Paul on stage with Wings during the Band on the Run tour. L.A. 1976
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Ever since the Beatles were passed on by Decca Records (who recovered quickly and signed the Rolling Stones), the music business is full of stories about wrong judgments from those that decide. This article is about the gatekeepers at BBC, who to their credit, accepted Led Zeppelin in the end.
The guy at Decca Records (Dick Rowe) who did not sign the Beatles ultimately went up to Liverpool to see a large variety show, and he was sitting next to George Harrison, whom he asked who was good. Harrison said “The Rolling Stones.” Rowe left the theater immediately and drove non-stop to London to sign the Stones on the advice of a Beatle.
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The famed Abbey Road studio will now be offering CDs just after live concerts to the fans, which is amazing. It must be quite an effort to get everything just right and then on a CD. I wonder if the bands have to sign off on it on the spot, this means there’s virtually no time to even listen to the product, wonder how that works out. The studio has come a long way since the primitive equipment used to record the Beatles, though oddly enough, they’ll never better that work.
Paul McCartney struck this pose immediately after being introduced to James Fortune, who snapped the pic.
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1975 at The Beverly Hills Hotel, Hollywood
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I was reading a book about Led Zeppelin’s fourth album called “When the Levee Breaks. Their 8 song fourth album became the biggest and baddest from beginning to end of all rock albums. And the interesting thing is that James Taylor’s “Something In the Way She Moves” may be connected to “Stairway To Heaven” via “Something” by the Beatles. Also, Zeppelin was inspired by a Fleetwood Mac song called “Oh, Well,” that “Black Dog” is derived from. In addition, “Rock and Roll” is close in spirit to another Fleetwood Mac song of the time, though the name escapes me.
Back to the story: John Bonham had run into George Harrison at a party just before Zeppelin was getting ready to do the album at Hedley Grange, a former orphanage located on the coast of south England. Harrison told Bonham that his band was great, but they had no ballads.
So Bonham went back to Jimmy Page and told him about Harrison’s comment. At this time, the band had been at their cottage in Wales called Bron-y-Ur (golden breast in Welsh) in the mystical Black Mountains. Robert Plant had been steeping himself in the Celtic mythology to mine for material for the new album, and was coming up with the lyrics for Stairway To Heaven, and other classics that refer to the days of Merlin and King Arthur in allusion and other artistic devices.
So Jimmy Page began tinkering with a riff loosely based on the single note descending in “Something,” though he sped up the tempo of the beat. And “Something” is in C major, whereas “Stairway” is in Am. So the next time you hear either song, there’s that descending note.
When James Taylor signed with Apple Records, he had a demo of “Something In The Way She Moves,” that Harrison had to have heard, as the Beatles had to sign off on each band being signed. The songs are close in several ways, though not enough to cause problems. Did Harrison subconsciously borrow the mood and lyric?
Note: Paul McCartney plays drums on “Carolina On My Mind.” a little tidbit of info. To their credit, the Beatles released Taylor from the Apple contract when he wanted to go, without penalty. Big mistake not to pay attention to James Taylor, look what happened afterwards.
The Beatles usually recorded at Abbey Road, but on occasion, they ended up at Olympic or Trident Studio. In Dan Matovina’s book “Without You,” Badfinger was in Trident Studios in Soho (now called The Sound Studio) is located in Soho on 17 St. Annes Court. The Beatles came here to record “Hey Jude” and several White Album tracks in 1968, according to this website.
The Iveys (Badfinger) were just signed to Apple Records, and they were put in Trident Studios in the summer of 1968 with producer Tony Visconti. On the second day, Ron Griffiths and Mike Gibbins sat down for a break. Ron was The Iveys first bass player, subsequently replaced by Joey Molland, and Tom Evans changed to bass).
According to Ron, in came Paul McCartney, and he said “Hey lads, come over and have a listen to this. This is going to be our next single.” He sat down and gave us a full concert rendition of “Hey Jude.” He didn’t hold back at all. This just after he wrote it. It hadn’t been recorded yet. We were gob-smacked!”
Shortly after this, The Beatles recorded “Hey Jude” at Trident, and along with a few White Album tracks, this was one of the rare times they did not use Abbey Road.
