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How the sausage is made

I’ve never been in the habit of watching videos linked or embedded by other bloggers; don’t know why that would be, I’m by no means opposed to it, and I certainly hope CF readers will watch the ones I embed. Hypocritical of me, perhaps, but hey, it is what it is. Don’t hate me ‘cause I’m beautiful, to swipe one of my favorite Little Richard quotes.

That said, though, for some odd reason I felt compelled to watch one MisHum included with last night’s ONT, the first half of it anyway. And in so doing, I learned something I didn’t know before, namely the backstory of how a great ‘70s classic-rock tune came to be.

“No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature” is a medley by the Canadian rock band The Guess Who. It was released on their 1970 album American Woman, and was released on the B-side of the “American Woman” single without the “New Mother Nature” section. The single was officially released as “American Woman/No Sugar Tonight” and peaked at #1 on the RPM magazine charts and #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, for three weeks on both charts. In Cash Box, which at the time ranked sides of singles independently, “No Sugar Tonight” reached #39.

According to Randy Bachman, the inspiration for the song arose after an incident when he was visiting California. He was walking down the street with a stack of records under his arm, when he saw three “tough-looking biker guys” approaching. He felt threatened and was looking for a way to cross the street onto the other sidewalk when a little car pulled up to the men. A woman about 5 feet tall got out of the car, shouting at one of them, asking where he’d been all day, that he had left her alone with the kids, didn’t take out the trash, and was down here watching the girls. The man was suddenly alone when his buddies walked away. Chastened, he got in the car as the woman told him before pulling away: “And one more thing, you ain’t getting no sugar tonight”. The words stuck in Bachman’s memory.

Bachman then wrote a short song in the key of F♯ called “No Sugar Tonight”. When he presented the song to Burton Cummings and RCA, he was told that the song was too short. Bachman and Cummings expanded the song by adding to it a song Cummings had written that was also in the key of F♯, “New Mother Nature”.

The narrator of the vid over at the Ace place goes on to relate the tale of how the A-side of which “No Sugar” was the B, “American Woman,” was put together as well, and it’s a doozy in its own right.

The music and lyrics of the song were improvised on stage during a concert in Southern Ontario (the guitarist, Randy Bachman, recalled it being at a concert in Kitchener, although Burton Cummings, the lead singer, said it was at the Broom and Stone, a curling rink in Scarborough). Bachman was playing notes while tuning his guitar after replacing a broken string, and he realized he was playing a new riff that he wanted to remember. He continued playing it and the other band members returned to the stage and joined in, creating a jam session in which Cummings improvised the lyrics. They noticed a kid with a cassette recorder making a bootleg recording and asked him for the tape. They listened to the tape and noted down the words that Cummings had extemporized, and which he later revised.

The song’s lyrics have been the matter of debate, often interpreted as an attack on U.S. politics (especially the draft). Cummings, who composed the lyrics, said in 2013 that they had nothing to do with politics. “What was on my mind was that girls in the States seemed to get older quicker than our girls and that made them, well, dangerous. When I said ‘American woman, stay away from me,’ I really meant ‘Canadian woman, I prefer you.’ It was all a happy accident.”

Heh. Upon the single’s release “American Woman” quickly raced to number one on the Billboard chart, moving on from there to worldwide commercial success and writing the Guess Who into the hitmaker-history book forever.

The music biz is just brim-full of fascinating, fun stories like those; that’s among many other factors that attracted me so intensely from a very early age, inspiring me to devote my entire life to chasing that most beautiful of dreams. Plenty of barbed hooks to be found in the briny deeps of the musician’s world, I assure you, and once they’re set in ya there just ain’t no wriggling off of ‘em. As I recently said in a comments-section response to a Quora query concerning the cons of playing the guitar:

The biggest “con” of all: it’s TOTALLY addictive. Back when I was taking students, if it was a newbie first thing I’d tell them was, “sell the guitar now and walk away. Otherwise, it’ll get in your blood and you’ll never have a pot to piss in for the rest of your life.” None of them took my sage advice, go figure.

With the guys who already knew how to play and just wanted me to teach them my own particular style, I didn’t bother saying anything. I knew they were lost already, and would never, ever recover. 😉

S’truth, and I know whereof I speak on this one. Learning to play; training yourself up to proficiency; screwing up the nerve to climb up onto a stage and play before an audience for the very first time; getting used to committing that unnatural act until you’ve reached the point where the stage is the one and only place in all the world where you feel truly alive, truly yourself—tougher to kick than heroin, that is, but a WAY better, more enjoyable high. Plus, there’s not all that puking right after you geeze up to contend with, either.

Yep, it’s a sickness, that’s what it is.

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2 thoughts on “How the sausage is made

  1. Don’t hate me ‘cause I’m beautiful, to swipe one of my favorite Little Richard quotes”.

    I liked it better when Kelly Lebrock said it.

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