JAIMIE VERNON – TAKIN’ CARE OF BACHMAN (PART 1)

vernon_1997

Excerpted from the forthcoming book “Bullsography: The Bullseye Records Story 1985-2010”

 Sam's

I had been running my independent label part-time for 13 years when a series of fortuitous events in 1998 allowed me the opportunity to plan my escape from the mundane life of the 9-to-5. First I was offered a buy-out at the unionized public service job I’d been doing for the City of Scarborough for nearly 12 years; I was then asked to write the Canadian Music Encyberpedia by The Toronto Sun entertainment editor John Sakamoto (it would eventually become The Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia) for CANOE.ca; I was then hired by legendary Canadian music retailer Sam The Record Man to be the content editor of their developing e-commerce site. So, 1998 had begun with the birth of my son and ended with a pocket full of cash, a new job, a new place to live and a dream on the horizon: to launch Bullseye full time

Moxy Ridin High1999 was a year of building a business model. My work at Sam’s magnified the need for a re-issues label in Canada as we had no equivalent to American re-issue juggernaut Rhino Records acting as historical gate keeper. To his credit, there was Peter Burnside whose Pacemaker Entertainment label had started re-issuing some out-of-print classics by Moxy, Frank Soda, McKenna-Mendelson Mainline, Avalon, Cinema Face, The Jarvis Street Revue and the Gaiety Records Story. But, like my own label, he was working a full-time day job and pushing the re-issues part-time because of his love of the music. The label still exists and Peter has carried on with his vision. http://www.pacemaker.cd

AroundTheUniverse_THUMBI was already determined to get my hands on the Klaatu catalog as a bucket list must-have. I had already signed two of its band members, Terry Draper in 1996, and Dee Long in 1998, as solo artists. The fan base was rabid for anything Klaatu related. The best we could give them was a tribute album. One Klaatu fan, Jim  Hoeck, was interested in seeing the Klaatu catalog and the band members gain a bigger audience. He would help with capital funding if I could show a sound strategic model to make the label viable.

BusinessCard1986

The strategy proved to be very simple: acquire master rights for Canadian Classic Rock albums and with a significant catalog of titles, negotiate a national distribution deal. By the end of Summer 1999 I had made an appointment with entertainment lawyers Stohn-Henderson who had an office in the same Liberty Village office building as my Sam the Record Man office. A young hotshot female lawyer named  Susan Abramovitch took me on as a client. Job #1 was to incorporate Bullseye and shed my long standing sole proprietorship dating back to the label’s beginning in April 1985. The company became Bullseye Records of Canada Inc. on September 19, 1999. I had wanted Susan on board to help with legal contracts and advice once I began negotiating deals.

RandyThe day I went to her office to put my signature on the articles of incorporation she threw a curveball my way. “I have several clients looking for a label for some of their smaller projects, would you be interested?” I was all ears. “Both Ronnie Hawkins and Randy Bachman are both working on things that might give your label the boost you need.” I must have stared at her, speechless, for an eternity. I just smiled and nodded my head. Not wanting to look insanely zealous I played it cool and said “Let me get the label on solid ground first and we’ll talk again.”

BCR_thumbBy year end I’d signed Goddo, Geoff Gibbon’s Silverlode, Brutus, Figures At Dawn, The Fast (a historically overlooked punk act from NYC),  and David Quinton along with Terry Draper’s children’s album, a collection of Dee Long’s 1980’s recordings, and a Bay City Rollers tribute album. The staff of Sam The Record Man were very supportive and were helpful in connecting me to their suppliers. At the time I was distributing our CDs through IndiePool – a very cutting edge independent start-up distributor run by Gregg Torrance and former Eight Seconds keyboardist Frank “Fish” Levin who had done amazing work for me up until then. But to attract the likes of Klaatu, Ronnie Hawkins and Randy Bachman to the label I needed a bigger, more established distributor.

FastEnter Dominique Zgarka’s KOCH Canada. Former bass player for The Fast and Sam The Record Man head office rep Lou Bova put me in touch with KOCH buyer Chris Vatour. I met with Chris at their old office in Scarborough and dropped 20 CDs on his desk from our existing catalog. Within minutes we were discussing KOCH representing Bullseye. By early 2000 we were hooked up and plotting a release schedule for national distribution. It was time to call Susan Abramovitch and quit my day job.

SuzanneMy relationship with Randy Bachman started through his Ranbach Music office staff first. Office manager Suzanne Little (solo artist and former member of Lava Hay) and Randy’s manager/son-in-law Paul Whitteker. Paul and I talked a few times a week and occasionally phone conferenced with Randy and Suzanne to lay out what Randy’s expectations were and what Bullseye’s battle plans would be, generally, and specifically to Randy’s projects.

