By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Joey Molland, best known for his work with the legendary English band Badfinger, has released his fourth solo album “Return To Memphis” on UK’s Gonzo Multimedia! The CD features 10 new tracks the singer-songwriter recorded at the world famous Royal Studios in Memphis.
Signed to the Beatles’ Apple label in the late ’60s, Badfinger went on to score four consecutive worldwide hits from 1970 to 1972: “Come And Get It” (written and produced by Paul McCartney), “No Matter What,” “Day After Day” and “Baby Blue,” which recently became the top downloaded song when it was used in the final scene of the finale of AMC’s “Breaking Bad.” The song’s resurgence has put Molland, the last surviving member of Badfinger, back in the spotlight.
Other acts have scored success with Badfinger songs over the years. In 1971, Harry Nilsson’s cover of the group’s “Without You” became a number one hit on the Billboard charts.
Molland, now a 66-year-old widower living in Minnesota, has continued to keep the Badfinger flame alight through concerts and recordings over the past 30 years. “Return To Memphis,” a mix of rock, blues, country and progressive rock, was produced by Carl “Blue” Wise.
Originally from Liverpool, Molland continues to perform with Joey Molland’s Badfinger. For updated tour information, see his official Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/OriginalBadfinger
To purchase Molland’s ‘Return To Memphis’ CD, go to http://www.gonzomultimedia.co.uk/product_details/15625/Joey_Molland-Return_To_Memphis.html
Molland, who resembles and even sounds like fellow famous Liverpudlian Paul McCartney, recently spoke by phone about his new album, the “Breaking Bad” surprise and what’s ahead.
Q: The album’s title is “Return to Memphis.” Is it a personal connection to that city, or more a return to the sound?
Molland: It was more a return to the actual music of Memphis. I’d grown up in Liverpool playing a lot of American R&B, and a lot of that came out of Memphis. And, of course, Elvis came from Memphis, Carl Perkins, people like that. I went down there to do a session and I was reminded of the difference in the sound and the way they play music. It was very exciting for me to be at Royal Studios because of the people who had (previously) recorded there. They’ve got tapes on the shelves—the Al Green masters, Ann Peebles, B.B. King. So it was a great thrill to be there anyway. But, mainly, it was to do with the music and my musical roots when I learned to play in Liverpool.
Q: This album is a real mixture of songs and musical styles. How did you choose these tracks?
Molland: The producer picked them. I sent him about 30 and he picked a dozen and we ended up with these 10.
Q: When did you record the album?
Molland: I went down in November 2011. We did some pre-production at Carl Wise’s house. Then we went in studio and recorded a bunch of backtracks in December. We recorded all of them, which consisted of me playing acoustic (guitar) and the pianist and drums and bass, and rock vocals and everything. I don’t remember doing a lot of overdubs in those sessions. I came home for Christmas and then went back there early in the New Year and did the rest of my parts: lead vocals, lead guitar, a little bit of fattening it up with electric rhythm here and there. That was it for me. I was done with my bit by the beginning of February 2012. And then Carl finished it up over the next three months. I wasn’t there for the (backup singing) girl parts and mixing. What I tried to do is step away from being on the production side of the record, which is something I’d done for years, since the old Badfinger days, really. I’d gotten involved in the production of my records and the band’s records that we made, and this was just getting back to the way we do records. I used to just go in the studio, and I’d only go in the control room to have a listen to what the producer was doing.
Q: I like that the overall sound is polished but your voice still sounds real and unprocessed.
Molland: Thank you. We didn’t do any fixing on it. I’m glad that’s apparent. That’s the thing I wanted to do was to make an adult record and, hopefully, adults will like it. I’m not a teenager trying to make a hit record for the teenagers.
Q: “Still I Love You” seems to be a love song to your fans. Is that how you imagined it?
Molland: It is. It’s a love song to music and the music business and to the fans and all of that—the long career. I’ve had some enormous highs and enormous lows. And the music business in particular has never been a friend of mine, in terms of getting my life together. I’m 66 now and I still love playing music, making records, even the business of it, which I’m learning a lot about now.
Q: Does social media, where you stay in touch with your fans through Facebook and Twitter, interest you?
Molland: It does. From the Badfinger days, especially when we came to America, we would go out and try to meet the fans in the car parks and stuff. We’d hang around outside and meet people. We didn’t know anybody or anything about the place other than the music. So we wanted to meet people and make friends and we did that. So social media and all that, I’ve got about 4,000 or 5,000 friends on Facebook. I go on now and again and make a blurb. If somebody asks me a question, I go and answer it. I enjoy all that stuff about it. You get this instant feedback. If you put a song up somewhere, you get instant feedback on the song. People tell you if they like it.
Q: So this new interactive technology is just an extension of how you communicated with fans in the early days, right?
