It was Wednesday, Oct. 2, and just a few days after the airing of the final episode of hugely popular AMC TV series Breaking Bad on Sunday, 9/29. To his surprise, Molland heard “Baby Blue,” a song he recorded with his band Badfinger in 1972, played during the episode’s pivotal closing scene while he was watching it.
By Monday morning, his phone wouldn’t stop ringing, as Molland, the only surviving original member of the legendary British band, was being interviewed by what seemed like every newspaper, magazine and TV show on the planet.
For guitarist/singer Molland—and Badfinger—it was richly deserved (if late in coming) recognition for a job well done. Molland keeps the band’s legacy alive, playing its songs—which also include the classics “No Matter What,” “Day After Day” and “Come and Get It”—with his band, Joey Molland’s Badfinger.
But Joey Molland doesn’t just play old Badfinger songs. He’s still making new music, and has a solo CD, Return to Memphis, set to be released in November.
It’s our pleasure to present this interview, appearing exclusively on Entertainment Tell, with the great Joey Molland.
(Note: Click here for my personal reflections on Badfinger and my experience interviewing Joey Molland.)
Howard Whitman: I imagine you’re having an incredible week.
Joey Molland: Really, yeah, it’s unbelievable, really fantastic. The phone’s ringing off the hook.
Whitman: I’ll bet. I’m surprised and delighted that I was able to get a slot with you today.
Molland: Well, you come highly recommended.
Whitman: Thank you very much! So I hear that you weren’t aware of (the Breaking Bad usage) prior to the show’s airing; this was just done through the Ham estate.
Molland: I suppose so. I mean, I don’t know who actually did the thing. The Ham estate of course, has the copyright to the “Baby Blue” song, although I think they have it administered by BMG or somebody like that, one of the big publishing houses, and of course Apple owns it for the rest of the world.
Whitman: I understand you actually just heard it on the TV.
Molland: That’s exactly right, yeah!
Whitman: Was that a great surprise?
Molland: It certainly was, yeah, I mean, an incredible surprise. It’s probably the biggest show in the world. It’s unbelievable, and being the penultimate music for the show is great, brilliant.
Whitman: It reminds me of what happened a few years ago when Journey was used in The Sopranos.
Molland: That’s right, yeah. And you know what happened to them guys. It’s really exciting, I imagine. This is great for Badfinger and for all the families and everything, and for me. It’s great news. It’s great news!
Whitman: Absolutely. Now, I’m sure if it hasn’t already, that there are going to be some amazing offers for Badfinger. People are really, really going to want to see the band now, don’t you think?
Molland: Well, sure. And we’ve been doing shows over the years. We’ve never stopped. I’ve never stopped doing Badfinger concerts … well, in the 70s I did when the band first broke up, but after that, I’ve been doing a Joey Molland’s Badfinger concert, which really concentrates on the Badfinger music. I don’t use it as a vehicle for my stuff or anybody else’s stuff really, just for the Badfinger songs and for the Badfinger people I guess. So yeah, it’s great and I’ve already gotten some good offers, show offers the band will be happy about, and I’ve been offered a couple of solo things. Yeah, all the normal stuff that comes with having a—you know, it’s weird to even say it, but having a hit record. It’s a different bloody world you know, and it’s completely different now to what it was back then!
Whitman: It’s a hit download now!
Molland: Yeah, that’s right—that’s exactly right. It’s amazing, and it’s affecting the other records—of course, “No Matter What” and “Day After Day” and that kind of stuff. Our albums are selling a little bit, I think. It’s all good news for us, it’s all good news for the Badfinger family I must say. I’m really happy about it. I’m glad I’m around to enjoy it. You know, look into the future. I’ve got a new record coming out anyway.
Whitman: Yes, I wanted to ask you about that—Return to Memphis. Should we ascertain from the title that this is a more rootsy, country sound on this record?
