Rock 'N Roll Nights
Recording Artist: BTO
Release Date: 1979
Songs By Jim Vallance: Amelia Earhart
Here She Comes Again
Jamaica
Rock 'n Roll Hell
Charts: #165 - Billboard Album Chart / 1979 (4 weeks on chart)
World: Approximately 250,000 sales
Comments:
The BTO guys were very good to me.  In 1979 I was a young musician and aspiring producer, inexperienced in the art of making records.  BTO took a chance and brought me into their world ... in fact, they gave me the responsibility of co-writing and producing their "Rock 'N Roll Nights" album!

Mercury Records had originally hired Barry Mraz to produce the album. Barry was very experienced and capable, having worked extensively with Styx and the Ohio Players, whose song "Love Rollercoaster" had reached #1 on the U.S. charts in January 1976. But Barry was primarily an audio engineer, and BTO had reservations about the depth of his musical knowledge.  They asked me to join them in the studio as their "musical director", a musical liason between the band and Barry.
Chicago Recording Company  studio >
Barry Mraz was based in Chicago. He was familiar with the studios in that city and he suggested we record there.

We flew to Chicago on September 11, 1978 and checked into the Marriott Hotel.  The next day the band set up their gear at the Chicago Recording Company and Barry immediately began rehearsing and recording songs for the album.

The first track we recorded was "Wastin' Time", a song Bryan Adams had written especially for the project (a year later Bryan would record his own version of "Wastin' Time", on his debut album).

Barry was a perfectionist.  He believed a reel of analog tape should only be recorded on once. At 30-inches-per-second, a reel of 2-inch tape lasts about 15 minutes, enough for three or four "takes" of a song. By the end of the first day Barry had used eight reels of tape at $200 a reel. And that didn't include studio charges and the producer's fee.
 
 
 
Barry Mraz
Barry was a sweet guy, very laid back and creative, but he was accustomed to working on projects with unrestricted budgets. BTO were from a different "school" altogether, and the exorbitant tape costs had them convinced that Barry and the studio were conspiring to rip them off.

To make matters worse, Barry and BTO drummer Robbie Bachman weren't "clicking".  Robbie's an excellent drummer, but he was frustrated by the number of takes required to achieve the level of perfection Barry was pursuing. 

For a myriad of reasons, things just weren't working. At the end of the second day BTO held a "band meeting" back at the hotel. They made three decisions:

1). Barry Mraz was fired;

2). I would be Barry's replacement, and;

3). As their new producer, it was my job to tell Barry he was fired!

Ouch!
 
 
Barry and I met at the studio the following morning. He was baffled and upset by the decision, but he understood the band's concerns and he was actually very calm and professional about the whole thing. He wished me well, but cautioned me on the pitfalls of producing an album (something I'd never done before).

Barry was genuinely worried about how the record would sound without his participation. He was a decent guy and a superb audio engineer, and in retrospect I believe BTO should have stayed with him.

The band cancelled the hotel and the remaining studio time in Chicago and returned to Vancouver. We loaded the gear into Mushroom Studios on September 26, 1978 and stayed there for the next thirty days.

Once the tracks were completed the band had another meeting and decided the album should be mixed in England.  On the first day of November we flew to London to complete overdubs, vocals and mixes at Trident Studios with engineer John Brand and assistant Michael Donegani.
Fred Turner rocks out on his Thunderbird bass, circa 1985.
 
 
Trident Studios, 17 St. Anne's Court, London
Trident was a legendary studio, a fixture in Soho since the mid-1960s.  The Beatles recorded several tracks there, as did Elton John, Supertramp, David Bowie and many others.  It was a fascinating place to work, and I learned a lot during our stay there.

A month later we returned to Vancouver with the finished mixes, and we booked an evening at Little Mountain Sound for a "playback party".  Among those in attendance was Mercury Records president Charlie Fach, who'd flown in from Chicago for the occasion. 

"Disco" had recently invaded the airwaves.  The week that BTO's album (and the "Heartaches" single) was released, the top ten songs in the USA included "YMCA" (Village People), "Tragedy" (The Bee Gees) and "I Will Survive" (Gloria Gaynor).

Rock-and-Roll was dead, or at least temporarily incapacitated.  BTO didn't stand a chance!


"Heartaches" managed to climb half-way up the U.S. charts, and as a result BTO were invited to perform on the famous "Bandstand" television show in Los Angeles, hosted by Dick Clark.  I went along as piano player.  It was my first time riding in a limousine.

Despite the moderate success of "Heartaches", BTO's album stalled at #165 on the Billboard album chart. It would be several years before rock music found its way back onto the airwaves again.
Watch BTO on
American Bandstand
 
BTO continue to write, record and tour.  I've lost touch with Robbie Bachman, Blair Thorton and Jim Clench, but Fred Turner and I have remained friends.  He's as nice a guy as ever, and in my opinion, he's still one of the best rock-and-roll singers on the planet!!
 
 
 
 
For additional information on BTO's "Rock 'N Roll Nights" album, please click on the individual song titles at the top of the page.