Later, in August, Badfinger went into Trident to record “Seesaw Granpa” and “Sali Bloo” with no less than super-session player, Nicky Hopkins. Hopkins is probably the most legendary keyboard player that most people have never heard of. He played on “Revolution” by the Beatles, “Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin, “Jealous Guy,” by John Lennon, and on dozens of legendary Who and Rolling Stones records, and many, many others.
He may have played on “Name of the Game,” by Badfinger on “Straight Up,” but no one knows for sure. Hopkins was legendary for turning out stellar performances with little or no rehearsal, and was well loved by the musicians. He died at the age of 50, but left a catalog of material that is unmatched.
During this time, Badfinger’s first single was recorded, a tune by Tommy Evans called “Maybe Tomorrow.” I like the story of Paul McCartney coming into Trident Studios in this time period while Badfinger was recording. He said, “Oh, I thought the lads were here (meaning the other Beatles). He said: “We must be recording at Abbey Road, I was under the impression we were recording here.”
Before he left, he listened to a Badfinger song called “I’m In Love,” that had a spoken word part, and said “That’s a bit loud, you don’t want to be listening to that ten years from now and wondering why you left it in.” Tony Visconti responded sharply, “We’re not up to that bit yet,” and Paul said “Oh, excuse me, I’m sorry.” Visconti says in “Without You” ‘great, I’ve leveled a Beatle!” The call and response with a Cockney accent ultimately was taken out.
When I was in London in 1977 and 1980, we often went to the Marquee Club on Wardour St., a great area for rock history. Badfinger played a number of shows there, as did the Who, Led Zeppelin, and countless others. There was something about that place, like CBGBS, or the Whiskey A Go Go, they just were at the the right place and time to be forever frozen in rock history. With Trident Studios right around the corner, and literally thousands of bands centering their business in London, it’s no wonder there is so much great music out of there.
Paul McCartney was commissioned to do the soundtrack for Magic Christian by himself, but Abbey Road work was pressing, and he turned to The Iveys (to soon be Badfinger) for the music. After he convinced the movie company they would do a good job, but he would still oversee, they agreed.
McCartney completed his demo of “Come And Get It” in 20 minutes of recording time before a Beatles session. He then took it to The Iveys and asked if they would like to record it. The band gotten a letter from McCartney that summer of 1969, requesting a meeting, and asking if he could drop by to talk to them.
Naturally the band said to come on over, and McCartney asked them if they would record a song he’d written, and they should record it just as he had arranged it. He then had them take a copy home to practice, acknowledging they were songwriters and arrangers in their own right, but try it his way for just this time.
Paul took them into Abbey Road a week later on August 2, and said he would audition each band member for the lead vocal. The first order of business was to lay down the track. As the band gathered around a piano, and began to discuss the arrangement, suddenly John and Yoko appeared. Tom recalled: “They were kind of walking through and Lennon stopped and looked over at Paul, bowed his h ead, and said, “Oh wise one, oh sage, show us the light.” They next thing I knew he walked out the door. “I thought, “Wait a minute, that was John Lennon!”
The group kept going, and Pete, Tom, and Ron each took a try (Ron was soon to quit, and be replaced by Joey Molland). Paul selected Tom Evan’s as the best voice for the song, and the song was recorded. Paul added tambourine also, and they recorded the song with the simple arrangements.
The group and McCartney traveled to Apple to play the track, and Pete Ham told the story of George Harrison coming in to listen. The Beatle said nothing after the song was played, and pulled out a lump of has and said: “Smoke this. And then go see what you can do!”
McCartney then played “Come And Get It” for Commonwealth United Films, who was producing The Magic Christian, which was to star Peter Sellars, Ringo Starr, Raquel Welch, and others. They loved the song, and gave Paul the go ahead for more music from The Iveys.
The band watched the first few minutes of the film, and Paul asked for a “Simon and Garfunkel” kind of style for the music. Pete and Tom went off and wrote “Carry On Till Tomorrow,” and brought it back to Abbey Road. McCartney hired George Martin to write the strings, and he finished it over a weekend. It does not say who decided that there would be two modulations, the song starts in Cm, goes to Dm for the last chorus, and finishes in Ebm with the breathtaking harmonies that reach to the heavens, and so define Badfinger.
I just read in “Without You” an interesting bit of information. Badfinger was losing a key member just as they were taking off, Dai Jenkins, and were scouting around for a replacement. They had done a few dates in Liverpool, and during a night off, they went around to scout the local talent. They went to the Litherland Town Hall, and saw Tommy Evans playing with his band, the Calderstones in July, 1967, and soon after he joined Badfinger.
