrote the lyrics to "White Collar Worker" with a new chorus and the title "Takin' Care of Business". The new lyrics also take a self-ironic glance at the idea of glamorous rock stars who don't really need to work, contrasted with working-class men.
The original studio version, recorded at Kaye-Smith Studios in Seattle, Washington, features prominent piano, played by Norman Durkee. The reason for Durkee's presence at the studio, and on the track, has been the subject of conflicting information. Randy Bachman has repeatedly stated in interviews that Durkee was delivering pizzas at the time to musicians in the studio, overheard the song being rehearsed, and convinced the band that the song needed a piano part, and that Durkee, who was then an aspiring musician, should be the one to play it. However, both Robbie Bachman and Durkee himself have stated that Durkee was actually at the studio as a musician, recording commercials in the next room, when sound engineer Buzz Richmond asked him to play on "Takin' Care of Business". According to this version of events, Durkee had only a few minutes to spare, and, quickly conferring with Randy Bachman, he scribbled down the chords (on a pizza box), and, without listening to the song beforehand, recorded the piano part in one take.
So in a long-winded narrative, that's the story of Taking Care of Business which became a huge hit for BTO. It has been used in multiple tv shows and films making it a highly recognizable and infectious tune.