Randy Bachman says it doesn’t feel like 50 years since The Guess Who‘s “American Woman” became the first single from a Canadian band to go number-one in the U.S.
He tells the Toronto Sun, “No, it feels more like, I don’t know, 10 years… It feels like it’s in the past obviously but it sure doesn’t seem like five decades.”
Guitarist Randy Bachman explains who the “American Woman” is
“We had just gone through the whole ‘60s being Canadians in the United States and second-hand witnessing Vietnam and the draft situation and what was going on in America. And at that time the American woman to us meant the Statue of Liberty and what it stood for. And basically at the time it was the war. So that’s why we were screaming, ‘Stay away from me. I don’t need your war machines and I don’t need your ghetto scenes. It was not the normal healthy good looking American woman you see walking down the street, who is no different from an Australian woman or Canadian woman or anything else. It was the Statue of Liberty.”
Touring at the height of Vietnam War protests, Bachman recalls, “there were no guys in any town from Iowa to Texas to California between 18 and 35 [because of the war]… So we’d pull into town…and it was like Stepford Wives. We were like the Stepford Guys. No matter how ugly we were or how fat we were, we were like guys between 18 and 35, and all the women were like nuts.”
Bachman says the song’s famous groove was basically a happy accident on his guitar after changing a broken string. “I started to tune and started to play that riff and everybody’s heads snapped around and looked at me and I thought, ‘Oh, my God. I can’t let this go.'” With their set temporarily on hold, frontman Burton Cummings was killing time on the piano and then the flute and harmonica. And when Bachman yelled to sing something, his first words were, “American woman, stay away from me!”
Later covered by Lenny Kravitz and Kelly Clarkson, “American Woman” spent the second, third and fourth weeks of May 1970 at number-one.