Molland: No, it’s not a country record, not a country sound. I did it in Memphis, mainly because I grew up listening to Memphis music, you know, starting with Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis and all the rest of it. And of course, later on through the Stax and the Willie Mitchell stuff, the Hi Records catalogue and all of that. So it’s always been a great, favorite music city for me. I happened to go there to do a session, and I did it at Willie Mitchell’s studio, Royal Studios, and here I am, you go through that door there and it’s like walking into 1950 or 1960. It’s the same, everything is the same. They’ve updated some of the equipment to accommodate digital, but the mics, the drum booth, the B3, the piano, the little amps that you use for guitars—all of that stuff is the same. And I just fell in love with the place and decided, “Well, hell, I’m going to make a record, so I’m going to come here to make it.” It’s quite a different-sounding record for me; it’s a little nervy to tell you the truth. It’s not like a Badfinger record or an English rock and roll record. It’s me and three Memphis cats playing—all pros, all well-steeped in the music down there, and famous in their own right really, and a Memphis producer, and four girl singers. So I’m really waiting to see what the reaction is. I’ve got me fingers crossed that it’s good.
Whitman: I’m sure it will be. Your solo work’s been wonderful.
Molland: Well, thanks so much.
Whitman: When will we see (Molland’s 1983 solo album After the Pearl) get a proper CD re-release? It’s such a great album.
Molland: We’ve tried to get in touch with the people, and it’s like they’re nonexistent and we can’t really go ahead with anything without their license because they own it. I don’t know what I can do about it. I don’t know if there’s anything legal, but I’d like to get the record out because I enjoyed it meself and it’s me first solo record. There are a couple of good little tunes on it. It’s a bit of fun. It’s just a drag that it’s not out there, it’s not available. There are bootlegs available, you know, because you can buy CDs of After the Pearl. But nothing official.
Whitman: I have the vinyl, and vinyl is making a comeback these days, right?
Molland: Right! I’m thinking that the record label—Gonzo Media, they’re the label that’s putting Return to Memphis out—they’ll do some vinyl releases if it gets any kind of successful reaction. I think they’ll get behind it like that, which would be nice to see, and for me, it would be nice to have it.
Whitman: Absolutely! People are buying LPs again; it could happen. Sounds like a great record; do you think all of this excitement swirled up by Breaking Bad will bring attention to your new music?
Molland: I hope so, I hope so. It couldn’t be better for me professionally speaking, so, yeah, great. You’ve got your fingers crossed. You don’t want to hope too much … set meself up for disappointment. But I’ve really got me fingers crossed. I hope people like it and get behind it.
Whitman: I’m planning to see your show at the Sellersville Theater in December and I’m thinking I better catch you guys before you move onto bigger venues.
Molland: We’ll see what happens. Again, it’s easy to think about those things happening, but I’m not really sure about any of that. I’m working with agents. It’s a different world. I’m just trying to tread a little bit carefully. A lot of people have helped me over the years, agents and managers alike, and I’m calling those people now and taking counsel. You want to do the right thing by everybody, by the band and everything. It’s kind of a dodgy line sometimes. You’re looked on as an opportunist or this or that or the other.
Whitman: Well, it’s not like you’re just coming back to take advantage of this new notoriety. You’ve done Badfinger all along.
Molland: That’s right, yeah.
Whitman: It’s wonderful that you’re still out there doing it.
Molland: A lot of people have said that to me. For me, it’s just great to have the opportunity to play. That was the idea in the beginning, and it’s still the idea now—to get to play my guitar and sing songs. It was what it was always about, so that’s why I’ve been able to keep doing it, because I’ve always approached it like that. It’s very exciting now, obviously, this thing that’s happened here. It’s really good. Me and me girlfriend are having ourselves a great time, and it’s all lovely, yeah … isn’t that right, Mary? (Mary agrees).
Whitman: So you still enjoy getting up onstage and playing?
Molland: Oh, I love it. I’m doing it this Friday, I’m playing in Panama City Beach. I’ve got loads of gigs, and I just came back from Japan, a couple of concerts in Tokyo, and before that I was in England, in Liverpool, I did four shows there … yeah, I get about a bit, just play and enjoy meself, keep the bills up to date.
