The Stories Behind Badfinger's Straight Up album with Joey Molland

Badfinger's Straight Up Album Cover
Look out California, Here comes Joey Molland! Joey Molland’s Badfinger will play their seminal album Straight Up (iTunes) in its entirety on April 22nd at The Chapel. As of this posting, tickets can still be found here. We had a chance to connect with the legendary songwriter, guitarist and singer Joey Molland in preparation for the show, and you can find our full interview below!

SFBayAreaConcerts: We’re excited about having you come to San Francisco—The Chapel is a great venue, and it will be great to have Joey Molland rocking out the Bay.

Joey Molland: Thanks! I like it up there!

SFBAC: Straight Up begins with those beautiful chords kicking off "Take It All". It’s honest, hopeful but a little tentative too. It seems to be about the things that connect people. How does it feel to have a song like this kick off the show?

Joey Molland: When we first made the record, "Take It All" was one of the first songs we recorded—I believe it came out of the Bangladesh concert. We looked on it as a nice Pete [Ham] song—we didn’t really apply the lyrics to us. Peter used to write about his life with women, falling in and out of love. He was a big, as you can tell, soul music fan. He loved to sing like that. It was a really nice Pete song. We apply a little Stax-y simple arrangement behind it. The harmony part and the bridge parts were really good for us—the harmonies were right on. It’s actually a song we use in the dressing room to warm up now. To get ourselves on the same page vocally. It really works good live—it sets the mood. It gives us a chance to relax with it; it really works with everybody. It showcases the vocal talents in the band—on the record and during our live performance. People hear it and say “Oh, we can listen to this—it’s going to sound nice.” It’s different to open a show—usually you come out with a bang! Capture the audience with something rocking. But this is an interesting way to start the show.

SFBAC: It definitely does set the tone of the album. I was looking at a live performance of "Baby Blue" on YouTube from 1972 that has well over 11 million views. What is it about the song that is so compelling? I feel like you hear pieces of it everywhere.

Joey Molland: It was a really good song. Pete wrote it about a girl he met in, I think, Tucson Arizona when we were on tour at the time—Dixie. The whole idea of the song is a true story, which is nice. The way it plays; the whole sequence of it and the key it’s in—it’s a great tune. You’re right, they use it all over the place. I hear snippets of it everywhere. Other groups come up to me and talk about the solo, talk about the record. The strumming on the record is extraordinary—powerful. “Guess I got what I deserved” as a lyric is just great. It was nice to see it on Breaking Bad!

SFBAC: You obviously have written a lot of songs with Tom Evans. With "Money" and "Flying" you have two songs that seamlessly fit together. How do you approach those songs in a live setting?

Joey Molland: The arrangement is pretty much the same as the album. The only real difference is that I wrote "Flying" in the key of E. On the record, I think Todd figured a way to keep both songs in the same key. That’s why my voice sounds so high—it’s sped up. He sped it up to match the key. Todd wasn’t above a bit of that! What we do on stage is transition it into the real key. It’s a bit 'jammier' in the guitar solo—I think it’s twice as long. "Money" is a song of Tommy’s that has a great atmosphere to it. Typical Tom Evans lyrics.

SFBAC: Your voice goes through a ton of different styles on Straight Up—it’s high, it’s low, it’s gentle, it’s rocking. It’s very interesting.

Joey Molland: I never really thought of it like that, but I guess so. As a song comes up, I find a voice for it. Tommy and Peter could sing anything. Both of them were incredible singers with amazing vocal ranges. I have this limited kind of mid-rangey thing that I try to make work for the songs (laughs).

SFBAC: I think you’re being modest, you have a lot more range than that. "I’d Die Babe" is this great song with a ton of tension. Any story behind the song you want to share?

Joey Molland: The songs I write come out of m'life! The best background I can give you is that I wasn’t originally going to do the song—honest to god! I had most of the lyrics, but a few of the lines were iffy to me, so I really wasn’t going to do it. It was George Harrison who really liked the song. He thought it was great—he thought it would be a single for us. So he sat down and worked on the lyrics with me. He was the guy who said, “What about ‘you make my daisy grow high?’” George played those low guitar licks—those are his. He and I played acoustic on the backing track, and of course Pete played the lead guitar solo and keyboard on that. But about the song itself: It’s just a fun little song with a nice groove to it. I haven’t really done that song on stage since back in the day. We do it now, and it really does pick the record up now—doesn’t it?

