On Nov. 3, Joey Molland, the only surviving member of the best-known lineup of Badfinger, begins a series of U.S. shows featuring a full performance of the group's Straight Up album. Straight Up spawned two top 20 Billboard singles – “Day After Day,” which peaked at #4 in December of 1971, and “Baby Blue,” which topped at #14 in March of 1972. The album itself hit the top 50 on the magazine's album chart. Molland calls it “our most popular album.”
Production for the album was started under the Beatles' George Harrison, who produced “I'd Die Babe” and “Suitcase,” which were written by Molland; “Name of the Game” and the chart hit “Day After Day.”
“He was really sweet,” Molland recalled in an exclusive interview with AXS.com. “He was normal George, a very humble guy. He'd bring his guitar in and his amp and pretty much join the band. He'd start playing with you and always asked if it was OK to do that. And then he was just great. Just really an easy guy to work with. Just did great work for us.”
Molland had similar good feelings about playing on the sessions for Harrison's All Things Must Pass album. “We were a lot more involved with All Things Must Pass. We played on most of it if not all of the record. I don't know whether he used us on all the tracks, but we certainly played along on all of them. It was really easy. We just kind of played along, just played our parts. George had some rules that he liked to apply. There was no one drinking in the studio except Spector. I mean George didn't say that, but it was kind like unwritten he didn't want you showing up drunk. There weren't all sorts of drugs going on and off like that. It was a very easy album to work on.”
Planning for The Concert for Bangladesh caused Harrison to stop work on Straight Up. “George got involved with the Bangladesh thing and he came and apologized to us,” he said. “He'd asked Todd (Rundgren) to get involved and finish up the album for us. And Todd agreed. Todd was really nice enough to agree and he came over to England.”
Working with Rundgren was quite different, Molland says. “He was very bossy and very insulting in some ways,” he recalls. “But again, he did a great job for us. Can't fault his job. The record turned out great. It was just a completely different world than George.” Some of the album's songs, such as “Perfection” and “Sometimes” have been rarely performed on stage, and Molland said he couldn't recall having done “I'd Die Babe” before. But they'll be included in the set on this tour.
Harrison didn't forget Badfinger when looking for performers for the Concert for Bangladesh. “It was a thrill,” he said of the show. “We were surrounded by major stars, of course, as we were when we went with George. It was great. We spent a week in New York. He was going to do most of the songs off of All Things Must Pass, so we needed a few days to get that together. So by the end of that week, we were feeling pretty good about it all. And then the other musicians were coming into town as well.” Musicians like Eric Clapton, Leon Russell and Billy Preston.
“Billy was like the sunshine coming in. He's a great musician and a fantastic singer. He had this habit (that) he played with his shoulders over and with his head down when he played. But he would look during the song and beam that smile out. That was a beautiful thing.”
Molland also played on John Lennon's Imagine album. “We got a phone call one afternoon. Only Tommy and I were at the house, Tommy Evans and myself. Everyone else was out. Joe called us, John's driver, and said, 'John would like you to do him a favor. If you could grab your guitars we'll send a car around and bring you down here. We're recording here tonight and we need some acoustics and stuff.'"
“Eventually, we found our way to the back of the house and that's where the studio was. There was George and Phil Spector. Jim Keltner was there to play drums that night, Klaus Voormann and Nicky Hopkins there playing the piano. Then around I guess 9:30 or 10 o'clock, John and Yoko came in. Really nice, really sweet both of them.”
Another musical figure regarded highly by Molland is Harry Nilsson, who won a Grammy for his cover of Pete Ham's “Without You.” He remembers how they learned Nilsson had recorded the song, which put a spotlight on the band that had originally recorded it.
“We were recording I think the album after Straight Up. And in walked Harry Nilsson and he introduced himself and he asked us to come and listen to a mix. They were mixing the album, he said, and his ears were tired. He wasn't quite sure if his ears were getting what he really wanted. And so he asked us to come down there and give us an opinion on it. Of course, he was pulling our leg. He'd just mixed 'Without You.' He took us in the studio and just played it for us. Just blasted it for us. Really blew us away, honestly.”
Molland revealed to AXS.com he is working on a new album. “Mark Hudson is going to produce it. We've already done a couple of songs. We did them at a studio in New York to see how it felt and it felt great. The songs turned out really good. We're going to be finishing it up. I've given him about 40 songs.”
He also said he wants to do something for the people of Puerto Rico recently hit by hurricanes. “We're trying to do something to help people of those tragedies that have happened this fall, all those hurricanes. Those people are still suffering out there. And they still need help, a lot of help.”
Joey Molland/Badfinger tour dates:
Nov. 3 - Arlington, MA - The Regent Theatre
Nov. 9 - East Greenwich, RI - Greenwich Odeum
Nov. 11 - Newton, NJ - Newton Theatre
Nov. 12 - Atlanta, GA - City Winery Atlanta
Nov. 18-19 - Cleveland, OH - Nighttown
Nov. 20 - Chicago, IL - City Winery
Nov. 22 - Nashville, TN - City Winery