In 1969, British rock band Badfinger and Apple Records launched what should have become … one of the most successful unions in rock history.
THE IVEYS (Pete Ham, Tom Evans, Ron Griffiths and Mike Gibbins) signed onto The Beatles label (Apple Records) in 1968. The following year, longtime Beatles road manager and compatriot Neil Aspinall, suggested the band change their name to Badfinger.
Paul McCartney generously presented one of his unreleased compositions to the band under his strict supervision. The song entitled, “Come and Get It” would be spotlighted in a motion picture called The Magic Christian starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr. In 1970, “Come and Get It” became a hit single for Badfinger peaking at #7 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart and selling over a million copies.
After the release of “Come and Get It,” bassist Ron Griffiths left the band. Badfinger replaced Griffiths with guitarist Joey Molland while moving singer/songwriter Tom Evans to bass guitar.
BADFINGER became an incredible force of virtuoso musicians churning out hit after hit while being supported by the biggest band in the world. The band’s first album was the soundtrack to the movie The Magic Christian (Magic Christian Music). Their follow-up album, No Dice spawned the Pete Ham penned classic “No Matter What” (#8 U.S. Hot 100 Hit -1970) and an Evans/Ham composition “Without You” which became a #1 Hit in 1971 for Harry Nilsson and a #3 Hit for Mariah Carey in 1994. No Dice reached #28 on Billboard’s Hot 200 albums chart.
The bands third album Straight Up was regarded by many to be their best. George Harrison had considerable input on the album including playing slide guitar on “Day After Day” (#4 on Billboard Hot 100 Chart in 1971). Leon Russell played piano on the track. The album also generated the hit single "Baby Blue" (#14 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart in 1972). George Harrison left before the album was completed to work on The Concert for Bangladesh and Todd Rundgren was brought in to finish the album. Production credits were shared between Harrison and Rundgren.
Badfinger members played at Harrison’s benefit concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden in New York City and on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass album. Ham and Evans performed on Ringo’s single “It Don’t Come Easy.” Joey Molland and Tom Evans performed on John Lennon’s Imagine album. The band also became a successful touring act selling out concert venues worldwide.
Their last studio album under the Apple Records label was entitled Ass. The album was recorded in 1972 but wasn’t released until late 1973. Todd Rundgren was supposed to produce the album but abandoned the project after a financial squabble. Badfinger tried to produce the album themselves which caused the delay. Chris Thomas was brought in to co-produce the album. The single “Apple of My Eye” reflected the bands mental state for leaving Apple and signing with Warner Brothers Records. It was the last single to chart in the U.S. with the bands core lineup.
Six weeks after the Ass album was completed, they began work on their first studio album with Warner Brothers entitled Badfinger. After the completion of an American tour, the band recorded Wish You Were Here which was released in 1974. The band’s popularity maintained but internal problems within the group and their management (Stan Polley) worsened.
In 1974, Joey Molland quit Badfinger. Litigation began over Stan Polley’s unscrupulous business dealings which lead to Warner Brother’s rejection of their latest album entitled Head First and a halt to the worldwide distribution of the Wish You Were Here album.
By 1975 … there were no monies arriving, impending legal actions, and discoveries of management embezzlement. Singer, songwriter and guitarist Peter Ham hung himself in April that year over his inability to cope with his disappointments in life. A suicide note blamed Stan Polley for most of his anguish. Peter Ham was 27 years old.
After the untimely death of Peter Ham … Badfinger dissolved.
JOEY MOLLAND started a band in 1975 called Natural Gas with Jerry Shirley (Humble Pie), Mark Clarke (Colosseum, Uriah Heep) and Peter Wood (Al Stewart). Natural Gas released one album and was produced by Felix Pappalardi (Mountain). The band toured successfully with Peter Frampton but disbanded in 1977.
Molland and ex bandmate Tom Evans reunited briefly to record two comeback albums under the Badfinger heading. The band released Airwaves under Elektra Records (sister label to Warner Bros. Records) in 1978 and Say No More in 1981.
