Apple Records was founded by The Beatles, but they weren’t the only recording artists on the label. Billy Preston and James Taylor were signed by the Fab Four, but it was the British band Badfinger that was the most successful act on Apple besides The Beatles with the hit singles “Come & Get It,” “No Matter What,” “Day After Day” and “Baby Blue,” from 1969 to 1972.
Guitarist and Liverpool native Joey Molland joined Badfinger in 1969, along with original members (which were then known as The Iveys when they were formed in 1965) Mike Gibbons, Pete Ham and Tom Evans. Molland will perform the band’s biggest hits at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach Thursday, April 17.
Molland, who recently released a solo album, “Return to Memphis,” said it's “quite phenomenal” that you can still hear those records on the radio decades later.
“The music lives on whether I'm doing it or not,” Molland said. “I don't know whether what I've done has contributed to that, but I like to think the records are good enough and that they've survived because of that.”
After the tragic deaths of three of the original members, Evans and Ham committed suicide and Gibbons died from a brain aneurism in 2005, Molland is keeping the band’s music alive, but that won’t happen in the recording studio.
“It’s one thing to do a concert, Joey Molland’s Badfinger, and play the songs, do it the best we can and try to give people a little bit of a Badfinger experience in terms of what they hear. But it's quite something to go into a studio and call yourself Badfinger and make a record under the name. It's a bit weird for me.”
Molland was not on the recording of Badfinger's first hit single, “Come & Get It,” which reached No. 7 on the Hot 100 Billboard charts in 1969. But he was on guitar for their next top 10 singles, “No Matter What” in 1970 and “Day After Day” in 1971. Badfinger almost reached the top 10 with their last hit single, “Baby Blue,” which reached No. 14 on the Hot 100 in 1972.
Reported friction in the band and bad management, which led to substantial financial issues when the band moved to Warner Bros. Records, led to the band's break-up and reportedly the suicide of Ham in 1975. After Ham's death, the band dissolved and Molland was out of music by 1977. In 1983, Evans reportedly hung himself as well.
“I guess we got victimized by the business side of it … after we stopped the crooks from stealing everything, we were able to go back later and claim our rights and get our due. Since 1985 in fact, the crooks have been out of the picture and we've all been getting our royalties, Pete's family gets his, Tommy's family gets his, I get mine and Mike's family gets his. It didn't work out bad for us really. It was a bit of a nightmare at the time. I had a family, wife and kids, and had no money. I was out on the street in Los Angeles. I had to get jobs here and there. I was a carpenter for awhile …. you do what you have to do to support your family.”
But before the turmoil in the band, Molland had the opportunity to work with The Beatles on their solo projects. Molland and Evans played on John Lennon's “Imagine” album; Molland played on George Harrison's “All Things Must Pass” and “Straight Up,” and the band played alongside Harrison at his all-star “Concert for Bangladesh.”
“They could get everybody in the world and we took it like that,” said Molland of the experience. “We were big fans of The Beatles. It was actually difficult to be there with them and not freak out. When John Lennon sits down and plays 'Jealous Guy,' it's enough not to lose your mind.”
“We listened to the same radio stations. We went to the same clubs. Probably drank at the same pubs … there was something about The Beatles, some kind of attitude that was definitely part of us, maybe a part of Liverpool,” Molland said.
Molland, who lives in Minnesota with his family, will be playing the Badfinger hits on April 17, but also a couple of songs from his new album, “Return to Memphis,” which he recorded at historic Royal Studios.
“It's nothing like a Badfinger record,” Molland said. “I play soft guitar, a little bit of slide. It's the kind of record I've been wanting to do for years. I've always liked Memphis and the music that came out of there. It was a chance I had so I took it.”