Litherland Town Hall (http://www.music.indiana.edu/som/courses/rock/clubs.html) has a great history for the Beatles and other Merseyside bands. This website states: “The Litherland Town Hall was the site of the “Birth of Beatlemania,” the December 1960 concert that demonstrated the group’s remarkable improvement after several months in Hamburg and sparked the first stirrings of fan hysteria in their hometown.” So you could say the key member of Badfinger’s songwriting team was first spotted at the place where Beatlemania was first observed.
Matovina’s book “Without You” details Evan’s absolute obsession with the Everly Brothers, it was his first band to really listen to and learn from. The book goes on to relate a story about seeing the Beatles. When he was fourteen, he went to see the Shadows with the Beatles at the Cavern Club. He was stunned by the show, and from then on, Evans went out and bought a guitar and never looked back.
Once when he was nine years old, he was being taken to visit his grandfather, whom he was very close to, and whom he play music with, including his biggest passion, the Everly Brothers.
Just before they arrived, according to his mother, May, Tommy was saying “Oh, I’d like to learn this Everly Brothers song. But then he walked in with his mother and her sister to find his beloved grandfather dead, the gas light had blown out and the teapot was on the stove, according to Matovina’s book.
May Evans said it traumatized Tommy. It is interesting that on the last night of Tommy’s life, he played Everly Brothers songs, and sang them with his wife, and wrote down the lyrics, according to “Without You.”
Obviously, The Everly Brothers played a serious role in his life, whether it was helping build the majestic harmonies they did in Badfinger, and the aspect of death connected to Everly Brothers, and his grandfather. And on the eve of committing suicide, he decided to play those beloved records again, maybe there is some significance or connection. Or maybe not.
Paul McCartney played a major role in signing Badfinger, and consistently supported them. After all, Apple had a label, and to make good, they had to have successful acts. Magic Christian was an inconsistent album, and the earlier Badfinger members that were no long with the group were not even credited, Joey Molland had just joined the group, and that was that for proper credits.
So the first true Molland album was “No Dice,” and though a great album, “Straight Up” came out a more powerful product on all levels. George Harrison and Todd Rundgren both help make this happen with state of the art pristine mixing and editing, it has that clarity and purpose of Abbey Road.
Todd Rundgren was not even credited for his efforts on “Day After Day,” instead George Harrison was. Rundgren was somewhat miffed.
When Badfinger recorded “Day After Day,” George Harrison was going to do the mixing, but he had to leave due to “Concert for Bangladesh.”
So Todd Rundgren was brought in, and some thought he was kind of jerk, but in Dan Matovina’s book “Without You,” he was amazing in the studio. Plus he was very fast, the album “Straight Up” had been languishing for various reasons, and needed to be finished quickly, and sometimes it takes a jerk, if that’s the case. Rundgren put them on a merciless schedule and got the job done.
Badfinger was the first band signed to Apple Records, and John Lennon thought they should be “Glass Onion,” and when that was rejected, guess what he did with those two words.
But Lennon was ultimately responsible for their name, he came in with a bandaged finger trying to play “A Little Help From My Friends” and called it “Bad Finger Boogie,” and Neil Aspinall saw the connection and created the name.
The result was one of the greatest pop records ever recorded, when Goldmine magazine polled their readers as to what vinyl should go to CD in the early 1990′s “Straight Up” beat even Plastic Ono Band and Beach Boy’s “Pet Sounds.”
One interesting fact is that Leon Russell was brought in to play piano on the sessions, and it is known that he did “Day After Day.”
In “Without You,” the story tells how the control room was set high in the wall above the studio in Abbey Road, and when they looked down, they could only see Leon’s giant hat. They did a take, and the Leon said he was getting the feel of things. Then they finished the track, and the rest is history.
One other detail is that no one knows, or will ever know, is who played piano on “Name of the Game,” on Straight Up, according to Matovina. It could be Nicky Hopkins, Leon Russell, or Rick Wright of Yes, there are no studio records for that song that indicate the truth. It sure would be nice to know who played piano on one of Badfinger’s greatest tunes.
Another neat tidbit in “Without You” is how George Harrison was so happy with the mix of “I’d Die Babe” from Straight Up he was dancing around the control room, and was embarrassed at being caught when someone walked in. Great song, good job George.