The bands line-up for the Say No More release consisted of Joey Molland on guitar, piano and vocals, Tom Evans on bass, guitars and vocals, Tony Kaye (YES) on keyboards, Glenn Sherba on guitar and Richard Bryans on drums. The album spawned the hit “Hold On” (#56 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart in 1981).
After the second album was released … Molland and Evans split but continued touring under rival Badfinger band names. In November of 1983 … singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist Tom Evans hung himself. He was 36 years old.
Former Badfinger drummer Mike Gibbins performed in both versions of Badfinger. Mike Gibbins died at his Florida home in 2005, he was 56.
In 1983, Joey Molland released his debut solo album entitled, After The Pearl. The album showcased Joey’s amazing songwriting talents. Molland’s subsequent releases were … The Pilgrim (1992), Basil (1997) and the critically acclaimed This Way Up (2001).
TODAY the Liverpudlian lives in Minnesota and is incredibly busy. He’s got a new documentary called ‘Liverpoool to Memphis’ premiering on April 21st at CIMMfest in Chicago and a new CD out shortly entitled ‘Return to Memphis’on Gonzo Records. Molland will also be embarking on a world tour including a stop in his hometown of Liverpool to headline International Beatleweek August 21st thru 27th.
Kathie Molland, Joey’s wife, passed away in 2009.
Joey has two sons … Shaun Michael who is 30 and Joey 32.
I had a wonderful opportunity to chat with Joey Molland recently about his incredible music career with Badfinger, the new album, his recent tour …and much-much more. Here’s my interview with guitarist-singer-songwriter- Badfinger legendary rocker …JOEY MOLLAND.
Ray Shasho: Hi Joey, thank you for being on the call today. I chatted with Billy J. Kramer before the 4th annual ‘Cruise for Beatles Fans’ and now I’m talking with you after the cruise … how was it!
Joey Molland: “It was fabulous. We had a lovely time … Billy J. Kramer and Mark Hudson were there and of course Billy’s wife Ronnie was with him, Mark’s girl Melissa was there and me and my girlfriend Mary. We had a wonderful time on the cruise and then we had a great time performing and being entertainers, that sort of thing … and it was great.”
Ray Shasho: Joey you’ve got a lot going on these days.
Joey Molland: “That right … I just signed the contracts with Gonzo Media and the record will be coming out soon, I haven’t got a release date yet but it may be in the next month or so. Although I don’t know much about record releases nowadays through the internet world, it seems like a pretty cut and dry situation getting a record out. So they’re doing it for me now. I did the record in Memphis and so it’s called Return to Memphis. I started out loving Memphis music …Elvis and all that. A lot of great rockers came from there. So I opted to go down there and make a record and it was a great experience.”
“Now I’m getting plenty of dates … looks like I’m going to Australia, Japan and England besides shows coming up in the states. I’m doing band shows with four kinds of Badfinger concept bands … Joey Molland’s Badfinger, then I do Joey Molland kind of storyteller shows, and I do shows with a friend of mine, Phil Solem with The Rembrandts. We have a show called The Drift Benders where we play acoustic electric versions of stuff that we’ve done before and we play some new songs, have a bit of a jam and a bit of a laugh.”
Ray Shasho: What kind of songs can we expect on the new album?
Joey Molland: “I wrote all the songs myself and they’re quite meaningful, I’d have to say, for me anyway, you know everybody gets what they get out of songs themselves. But I think the songs talk about things that are relevant and I look forward to people’s reactions to it. The sound is very different … there’s no real Badfinger power chords or anything like that. No real jamming guitars … I do play some slide on it. I had four girls come in to sing ‘oohs and aahs’ and harmonies which was nice, and I played with a lot of three piece rhythm section down in Memphis. So it’s a really simple sounding record and I’m just hoping that people will like it.”
Ray Shasho: I’ve always heard different musical styles in all the Badfinger albums as well as your solo releases. Beside those top 40 hits we all adored, I heard hints of progressive rock in many of the other tracks.
Joey Molland: “I’m glad to hear you say that because we never closed our doors on any kind of music. The style of the album was based on who was really producing it. Like the album we did with George (Harrison) was completely different than what we did with Chris Thomas. The songs were the same kinds of songs … but that’s how it works …its good.”
