Brando's Badfinger Newsstand

Badfinger Fights the Ghost Badfinger Fights the Ghost

by Janis Schacht
Circus Magazine , March 1972, page 24

All through the summer I wanted to be an engine driver/ but after the rain I wanted to be a Beatle," a Liverpool poet once quipped. The only group that's come close to that youthful poet's dream is Badfinger.

Badfinger is the last living remnant of the Liverpool rock generation -- the generation that produced John, George, Paul and Ringo. This doesn't make them reactionary; it just gives them a certain flavor. The flavor smacks of smoke, factories, and working-class guts. All things that are gone now from the rock world. And though it's true that tinges of these tastes still creep into the present works of the four ex-Beatles, the "Liverpool sound" only remains intact in the reality of Badfinger.

The tie with the past: Badfinger doesn't want to live in the shadow of the Beatles any longer, but they're going to have to change their voices, their guitar techniques (often augmented by Harrison) and their onstage presence (which is as close to the Cavern Club as most of us will ever get) if they really want to sever the connection.

Their latest album, Straight Up (on Apple), goes straight back . . . to Beatle-like sounds. Though most of the album was produced by Todd "Runt" Rundgren, ex-member of the Nazz, the stand-out tracks distinctly scream "Apple-product."' This is not surprising when you consider that they were produced by George Harrison. The Harrison productions include "Day After Day," the single which became a chart favorite within days of its release. The vocal on that track has the satisfying feeling that used to be achieved when a Paul McCartney track would sneak in between two Lennon cuts. Other Harrison products include "Suitcase," "I'd Die Babe" and "Name Of The Game." All four songs have a Beatle feel . . . in fact, the entire album has it. If you want to prove this to yourself play "Sometimes," a track by Badfinger's Joey Molland, and follow it with the Beatles "She's A Woman." If you're still not certain, take Paul McCartney's "Every Night" and follow that with "Day After Day":

I remember finding out about you
Every day my mind is all around you
Looking out from my lonely room
Day after day
Bring it home baby make it soon
I'll give, my love to you
"Day After Day" (Pete Ham)

This isn't to say that the music is bad. In fact, the sound is nourishment for the famished ear, especially the ear that's been starving for something Liverpuddlian.

From whence they came: Badfinger devotees will argue about the Liverpool influences on, in and around the group. After all, they'll tell us, only two members of the band (Tom Evans, guitar and vocals; and Joey Molland, bass guitar and vocals) are from Liverpool, which is quite true. Mike Gibbins (drums) and Pete Ham (guitar vocals) are from Swansea, South Wales.

However, six years ago, in Liverpool Pete Ham, Tom Evans, Mike Gibbins and Ron Griffiths (soon replaced by Joey Molland) were The Iveys. The Iveys had the distinction of being the last resident group at the Cavern Club (where the Beatles got their start) to emerge and make names for themselves. In 1968, in the first harvest of Apple releases, a stunning record called "Maybe Tomorrow" was issued:

Listen to a lonely sound
See the gray and sadness all around
See the people go their way
Care not of me and love I've lost today . . .
Maybe tomorrow I will love again
I'll never know until I've looked into her eyes
Maybe tomorrow I will love again
I'll never know until I've seen her once or twice.
"Maybe Tomorrow" The Iveys (Tom Evans)

Written and sung by Tom Evans, the little one with the thickest Scouse (that's British slang for Liverpoolesque) accent and the Merseybeat personality, it was a memorable if not particularly successful release.

A lift from Paul: A year passed and not a word was said about The Iveys. Then Ringo went in to film The Magic Christian, and Paul wrote this song for the film:

If you want it, here it is come and get it
Make your mind up fast
If you want it anytime I can give it
But you better hurry cause it may not last.
"Come And Get It"

A group with the unlikely name of "Badfinger" recorded it, and the public decreed it good. Badfinger were the "Come And Get It boys," they had recognition and the joys of a world-wide hit single-, and the 'Iveys' were never heard from again. Badfinger's association with Paul McCartney was nearly as fleeting as the sentiment in "Come And Get It." After the three songs the group recorded for "The Magic Christian," Paul stopped working with the band completely. "Actually," Mike Gibbins admitted, "our ideas were very juvenile and McCartney's experience gave us the push that we needed."

