JAIMIE VERNON – TAKIN’ CARE OF BACHMAN (PART 2)

Vernon_Penny_Lane

excerpted from the forthcoming book ‘Bullsography: The Bullseye Records Story 1985-2010’

bravebeltThrough a lengthy telephone relationship inspired by our mutual legal council, Randy Bachman and my label Bullseye Records hammered out the boiler plate details of a record deal in July 2001 that would see the release of a Guess Who rarities 2CD set, a complete Brave Belt anthology, a solo album and some open ended project ideas yet to be determined. Randy’s manager and son-in-law, Paul Whitteker, had been facilitator and now it was time to seal the deal, and get the projects rolling before Randy took off with the reformed Guess Who on tour.

The Guess Who was set to rehearse and then launch the North American tour in Ontario. Randy would be holed up in Toronto for a few weeks so there was now opportunity to sit in a room and finalize our deal. Paul Whitteker was sent out in advance to set up accommodations and an office for Randy, temporarily, and so we agreed to meet out near Pearson International airport so I could give him an orientation of Toronto.

hummerHe was staying at a Days Inn hotel and his flight had come in late, so our meeting started at nearly 10.30 at night. Paul turned out to be a very tall, thin and gregarious Mormon who was easily 10 years my junior. We discussed getting food but he wanted me to help him get Randy’s gear out of the rental car. We took the service elevator down to the underground lot and the Hummer that he would be driving for the next few weeks. From the backseat he grabbed some garment bags, some luggage and a shoulder bag containing a new MacBook laptop computer they had just bought for Randy to use on the road. He wanted me to carry that stuff while he retrieved Randy’s guitars.

We took everything back up to his room and we talked about nailing down some food as he was still on Vancouver time and getting rather peckish. He cracked open the new MacBook which was loaded up with ProTools so Randy could do multi-tracking on-the-fly. Paul fired up a tune from a new artist Bachman was now producing. I was just getting into the second song when Paul looked at me and said, “You want to see them?” This wasn’t some lame hotel pick-up line. I knew exactly what he meant and nodded my approval.

 

Randy Les Paul

Like some scene from a crime drama Paul lifted both guitar cases onto the suite’s dining room table, and flipped the lids up as if revealing a stash of drug money. Instead it was guitar porn. The first case contained Bachman’s coveted Epiphone Gold Top Les Paul anniversary replica guitar. It, and, the standard sun burst model Gibson Les Paul that he wrote “American Woman” on were his go-to guitars everywhere he played. My memory would like to recall that the guitar sang to me in angelic voices as a shaft of gold light danced off the ceiling, but in reality it lay there devoid of the magic that Randy infused into it. Paul saw my eyes light up.

Randy“Sorry, buddy. Can’t let you play it. The old man would have his daughter divorce me by morning. Try this. It’s pretty new. Randy’s still breaking it in.” From the other side of the table Paul lifted a beautiful pine finish acoustic guitar from its case. He talked about what it was, but his voice was a distant echo. I was transfixed and could no longer hear him. I took it by the neck and carefully cradled the bottom. I can’t recall what it was. Another Gibson? A Martin? A Yamaha? It didn’t matter. I dropped down onto the nearest chair and began to strum. Like an otherworldly harp it resonated in my hands. Paul let me sit with it and noodle as we continued small talk about food. I finally handed the guitar back and said, “I can die in peace now.” Paul laughed and we headed off to get food. It would become the theme of the week.

Reunion of Scribes_CDThe next day was the big meeting. It was also the scheduled day for Bullseye to record a live album and DVD for another of my acts – the reunited Killer Dwarfs. It would be a busy day. My long-time friend, guitar guru and remastering engineer Glenn B. was going to supervise the audio recording for the Dwarfs at The Docks nightclub down on Lake Ontario’s waterfront. I hung out with him at his home base, Prisma Studio, on Soho Street near Much Music in Toronto as he prepped cords and the ADAT multi-track recorders we’d been using to record everything from Luke And The Apostles to Mainline to Goddo’s ‘2nd Best Seat In The House‘ live album and Moxy’s ‘Raw‘ album. The studio was walking distance from Randy’s hotel. So I left Glenn to transport the gear down to the venue and I would meet him at the show later that night.

Sheraton

It was a beautiful warm evening. I walked east on Queen to the Sheridan Centre Hotel kitty-corner to Toronto City Hall. Though the Four Seasons Hotel in Yorkville was the home to entertainers visiting from around the world and was home base for the majority of The Guess Who’s original foray – particularly when they were recording at Nimbus 9 Studio with legendary producer Jack Richardson, the Sheraton was closer to Toronto’s current entertainment district and was the new defacto hotel du jour.

