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This song was written by Randy Bachman, who also sang lead on the track. He explained to classicbands.com
that he came up with the idea for the song in the late-'60s while he was still a member of The Guess Who. Bachman loved "Paperback Writer
" by The Beatles, and he used that music to create a song about going to work called "White Collar Worker," which needed a new hook to complete. The song lay dormant until Bachman formed Bachman-Turner Overdrive and were playing a show when lead singer Fred Turner's voice gave out. Forced to sing for a set, Bachman told the band to "Play these 3 chords over and over, C, B flat, and F endlessly and when I get to the hook, help me out."
Bachman was listening to C-Fox radio on the way to the club and heard the DJ say they were "Takin' Care of Business," which gave him the idea for the hook. Singing his lyrics to "White Collar Worker," Bachman sang "Takin' Care of Business" in the breakdown, and he had his song.
The band captured the feel of jamming in the club by having Bachman sing it, which Turner appreciated since it would give his voice a rest at their shows. Bachman had a sore throat and a head cold when he recorded his vocals.
The song propelled the phrase "Takin' care of business" into the popular lexicon, forever to be used by athletes, performers and the common man to indicate they are on the job.
Randy Bachman: "Ralph (Murphy) and I wrote a song in '67 called 'A Little Bit Of Rain.' That riff is used in the middle of 'Takin' Care Of Business,' just to break the monotony because 'Takin' Care Of Business' was three chords over and over and over. It had no bridge. No hook. No song format, other than that it was 'Louie Louie
.' Endless, mind-bashing of three chords. And the original version, as I explained at the Ryman, had twelve chords. That's why nobody liked it. It had an incredible number of chords."
While the song title implies an industrious responsibility, a closer listen reveals that this song is more of a slacker anthem. The singer is presumably unemployed, and he "loves to work at nothing all day."
Norman Durkee played the piano on this track. So who is this Norman fellow? John Presho, who knew Bachman and worked security at their concerts, gives this account:
"Randy Bachman told me that when BTO was in the recording studio the record producer wasn't happy with the raw version of that song. BTO took a time out, ordered a pizza and went back to work on the song. A while later there was a knock on the studio door and it was the pizza delivery man. After giving the band their pizza he commented that 'Takin' Care of Business' was a great song but it needed some piano playing. The pizza man introduced himself as Norman and said that he was a piano player. BTO thanked and tipped him and sent him on his way. Hours later with no improvement in the song they decided to call Norman, but no one got his phone number or could remember the name of the pizza place. BTO called a half dozen pizza houses before they were able to track him down. The band paid Herman's $75 to join the musicians union so he could play the piano in the recording studio."
Throughout the early '90s, this was used in commercials for Office Depot to promote their business services. Hillary Clinton used it at many of her campaign events in 2008 when she ran for president of the US.
A cover of this song was included on the first rap album released by a major label. It happened in 1980 when Kurtis Blow recorded it for his self-titled album.
This holds the record for largest guitar jam in history. On May 7, 1994, Bachman led 1,322 mostly-amateur guitarists in a performance of this that lasted 68 minutes. The event was held in Vancouver.
The Guess Who played this on their 2000 reunion tour. Bachman was in The Guess Who before leaving to form Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
Randy Bachman and C.F Turner reunited in 2000 for an appearance on The Simpsons that featured this song. At a concert, Homer heckles the band until they play this, then tells them to "Get to the 'working overtime' part."
The song title as well as the band's name are mentioned in the Crude but humorous video game Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude, where a character claims the song was written about her. (thanks, Logan - Troy, MT)
Bachman's autobiography is titled Randy Bachman, Takin' Care Of Business.
Charlie Benante of Anthrax
The drummer for Anthrax is also a key songwriter. He explains how the group puts their songs together and tells the stories behind some of their classics.
The Canadian superstar talks about his sudden rise to fame, and tells the stories behind his hits "Sunglasses At Night," "Boy In The Box" and "Never Surrender."