Bachman-Turner Overdrive

“You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”

November 9, 2021

This band achieved international fame when its song “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,” hit number one on the Billboard charts November 9, 1974.

Simply saying the letters B-T-O is enough for most who were teenagers in the 1970’s. For those who don’t know, the group is Bachman-Turner Overdrive which, for a few short years, was able to pack stadiums and concert halls with their rock and roll music.

Randy Bachman played with a group called Brave Belt whose sound was decidedly country. That all changed one night. We go to the Infallible Wikipedia to learn about the group’s beginning:

 “…the seeds of the BTO sound were sown at a university gig in Thunder Bay, Ontario, shortly after (Chad) Allan’s departure. A promoter, disheartened with reactions to Allan’s country-flavoured songs, which the band was still playing, decided to sack Brave Belt for the Saturday night show and bring in a more rock-oriented replacement from Toronto. When that didn’t materialize, he begged Brave Belt to stay on and play a set of classic rock cover songs. As the band played songs like ‘Proud Mary’, ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘All Right Now’, the dance floor filled up and, according to Randy, ‘We instantly saw the difference between playing sit-down music people could talk over and playing music they would jump out of their seats and dance to.’

After Reprise Records dropped Brave Belt from their label, Randy Bachman emptied his own bank account to finance another set of recordings with the Brave Belt II lineup, and began to shop around the next album. Said Randy in 1974, ‘I went to A&M, Epic, Atlantic, Columbia, Asylum – you name it. A week later, I’d get letters saying ‘Dear Randy, We pass.’ We’re thinking of calling our greatest hits album We Pass and printing all those refusals on the jacket. I’ve got all 22 of them.’

The band eventually landed a deal with Mercury Records, one which Randy proclaimed as a pure stroke of luck. In April 1973, Charlie Fach of Mercury Records returned to his office after a trip to France to find a stack of unplayed demo tapes waiting on his desk. Wanting to start completely fresh, he took a trash can and slid all the tapes into it except one which missed the can and fell onto the floor. Fach picked up the tape and noticed Bachman’s name on it. He remembered talking to him the previous year and had told Bachman that if he ever put a demo together to send it to him.”

Bachman shared further:

“’I could hear ‘Gimme Your Money Please’ playing in the background, and that was the first song on the tape. Back then, you sent out two 7+1/2-inch reels of your album, an A-side and a B-side, and that was side one, cut one. He said, ‘Randy, this is fabulous. Is the rest of the album like this?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, it’s all just good ol’, dancing rock-and-roll.’ So he said, ‘Well, I have a meeting with my A&R people, but as far as I’m concerned, this is great and I want to sign it.’

With their record deal in hand, the group needed a new name. While at a steak house in Ontario, one of the members saw a trucker’s magazine called Overdrive. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Turner wrote ‘Bachman–Turner Overdrive’ and the initials ‘B.T.O.’ on a napkin. The rest of the band decided the addition of ‘Overdrive’ was the perfect way to describe their music.”

The group’s most famous song, perhaps, is one which always gets crowds up and moving, hands inevitably being clapped in time to the memorable beat: Takin’ Care of Business.

Now, to be fair, I knew the group’s songs. I’d danced to them. Truly who had not heard of BTO? But I did not own any of their albums and would not be considered a super fan.

And, like most – if not all – successful musical acts, there comes a day when the people are not showing up in the tens of thousands to hear you; when your songs no longer get the radio air time; when your venues are now nightclubs frequented by 30 and 40 something baby boomers who had a rare night out and saw that you were in town.

Which brings us to March of 1995. The hubby had a business conference in Orlando. What better excuse did we need to pack up the two kids – ages 5 and (almost) 2 – and fly across the country for a few days at Disney World and explore Florida?

We rented a condo and a car and spent a couple days doing the Disney thing before the hubby had to go to his conference. The kids and I drove out to the Atlantic Ocean and got sunburned at Cocoa Beach; we went to SeaWorld; we hung out at the pool by the condo ; we played and had a great time.

But, like all vacations, the day arrived when once more we had to get on that plane and head home.

When my kids were little, I had a strategy for flying. If the plane had six seats across with the aisle in the middle, I would split the family up so that each child was in charge of a parent. I also made sure to book the window and center seats as being able to look out was good for at least two half hour segments of the plane ride.

Blair Thornton (right) on the inside of the “Not Fragile” album cover

And so it was when we boarded the plane in Orlando which would take us to Los Angeles and then to Seattle. Our seats were near the back of the plane with my daughter and I on the right side and the hubby and son on the left. Because we were traveling with children, we boarded before most of the other passengers.

The plane filled up. Among the last to board were a group of four: three men and one woman who had the four aisle seats: the two adjacent to our middle and window seats, and two aisle seats in the row in front of our row.

As I look up at my ‘seatmate’ – a forty something man with longish hair, I note the expression which clearly says, “Damn, I drew the Mom with the small child.” I had seen that look before. I’d probably given that look before.

What my seatmate did NOT know is that I was anything BUT the typical mom with the small child. I came prepared for every trip we ever took with an arsenal of activities. I had a half dozen favorite books. I carried snacks. My daughter had a tape player with headphones and listened to stories on tape. I would gift wrap small toys and give them out at various intervals to keep my children occupied.

On this particular trip I had made a ‘dollhouse’ for my daughter’s  two inch tall Playmobile Dolls out of three nested shoe boxes. The plane prizes for my daughter were some new dolls and small pieces of furniture to go in the house. That ‘house’ did wonders keeping her engaged.

Eventually, I struck up a conversation with my seatmate and learned that his name was Blair. I asked what had brought him to Orlando to which he replied that he was in a band that had played a gig there.

“Oh, might I have heard of your band?”

He smiled and said, “It’s ETO.”

ETO? Nope. I had never heard of ETO. BTO, yes. ELO – Electric Light Orchestra, yes. But not a band called ETO.

Two of the BTO albums in the hubby’s vinyl record collection

I shook my head and said I wasn’t familiar with it.

We chatted off and on throughout the flight. I learned that the woman sitting across the aisle was his wife. He had ordered the vegetarian meal option but didn’t like the doughnut which came with it so he gave that to me. In all, it was a pleasant flight. We were on final approach to Los Angeles when Blair turns to me and says, “You know, I was worried when I saw where I was sitting but your children are the best behaved kids I’ve seen on a plane… and I’ve seen a lot.”

I thanked him for his kind words, wished him well, and he deplaned, while we stayed on for the last leg to Seattle.

It was only AFTER they had left that I began to wonder who, exactly, had I been seated next to. I told the hubby the band was named ETO which, as one can imagine, got the ‘are you sure’ face. The identity of my seatmate was now bugging me. Once we got home, things were unloaded and the kids settled, I ventured into the closet where the hubby kept his collection of vinyl albums and thumbed through them until I found BTO. I flipped the album over and there on the back cover was the face of one Blair Thornton, the bass guitar player for BTO smiling back at me. I shook my head, irritated by my lack of asking additional questions of Blair.

I had noted that Blair wore a rather large hearing aid; something that seemed out of place for a guy his age. Apparently, however, I WAS the one who needed it that day. I kept the doughnut he gave me for a time but it wasn’t exactly the sort of memento one keeps from a rock star.

Instead the words echoed through my head… “Here’s something that you never gonna forget… B-b-b-baby, you just ain’t seen n-n-nothing yet” the day I flew across the United States with Bachman Turner Overdrive. 

One thought on “Bachman-Turner Overdrive

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s