GuessWhoTour2000 The Guess Who had reunited during the 1999 Winnipeg Pan Am Games and negotiations were well underway in making that a long term commitment. Randy, Burton Cummings, Jim Kale and Gary Peterson were set to tour and possibly record over the next 4 years. History would show the members were committed to the reunion and the terms of engagement. It wasn’t long before Kale was no longer on board. Two mid-period Guess Who members were brought in to fill the musical hole – Bill Wallace and Donnie MacDougall – and the Guess Who were off to the races. Paul Whitteker kept me fully apprized of the situation because it would be relevant to any promotional strategies we might want to implement as Randy rolled out CD projects over the same four year period. And the crux of our deal was negotiated from there.

Chad AllanThough Bachman didn’t own the Guess Who name, he did control quite a lot of its recordings from the pre-RCA Records era including the Quality Records masters featuring Chad Allan (all of which had been re-issued previously) and the post-Allan material with Burton Cummings taking over lead vocal duties while the band was struggling with both their identity and their future recording career. Those recordings started in late 1966 all the way through 1968 when they met Jack Richardson who turned them into a sellable commodity for RCA Records.

This Time Long Ago_hirezThere was a patchwork of independent singles, some TV appearances and radio commercials and the famed ‘A Wild Pair’ recordings for a soft-drink company featuring The Guess Who showcased on one side and The Staccatos (later 5 Man Electrical Band) on the other. Randy had distilled and mastered the most accessible of these 1966-1968 outings and called it ‘This Time Long Ago’. Through IndiePool he had attempted to gain interest – no major label would touch the odds & sods pieces…not even their old label RCA (now BMG Music). Paul and Randy were willing to repackage and re-market and promote it with the Bullseye name on it. This was a major coupe for Bullseye. We effectively had a previously unreleased (at least to the general population) 2CD package called ‘This Time Long Ago’ we could piggy back on the Guess Who media machine that was about to take off.

BraveBelt_coverPrior to this latest Guess Who rebirth, Bachman had chased down the rights to both Brave Belt albums from Reprise Records. This was the band he formed with Chad Allan in 1971 after he’d left The Guess Who and after he’d released his first solo album ‘Axe’. Brave Belt had some nominal luck on the charts in Canada with “Another Way Out” and “Dunrobin’s Gone” which, like the first Brave Belt album, was jazzy and country flavoured.

Brave_BeltWhen it came time to do the second record they added Bachman’s friend Fred Turner to give the sound a little more beef and a little more rock. Allan soon found his pop voice was not quite fitting the band’s new hard-hitting live performances and quick the group. With their Reprise deal over and Allan gone, they rebranded themselves Bachman-Turner Overdrive and the third Brave Belt album was released on Mercury stateside as ‘BTO  1’.

Shakin All OverRandy was willing to give me first crack at the package – which would include a previously unreleased remake of the Guess Who hit “Shakin’ All Over” (itself a remake of a Johnny Kidd & The Pirates song) featuring Bachman and Allan together again.

BTR_NEWBachman was also interested in releasing a new solo album. It would be a rock record – a little heavier than both his ‘Any Roads’ and ‘Merge’ albums from the 1990s entitled ‘Ride’. He had some tracks already in the can and would lay down more during breaks in the Guess Who tour. One of the tunes was a remake of ELO’s “Last Train To London” – done Lenny Breau jazz-style – that had been rejected for a US Power Pop compilation.

He was also sitting on a compilation called the ‘Bachman Songbook’ and featured remakes of his Guess Who and BTO signature tunes. He was selling Songbookthe discs at solo gigs and promoting the tunes to music supervisors for both radio and TV. Retailer Staples had picked up his re-do of “Takin’ Care of Business” after his BTO brethren – whom he’d been fighting with for years – refused to collaborate on a remake so they could grab a big paycheque together. Their loss. Randy re-did the song himself. Staples paid him 7 figures large over five years.

The intent from everyone’s perspective was to make this a way for Randy to continue releasing product and generating personal revenue outside of the fixed income he was locked into being back in the Guess Who. All that was left to do was to sign the deal and make it so.

Next week: Bachman With a Chinese Menu In His Hand

Send your CDs for review to this address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA

=JV=

Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 33 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 16 years. He is also the author of the recently released Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ is now available at Amazon.comhttp://gwntertainment.wix.com/jaimievernon

One Response to “JAIMIE VERNON – TAKIN’ CARE OF BACHMAN (PART 1)”

  1. Really liked this one…

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