Ray Shasho: Many of those Badfinger Top 40 classics were reminiscent to The Beatles sound … I heard some of the music critics actually thought it was The Beatles and not Badfinger recording the music in the studio.
Joey Molland: “People imagined a lot of that stuff, but like you say we played everything ourselves. But people forget that we had the same upbringing as The Beatles, we had the same influences, the same radio, same clubs where we started to play, the same area of the country that we were knocking around in, and then we had the influence of The Beatles on top of all that. We’ve always been grateful and always looking up to the people who have done it before us. You do want to be great but when you look at how great Elvis was or Chuck Berry or The Beatles you’d have to have a hell of an ego to put yourself anywhere near that. So all you can is do your very-very best, because those are the people you look up to and the standards you want to reach. And they’re high standards aren’t they?”
Ray Shasho: Joey, what are your thoughts on working with The Beatles.
Joey Molland: “They were very nice to us … regular guys really. They’ll talk to you about anything other than The Beatles. Nobody wanted to talk about The Beatles; they were so fed up with it I suppose. They weren’t stingy with their experience. When George was working on a project with us, he put himself into the band. He’d actually brought his guitar in, plugged in and played with us. He played acoustic on some of the songs with us and enjoyed finishing the tunes up with us and help with the arrangements … it was great, it was like he was in the band. He wasn’t afraid to explain what he was doing. You could talk with him about anything.”
Ray Shasho: I want to bring up the Straight Up album. George Harrison began producing it but Todd Rundgren had to finish it up?
Joey Molland: “Yea, Todd was a good friend of George’s. When George got involved with the Bangladesh concert he couldn’t really put the time into the album. He apologized to us and suggested that we use Todd Rundgren. He called Todd himself and asked him to do it. So Todd came in and did a great job for us. He wasn’t the nicest guy in the world to work with …but that being said, the record did turn out great, and to this day sounds like a great record. George was correct; Todd was indeed very talented and did do a great job.”
Ray Shasho: Did Harry Nilsson tell the band that he was going to record “Without You?”
Joey Molland: “We recorded it and put it on the No Dice album, Nilsson heard it, and the story goes he thought it was a Beatles song and asked John Lennon about it. I always get a kick about this bit of the story, but I guess John Lennon said that’s a Badfinger song, which means to me that he knew it, which is really funny you know. (Laughing) To think of John Lennon being aware of a Badfinger song … that was something else. But Nilsson heard the song, liked it, and had some ideas for the arrangement. I think I heard a piano demo that he did, which was beautiful. He certainly did a great job and made us all aware of how powerful of a song it is.”
Ray Shasho: Anytime I read a story about Badfinger … I see the word lawsuit. What happened?
Joey Molland: “It seems to me much to do about a lot of nothing. There were maybe three lawsuits in total … One was by Warner Brothers in the very early days, and there was one where we had to go to court with each other to get the Apple royalties sorted out. Then there was a lawsuit over the Ryco release and that was all squared away too. So those are the lawsuits … but there have been people who have made money talking about that and writing stories cultivating that side of the band. Really this band has got a forty five year old history now and we’re talking about three lawsuits. It’s kind of weird that people do talk about that a lot.”
“But it’s like saying the fact that Peter Ham and Tommy committed suicide, which is a terrible thing to happen … to them and everyone who knew them, but it doesn’t take away from “Day After Day” coming out in a beautiful record, and at #1, and us going all over the world on tour having the times of our lives. And I prefer to talk about that side of it.”
“I still don’t know why Pete and Tommy did it. They were two completely different circumstances but they both did the same thing. I didn’t understand it then and I really don’t understand it now. I feel sorry for them and their families and there’s no explaining it.”
Ray Shasho: Joey, are you a religious man?
Joey Molland: “To a certain extent … I do go to church and have faith in the good lord. I don’t depend on him for everything but I depend on him in a pinch.”
Ray Shasho: Do you have any good road stories from back in the Badfinger days?
Joey Molland: “We toured with the Faces and those guys liked to play soccer in the hotel hallway. We all went a little bit crazy on the road.”
