Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


An occasional promoter of our state...

Posted 9/23/19 (Mon)

Most of us weren’t even aware that Randy Bachman played a concert in Fargo back in January. It was one of those impromptu performances in a lesser known venue, something that has become somewhat common in Fargo.

But Randy Bachman is quite familiar with North Dakota. He’s been here a number of times over his illustrious career, and of course, growing up in Winnipeg, the 75-year-old would know his way around North Dakota by default.

Nowadays, he doesn’t perform too often, his most recent being a charity event in Winnipeg with former Guess Who partner Burton Cummings.

Weekly, however, Bachman has a radio show called Vinyl Tap that airs Friday nights on CBC Radio 1 with an encore Sunday nights on CBC Music, formerly known as CBC Radio 2.

It’s amazing what he knows about the history of rock music. He will rattle stuff off the top of his head from a wide range of musicians, events and places.

On several occasions he’s mentioned Fargo on Vinyl Tap.

In one segment, he was talking about a group of friends who were playing hooky from school and traveling to Fargo to see Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper in February 1959.

Unfortunately, they learned from a radio broadcast on the way that Buddy Holly had been killed in a plane crash in Iowa.

In another segment when Randy was with the Guess Who, they were driving into North Dakota when he and Cummings were stopped at the border.

They had work visas because they often performed in the United States. As luck would have it, the agents at the border tried to get them to enlist in the U.S. Army to go to Vietnam.

Both being Canadian, they decided to return to Winnipeg.

Several days later they were preparing to play a concert in Kingston, Ontario. They were warming up and Bachman struck some unfamiliar, but likeable cords so Cummings started putting words together as he asked Bachman to repeat the cords he just played.

After a short time, while on stage in Kingston, they had put together a song that would become a hit and remain popular for decades. It is called American Woman.

The song, which was banned from United States radio stations for a time, is widely considered an anti-war theme song.

But as Bachman described it on Vinyl Tap, the trip that was stopped in Pembina inspired the song and it was only coincidental that Vietnam was part of it.

To this day, Cummings and Bachman say the song was about them going back to Canada and for American women to stay away because of relationships they already had in Winnipeg.

“American woman, I said get way, American woman, listen what I say, Don’t come hanging around my door, Don’t want to see your face no more, I don’t need your war machines, I don’t need your ghetto scenes, Colored lights can hypnotize, sparkle someone else’s eyes.”

“I don’t need your war machines, I don’t need your ghetto scenes” was the reason American Woman wasn’t played on U.S. radio stations in the early 1970s.

Instead, North Dakota had an impact on the duo writing that song that is part of the album, also titled “American Woman.”

Bachman has talked about other trips to Grand Forks and Fargo. Perhaps he’s like any other Winnipegger who travels to Grand Forks and Fargo for weekend shopping and sporting events.

Bachman, who now lives in British Columbia, has a Facebook page and writes frequently about his visits to his hometown of Winnipeg, which ties into occasional trips to Fargo for various reasons.

Cummings has become sort of a recluse and now lives in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Despite being 75 years old, Bachman and his music remain popular. After the Guess Who broke up, he was also part of the bands Brave Belt and Ironhorse that later became Bachman Turner Overdrive.

Mr. Bachman is a personable individual and talks highly of his trips to North Dakota, other than that one stop in 1969 at the border.

If you get a chance, tune into Vinyl Tap. If you live near the border, you can pick it up Sundays at 6 p.m., on 98.3 in Winnipeg, 92.7 in Brandon or 101.5 in Warmley, Saskatchewan.

If you don’t live close to the border, CBC 1 and CBC Music both stream live on the Internet. All you have to do is download the CBC Radio app.