If ever there were a band that represented the popular heights and resounding depths of the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, it's Badfinger. Coming together in the early '70s, the band benefited from its association with the Beatles (Paul McCartney wrote Badfinger's first hit, "Come and Get It") and the Apple label but quickly became mired in bad management decisions and a legal snafu that continues to this day.
"Apple was in some legal difficulty and because of that we didn't have any records on the market," says Joey Molland, one of the few surviving members of Badfinger.
The problems went beyond Apple, however, as manager Stan Polley negotiated a nefarious deal with Warner Bros. and kindled within the band a resentment of the comparisons to the Fab Four. With their records removed from store shelves, the pressure became too great for founding member Pete Ham, who hung himself in 1975. Only eight years later, Tom Evans, another founding member, would also hang himself after an argument over publishing rights he had with Molland.
Speaking from his home in Minnesota, the Liverpool-born Molland doesn't answer questions about his departed bandmates. He also doesn't often tour under the Badfinger name except for a special occasion. The Hippie Fest tour presented such an event.
"We played with most of these acts back in the day," Molland says, speaking of bands like Mountain and the Zombies. "We only get 15 minutes to play four or five hits."
And there is much more to Badfinger than a handful of hits. With songs such as "Day After Day," "No Matter What" and, best of all, "Baby Blue," Badfinger was one of the earliest representatives of power pop. Along with Alex Chilton and Big Star, the influence of Badfinger on countless indie bands throughout the '80s and '90s cannot be overstated.
"We always did our best at what came naturally to us," Molland says. "I still hear our riffs and sound in bands that are now just starting out."
Molland is kinder to new bands than to some of his contemporaries who are still making new music today. Although he grew up a few blocks from John Lennon and appreciated McCartney's help with Badfinger, Molland eyes new product from Sir Paul with suspicion.
"McCartney's last couple of records have just been bloody awful," Molland says. "There is just nobody around this guy saying, 'Hey man, that song just doesn't make it.'"
"McCartney is a master promoter," Molland adds. "And good luck with it, I suppose, if he can get away with the rubbish."
Molland is recording solo material, trying to gauge interest from labels and bringing out the Badfinger moniker when the situation presents itself. Yet he is not optimistic that he will ever work again with any of his famous friends from Liverpool.
"These people need get down from their fucking horses and start working with people," Molland says. "They need to go out and join a band."