Randy Bachman (ex Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive) has recently been touring the country talking about his career and performing some of his greatest hits. Having seen his show in Banff, it struck me that some of his insights apply to us as writers, not just musicians.
1) When inspiration strikes, BE READY!
Randy and his band were in the middle of a performance when one of the strings on his guitar broke. Apparently it was a fancy guitar, so the rest of the band went off for a drink while he set to restringing. When it was done, he tried a riff to make sure everything was in tune… and realised the riff he’d come up with was something special. Knowing that if he stopped playing he’d forget it – this was in the days before recording devices on cell phones! – he called the drummer from the wings to keep the rhythm going, then the other guitarist and then finally the lead singer. “Sing something!” he told him. There and then, on that stage, they came up with both the music and lyrics for their iconic American Woman. (Something similar happened to Paul McCartney with ‘Yesterday’ which he initially called ‘Scrambled Eggs’, and we’ve all heard about J.K. Rowling coming up with the story of Harry Potter on a train.
Moral: When a great idea strikes you, write it down – or record it in some way – IMMEDIATELY.
2) Sometimes when you’re at your most relaxed and not trying, you come up with your best work.
‘You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet’ was their ‘work song’ – the song they used to warm up before performing or recording. Not thinking it had much merit they had no plans of recording it, but when they were persuaded to do so, it became one of their biggest hits.
Moral: Sometimes you don’t always know what’s best. Listen to what others say. You might not like a particular story you’ve written, but if it strikes a chord with others, you might have captured a piece of magic.
3) Get yourself noticed.
Originally a hit in Europe, RB’s band covered Shakin’ all Over. However, there was a legal issue with the band’s name at the time and the record company decided to put the record out with a white label and the title Guess Who? This led to speculation that some of the musicians included Paul McCartney and Keith Richards and generated enormous interest.
Moral: As writers, we are responsible not just for writing the best stories we can, but for getting them and ourselves out there and noticed.