Top 10 Bachman-Turner Overdrive Songs
Randy Bachman had had enough of the Guess Who when he formed Bachman-Turner Overdrive with his drumming brother Robbie and Fred Turner, a fellow Canadian rocker who came up in the bar-rock scene. At first, the group basically followed its blues and garage instincts, playing guitar-based rock built on power chords and frequent riffing. But as their musicianship formed and their confidence grew, they began adding subtle pop hooks to their songs, resulting in a string of Top 40 hits in the mid-'70s. Bachman left the group in 1977. But their best years were behind them by then anyway, as you'll see on our list of the Top 10 Bachman-Turner Overdrive Songs.
The title track to the band's third album, and their only No. 1 LP, is one of Bachman-Turner Overdrive's toughest rockers, powered by major guitar riffing and a barroom vocal by Turner. And then it all takes a break in the middle for a monster bass riff pierced by duel soloing guitars before storming through to a thunderous ending. It's almost metal.
By the time of their fifth album, Randy Bachman was starting to lead the group in a few new directions, mixing up their riff-heavy muscle rock with lighter elements. 'Lookin' Out for #1' is 'Head On''s biggest curveball, a jazzy L.A.-style shuffle that netted the band airplay in some outlets that usually stayed away from heavier guitar-centered songs.
The first single from 1975's 'Head On' was co-written by Bachman with, among others, Kim Fowley and Alice Cooper. The clap-along song closes the record, one of the group's most musically diverse. When Bachman-Turner Overdrive returned two years later, it would be their last album with the original lineup until a warmed-over reunion record the following decade. 'Down to the Line' was one of their final classic-sounding singles.
Originally the B-side of 'You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet' (see No. 1 on our list of the Top 10 Bachman-Turner Overdrive Songs), 'Free Wheelin'' is a blues-inspired instrumental dedicated to Duane Allman. And the track grabs its rolling rhythm from the late Allman Brothers guitarist's best work. Plus, the searing leads that Bachman and Blair Thornton trade off pay direct tribute.
'Head On''s biggest hit (which just missed the Top 30) features Little Richard on piano. It's fitting, since the song is a roadhouse-style rocker with plenty of flashy instrumental breaks -- guitar here, piano there -- bouncing around the mix. This one's basically a showcase for Turner and guitarist Blair Thornton. And Little Richard, of course, who storms the end of the song like he was still on top of the charts.
The first single from the band's fourth album just missed the Top 20. Graced with a fuzzy guitar riff and a sha-la-la-la chorus, 'Hey You' rides a wave of acoustic guitars and smacking drums to one of the group's catchiest songs. Plus, Bachman hauls out his 'You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet' stutter near the end of the song.
'Roll on Down the Highway' probably wasn't the best choice as the follow-up single to BTO's only No. 1, 'You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet' (see No. 1 on our list of the Top 10 Bachman-Turner Overdrive Songs). But its tougher, FM radio-ready bluster better represented the band's core sound. Still, the song's hooky chorus helped push it to No. 14 during the first part of 1975.
Bachman-Turner Overdrive's first Top 40 hit takes the bluesy foundation of their earliest songs -- like their debut single, 'Blue Collar,' which just missed our list of the Top 10 Bachman-Turner Overdrive Songs -- and adds the acoustic guitar-guided riffs from their latest hits. The combination took them just outside the Top 20; their next three singles would crack it.
'Let It Ride' (see No. 3 on our list of the Top 10 Bachman-Turner Overdrive Songs) helped prime BTO for their first hit album and their breakthrough single. Turner sings lead on 'Let It Ride,' but it's Bachman's less-gritty voice that carries 'Takin' Care of Business,' an anthemic LP closer complete with singalong chorus, pounding piano and a stomping rhythm punctuated with hand claps and rolling percussion.
Bachman-Turner Overdrive's only No. 1 hit, from their only No. 1 album, borrows a lot from the Who -- from its 'Baba O'Riley'-like power chords to Bachman's 'My Generation'-style stutter -- but they all come together for one of 1974's biggest hits, a mix of effortless instrumental swing and Bachman's strained but sweet vocal. BTO's all-time best.