Whitman: On Facebook, a gentleman named Steve Wozny (current keyboardist for Badfinger) wrote to me “Please query Joe about his fabulous touring band, especially that talented and handsome piano player.”
Molland: Well, you know, some people say that about Steve, that he is in fact handsome and everything … I don’t see it myself, of course, being a man. And frankly, people who talk about themselves in those terms need to be spanked (laughs). Yeah, I’ve got a great band, bunch of great guys. They all work hard, and they’re all well-paid for it, I might say! Of course, we’ll be doing more shows now, so we’ll see what happens.
Molland: All of us had been in big bands, and those bands had happened to all break up at the same time. And I was in London, this was in, I think April or May 1975, and I happened to bump into Mark Clarke, the bass player from Uriah Heep, who’s a Liverpool bloke. And he’d played with Jon Hiseman and all of that stuff, and he was an old mate of mine, and I said, “Hey buddy, what are you doing this week?” and he said, “Oh, I’m going over to (Humble Pie drummer) Jerry Shirley’s house, Humble Pie broke up and he’s having a bit of a do this weekend, a jam, and you should come.” So I did! My wife Kathy and I went up there, and we stayed at Jerry’s over the weekend. We had a good jam, it was great, and out of that we formed the band Natural Gas. And we did a bit of recording in London. Jerry had some ideas for songs … you know, Jerry’s a good little writer. And he had some ideas and Mark, of course, has always been a good writer and a great singer—oh man, what a great singer, and also a phenomenal bass player. He went on to be a great session musician in the New York area, did a lot of records and stuff. And of course he’s still touring now with Colosseum again, he’s doing that stuff. Jerry’s just remixed the Humble Pie Live album, so he’s doing stuff as well. I see him when I go back to England, and sometimes I see Mark in America; we bump into each other at places, airports and things like that. It’s really bizarre. But anyway, that’s how it all came together—we were just old mates, and now we’re older mates. We still see each other, and we still get along. I think in the back of all our minds we’d maybe like to do one more show.
Whitman: That would be great!
Molland: Yeah, it would be really fun.
Whitman: I know the Badfinger Apple albums came out again a few years back, but there are some in your catalog that aren’t available these days such as Wish You Were Here, Say No More—all wonderful albums. I was wondering if there was any movement on getting some of those out again?
Molland: Well, actually, there’s a label in England who’s done a licensing deal with Warners for the two Warner albums, Wish You Were Here and Badfinger, and they’ve also done a thing with the BCC for the live tapes that we did at BBC, and they’re putting it out as a package. And I’m not sure when that is coming out, but is being done, and they’ve remastered everything, and, you know, those BBC tapes are really good. I was really surprised when I heard them. I never heard them when we did them, of course, and I was at a friend’s house, this was about two years ago, three years ago, and he put it on, and I was astounded what the band sounded like. I mean, just rocking like mad. And we always used to think we rocked pretty good. But it was great! We were too paranoid to listen to it, but it sounded great, and I think it’s a great idea to put those sides of the band out.
Whitman: So that will be one package, a box set kind of thing?
Molland: Yeah, I think so, I’m not quite sure of the actual plans for it, I only know that I’ve seen numerous blurbs about it. And the other things, there might be a licensing problem from one of the members, but I’m not sure. I don’t see why there would be. It’s not like this is solid gold or something here. I just like these things to be out and about so people can access them. You never know what’s going to happen with a song or a record, you never do.
Whitman: I saw that they even interviewed Todd Rundgren this week about producing “Baby Blue.”
Molland: Oh, that’s right, yeah.
Whitman: How was it working with him on the Straight Up album?
Molland: It was difficult. Todd wasn’t the nicest guy in the world to work with, or the easiest. You can’t deny the guy’s talent. He came in and did a great job for us. But he was always very uppity over us, lording over us, that kind of thing. I told him all this to his face; this isn’t a secret. I did. And I’ve worked with him since. We get along OK, Todd and I, he’s alright, but at the time he just wasn’t pleasant at all. I don’t know, I thought he was conceited and all that stuff. Actually, I saw that article as well, and he said we were “kind of an Ersatz Beatles,” which is like a cheap imitation of The Beatles. And he can go fuck himself if that’s what he thinks about us, because we were never a cheap imitation of anything. And I don’t know whether he can really speak English, and he used the wrong word, or if “kind of” excuses that expression, but that’s, again, a thing Todd would say.
