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NOD TO THE GODS: The Guess Who, ‘Undun’
May 26, 2013
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Each and every Sunday night, we celebrate the noisemakers and groundbreakers that have come before us. Tonight, we tip our hats to the man behind Vinyl Tap, Randy Bachman with 'Undun' by The Guess Who, off their 'Canned Wheat' LP from September 1969.

Bachman wrote this after hearing Bob Dylan's eight-minute 'Ballad in Plain D' on the radio. It's the longest track on Dylan's fourth album, 'Another Side of Bob Dylan' and recounts the circumstances around his relationship with Suze Rotolo.

Right before Bachman turned the station, he caught the third verse: "Of the two sisters, I loved the young. With sensitive instincts, she was the creative one. The constant scapegoat, she was easily undone."

Inspired by Dylan's turn of phrase, Bachman wrote the song about a girl that he once saw at a party who had slipped into a coma after dropping acid. He set the melody to chords that he had learned from Canadian jazz guitarist Lenny Breau and Burton Cummings was inspired to purchase a flute from the local YAMAHA music store. He quickly learned from the dealer that the fingering was the same as the saxophone, which Cummings had played in his old band The Deverons.

Initially 'Undun' was released as a b-side to their single 'Laughing', until the song began to receive a lot of radio play after the disc-jockeys flipped the vinyl, prompting the record company to release 'Undun' as an A-side months later.

Several decades on, the song found a new life in Quentin Tarantino's 1997 blaxploitation homage 'Jackie Brown'. Handpicked by the soundtrack-obsessed director, the song appeared in the background of a fight scene between Louis Gara and Melanie Ralston, played by Robert De Niro and Bridget Fonda.

While the most popular incarnation of The Guess Who split in 1975, they have reunited a handful of times through the years.

Cummings and Bachman had spent time apart pursuing successful solo careers, but they've reunited several times, including a cross-Canada 1983 tour 'Together Again' and in Winnipeg for a disaster relief fundraiser organized by Tom Jackson.

They have been inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame, performed at the largest outdoor ticketed event in Canadian history during the Molson Canadian Rocks for Toronto SARS benefit concert, alongside The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, RUSH, Blues Brothers, Sam Roberts, The Flaming Lips, Blue Rodeo and others.

For further musical musings, new and old, join the collective for The Strombo Show on CBC Radio 2, every Sunday night at 8PM. And if you'd like to catch up or re-listen, all of the episodes are archived on our Radio page.

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