"No Matter What," the group's second single as Badfinger, was just as much a monster smash as "Come And Get It." Produced by ex-road manager for the Beatles Mal Evans, the sound was a little more definitive and original than "Come And Get It." Written by Pete Ham, the lyrics were just as harmless as all the other material which is distinctly Badfinger's:

No matter what you are
I will always be with you
Doesn't matter what you do girl
Oo girl want you . . .
Knock down the old gray wall
Be a part of it all
Nothing to say, nothing to see,
nothing to do . . .

The success of "No Matter What" and the release of the group's second album, No Dice (Apple), lead to a sudden swell of interest in the band and they were swept off to America.

Pete Ham and George Harrison onstage at the Concert for Bangla Desh George disrupts the party: Last year's most impressive press party might easily have been the one given for Badfinger. It wasn't the food, which was meager. It wasn't the press turn-out, which was fairly small, or the location - a club which held less than four hundred people. It was the master of ceremonies that made the evening an historical event.

A knot of unsuspecting journalists had been standing around gossiping with Badfinger. Talking about London and Liverpool, about old friends and new ones . . . but no one had mentioned that there was to be a rather special guest that evening. Tom, Joey, Pete and Mike disappeared backstage to prepare for their set, and no sooner had they gone than a hush filled the room. Then the whispering started at the door. "Harrison," "It's George Harrison," "Hey someone just said George Harrison's walked in" . . . all the blasť reporters surged forward to shake his hand, to gawk, to get his picture, to get into other people's pictures. The quiet was suddenly transformed to an almost carnival atmosphere. George and Patti Harrison were ushered to a front table, where all eyes remained riveted until the Beatle guitarist rose from his seat and walked onto the stage. There stood George Harrison - a distant idol now unbelievably brought within touching distance -- saying, "Hello everybody, thank you for coming tonight. We'd like to have you welcome one of Apple's bands: BADFINGER!" Then he melted back into his seat. For a while, most people watched George Harrison watch Badfinger, then everyone noticed how good Badfinger were --good enough to draw attention away from a former Beatle.

Badfinger live: Onstage, Badfinger have all the charm, warmth and personality that was the magic of the old school. ("Beautiful boys with bright red guitars / in the spaces in-between the stars" as another Liverpool poet once said.) Most of the time, Pete Ham is the lead singer, with Tom Evans and Joey Molland joining in on the harmonies. When Pete opens his mouth to sing, what comes out is pure old-fashioned talent . . . a warm McCartney-type voice. When the three sing together, the sound is naive, lovely good-time music. There is no message in the lyrics, but there's a message in the atmosphere that the music creates. It says "be happy," and everyone is, the effect is just that positive.

When Joey Molland takes the lead, the brand of music changes a little. Joey sings "Rock Of All Ages" and "Love Me Do" (from the No Dice album). The result is harder . . . the lyrics fade away and the beat takes over. Joey Molland is a Liverpudlian with open good looks and a distinctive style . . . the effect is Lennonesque, the other side of Mersey music.

Working with the "fab four': John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr have all done more than their share in making sure that Badfinger get a fair shake at success.

On John Lennon's Imagine album (Apple), Joey Molland and Tom Evans (listed as Joey and Tommy Badfinger) were brought in to play guitar for "I Don't Want To Be A Soldier."

George Harrison, the group's true patron saint, has really done a good deal to spread the word about Badfinger. First, by turning up at their press party, then by using them whenever possible. On Harrison's solo album All Things Must Pass (Apple) they were used as backup musicians. Most recently, Badfinger played at the benefit for Bangla Desh. Pete Ham was brought up front and center to back George on acoustic guitar while he sang "Here Comes The Sun." (Pete is so proud of the moment that he ranks it as one of his most thrilling experiences.) The latest notch on the neck of Ham's guitar is his work with yet another Beatle -- Ringo -- on his latest album, Blind Man.

Shades of Hard Day's Night: Like the inseparable heroes of the Beatles' first film, all members of Badfinger live together in one huge house in the Golder's Green section of London. Everyone in the Badfinger "family" lives there: Tom, Joey, Pete, Mike and his wife, Bill Collins -- the group's manager, roadies . . . the lot! This is one of the things that keep them such a strongly knit unit . . . and to stitch things even tighter they've just bought a castle in Gloucestershire.

Have you seen Badfinger standing in the shadows? They are doing very well there.

There is no real perfection
There'll be no perfect day
Just love is our connection
The truth is what we say
There's no good revolution
Just power changing hands
There is no straight solution
Except to understand.
"Perfection" (Pete Ham from Straight Up)

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