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Joey Molland of Badfinger back with Return to Memphis'

February 11, 2014
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Joey Molland of Badfinger Joey Molland of Badfinger

It's appropriate that Joey Molland, former guitarist for Badfinger, recorded his new album, 'Return to Memphis,' in the city who's music first inspired him to pick up a guitar at age 11.  

'I heard Elvis's version of Blue Suede Shoes' and picked up my first guitar the same afternoon,' he remembers. 'I was very inspired by Elvis and all of the music that came out of Memphis.'  

I detect an audible grin as Molland describes the 'Return to Memphis' sessions with a strong Liverpudlian accent that belies more than three decades of residency in Minnesota.

'I was in Memphis doing some session work for my friend Carl Wise (producer of Return to Memphis'). It just felt like a great place to make a record,' Molland said. 'It was really exciting to go there and play with musicians I've never played with in a studio I've never been in (Royal Studios, established in 1956) and a producer I've never worked with and let them run me for a month.'

Joey Molland

Wise assembled some heavy hitters to accompany Molland on the new record, including keyboardist Lester Snell (Albert King, Buddy Guy, Al Green, Solomon Burke and currently with Booker T and the MGs). Drummer Steve Potts is a veteran of sessions for Gregg Allman and the Blues Brothers. 'He's fantastic. His uncle was Al Jackson, the original drummer for Booker T. and the MGs,' Molland says. Dave Smith (Bob Dylan, Harry Connick Jr., Earl Thomas) is on bass.  

Since the release of his last album, the criminally underrated 'This Way Up' in 2001, Molland has kept busy touring and quietly stockpiling new songs demoed in his basement recording studio. 'I have a Pro Tools set-up down there for demos,' he says. 'My son, Joe, is a recording engineer, and he uses it to do his material. He writes as well.'   

Among the songs that first came to light there, and is now fully realized on 'Return to Memphis,' is the gorgeous and touching 'Frankie and Me' a song that Molland says he's been tinkering with since the '80s. 'I've had the melody since then, but I could never get the words quite right. It's about my oldest brother Frank, who came for a visit with his wife about eight years ago.'   

With 18 years between them, Joey and Frank didn't know much about each other. 'For the first time, we sat down and really talked,' Molland remembers. 'We talked about the world and politics. The things you never talk about. We found out a lot about each other.'  

When Molland woke up the next morning, lyrics came quickly to accompany the tune he'd been sitting on for 20 years. 'I originally called it Yesterday,' he said with a chuckle. 'That word is in the song but a friend in Liverpool said, You know, that title might be a little confusing.''  

With so much of his past brushed by The Beatles, (Badfinger, then known as The Iveys, were the first band signed by The Beatles to Apple Records in 1968), Molland wisely went with the new title and dedicated it to his brother. 'Although there's a bit of a mix-up on the first pressing of the CD,' he admits. 'I changed the title on the sleeve but forgot to make up a new master. For the fans who have one of the first copies, I'll send them a corrected copy if they bring it to gigs. And I'll buy them a pint!'  

Other highlights on 'Return to Memphis' include the soulful 'Walk Out in the Rain,' 'Build a Ship to Mars' (a song inspired by a presidential speech) and the emotionally raw 'Still I Love You,' a song in which Molland vocally bares his soul around a series of ripping guitar solos. Truth:  Molland was a great guitarist in Badfinger's heyday, but today he's a mind-blower. Fans catching him live for the first time are often left with jaws dropped.  

Joey Molland will join me this Saturday morning, Feb. 15 from 7 to 9 on Big 104 FM. Among the topics up for discussion: 'Return to Memphis,' the Badfinger years, working for (and with) The Beatles and his surprise when the producers of 'Breaking Bad' used Badfinger's 'Baby Blue' in the series finale, sending the song into the top 10 a second time 40 years later. 

'The Big Morning Show with Mike Dow' can be heard on Big 104 FM The Biggest Hits of the '60s, '70s & '80s - airing on 104.7 (Bangor/Belfast), 104.3 (Augusta/Waterville) and 107.7 (Bar Harbor)

Breaking Badfinger interview with Joey Molland

Dow: In 1965, you were in a Liverpool band called The Masterminds and recorded a single for Immediate Records produced by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham. What was he like to worth with? 

Molland: He was great a lovely man. We recorded it at Regent Sound Studio on Denmark Street in London, which is where the Stones had recorded their first couple of albums, I think. He knew what he was doing, and when we listened to the playback that day it was astounding. After that, I was out of contact with Andrew for almost 45 years. My wife passed away in 2009 (Joey and his wife, Kathie, were married for 37 years). A couple of days after Kathie passed, I got an email from Andrew Loog Oldham. He told me how sorry he was, which was really sweet, you know? After that length of time, that kind of shows you the kind of man he is.  

Dow: Apple must have been a surreal environment in late 1969 with The Beatles on the verge of breaking up. How aware was Badfinger that their bosses were not exactly getting along at that time?  