Whitman: I think he said something along the lines of that he felt The Beatles were trying to continue their franchise—that Badfinger were to be their successors. The Apple connection was nice, but you were your own thing, and a great band in your own right.
Molland: The Apple thing definitely helped us. There’s no doubt it got us in radio station doors, it got us played, it really did. In terms of working with somebody, you might as well work with the biggest and the best. But I loved what McCartney said. When they called McCartney in that same thing, and McCartney said “They say ‘Did you sign them because they sounded like you guys, and did they sound too much like you guys?” And McCartney says, “No, no. We just thought they were a great band.” That’s what he said about Badfinger. And I thought, “Well, that’s right on.”
Whitman: Thank you Paul!
Molland: Yes, thank you very much. What a sweetheart to say that. That’s what they were trying to do, sign good people. And they did, they signed a lot of good people, so what the hey?
Whitman: Yes, including Jackie Lomax, who recently passed.
Molland: Yeah, that’s a sad affair, isn’t it? But you know, he worked his entire life as a musician, singer, songwriter … and that’s what Jack wanted to do. And I know because I played with him, he was a good friend of mine. I played with him, I guess two years ago out in Santa Barbara, I did a show with him up there. But, yeah, I’ve know Jackie … you know, when we were both broke in L.A., I mean broke, both of us were flat busted, I had an old Fender Tremolux amplifier head that I gave to Jackie. He was in the same boat as me. And I happened to have this amp head around, so I’m happy to say that he used it, I think, the rest of his life. He was fantastic. Isn’t that something? He actually had it with him that night in Santa Barbara.
Whitman: That was very nice of you, Joe.
Molland: Well, you know what I mean? He’s one of the lads, from Liverpool, isn’t he?
Whitman: Do you have any contact with any of The Beatles camp these days?
Molland: No, not really. I get a ticket occasionally from Ringo’s people to go and see the All-Starr show, but no, I’ve never been one for going and hanging on the coattails, being seen at the Beatle gigs. I do go and see the McCartney concerts. He’s unbelievable. I’ve never really met Paul. I’ve seen him and I’ve been in dressing rooms, been in his dressing room and stuff. To tell you the truth, I’m so nervous around him, I get out of there pretty quick.
Whitman: I’ll bet. He’s Sir Paul!
Molland: Yeah, there’s only the one.
Whitman: Right. And you weren’t with the band when they did the Magic Christian stuff, is that correct?
Molland: That’s right, and that was an Iveys record. Paul had written the “Come and Get It” song … that’s another thing that Rundgren said, (McCartney) was writing songs for us? Paul wrote that one song, and he didn’t write it for Badfinger or The Iveys, he wrote it for Ringo. And he wrote it for the Magic Christian movie. That had nothing to do with The Iveys, but something spurred them to bring the tape over to The Iveys, and tell them to learn the song, and he was going to produce it for them, and it was going to be their first hit. And that’s what they told me. So, yeah, in answer to your question, you’re right. I joined the band … for some reason, shortly after they recorded “Come and Get It,” Ron Griffith, the bass player, left. And Tommy (Evans) decided to play bass, and they started looking for a guitar player, and I think that was in July. Well, I came down there in October or November or something, and I joined the band, I got the job, and the record came out, “Come and Get It.” That’s why my name is on that record, but I didn’t play on any of it, and I never really thought of it as a Badfinger record, although they did put it out under the name. It was really recorded, I think there were 12 tracks and eight of them were recorded under The Iveys, and it was The Iveys who recorded “Come and Get It” and did the three songs for the film that the band wrote, incidentally—not Paul McCartney. Paul was generous enough to give them the opportunity to write those songs for the movie. It was great. It really encouraged the guys, and of course, they came up with that great song, “Carry On Till Tomorrow,” in the opening sequence there. And that was the challenge, I believe, that McCartney laid on them. He challenged them: “If you come up with a good song for this, then you can write a couple more songs for the movie.” So that was the challenge he came up with, and then they came up with that “Carry On ‘Till Tomorrow.”