And it was here that I was to meet Bachman. Our legal advisor, Susan Abramovitch, had arrived at the same time as I did in the main foyer. She called up to the room and we made small talk. She said Randy wanted to take me out for dinner and celebrate the distribution deal over a meal (no drinks though, as Randy was a non-drinker). The contract signing was a formality as we’d already hammered it out over months of negotiating. I would, however, have to sign a conflict-of-interest waiver as she was still Randy’s lawyer first and foremost.

GuessWhoLive2000

Then The Guess Who walked off the elevators en masse.

Introductions were made but it was a chaotic formality. Everyone had their own agenda to attend to and so Paul Whitteker hustled Randy away from the mob of handlers and wranglers. Cummings was holding court and was flanked by manager Lorne Saiffer, road manager Sam Boyd (whom I knew from working with The Carpet Frogs), drummer Gary Peterson and utility members Bill Wallace and Donnie McDougall milling about. We left the scene behind as a crowd of curiousity hounds began to assemble.

Susan, Randy and I stood at the hotel’s vehicle entrance while Paul retrieved the Hummer. Randy finally addressed me directly. He smiled and told me he was excited to move forward with the deal as Susan had talked me up. “I hope you like Chinese food.” Even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have turned down the invite.

I got in the back of the Hummer with Susan and I sat behind Paul, who was driving, and positioned myself so I had a clear line of sight to Randy in the passenger seat. Randy started asking me questions about my family in between giving directions to Paul to get us to the restaurant.

akaMoe_COVER_hirezWithout missing a beat I immediately mentioned that my wife’s sister, Maureen, was a singer and had mentioned previously to Paul that we were looking for songs for a solo album I wanted her to release. He asked what her voice was like and what kind of material she was looking for. I tried to explain she was a strong singer a la Melissa Etheridge but more specifically Anne Wilson of Heart. I had Randy’s attention. “I have a CD of original material with me you can take and listen to at your leisure if you’re interested. I know you’re bus – ”

SteepedHe turned around and said “Let’s hear it now.” He had his hand out. I gave him a CD of songs she and I had written and recorded when we were in a band together in the 1990’s called Sharon’SISTER (formerly Spare Parts). Paul put the disc in the Hummer’s massive stereo system. Randy listened intently with the volume up loud. I saw the sparkle in Paul’s eyes as he looked back at me in the rearview mirror. Susan leaned over and off handedly said, “Well played.”  I’d like to think she meant my playing & songwriting. She meant my strategy.

He asked me questions about the songs, the production…even my bass playing. He clapped his hands together gleefully and said, “This girl can sing. I’ve got some songs I think would work for her voice. Paul will send them to you when he gets back to Salt Spring Island. I’d love to produce the tracks if you can get her out to my studio – The Barn.”

Lee Garden

No one but Paul was aware that we’d been sitting in front of the restaurant for 20 minutes: Lee Garden on Spadina. We all walked through the dark doorway and into the foyer. A woman ushered us into the dining room and Randy made a bee line for the kitchen. Paul, Susan and I found ourselves at a round table suitable to seat 12. Randy returned a short time later and we continued talking about Maureen, the Randy projects and the Guess Who revival. He was open about his expectations from Bullseye but assured me that his staff – Paul and office administrator Suzanne Little – would be at my full-time disposal. We finally got to formally signing all the paperwork as the food arrived. 20 plates full. “Hope you’re hungry. This is my last big food hurrah for awhile. In the fall I’m getting my stomach banded.”

The big, jovial guitar legend known the world over as Randy Bachman was about to become the much thinner Randy Bachman. The irony wasn’t lost on me that I would be told this over a massive celebratory Chinese dinner at his favourite restaurant in the world. We would go on to have a mutual respect from that day on. I made him proud of the work we did promoting his Tom 3 - smallreleases, and he sent me songs. Songs for my sister-in-law Maureen’s solo album (which, sadly, he became too busy to produce); “Takin’ Care of Christmas” for our seasonal compilation CD of the same name; and some recordings from a pop songwriter who happened to be married to Bachman’s office administrator. His name was Tom Hooper – formerly of the Grapes of Wrath – and he was looking for a record deal.

NEXT WEEK: Tom Hooper and The Unexplored Cosmos.

THIS WEEK’S VIRAL FIND:

THIS WEEK’S VIRAL OLDIE:

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

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