Brando's Badfinger Newsstand

Joey Molland Badfinger: Still So Good

by Michael Kurtz
Record Exchange Music Monitor, March 1991

Cary's Michael Kurtz Talks With Joey Molland About His Revered Band and Recently Released Collections

It's hard to believe that anyone would pay $40 to $75 for a single album, but it's easy to walk in a record store and see a used copy of Badfinger's Straight Up selling for that price or a notice on the bulletin board from someone offering to pay it. In a recent readers' poll in Goldmine Magazine, Straight Up was voted as "the most requested album readers would like to see issued on CD." Considering that this album ranks as one of the best of its era, including anything by the Beatles, Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, etc., it really isn't any wonder. It's probably just coincidence, but in the last year or so there has been a good deal of activity surrounding this tragic band and the wonderful music they recorded over the course of their turbulent career.

When talking with Joey Molland (1 of 2 surviving members of the band), you get an inkling of the incredible life this man has seen. From a reluctant audition with Badfinger (then known as the Iveys), to being asked to join the band as they released 4 hit singles in a row on the Beatles' Apple label, to working with various members of the Beatles on some of their best solo recordings, the rise was meteoric, For 3 years these 2 Liverpudlians and 2 Londoners wrote music that inspired comparisons with the Beatles and even competed with the ex-Beatles for album sales. Sadly, guitarist Pete Ham and bassist Tom Evans took their own lives. Perhaps their suicides were due to an inability to sort through what was referred to a few years ago as financial problems and contractual difficulties. Now we just call it stress. Since 1989 there has been a lot of activity surrounding Badfinger's music and guitarist / songwriter Joey Molland. I recently caught up with Joey Molland in his Wisconsin home and we talked about the present, past and future.

KURTZ There's been an unusual amount of Badfinger-related releases this past year. What did you think of the Rhino release, The Best Of Badfinger, Volume 2?

JOEY There were 2 versions of it really. There was one from England that was on the Edsel label. I thought the sound was good. There weren't any unreleased songs on it, but it just sounded better to me. I thought the Rhino one was a little bit rough in places. One particular thing really bothered me and that was an edit of one of the unreleased songs where it sounds like they chopped off the first letter of a word or a syllable or something. The song just starts [sings] "Need Your Lovin, "' I think they could have done a bit more work on it. Also, they credited Mike and I for our cooperation, making it seem like we were involved in it. And we weren't involved with it at all. So I have reservations about Rhino's stuff.

KURTZ It seems like maybe they should have consulted with the 2 of you a little more.

JOEY Best of Badfinger Volume 2 on Rhino Well they did consult us in a way. But they didn't consult us as to running order or anything like that. When I got a letter from Warner Brothers about the record, I recommended that, if they were going to chop up the records, why didn't they just go ahead and put all Pete's songs out. You know, put out an album of his stuff, or put out Wish You Were Here as it were? Then they go and put the credit on the album, like Mike and I were deeply involved in it. "Thank you very much for your cooperation." I don't like that stuff. It's rubbish.

KURTZ Have you heard Dream So Real's version of "Day After Day?"

JOEY I thought it was okay. I liked the solo he did that kind of Duane Eddy type solo.

KURTZ Jellyfish have quite a few references to the Badfinger sound on their debut album, Bellybutton

JOEY Yeah, they have actually been quoted in Billboard as saying that Badfinger was one of their major influences. That's great.

KURTZ How did the Rykodisc release of the live Badfinger album, Day After Day, come about?

JOEY I called Ryko a couple of years ago about the record when we first started working on it and they expressed an interest in it, along with several other labels. Then I got the idea of releasing it on our own label, Independent Artists Records. That seemed to be favored by the group. As I got closer to finishing it, and dug deeper into the mechanics and everything of releasing a record on your own label -- to do it successfully you've got to have a few things. You've got to have a good capital base. You've really got to know about distribution and promotion. It became apparent to me, from a business sense, that I couldn't afford to do it myself and do justice to the record.

Badfinger's Day After Day Live Earlier this year, Ryko called me and asked me how the project was going. I told them that we'd in fact finished the record. It was great timing. We were just getting ready to send out our samples to different distributors and stuff. I said, "Would you like to hear one?" And they said, 'Well, yeah it'd be great." So I brought them a sample, just a couple of songs, and they loved it, and so they said, "Could we hear the whole thing?" I played them the whole thing and they loved it, and said, "let's do it!" At that point, we did the deal with them. They've done a great job for us.

KURTZ You wrote a fair share of Badfinger songs, maybe a good half of them.

