Not-so-intimate portrait of Canadian legend who prefers living in the pocket of humbleness to exposing rock ‘n’ roll’s warts-and-all and becoming human.
There’s a marvelous headshot of Randy Bachman at the end of this documentary: his highlighted from behind, his face hidden in the shadow, his hair a shining halo. And that is exactly how one should feel after watching it: despite delving into archives and driving down memory lane, the driving force behind THE GUESS WHO and BACHMAN-TURNER OVERDRIVE – two bands he took to the top of the charts and was basically booted from because of his strict ways – remains as enigmatic as he’s ever been. As a result, John Barnard’s effort turned out disturbingly flattering, with natural flaws – something that makes a person ultimately human – barely hinted at.
Cutting a saint-like figure, the film’s protagonist manages to retain his true core hidden from public view: there’s no revealing the truth from the man himself, and the look under Randy’s veneer is provided – ever so slightly – by his brother (not one of the two Bachman siblings who were with him in BTO and don’t get a mention here) and two of his children, rather than fellow artists. Neil Young may say Randy was the biggest influence on him and he may have witnessed Randy’s early artistic days in Winnipeg, yet there’s not a lot of insight coming from the veteran, and Alex Lifeson doesn’t present a clear Canadian angle either, while Peter Frampton’s opinion of Bachman’s childhood is simply perfunctory, which makes the absence of Burton Cummings in the movie so jarring. Thankfully, Fred Turner is present to add some quasi-gritty detail.
All those talking heads can’t compensate the lack of a single one complete concert performance in the film. Letting music do some of the talking would really help propel the straightforwardly chronological narrative forward, as would digging into background of songs. One of a few discoveries from the doc may be the existence of a country-rock outfit BRAVE BELT under Bachman’s belt, for it takes an aficionado to have heard of this ensemble, but on a non-music level, fans can be surprised to hear how Randy became a Mormon under the influence of his first wife-to-be whereas others were influenced by sex and drugs in order to play rock ‘n’ roll. Which is why Bachman had to listen to his future partner Turner from the outside of the spirit-selling establishment that the latter sang in.
There’s another telling episode, involving Randy visiting his storage and talking about his multitude of instruments: one of these has a great story about it, only it can’t be told, and the instrument is pixelated on screen. That about sums up the documentary which doesn’t bother, or isn’t able, to unravel any story attached to Bachman’s biography. Here he is, in the studio, recording a tribute to George Harrison and, as usual, holding a guitar as if protecting himself from outsiders poking at the aforementioned veneer – sadly, such a surface is impenetrable. Ain’t seen nothing yet, indeed.