“Takin’ Care of Business” is a song written by Randy Bachman and first recorded by Canadian rock group Bachman–Turner Overdrive (BTO) for their 1973 album Bachman–Turner Overdrive II.
Randy Bachman had developed what would later become “Takin’ Care of Business” while still a member of The Guess Who. His original idea was to write about a recording technician who worked on The Guess Who’s recordings. This particular technician would take the 8:15 train to get to work, inspiring the lyrics “take the 8:15 into the city.”
In the early arrangement for the song, which had the working title “White Collar Worker”, the chorus riff and vocal melody were similar to that of The Beatles’ “Paperback Writer”. When Bachman first played this version for Burton Cummings, Cummings declared that he was ashamed of him and that The Guess Who would never record the song because the Beatles would sue them.
Bachman still felt like the main riff and verses were good, it was only when the song got to the chorus that everyone hated it. While BTO was still playing smaller venues in support of its first album, Bachman was driving into Vancouver, British Columbia for a gig and listening to the radio when he heard local DJ Daryl B’s catch phrase “We’re takin’ care of business.” Lead vocalist Fred Turner’s voice gave out before the band’s last set that night. Bachman sang some cover songs to get through the last set, and on a whim, he told the band to play the C, B-flat and F chords (a I-VII-IV progression) over and over, and he sang “White Collar Worker” with the new words “Takin’ Care of Business” inserted into the chorus.
After this, he rewrote the lyrics to “White Collar Worker” with a new chorus and the title “Takin’ Care of Business”. Along with this he wrote a revised guitar riff, which was the I-VII-IV progression played with a shuffle. Bachman says he then handed over the lyrics to Fred Turner with the thought that Turner would sing the lead vocal. But Turner handed them back, saying Randy should sing the lead as it would give himself a needed vocal break when the band performed live.
The song was recorded by Bachman–Turner Overdrive for their second album Bachman–Turner Overdrive II. It reached number 12 on the US Billboard Hot 100 (August 10, 1974), number 6 on the Cash Box Top 100, and number 3 on the Canadian RPM charts, and would become one of BTO’s most enduring and well-known songs. “Takin’ Care of Business” spent 20 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, longer than any other BTO single.
The original studio version, recorded at Kaye-Smith Studios in Seattle, Washington, features prominent piano, played by Norman Durkee. Durkee was recording commercials in the next studio when sound engineer Buzz Richmond asked him to play on “Takin’ Care of Business”. With paid-by-the-hour musicians waiting, Durkee had only a few minutes to spare. Quickly conferring with Randy Bachman, he scribbled down the chords, and, without listening to the song beforehand, recorded the piano part in one take. The fact that Durkee wrote the chords down on a pizza box may have been the source of the long-standing myth – mischievously propagated by band members – that the part had been played by a pizza deliveryman who had heard the track being played back, and then cajoled the band into giving him a chance to add piano to it.
In 2011, Bachman said it was the most licensed song in Sony Music’s publishing catalogue. It is often referred to as “the Provincial rock anthem of Manitoba.” Bachman himself uses the song as the theme song for his CBC Radio music show, Vinyl Tap.
Randy Bachman – lead guitar, lead vocals
Tim Bachman – second lead guitar, backing vocals
Fred Turner – bass, backing vocals
Robbie Bachman – drums, percussion
Norman Durkee – piano