Randy Bachman has revealed that BTO were invited to open for Van Halen in 1986 because the band’s new lead singer, Sammy Hagar, wanted a solid opening act, unlike what they’d had in the past.
Bachman tells Songfacts, “I’d seen Van Halen a lot with David Lee Roth, and normally they’d have a really crappy opening act, which they’d call the ‘merch act’, because everyone then is buying Van Halen merchandise and popcorn and getting to their seats. This band would come out and play 20 or 30 minutes, then they’d have a 10 or 20-minute break where they were still selling merchandise. Then Van Halen would come out.”
He says that Hagar wanted something different for the 112-date U.S. tour, so he called BTO, who’d regrouped three years earlier.
“Sammy was a friend of mine –we’d written a bunch of songs together,” Bachman recalls. “Sammy said, ‘I want BTO to come and open, I want you to do 35 minutes of hit songs and do a five-minute switchover. We don’t want to hear anybody yelling, ‘Where’s Dave?’”
“I said, ‘Fred Turner can’t tour. He’s got a problem at home with his wife and kids.’ Sammy said, ‘Well, who sang Takin’ Care of Business?’ I said, ‘Me.’ ‘Who sang You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet?’ ‘Me.’ ‘Okay. That’s all I need. We’ll test you out for a weekend.’”
“So we played with them for a weekend, and they came to us later and said, ‘We want you to open the 5150 tour.'”
“It was those hit songs and getting the audience riled up – especially ending with Takin’ Care of Business, and then the audience screaming on their feet and yelling, and then the changeover wasn’t even five minutes. Our amps would be off in two minutes; Van Halen would be on. Nobody yelled, ‘Where’s Dave?’ Sammy came out and rocked.”