Of all the Canadian music autobiographies published in recent years, no two could be more different than Anti Diva and Takin' Care of Business. The former, by Carole Pope, is a titillating walk on the wild side with the former Rough Trade vocalist who once sang “she makes me cream my jeans when she comes my way.” By contrast, Randy Bachman’s account of his life is like a sober family history with all the spicy stories about drunken aunts and rakish uncles left out to protect 1 innocent ears. In that respect, both books accurately reflect their subjects: Pope is a lesbian trailblazer and pop provocateur who has revelled in sex and drugs, while Bachman, the burly guitarist with the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, is a practising Mormon who has abstained from the excesses of rock ’n roll since the early days of the Guess Who. Their memoirs offer revealing glimpses into the steamy and sensible sides of Canadian pop.
Written with Winnipeg rock historian John Einarson, Takin Care of Business documents Bachman’s rise from local guitar hero to international pop star who wrote such hits as “Undun” and “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.” At times it reads like a self-help book that could have been titled How to Succeed in the Music Business. At one point, he describes how he carefully invested his Guess Who nest egg to finance the global success of BTO. “I had laid out almost $100,000 and got that back, and the guys in the band still got their salary every week, $175 a week,” writes Bachman. “Two years later, they were millionaires.” But overall, he emerges as a gentle bear of a man whose passion for music, more than business acumen, has led him to the top of the charts.
Pope’s passion is more carnal than musical, judging by the sexual encounters detailed in Anti Diva. While Bachman documents contractual details, Pope runs through her affairs with women, including comedian Andrea Martin and singer Dusty Springfield, with candour and wit. “I’m obsessed with sex simply because it’s so funny,” she claims. “It’s nature’s perverse joke, and a never-ending source of material for me.” Pope milked the subject in Rough Trade songs such as “Lipstick on Your Dipstick” and “High School Confidential,” which may explain why she was never embraced by what she calls “the boys’ club that ran the music industry.” She adds: “An aggressive, sexually androgynous woman with warped sensibilities did not sit well with them.” Still, there’s no denying that Pope has played a revolutionary role, paving the way for female singers such as k.d. lang. Like Bachman, she’s a Canadian icon who remains an inspiration to younger musicians everywhere.
Originally published in Maclean’s 20 November 2000