The Guess Who
Writer(s): Randy Bachman/Burton Cummings/Jim Kale/Garry Peterson (see lyrics here)
First Charted: March 21, 1970
Peak: 13 US, 12 CB, 11 HR, 1 CL, 19 UK, 13 CN, 43 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.04 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, 31.07 video, 87.55 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
The Guess Who went through a few name changes from their origins in 1958. They were known as Chad Allan & the Expression in 1965, but released their cover of “Shakin’ All Over” without putting their name on it. Canadian artists actually found it difficult to get airplay in their native country so this was the group’s attempt to avoid that trap. FB Instead, the song was credited to “Guess Who?” and the name stuck.
The move worked and they took the song to #1 in Canada. They also reached the peak with “Laughing” and “No Time.” The latter two also reached the top 10 in the U.S. as did “These Eyes.” However, the Canadian group would find its greatest success with “American Woman,” a #1 in both Canada and the United States.
The song has been interpreted as an attack on American politics. Guitarist Randy Bachman said it was an “antiwar protest song” SF and that his group and their audience had a problem with the Vietnam War at the time. Lines such as, “I don’t want your war machines, I don’t want your ghetto scenes” would seem to support that. SF
However, Burton Cummings, the song’s singer and lyricist, told the Toronto Star in 2014 it wasn’t about politics, but how “girls in the states seemed to get older quicker…and that made them, well, dangerous. When I said ‘American woman, stay away from me,’ I really meant ‘Canadian woman, I prefer you.’” SF
The lyrics and music originated through improvisation on stage. Bachman had replaced a broken string on his guitar and when tuning it, started playing a new riff. The rest of the group joined in, including Cummings with the impromptu lyrics. When they saw a kid in the audience making a bootleg recording, they asked him for the tape. WK They were able to write down the words after listening to the tape. SF
First posted 2/9/2021; last updated 7/27/2022.