We played Animals hit to calm Hells Angels
Bachman Turner Overdrive first performed House of the Rising Sun because they wanted to avoid a disagreement at a biker festival, says Fred Turner.
They added the Animals classic to their set at the last minute after Eric Burdon didn’t play it at the 50th Sturgis Rally in South Dakota at the end of 1980s.
Turner tells BraveWords: “Because it was the anniversary there were 500,000 registered bikes and who knows how many unregistered bikes. You couldn’t move on the highways – everything was just gridlocked.
“We were playing Buffalo Chip Park, which was Hells Angels. They came over in pickup trucks and took us across country and it was like Thunderball revisited. There were things burning in the fields and it was wild.
“On our way up to the stage a couple of real big security guys came up to Randy Bachman and I and said, ‘You know, Eric Burdon played this afternoon and he didn’t sing our favourite song. We’re pissed.’
“I made the mistake of saying, ‘What’s your favourite song?’ And they said, ‘House of the Rising Sun.’ I said, ‘Well, I’ve sung that before.’ They said, ‘Well, would you do it tonight?’
“I looked at Randy and said, ‘What do you think?’ And he said, ‘Well, I can handle it.’ So we did House of the Rising Sun, and that’s where that came from.”
Turner also reveals that, when BTO formed, Bachman didn’t think he could sing and had no plans to take the mic.
“Randy didn’t really want to sing at all,” he says. “I said, ‘Your songs, you have certain feel for those that I don’t have – it would probably be better if you tried the vocals.’
“He said, ‘Well, I can’t really sing.’ I said, ‘Sure you can.’ Si he started singing. My voice would never have come off with the inflections he uses in his songs. So basically I sang my songs, he sang his.”