The Canadian embassy in Japan will help repatriate a rock ‘n’ roll relic stolen from musician Randy Bachman more than four decades ago, as part of a Canada Day ceremony next month.
The guitar was taken from a Toronto hotel room in 1976, when the former Guess Who singer and guitarist was recording his sixth album with Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
The orange 1957 Gretsch was a guitar that rarely left Bachman’s side. Its loss triggered a 45-year search and a “midlife crisis” for the Canadian rock icon, who began obsessively collecting Gretsches in an effort to fill the void of its absence.
As CTV News first reported, an online sleuth tracked down the instrument last year in Tokyo, where a Japanese musician known as Takeshi had bought it from a vintage guitar dealer, unaware of its history.
Japanese musician Takeshi bought this Gretsch guitar in Tokyo without knowing it had been stolen from Randy Bachman in 1976. (Takeshi)
‘I’M GOING TO BE ON MY KNEES AND IN TEARS’
Over a series of video conference calls, Bachman hashed out a deal to get the guitar back from Takeshi in exchange for a near-identical instrument built at the same factory in the same week.
But the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with Bachman’s own health issues earlier this year, put the reunion on hold, preventing the 78-year-old rocker from travelling to Tokyo to collect on the agreement.
That will change on June 16, when Bachman and his family are scheduled to fly from British Columbia to Tokyo ahead of a July 1 event at the Canadian embassy.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen to me when he hands me my guitar after almost 50 years of it being gone,” Bachman tells CTV News. “I’m sure I’m going to be on my knees and in tears.”
The handoff will happen in a carefully choreographed concert at the Canadian embassy’s 233-seat theatre, where Bachman and a band of family members will perform songs for an audience of invited guests.
“It will be a curated event with people in the music business who Randy knows and who Takeshi knows,” says Ian McKay, Canada’s ambassador to Japan. “We’ll have some of our key stakeholders in the business and government world here.”
At a predetermined point in the show, the band will launch into Bachman’s 1973 hit “Takin’ Care of Business,” one of several chart-toppers he wrote and recorded with the lost Gretsch.
Then, in a dramatic bit of stagecraft, Takeshi will take the stage mid-song to trade guitars with Bachman, likely just in time for the guitar solo.
“It’s like a wedding: I’m not going to see the bride before the ceremony,” Bachman says.
Randy Bachman with his 1957 Gretsch guitar in the video for “Lookin’ Out for Number 1” in 1975. The guitar was stolen from Toronto the following year.
DOCUMENTARY FILM IN PRODUCTION
The stage-managed exchange will be captured by a documentary film crew, who have already been shooting interviews with Bachman and others around his home near Victoria.
The embassy event has been in the works since early March, when the ambassador says he sent an email about the guitar to Bachman on the very same day that Bachman was trying to reach him.
“Randy and I, who have never had any contact with each other before,” McKay says. “Literally at the same moment we decided to reach out to each other.”
Bachman, who hasn’t been to Japan since the last time he played at the famed Budokan arena in 1995, says he plans to use the guitar to record the final song on a forthcoming, still-unnamed album, and then stash it away “in a lockup or a safe somewhere.”
“It’s never going to leave my house again,” he says.
McKay, who “grew up on a steady diet” of Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive hits as a young man in Penticton, B.C., says he’s honoured to be part of the guitar’s homecoming.
“I think Randy would say this is one of the biggest moments in his music life to be reunited with his guitar,” the ambassador says.
“When I tell the story to stakeholders, with whom I engage in the business world and in the political world every day here in Japan, the story really, really resonates,” McKay adds. “People get quite emotional when they hear the background.”