Friday, August 7, 2009

A Chat with Joey Molland from Badfinger

It's been written that John Lennon wanted to call the band "Glass Onion", but no one liked the name. It was later that Lennon used the name for one of his songs on the White Album. Instead, The Iveys chose another Beatles-inspired name: "Badfinger." This was a reference to "Badfinger Boogie", an early working title of "With a Little Help from My Friends," from "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."
Badfinger was the most successful band on the Beatles Apple label. The band experienced everything from great success to greed and eventually tragedy that resulted in the suicide of two members (Pete Ham in 1975 and Tom Evans in 1983).
Today, original member Joey Molland continues the legacy of Badfinger singing the hits that he helped create and touring the world. I had the great pleasure to speak with Joey about his years with Badfinger...

MICK: When you first joined the band, was Badfinger already signed by Apple Records?

JOEY: Yes, they were signed as The Iveys. Eventually, we changed the name to Badfinger

MICK: What are your memories of working with George Harrison and particapting in the legendary Concert For Bangladesh?

JOEY: Recording with him in the studio was a tremendous experience. He was a very kind man, a lovely guy, a natural fellow. He worked us hard, taught us a lot about recording vocals and arrangements without seeming like a teacher.He was great to work with; an unforgettable experience for me. In a lot of ways George was a very natural person, not at all an egoist or self centered. Just a very regular guy who was extremely talented as they all were. John[Lennon] was the same. I actually didn't do any work with Paul[McCartney]. He'd already done the "Come and Get It" stuff. Ringo{Starr] was the same; very natural guy. They didn't think of themselves as Beatles with us.
The Bangladesh Concert was a great experience as it was the first concert of it's kind. We spent a week in New York rehearsing at the Steinway Rehearsal Studio. Through the week, the band got bigger and bigger. It was just a great experience all around right up to the concert itself. The whole thing was fabulous. I feel tremendously lucky. There were loads of players that wanted to play but only a few were chosen. It was a privilege and honor for us and a great pleasure. The band was great..Leon Russell, Ringo, Jim Keltner, Kluas Voorman, Billy Preston....what kind of band was that!!! Jim Horn and his horn section, all the shelter singers..Don Nix and all those guys, Claudia Linnear.. just loads a talented people. We had the time of our lives. And then Dylan just shows up. He showed up at the dress rehearsal Saturday. I don't know if George had talked to him but we certainly never heard about him coming...there wasn't any "Dylan's coming this afternoon"!! He almost didn't get in on Saturday. The guards didn't believe it was Dylan. But he did get in thank God. He played about a 45 minute set by himself at the Garden {MSG}. George jumped up with him and Leon..everybody wanted to play with Dylan of course. It was a fabulous day and a fabulous weekend.

MICK: I know you wee also on John Lennon's "Imagine" album. What was it like to record with him?

JOEY: Same experience you know...just a regular bloke..went to his house down in Surrey, he had a big estate..I think it was called Tittenhurst Park. He had a studio built in the back of his house. A fabulous experience. He came in and played his "Jealous Guy" and we did that first. Imagine sitting across the room from John Lennon singing a song to you..a song we'd never heard before, a brand new John Lennon song. We did that song and then he said "You guys can leave now if you want to for this next song we're going to do" It was "I Don't Want To Be A Soldier" which was more of an electric song. We were playing some acoustics for him. So Tommy and I decided to stay and play through the session and that's what we got credit for playing on "I Don't Want To Be A soldier". And then he was kind enough to put on names and photographs on the album. It was a great treat. You know, 40 years later you can pick up the Imagine Album and there's a picture of Joey Molland on it!!!

MICK: I had read that there was a time after Badfinger that you are working as a carpet layer in Los Angeles.

JOEY: Of yeah, you know Badfinger got ripped off. All of our money was stolen. We were broke. So I went to work. I was raised in a working family so what happens when Joe Molland runs out of money, he goes gets a job. I was going to go bumming around. I got another job after that as a carpenter. I didn't mind it at all, just going to work and eventually someone offered me a record deal. I made a record but it didn't bother me really. Getting up in the morning and going to work. Felt good. Got to do what you got to do!

MICK: My deepest condolences to you on the recent loss of your wife Kathie [she passed away on March 23, 2009].

JOEY: It was a very sad affair, very sudden. Unexpected. Everybody is doing okay. It takes a little time. I'm fortunate now that I'm working. I was trying to fill m y life up again with work but realized that wasn't going to do it for me. I realized I had to deal with it first and tell myself that Kathie is gone. We had almost 40 years together. We'd raised our children. So for a couple of months my life was completely empty, bouts of extreme loneliness, depression..there's always some regret I guess. But I loved my wife dearly; we stayed together through thick and thin. She was a real stalwart for me. She held me up through hard times, the good and the bad together. I can't say enough good about her. She was an absolutely beautiful American girl. But I had to tell myself that Kathie's gone now. It's like a new life in a sense. I don't rush home after gigs anymore. My whole perspective on life has changed. I've come to realize there is a future, Getting myself back into society is difficult because being married is your whole life. You have your career and you have your marriage and your home. But once your wife goes, that home is gone. It doesn't matter what it is, it's gone. That's what I've been telling myself. I've gotten so much support from my friends, my family, my fans, the's just been fantastic. I'm okay and I'm dealing with it okay. My son's are dealing with it well. It's very depressing for both of them of course. They're grown men and we are dealing with it together.