JOEY I did write a lot of the songs. I'd just write the songs; that's all. There wasn't any leader in our band. We all had a general sense of the direction we wanted to go in. That's why we were all in the band! We wanted to be a successful pop group, but we didn't want to do it with songs like the Bay City Rollers did, or the Archies. We wanted to be a popular "songwriting group."

KURTZ Are you playing a lot of guitar these days and are you working on any projects of your own?

JOEY I play my guitar a lot. I'm still writing a lot. I'm doing a solo deal with Rykodisc right now. I have already started the rehearsals for that record.

KURTZ From everything that has been written about Badfinger, It sounds like there is a tremendous amount of unreleased material.

JOEY I'm trying to compile film on the band. We had a film crew follow us around London for about a week. We had another Japanese film crew that followed us for about 2 or 3 weeks. The one crew --we never saw the film. Peter shot film continuously on the tours. I'm happy to say his family is being really super nice about the whole thing. I know that there's lots of songs that Peter and Tommy did that were never released. We made an entire album at the Castle by ourselves that nobody ever heard.

KURTZ Is this "Castle" recording the unreleased third Warner Brothers album, or something else?

JOEY Yeah, this is 'way before that. This is in the Apple days. We rented a castle in England, and we went and lived there. We wanted to develop that into a bonafide studio. This is before groups went into the country and rented big mansions. We built this studio in the basement, and later on we asked Apple to help us finance it. Of course, Allen Klein (then manager of 3 of the Beatles) refused. That led us to leaving Apple. There was a whole slew of songs that we recorded there.

KURTZ Most everything written about Badfinger's break-up cites bad management as the principle reason. Was there any one person responsible, or was it various circumstances that let to the break up?

JOEY Yeah, I think it was circumstances. There was a business manager, he mishandled our business totally. In fact, just lined his own pockets. He's still alive. He lives in Florida. His name is Polley, like the parrot, with an "e" and "y" at the end of it, right! Then there was our personal manager, Collins, who had the best of intentions in the world. I don't think he would have harmed a hair on our heads, but that didn't make him a good manager. He made a bunch of mistakes. Even his jealousy for Mal Evans led to that disruption. So, there was mismanagement all over the place.

KURTZ How did Mal Evans' relationship develop with Badfinger? Wasn't he originally a Beatles' roadie?

JOEY He certainly was. Mal got deeply involved with the band. I think he had a real affection for us.

He was a great friend to the band. Even before I joined the group, Mal was involved trying to help them get their songs worked up and arrangements; even to the point of doing a little management as well. He produced the first demos I did with the band. No Matter What was one. He was a great guy; there's not much more I can say about him.

KURTZ John Lennon and Mal Evans were pretty close too, right?

JOEY I think Mal stayed pretty friendly with all of them, really. I know that when we did All Things Must Pass, Mal was there every day. He did a great job for us 'cause he didn't screw around with us. He was actually more faithful to what the group sounded like then anybody else afterwards. He seemed to actually give a shit about what we did sound like.

KURTZ When you were recording your first albums for Apple, was it disheartening to see the Beatles breaking up?

JOEY No, 'cause we didn't see them like that. I had no idea that they were breaking up. You know, everybody seemed to be saying they were, but the records were coining out. We weren't their friends, you know. We didn't socialize with them. For me personally, that was a bit of an emotionally impossible thing to do because they were "the Beatles," and I loved them so much. I thought they were so great. It would've been impossible for me to sit down and drink with them or anything like that. I'd get drunk, really quickly.

KURTZ What was Badfinger's contribution to John Lennon's album Imagine?

JOEY We did 2 songs, "Jealous Guy," and we just thumped around on "I Don't Wanna Be A Soldier." It was a real pleasure to play with John Lennon. An honor really.

KURTZ Are you still good friends with Mike Gibbins (the drummer for Badfinger)?

JOEY Oh yeah, we talk 2 or 3 times a week. I've tried to get him to come up and rehearse with me, but you know Mike's not of that kind of mind -- 'cause it's a good six month project. I'm glad that after so long we're not fighting with each other, or suing each other, or you know, after each others stuff. 'Cause we're really not. What we're trying to do is...we kind of try and help each other you know. That's what we try and do.

I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge my older brother, for sending me this article about seven years ago. The circulation of this magazine was only 40,000 (it says so right on the front cover), so I would assume this is a fairly rare piece of Badfinger memorabilia. NOTE: There is a second part to this magazine piece, it will be featured in my next update of the Newsstand section.

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