“We went into a café in New Mexico near the Painted Desert and stood there and the waiters and waitresses ignored us. We couldn’t get a table, couldn’t get served, so we drove off. It was like being on another planet or something. “
“We went to dinner with a family in Akron, Ohio but then got interrupted by a snake coming out from a lampshade and hanging out over the table … which was an odd thing.”
“We used to go to Pawnbrokers in the ghetto areas and search for guitars, and at that time racism was prevalent. We hadn’t experienced racism of that sort in England. There was racism but it was a different kind. We’d go into these predominately black areas and go into these shops because there were a lot of great musicians down there, so there were a lot of great instruments in the pawn shops and I bought Les Pauls’ and Stratocasters for just a few hundred dollars. They’re worth thousands and thousands of dollars now … those kinds of things were really exciting.”
“We’d go to see bands like Redbone which just knocked us out. They were so great! The American musicians were stunning in terms of their techniques and musical theory because American musical education is much better in your normal school, they’re teaching kids to read and play instruments in band together. And they were doing this back then. In England your music lesson consisted of singing hymns, nobody ever explained the actual theory of music. So that was a great joy to us to see these guys play. We also saw The Everly Brothers at a little basement bar and sat at the front tables. Those guys were awesome.”
Ray Shasho: You and Tom Evans reformed Badfinger with several different lineups that included Tony Kaye of YES on keyboards. Than after the album Say No More … you and Tom ironically split-up and formed two separate Badfinger bands.
Joey Molland: I went out on the road for awhile with Joe Tansin from the Airwaves album. Then it all got sort of wishy-washy and Kathie and I went back to England with our two kids and stayed there for about six months a year. After I came back from England I went to Philadelphia and actually saw Tommy (Evans) and Mike (Gibbins) playing at a club there. They had the guy from ‘Chicago,’ Donnie Dacus in the band with them. Anyway I never did play with Tommy again after that.”
“I got a record deal in 1982-83 up in Ohio making my first solo album After The Pearl. I called Tommy and the record label was interested in signing him to do a solo album of his own, but it wasn’t enough money for him and he turned it down. That was around July-August of 1983, and of course in November of ’83 Tommy committed suicide. And we were talking about that before … nobody knows why. But he did and of course I know his wife, they came to visit shortly after that. I’ve seen Marianne a couple of times after that and are kind of in touch. She travels and lives her life. Tommy’s son is married and has got a child now.”
Ray Shasho: You’re going back to Liverpool soon?
Joey Molland: “They’ve asked me to do a George concert … “My Sweet George” at Philharmonic Hall during The Beatleweek there. I’m going to do a show and be on one of the Beatleweek stages … I think the Cavern. I’ll be going to Australia after that and right after that I’m going to Japan.
Ray Shasho: Do you ever speak with Paul McCartney?
Joey Molland: “You know I’ve never talked with Paul McCartney. I don’t know him; he was all done with the band by the time I joined. I’ve been in a situation where I could have met him but he makes me really nervous man. He’s just so great and so talented.”
Ray Shasho: Joey, I ask everyone that I interview this same question. If you had a ‘Field of Dreams’ wish, like the movie, to play, sing or collaborate with anyone from the past or present …who would you choose?
Joey Molland: “Wow …that’s a Hecht of a thing. It will have to be a songwriter like Jimmy Webb or Ray Davies. Those two guys would be fun to sit down and beat some songs around with. But I also thought about Holland-Dozier-Holland from Motown… those three guys were absolutely brilliant. What about Tim Hardin …and imagine trying to write with Bob Dylan.”
Ray Shasho: Joey, thank you for being on the call today, but more importantly for all the incredible music Badfinger has given to the world. Hope to see you performing in Florida soon.
Joey Molland: “Ray thanks for telling the story about us. Take care boss … bye-bye!”
Watch for the release of Joey Molland’s new CD ‘Return to Memphis’ on Gonzo Media.
Badfinger and Joey Molland official website www.badfingersite.com
Joey Molland on Facebook www.facebook.com/OriginalBadfinger
Special thanks to Billy James of Glass Onyon PR.
Contact classic rock music journalist Ray Shasho at firstname.lastname@example.org
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