They had been impressed by the new country-rock sound of Buffalo Springfield, of which their Winnipeg friend (and Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee) Neil Young was a member. The inspiration for No Time’s opening guitar riff came from one in Springfield’s Hung Upside Down; Bachman said he “turned it upside down and made my own riff out of it.”
The Guess Who tested out No Time on the CBC TV show “Let’s Go” before recording it with producer Jack Richardson (the driving force behind These Eyes) for their 1969 RCA album “Canned Wheat.” They then re-recorded it for their American Woman album and released it as a 45-rpm single; by early 1970 it was another million-seller.
The distortion and feedback that Bachman coaxed from his 1959 Gibson Les Paul guitar (the brand favoured by guitarists Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page) immediately marked No Time as an influential rock hit. Bachman credits his “Herzog” – a custom amplifier unit and “whammy” bar – for his distinctive sound, which many other guitarists immediately adopted.
With Bachman’s blazing guitar, Cummings’s no-holds-barred vocals and the other band members at the top of their game, No Time quickly rose on the charts through February and March 1970: No. 1 on RPM; Cashbox’s No. 4; Billboard’s No. 5; and CHUM’s No. 9. The Guess Who were chosen as the Junos’ top group in 1970 and again in 1971.
Bachman later described song-writing with Cummings: “There was just a chemistry that happened, and the result was some great music. I became McCartney to Burton’s Lennon, the missing piece to his puzzle and he to mine.”
The BMI award-winning No Time is, in essence, a break-up song:
“No time for a summer friend
No time for the love you send
Seasons change and so did I…
There’s no time left for you.”
The intriguing lyric “No time for the killing floor” is anti-war slang that Cummings and Bachman had heard in San Francisco, equating the Viet Nam war – accurately – with a slaughterhouse. (They followed up this sentiment in the No. 1 hit protest song American Woman.)
Bachman and Cummings have often, together and individually, performed No Time in concert. It has been covered by Winnipeg’s Chocolate Bunnies from Hell; Danger, Ltd.; The Boss Brass as a jazz instrumental; and by Colin Wiebe in the show “American Woman ‒ Celebrating The Music Of The Guess Who.”
You can hear No Time in the film “Pirates of Silicon Valley,” and the TV shows “Fringe” and “Life on Mars;” Bachman believes it may also be the genesis for the opening riff in the hit show “Law & Order” theme music.
The Guess Who’s “Running Back Through Canada” producer Lorne Saifer says about this song-writing duo: “Burton and Randy are that rare combination of talents that together create magic.”
Guitarist Randy Bachman and vocalist/keyboardist Burton Cummings are the formidable Winnipeg-based song-writing partners behind Canada’s first super-group, The Guess Who. Bachman went on to further international success with the band Bachman-Turner Overdrive, solo albums, and a national radio show, and Cummings is a platinum-selling solo recording artist. Their many accomplishments include Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards and recognition in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and Canada’s Walk of Fame.