Whitman: It was a nice album, even though it was a hodgepodge of some Iveys stuff and music from the movie, not a full-on album, right?
Molland: Yeah, yeah, right on. It was a compilation, it was a normal thing for a record company to do, and it was 45 years ago, so … (laughs)
Whitman: And what came after that, was it Straight Up or No Dice?
Molland: No Dice, that was the first Badfinger record I did with them.
Whitman: Got it. No Dice was where it really became the four-headed monster, the real band. And even though your records were polished, and had a nice, melodic sense to them, onstage you really rocked, you were a guitar band, weren’t you?
Molland: Well, we were, yeah! As you know, in those days, that was the style of music that the young players were into. We would ride on that bus too. We loved to jam, we did anybody’s songs we wanted—Steve Miller, The Band, we did “Whole Lotta Love,” you know? We did all sorts of songs, anything we wanted to do. It was our luck that we had the successful record in America and the American audience, who was so wide open to music, accepted us for that. We could play Welsh folk songs or we could play a 10-minute version of “Feelin’ Alright”, or we could play “Day After Day.” It was remarkable, we could play any kind of music we wanted, and the audience was accepting of us doing it. And that was one of the reasons why we loved playing in America. It’s very different, you don’t get that reaction you know. At the time, we never got that reaction in England. And I’m sorry to say that, but it’s the truth.
Whitman: That was the fashion of the day. Did you guys have tightly constructed sets, or were you kind of loose, like “Let’s just play this one”?
Molland: Yeah, we were kind of loose. We did have certain stuff … we’d start the show with “Better Days” or something, the show would flow in a certain way. The acoustic set always involved “Carry On Till Tomorrow” and “Sweet Tuesday Morning,” stuff like that. So there were certain formats that we’d adhere to, but, yeah, we were pretty loose about the stage list.
Whitman: Well, I’m looking forward to hearing those BBC live recordings.
Molland: We’ll see what happens, but I like that stuff. Like I say, we were always nervous about ourselves, and we were always looking at the other bands, how good they were. Because all the other bands always sound better than your band, I don’t know what that is, but that’s just the way it is. So it was great for me to hear those BBC tapes and realize that we had a really good, jammy band. And singing, and Pete blazing on the guitar … it was just a lot of fun, and the songs were good, we sang about things, and it was just a great time for me and a great band to be in. I wish the guys were here, my God. It’s a damn shame.
Whitman: I’m sure it would’ve been amazing if you all were here for what’s happening now.
Molland: Oh yeah, imagine … it would be such a buzz, you know? Because it’s like a celebration of the record. I know it’s a great song and everything, but it’s a Badfinger record, which is great. I really enjoy that idea of it.
Whitman: Who knew all those years ago that Pete was writing the perfect song for the end of one of the biggest TV shows on the air in 2013?
Molland: Yeah, isn’t that something?
Whitman: Because it was about his girlfriend Dixie, right?
Molland: Oh yeah. Meth wasn’t even around in those days … although maybe it was? Maybe it was, but it wasn’t part of our life, that’s for sure.
Whitman: OK, one final question. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—do you foresee Badfinger getting in? Do you feel Badfinger should be in there?
Molland: I don’t know—I don’t think about those things. It’s not part of my consciousness. People keep telling me that we should be in there. Actually the Hall of Fame people told me, “You guys will be in here.” We’ve been featured at the Hall of Fame, as part of other things. We were part of George Harrison’s exhibit, and there was a nice Badfinger exhibit inside his exhibit, stuff like that. And they have indicated that we will get in there, but really I don’t think about it. Like I said, it’s not part of my consciousness.
For more information on Joey Molland and Badfinger, go to www.badfingersite.com