SFBAC: This song could easily have been a single.

Joey Molland: "Baby Blue" and "Day After Day" were enormous hits, so they received a lot of attention. But yeah, this song is great fun to perform now.

SFBAC: Nice. "For Name of the Game", it was a revelation hearing the Geoff Emerick version on the Rhino reissue in 1993—compared to the original Todd Rundgren version. How do approach this song on stage?

Joey Molland: It’s a little bit of a combination, in that we do the vocal refrain in the early version—but really we mostly stick to the album version. It works well—such a moody, beautiful song with a beautiful melody. It’s a great Peter Ham song—we are excited to do it. It stands up against really any of the great ones. The lyrics, the intent behind the song is really something.

SFBAC: With "Suitcase", there’s motion to that song—flinging yourself out the door. Do you use the 'Pusher' line on the live version?

Joey Molland: Yeah of course! I’ve always sung the original lyric live! George thought it was going to be a single, so he did a smooth arrangement of it. He didn’t think it would be played on the radio, so he asked me to change those lyrics. I was surprised by that. Again, all these years later, I find that the arrangements still works very well—that lurch feel to it. It became a major jam song back then.

SFBAC: Amazing. Joey, I know you wrote a lot of songs on Straight Up on the road—is this one of your road songs?

Joey Molland: It is! That’s what it’s about really: Being on the road with your suitcase, suitcase—sorry to be leaving. That’s how it was. We’d be in towns for one night to play the show and meet the people. We always made it a habit of going outside in the carpark. We didn’t know anybody in America—it was just the band, our roadies and our manager, that’s all. We didn’t know anybody so we’d go outside the venue and meet people. Many of these songs were written from life experience. We still go out and meet the people—as you’ll see at this show in San Francisco!

SFBAC: I’ve always thought of Tuesday as the worst day of the week. You don’t have the glow of the weekend like on Mondays, and you’re not near the middle of the week like Wednesdays. Even the Moody Blues stayed away from the morning to focus on Tuesday Afternoon!

Joey Molland: (Laughs) "Sweet Tuesday" is a great memory for me. I’ve come to really like the song. When I first wrote the song, it was really the first song I wrote in that genre, that way. It was a very honest song—I’d met my soon-to-be wife. I was really surprised that, when I played the song for the band, they all really liked it. They thought it was really good. I thought it was a bit weak—I had a bunch of paranoia about it. I was nervous singing it in the studio. To express yourself like that as a young guy was difficult. But the guys were really encouraging, and the performance, the recording worked out really nice. My voice was a bit nervous sounding.

SFBAC: That adds to the song. It’s a good counterpoint to the rocking side of Joey Molland.

Joey Molland: Thank you sir!

SFBAC: I’m sure so many questions have been asked about "Day After Day"—let me ask you about Leon Russell. His piano just adds so much to the song. You opened for him during one of your North American tours, right?

Joey Molland
Badfinger's Joey Molland
Joey Molland: Yeah, we opened for him—did a little run with him. We were all familiar with his stuff from Delaney and Bonnie, that’s where we first got to know him. He was extraordinary, and of course George went on tour with him to record that live record. Just a smoking’ album. Delaney was just one of those great American singers, and Bonnie of course was a strong, powerful American woman. And there’s Leon—just thundering along in the background, driving the whole thing. At that time, I didn’t realize just how great of a songwriter he was—even though I had Shelter People (Leon Russell and the Shelter People). The guy was great. And I’ll tell you, when he came by the studio that day, he just came to say hello to George. George of course roped him in to playing piano for us. I’m sure that everywhere Leon Russell went, every studio he visited, people tried to rope him in to playing (laughs). He was incredible. He listened to the song once in the control room, went down into the studio, played it one time and then recorded the piano part. He heard the song three times and that was it. Absolutely gorgeous, absolutely beautiful. You know, he played guitar on "Suitcase" too. Yeah, a couple of days later he came by and we were doing "Suitcase" where George did that arrangement on it. Leon was listening to it and said to me, “I’ve got an idea for the guitar part, do you mind if I play it?” And I said, “No of course not.” And I gave him my guitar. So you know, in the second verse, that little stabby-accent thing? That’s Leon Russell playing that. He just put it in there on the other side of the beat. Just like that. He came up to me at the Bangladesh concert and said, “You wrote that song 'Suitcase', didn’t you? That’s a fantastic song, man?” Could you imagine Leon Russell telling you one of your songs was fantastic?

