There’s something to be said about what I call “big dumb rock records.” They’re the riff-crazy tracks that make you grab for your air guitar whilst rocking your head back and forth…oh, and don’t forget the obligatory pain-ridden facial expressions a la Carlos Santana.
We’ve all been there and I still go there today from time-to-time. Anybody who’s been to a concert with me can attest to this fact. It ain’t pretty…but it’s the rock abandon that tracks like the title track to BTO’s Not Fragile (written by C.F. Turner) conjure that makes it all happen. Simply put, the track is the consummate air guitar song and probably the band’s most riff-heavy moment.
The Not Fragile album was BTO’s most popular (non-compilation) album, reaching number one on the LP charts in 1974. The record was their first album with Blair Thornton on guitar, giving the album its twin lead guitar heaviosity, and it contained two of the group’s best-loved singles, the freewheelin’ “Roll On Down The Highway,” and today’s Song Of The Day, the chart-topping “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.” The rest of the BTO line-up consisted of Randy and Robbie Bachman on guitar and drums respectively, plus C.F. Turner on bass.
And today’s Song Of The Day, and the group’s biggest hit ever wasn’t even intended for the album! “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” was born out of a jam and originally recorded as a scratch track to get levels in the recording studio. Randy Bachman added the song’s signature stutter as a joke for his brother Gary who stuttered. When the band presented the album to Mercury Records for release, the suits didn’t hear a surefire hit single on it and asked Bachman if he had anything else. Bachman reluctantly dug up the scratch track and, of course, they loved it.
Even so, Bachman only agreed to add the song to the record if he could re-record the vocals without the stutter. Bachman: “I tried to sing it normal, but I sounded like Frank Sinatra. It didn’t fit.” Ultimately, it was the original stutter version that had all the magic, and that is what we hear on the album.
Bachman, however, didn’t want it released as a single and the band went with “Roll On Down The Highway” as the album’s first single which peaked at #14 on the U.S. singles charts. Meanwhile, radio DJs started playing “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” as an album cut and it began to gain popularity. As a result, the song was finally released as a single and went on to sell over a million copies and top the charts. It was, in fact, BTO’s only chart-topping U.S. hit.
The Who had already set the precedent for the use of stuttering on a rock record with their single “My Generation,” but The Who similarities didn’t end there. Many people believe that the chord progression of “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” is indeed a rip of The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly.”
Meanwhile, stuttering has gone on to become a popular element in songs like “Bennie And The Jets” by Elton John, “Changes” by David Bowie, “Bad To The Bone” by George Thorogood & The Destroyers, “My Sharona” by The Knack, “Welcome To The Jungle” by Guns N Roses and “Check It Out” by The Beastie Boys, to name but a few. What other stutter songs can you name?