MICK: Are your sons musicians as well?

JOEY: My eldest son Joe is; I think Shaun wants to be but he's had some problems of his own so he's never really gotten in to the music world. My son Joe was in an auto accident about three and a half years ago. He almost died. That put him back a bit but thank God he's recovered. He's a great guitar player and a wonderful songwriter. I'm really proud of him. And I know Shaun he's equally gifted as a musician and as an artist. I'm looking forward to the day when he breaks out. You know, one of my real favorite wishes is that we can do something together as a trio. Hopefully make a record together. I know we will but all in good time. Life is know what it is? Life isn't a dream, it's a real thing. It's important to hold onto your dreams. Certain people inspire that in us I think. So that's the people I look to surround myself with. I'm looking forward to somebody in the future that inspires me.

MICK: During the course of your career, do you have any regrets?

JOEY: I regret a little that I didn't stay with the Badfinger thing a little longer than I did. I felt helpless though. I felt like I had had no recourse. The band, Peter in particular, very stubborn about the direction the band was taking. I'm not talking musically, I'm talking in a business sense. I felt that the band had fractured. A band is a very fragile thing. It's a relationship between the members. I felt that the Badfinger thing had fractured and it wasn't repairable. Peter's personality had changed completely. He actually turned his back on the band;in fact, he left the band. Then he wanted to come back and stay with the mangers who were just reaming us, you know. They were just taking us to the cleaners day in, day out. We could have worked the rest of our lives and they would have carried on doing it. It was pointless for me to stay. I didn't see a future in it. put my all into the band. All my songs, I brought everything I could into the band. It wasn't enough. I couldn't save it> There was no way I could sit around and watch it go down. So I decided top leave and of course a few months later, Peter found out that we were right and he was wrong. The world of decisions he'd made. I think that's what lead him to do what he did.

MICK: Are there any new projects that you are working on?

JOEY: Oh yeah, I'm always working on new songs. I had a solo album out a few years ago , "This Way Up" it was called. I just found out that they're using 5 of the songs from that record and possibly more in this new movie coming out called "Immigration Tango", a romantic comedy. So that's a great thrill for me. I've been doing the HippieFest for the past 2-3 years and I'm having great fun with that. I've made a lot of new friends. Over the years I've met a lot of people on the road, people like Leslie West from "Mountain"; the Turtles. A tour like this where you do 20 gigs with these guys, you get to be friends with them. We all get to share the experience together. It's been a great pleasure for me. Just meeting and knowing these people, they're really sweet and beautiful people. Great artists, great writers, great singers, performers, entertainers. How ever you want to put it, it's a great thrill for me. I'm doing world tours. I'm going to Australia in November. My voice is holding out. I'm 62 now and I can still sing all the songs in all the original keys. I still do a good job and routinely get standing ovations. To see an entire audience rise for me has got to be one of the greatest thrills and tributes on the planet! Life right now is a bowl of cherries, it's just fantastic. I've lost my wife and there's no denying there was an enormous tragedy in my life but my life is going on and I'm very, very happy about it. I feel real positive about the future but it's bizarre. I kinda feel a little guilty ....I should be feeling worse and feel real depressed about the whole thing but I'm not. I can't deny it or act it. I know my wife would want me to work and be out there doing things. She fought for what I do. She supported me for all those years. There's no way I can use her demise as an excuse. It's made me stronger.

MICK: Which of today's artists do you admire?

JOEY: Oh there's a lot of them. I'm so ignorant in that I don't know the songwriters. There's James Blunt, these guys coming out and writing these great songs; they're individual original performers, they're not copying anybody. The pop scene is what it is but the rock and roll scene is just as vibrant and healthy as it ever was. I see a band like Green Day and it knocks me out! I love all that. I love rock and roll music, it's always been the fruit of my life. So I love to see it and I love the young bands. I meet these guys along the way and they're very nice to me. They say beautiful things to me and how they loved Badfinger and our music. It's a great treat to me.

MICK: Do you have any hobbies besides music?

JOEY: I do a little cycling. I have an old Italian road bike I ride occasionally. I do my housework and maintenance around the house. I don't work on cars anymore. I used to do all the maintenance on the cars; we had the Blazer and an old Jag. I don't do that much anymore. I guess my hobbies are my music and my kids. I like to walk and just enjoy myself without bothering anybody and hope nobody bothers me. I like a good movie, old movies in particular. I wish I could get some sunglasses where it takes all the color out and it's like a black and white world. I love riding trains. I'm all in favor of Amtrak; I hope they don't close it down. I love talking to people and meeting people. I'm getting to know all the places we play like WolfTrap, the Greek Theater, all these wonderful places. You get to know the staff and backstage people and it's nice to hear "How You been Joe? when they see you again. I'm loving it!!

Joey Molland and Badfinger will be appearing at HippieFest on Sunday, August 9th at the Brookhaven Amphitheater in Farmingville, New York. Come out to see him, Chuck Negron, Vanilla Fudge, Mountain, Flo and Eddie, and Brewer and Shipley for an unforgettable trip to the past.

For more information on Joey Molland and Badfinger, please see:

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