Joey Molland must have pulled the short straw when it came to being interviewed by me in February 1972, as none of the other members of Badfinger put in an appearance, most likely because they were sleeping off hangovers caused by the previous night’s festivities resulting from the US success of ‘Day After Day’. The second Badfinger interview was done at the offices of the group’s newly appointed PR company in central London.
Joey Molland has a cheeky grin, which isn’t in evidence this morning. Last night he was celebrating, and this morning he's alternating between a bottle of aspirins and strong cups of coffee. Cigarettes too are part of his cure for the hangover caused, apparently, by the news that Badfinger are about to make number one in the American singles charts (they didn’t, at least not in Billboard – CC).
Staying up late to celebrate is one thing, but getting up early to do interviews is another; especially when it's the fourth time he's been dragged from his Hampstead home to central London before noon this week. For the first time since their formation, Badfinger have employed a publicity man – and it could be that Joey's regretting it already.
Badfinger are one of those peculiar British groups to whom America is more like home than England. They do most of their live appearances there, and consequently sell more records there than they do in this country. They are also still living down the endless criticism that they sound too much like The Beatles for their own good.
They've just released a new album, Straight Up, and there's no doubt that the similarity to The Beatles goes a lot farther than the Apple label in the middle. Twelve songs, vocal harmonies, guitar and piano backing, not heavy but not bubblegum, catchy riffs here and there and a reference to revolution in one song: surely the resemblance is too obvious. George Harrison even produced four of the tracks for them.
“I don’t think about the resemblance to The Beatles,” says Joey, visibly wincing that the old, old subject crops up again. “It might sound like The Beatles but that’s what we sound like. We just play a number the way we feel it should be played.”
Their association with The Beatles has helped them achieve their current success in the States. On their first tour, audiences were under the impression that McCartney was a member of the group and although this story is firmly buried today, the fact that The Beatles like Badfinger has meant audiences are more prepared to listen sympathetically to their music.
“George is like a demi-God in America,” said Joey. “And if he likes us then other people will give us a fair listen. They don’t just come because George likes us, but they are more prepared to give us a hearing. I met Pete Townshend in New York and he said he likes us too. It makes you feel much better to know that respected musicians like what you are doing, even if some of the kids don’t.”
At the weekend, Badfinger left for another tour of the States. This time it's for two months and includes about 30 concerts on a coast to coast basis. Why did the group virtually ignore England when it came to live appearances?
“We could like to do a big concert tour in England, but we would like to be sure we could get a good audience who like what we are doing. If we went on tour with a heavy group, they would expect us to play heavy music. We could go if we wanted to but it would probably ruin everything.
“We will definitely be doing a tour of England. Everybody wants to make it in their home country, and we do too, but we are not sure whether the audiences will accept us.”
Joey admits that young fans are probably responsible for Badfinger's single success in America – not unlike the current T-Rex phenomenon in this country – but maintains that album sales are predominately to over eighteens. “People in America seem to dig songs more than in England. Over here they would rather you went out on stage and played a guitar solo for half an hour.
“We seem rather isolated in England and we always seem to be away whenever we get into the charts so we can't follow up a record success with big promotion to help it to the top or anything.
“We don’t feel we have deserted Britain, because Britain never made us like it did some groups. Every group in the world wants to go to America and play there. When we go next week, we are topping the bill at the time. We are playing the Carnegie Hall in New York and topping over Al Kooper. It's a lot easier not to top the bill because you don’t have the pressure of following everybody else and being expected to be the top act.”
Straight Up was recorded in the comparatively short time of seven weeks. It follows an album make by Badfinger but scrapped at the last minute because the group felt it wasn’t up to the standard. Playing piano on some of the songs are virtuosos Leon Russell and Nicky Hopkins but neither are credited on the sleeve of the album – because the group don’t want it to sell on the strength of their names.
“People would just say that here's another band using Leon Russell and Nicky Hopkins,” says Joey. “We don’t want to make a big thing out of the fact that they are playing on the record.”
How big a part did Harrison play in the production? ”He just advised us. He has a lot of experience of taking a number and seeing through it and knowing how to arrange it. We are happy with the album considering all the upheavals and personality changes we were going through at the time.”
Did this mean that internal troubles might split the group? ”I am sure we all feel like leaving the group at some times but we're not going to break up. There is no point. It's like we are all solo artists playing together because we all write and have our own styles, but we can slot into each other's ideas. It's a good arrangement.”