Fuck you, I like Bachman Turner Overdrive. At least, just as much as the next guy, anyways. Although I still can’t stand it when “Takin’ Care of Business” blasts outta every junior-hockey rink across the country, these guys actually wrote a few decent tunes in their time, aside from the overplayed hits. Besides, I figured that if anyone else took on ’74 [in Hellbound’s Canada Day 2014 feature], it would be Rush self-titled, and while I do kinda like that album, it doesn’t show the band at its full potential. And hey, Moxy’s black album didn’t come out till ’75, so I’m gonna go with BTO.
It can’t be overlooked that Bachman, Turner and company were the heaviest thing on Canadian radio at the time. In 1974, only six Canadian artists topped the domestic singles charts, and three of them were Anne Murray, Gordon Lightfoot and Paul Anka. (You couldn’t exactly throw the horns to Terry Jacks’ “Seasons in the Sun” or Andy Kim’s “Rock Me Gently,” either—well, you could, but then you’d be cruisin’ for a bruisin’!) But topping the charts for most of the month of November, sandwiched between the Elton John classic “The Bitch is Back” and Carl Douglas’ greatest hits (aka “Kung Fu Fighting”) was “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,” a song that did the most for the advancement of stuttering in rock music since Roger Daltry garbled his way through The Who’s “My Generation” back in ’65. As far as BTO singles go, this one’s not bad, although I still prefer the galloping stomp of “Let It Ride” and the hefty crunch of inner-city cautionary tale “Gimme Your Money Please.”
The band also cleaned up at the ’74 Junos, taking home “Most Promising Group of the Year” and “Contemporary Album of the Year,” although the latter was in recognition of their self-titled debut, released in ’73. For most of the mid-70s, the well-oiled Bachman Turner machine cranked out two records a year, with Not Fragile being their third album. Its title was actually meant to take the piss outta pretentious prog-rockers Yes, who put out the much more delicate Fragile in ’72. On the other hand, this slab of BTO tuneage was meant to be unbreakable—and hey, the thing sold upwards of three-and-a-half-million copies before being recently reissued, so it looks like Bachman and co. got the last laugh.
The title track comes rumbling out of the gate with a great Fred Turner bassline and vocal to match. This number has been covered by a few heavy-rock outfits over the years (I’m particularly fond of Acid King’s rendition), and stands as a testament that in spite of the rhinestone-cowboy outfits they were wearing on stage at the time, these guys could really rock! The Bachman-penned and sung “Rock is My Life, and This is My Song” dials back the pace a bit, a laid-back verse begetting a crunchy, three-power-chord chorus with some big, dumb lyrics. Bachman’s vocal approach on this track is identical to “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,” which closes out Side A, but first we get another anthem in “Roll on Down the Highway,” which finished just shy of the top spot, peaking at number four on the Canuck charts. Suffice to say, if you’ve been to a junior-hockey game in the past four decades, you’ve probably heard this one, too.
The A Side actually ends with instrumental number “Free Wheelin,” a tune written by “the other guitarist,” Blair Thornton, the only non-Bachman or Turner in the original lineup. Although I don’t think it was ever licensed, I could certainly picture hearing this song in a Clint Eastwood or Steve McQueen movie from that era. Then it’s on to Side B, with “Sledgehammer” hitting like an AC/DC slow blues number (ie “Night Prowler”), albeit with a bit more of that good ol’ Bachman soul, the band’s two namesakes actually sharing vocal duties on this one. “Blue Moanin’” has a mid-paced, shuffling beat with Turner channeling Jim Morrison on a whisky-soaked vocal. The last two tracks have a bit of a pawn-shop theme, “Second Hand” a solid slow rocker with a winding chorus, while “Givin’ it All Away” ends things on a somewhat sunnier note, some shimmering dual-guitar harmonies preceding a fast-paced, hootin’, hollerin’ and clap-along country-rock number that namechecks the album title towards the end, just so you don’t forget.