SFBAC: Thanks for that perspective! For "Perfection", given what’s going on now in America, the song feels more relevant than ever.

Joey Molland: The song is relevant, for sure. Like everyone else in the day, we really believed in the idea that we were in it together. We needed to get rid of violence and stop wars. We needed to find out what motivated people to go to war. We’d go to sit-ins at universities at that time. We felt like we were with the young people and they were with us. All these years later, it’s all the same stuff. We do need to talk more—especially people in government.

SFBAC: Moving to the last song, "It’s Over" feels like an uncommon way to end the album. I’ve read that Tom wrote that song as part as your first North American tour came to an end.

Joey Molland: I’m sure he did. But, it also sounds to me like a relationship that’s done with—like "Suitcase". It’s a little bit about different aspects of his life I’m sure. Tommy’s lyrics were so plain and simple—it’s a great little tune. In our version, the bass player in the band, Chris, sings it.

SFBAC: Have you ever thought about adding any of the 2010 remaster bonus tracks from the sessions like "Baby Please", or "I’ll Be The One"?

Joey Molland: I do a solo version of a song called "Do You Mind"—a song I wrote for the Straight Up album. But no, none of those other songs. You will hear "Love is Gonna Come At Last" though! Maybe we’ll do "Baby Please"…We’re considering learning the No Dice record, maybe Wish You Were Here as well. The album is only 40 minutes long when we play it live, so we do a few extra songs and tell a few stories. Of course we always play the hits! Who knows what we’ll do in the future with it!

SFBAC: A few quick questions about All Things Must Pass—since it’s relevant to the proximity to Straight Up. Do you have a favorite song you performed on for All Things Must Pass?

Joey Molland: I think the song that comes immediately to mind is "Beware of Darkness". Such a great song, and so original. I can remember the session—I can remember George teaching it to us. It was something beautiful; that’s the one for me. "All Things Must Pass" is also an incredible song.

SFBAC: Do you feel that George brought some of the mood of All Things Must Pass and applied it to Straight Up?

Joey Molland: I’m sure he did. He’d been working with Spector. I know we did several tacks where we recorded loads of acoustic tracks—"Day After Day" being a perfect example. Oh yeah I think so. I also think he did a great job producing it.

SFBAC: What about the relationship between Todd Rundgren and George Harrison? Do you think Todd Rundgren understood George’s vision.

Joey Molland: No. I don’t think Todd works like that. My impression was that he would take the record and make it his own—I think he did that. He used what George had done and used it well. I don’t think he even considered what George had in mind—he’s a very individual guy. He’s not about to let someone else influence what he does when it comes to record production.

SFBAC: He does have a singular vision.

Joey Molland: (Laughs) Todd will actually play on top of what you’ve done. He’ll play on top of you to get what he wants on the record. He’s very opinionated and has a lot of strength to him—obviously he’s a really talented guy. Yeah, George had a vision of what he wanted to do with us—he wanted to do interpretations of those songs. Todd was much more concerned with the record, and the Todd Rundgren production of the music. It was a completely different experience working with the two guys.

SFBAC: Amazing. Is there anything in the Bay Area that you’re looking forward to doing while you’re out here?

Joey Molland: I haven’t been out there much in many years—when I played at Yoshi’s a little while back we just came in and out. We’d love to have someone take us around (laughs)! Maybe see the Fillmore if it’s still there—we never got to play there!

SFBAC: I’m sure you’ll have no problem with that! We’re looking forward to seeing you soon!

Joey Molland: I’m looking forward to coming to the Bay and welcoming people to The Chapel!

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