Takin’ Care of Business” is a song written by Randy Bachman and first recorded by Canadian rock group Bachman-Turner Overdrive (BTO) for their 1973 album Bachman-Turner Overdrive II. In 1990 a movie with the title Taking Care of Business (known in some parts of the world as “Filofax”) starring Jim Belushi used the song in its soundtrack.
Randy Bachman had written what would later become “Takin’ Care of Business” while still a member of The Guess Who. His original idea was to write about a recording technician who worked on The Guess Who’s recordings. This particular technician would take the 8:15 train to get to work, inspiring the lyrics “catch the 8:15 to the city.” The standard uniform worn by technicians at the studio was a white collared shirt, which gave Randy the name “White Collar Worker.”
The first guitar riff Randy had arranged for the song was blatantly that of The Beatles‘ “Paperback Writer.” When Randy first played this for Burton Cummings, Burton declared that he was ashamed of him and that The Guess Who would never record the song.
Sometime during the supporting concerts for BTO’s first album, Randy was driving and listening to the radio when he heard a particular DJ’s catch phrase “We’re takin’ care of business.” As fate would have it, lead vocalist Fred Turner‘s voice gave out before the band’s last set that night. Randy sang some cover songs to get through the last set, but none were having any effect on the audience. On a whim, he told the band to play the C, B-flat and F chords ( a I-VII-IV progression) over and over, and he essentially sang “White Collar Worker” with the new words “Takin’ Care of Business” inserted to the chorus.
After this, he rewrote the lyrics to “White Collar Worker” with a new chorus and the title “Takin’ Care of Business.” Along with this he wrote a revised guitar riff, which was the I-VII-IV progression played with a shuffle. (Though the I-VII-IV progression is quite common, the riff became famous and instantly recognizable.) The song was recorded by Bachman-Turner Overdrive for their second album Bachman-Turner Overdrive II. It would reach #12 on the Billboard singles charts and arguably become B.T.O.’s most well known song.
The song also features a prominent piano, played by Norman Durkee. Some accounts stated a pizza delivery guy was in the studio, heard the song and offered to add a piano riff to it. BTO drummer Robbie Bachman set the record straight in a 2002 interview. The guy who poked his head into the studio while the playbacks of “Takin’ Care of Business” were running was actually Durkee, an accomplished musician and musical director for Bette Midler and Barry Manilow. Durkee said, “that needs a piano…a real boogie-woogie piano would sound cool,” and he left. The band tracked him down in another studio, Durkee scribbled the chords down on a pizza box, and recorded the piano part in one take.
Bachman Turner Overdrive “Takin Care Of Business” Live ’74