Pop musician is takin' care of (family) business

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Musician Tal Bachman is getting ready for a date - with journalists and music-industry executives to talk about his debut album. As he gives his suit one final press, he seems more excited about his recent encounter with director Anson Williams (who played Potsie on "Happy Days"), whom he met when he appeared on an episode of the TV series "Melrose Place."

"Heather Locklear was all right," says Mr. Bachman with a hint of sarcasm. "But Potsie was the real story. It was a very happy day for me."

There's a bit of Potsie in Bachman, at least in his perseverance and persistence.

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"My rejection list is like a who's who of the industry," says the twentysomething Bachman, referring to the 58 rejection letters he received for his demo tapes.

It all began in 1994, the height of grunge music. His music had "no attitude," the record companies told Bachman. "I know there's no attitude. They're just songs," Bachman would reply.

Persistence paid off. Columbia Records stepped up to the plate and offered Bachman a record contract. The result: His debut album, "Tal Bachman," features several musical gems with lush orchestral movements, powerful guitar riffs, and unforgettable lyrics.

The catchy single "She's So High" has received consistent radio airplay and has been featured on TV shows like "Dawson's Creek" and "Charmed." Another song, "Darker Side of Blue," is also featured in "NYPD Blue" TV ads.

You haven't heard of Bachman? Perhaps you may have heard of his father, Randy, a member of Bachman-Turner Overdrive, the blue-collar, rock 'n' roll band that rose to fame in the 1970s with hits like "Takin' Care of Business" and "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet."

It's obvious Bachman Jr. received his father's gift for pop-rock hooks, but he's developed his own signature sound.

"My dad had a gigantic library of music that I could always draw on," the younger Bachman says in a telephone interview from Vancouver, Canada. "He helped provide a positive home environment and instruments to fool around with. But I refused to let him teach me anything on the guitar...."

Tal Bachman wanted to develop his own style. "I thought if I ever became a professional musician, I didn't want people saying that I play like my dad. But whenever I play solo, it sounds like my dad anyway. So it was inevitable."

But playing music professionally wasn't an obvious career choice for Bachman. He spent two years traveling abroad and then enrolled in a small college in Utah to study political philosophy. One day, he had an epiphany.

"I liked going to college a lot," he says, "but everything pointed toward rock 'n' roll." During the summer of 1996, Bachman received his first big break. Grunge music started to implode, and one of Bachman's tapes made it into the hands of the top brass at Columbia Records. Suddenly, things started to click.

After finishing his first album last summer, Bachman has been traveling around North America promoting his self-titled debut album.

Bachman, who wrote most of the songs on the album, says there are hundreds of sources for a songwriter. "If somebody [says] a phrase or if you see a movie, or you sit down to strum a guitar, you can feel that spark of inspiration," he says.

His songs have an unforgettable quality that may have you humming for days, even weeks. The first single, "She's So High," is based on an incident from his high school days.

"I approached the rich and fancy good-looking girl, and I said 'My step-brother's birthday is coming around the corner, and I know this sounds weird, but if I gave you $50, would you take him out for dinner and a movie?' "

She said no, but Bachman never forgot that feeling of awe in approaching her.

Critics have been favorably impressed by his debut album. Entertainment Weekly said, "The younger Bachman's impeccably crafted tunes make this one of the most satisfying pop discs in recent memory." And Jane Ratcliffe of Interview Magazine described his album "as the type of songs you know by heart the first time you hear them."

"That's what I was aiming for," Bachman says. "Someone once said, 'When you write a piece, every note should sound fresh, but inevitable.' "

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