Molland: For me, I was just completely disappointed that that was going on. I didn't understand what was going on with The Beatles and I really loved them, you know? I was a big fan as big a fan as anybody. When we found out that they had actually broken up, it was heartache for me.  

In all of the sessions we did with George Harrison, we never talked about it. We spent a lot of time with him and I never brought up The Beatles. He was a regular guy to talk to, but if you started to talk about The Beatles with him, he would clam up and find an excuse to leave.  

Dow: In the summer of 1970, George brought Badfinger into the studio to play on sessions for his classic 'All Things Must Pass' album. What stands out in your memories from that time?  

Molland: Pete (Ham), Tom (Evans) and myself played acoustic guitars for him. They built a blue plywood box for us to sit in with our acoustics playing all at once a la Spector. Phil Spector was producing and the musicians were playing all at the same time, which is how Spector liked to work. He wanted the acoustic guitars in a box for separation in the sound. There were a lot of musicians on that album. Ringo was there. Billy Preston played (keyboards), Klaus Voorman (bass), Alan White did some synthesizer stuff. 

Eric Clapton played a lot of guitar on that album. Bobby Whitlock was playing keyboards - Carl Radle played bass - Jim Gordon on drums. With Eric, of course, they became Derek and the Dominos. One of my great memories of that time was going to the Speakeasy and seeing Derek and the Dominos play one of their first gigs. The Speakeasy was a great rock and roll club and hangout for musicians like us. It was a drinking club that was open very late 3 or 4 in the morning. Jim Gordon what a great drummer, man. I remember him looking through the backstage curtains that night. This is a little rock club, and he peered through the curtains and stared at his drum kit with a big smile on his face. This was a man who loved to play, as they all did, you know?  

They came on and smoked it that night, man. Eric in a club setting is unbelievable. To be that close to the guy when he's playing man (laughs). He's an astounding guitar player.  

Dow: On the Badfinger hit 'Day After Day,' is that you and George playing the slide guitar parts?  

Molland: It was actually George and Pete (Ham) playing slide together. Pete and I had been working out the parts and George asked, 'Do you mind if I play slide on this with you?'  I immediately took my guitar off and gave it to him. I could play slide guitar but was by no means a slide player, at least as far as I was concerned. This was George Harrison, so I gave him my guitar and he and Pete did it. They practiced it for hours and then recorded a bunch of takes. That was the kind of musician George was. He would work on something like that for hours.  

Dow: Last September, millions of people heard Badfinger's 'Baby Blue' played over the final scene during the series finale of 'Breaking Bad.' Did you know before-hand that they were planning to use Badfinger's song?  

Molland: No, I had no idea. I was amazed. I was actually recording that show for my son, Shaun, who watched the whole series. I had never really watched the show. That night, I put my Dish recorder on and went back to what I was watching. Right after the show ended, the phone started to ring and didn't stop for a week and a half. The reaction to it was amazing - unbelievable. It was like we had a giant hit record all of a sudden. It felt a bit weird, actually, because it didn't feel like we'd done anything. This was like 'instant hit.' And it's still selling more than four months later. People thought I would be a millionaire overnight. Of course, that hasn't happened. I'm still here (laughing) watching the mailbox carefully.  

Joey Molland

Dow: You've certainly experienced more than your share of heartache and loss, but you sound very positive. It's great to hear you in such good spirits and with some great new music to boot.  

Molland: I have my days, but I've always been very optimistic. I come from a good family and family has always been the real strength in my life. I've always been a really positive guy. Things happen, but what are you going to do? Howard (Kaylan) from The Turtles insisted that I'm the luckiest man in the world (laughing).  

Dow: Why did he say that?

Molland: Because I got to work with The Beatles, predominately. Badfinger had already recorded 'Come And Get It,' and I joined the band with a big giant hit. It's just the way my life has gone. Harry Nilsson comes along and records 'Without You,' and it goes to number one around the world. Lots of things like that have happened. I don't know if I ever told you this, but a long, long time ago, I said a prayer and asked God for what I needed out of life in order for me to take care of my family. I've always had the feeling that that's what's happened with my life. I've never been really rich or anything, but I've had some great bonuses along the way. It was a great bonus to join Badfinger, wasn't it? I've just had these things happen to me and I thank the Lord for all of it. Somehow, something has always happened to allow me to pay my bills. I've always felt blessed.  

Joey Molland's 'Return to Memphis' is available locally and online through Bull Moose, , Amazon, iTunes and most anyplace that sells good music.

'The Big Morning Show with Mike Dow' can be heard on Big 104 FM The Biggest Hits of the '60s, '70s & '80s - airing on 104.7 (Bangor/Belfast), 104.3 (Augusta/Waterville) and 107.7 (Bar Harbor)

Last modified on Tuesday, 11 February 2014 17:58

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