Molland: We always felt that way about the fans, and they helped us a lot because we were always nervous about (our image) with them. We didn’t look on ourselves as geniuses or rock stars. We were just this little band. It was great to get real people coming up to us and saying real things to us, and enjoying aspects of us. We never knew they’d want to know about the lyrics and jammy bits, the harmonies. It was good for us and encouraged us. It was like a pool that we would go back to for a drink.
Q: Are you going on tour with the album?
Molland: I’m sorry to say I haven’t got a tour booked. I will be doing some touring next year on back of the album, I hope. At this stage, I’ve got to get some success with the record before I can pull the sponsorships in to do the gigs, and can afford to take a band out. I do some acoustic shows with an accompanist. I’ve been doing a few of those. Last year, we did a half dozen gigs. As far as taking a band out on tour, it’ll be a couple of months yet before I can even start planning it properly.
Q: Are there singles picked out for this?
Molland: I love “Walked Out in the Rain.” There’s another song called “Hero.” There’s one called “All I Ever Dreamed.” I put all three of those in the same world. I don’t know about singles anymore. The label is going to see if any particular track pops out with listeners. I wouldn’t mind any of the songs being picked on. “Walked Out in the Rain” is a particular favorite of mine.
Q: I understand that you never met Paul McCartney, which is surprising because of the Apple Records connection you have. Is that true?
Molland: Yeah. I never met him. I had a very brief chance to. I went to a Wings concert once, but I got nervous, to tell you the truth. My wife and I were backstage at the (L.A.) Forum. Ringo and John Bonham (the drummer for Led Zeppelin) were singing to me “Badfinger” to the tune of “Goldfinger.” They focused a lot of attention on me, including Paul McCartney. I got a little nervous with him looking at me. (He laughs.)
Q: Of course, you did work with George Harrison. Are you pleased that “All Things Must Pass,” the album that you played on, was just included in the 2014 Grammy Hall of Fame?
Molland: Yeah, and a couple of years ago we received a certificate from the Grammy Association for participating in that. But we never got our Grammy awards. So some fans got in touch with them and persisted and we got these certificates from the Academy. It’s called a Grammy certificate. It’s very cool. I’ve got it hanging on my wall because I’m really proud of it.
Q: How long have you lived in the U.S.?
Molland: Since 1975.
Q: Did you move here because your wife (Kathie) was American?
Molland: Yeah. After the band broke up, we wondered what we were going to do. Kath and I decided to move to Los Angeles. We had some friends out there. We’d been there a few times and loved it. So we went and lived there until our children were born. So in 1982, we moved to Minnesota. Then we went to England for about a year—we had some money troubles and we had to go over there and get the money from the courts. It was part of the old Badfinger legacy. We had to get that squared away. We were able to in 1985, and now everybody gets all their royalties. We’ve all got our royalties and stuff. But there was a period of 11 years where we never made a red cent off of any of the Badfinger stuff and there were no records in the stores because Apple had some kind of legal problems with EMI, and that prevented any Apple product from being in the stores for 11 years. So we missed out on a whole lot. We were able to go to court in 1985 and get everything settled up, and it’s been OK ever since as far as the money goes.
Q: How did you feel about the resurgence of Badfinger’s popularity with the inclusion of “Baby Blue” in the “Breaking Bad” finale?
Molland: That was unbelievable, wasn’t it? It was really a surprise. Again, it illustrates what we were talking about with the record business today. The next day (after the show aired on AMC), the record was the number one download in the U.S., and then it started to spread around the world. It was a completely amazing week. It was like being two people. One was the bloke I was the week before, and then my phone was ringing like I was Elvis. Every agent and manager I’d ever worked with called. I was like, “I haven’t done anything!” A lot of people thought my life was going to change the very next day.
Q: Now that “Baby Blue” has gotten a lot of renewed interest with the public, will you include the song on your set list when you perform?
Molland: I will. I have a concert band called Joey Molland’s Badfinger, where we always did feature “Baby Blue.” It was one of the band’s big hits. It’s a great song besides that, a great rock band song. One of the side effects of this (“Breaking Bad” attention) is all of our shows are selling out. It’s been a long time since we’ve consistently sold out shows so that’s a great side benefit. It’s great to see somebody use “Baby Blue” like that. It won an award in its day for the band. It was one of the most played songs when it was released.
Q: You have two grown sons. Are they musically inclined? Do they play with you?
Molland: They’re both musically inclined but they’re not musicians. Joe is a salesman extraordinaire and Sean is a cook. Joe plays the guitar and is a great songwriter and I encourage him to do that and keep working on that because he’s got a gift for it. Shaun is an intuitive musician. He can instinctively play instruments. I gave them both guitars when they were 15 or 16 years old. So we’ve always had guitars, pianos, drums and basses around the house. They can play anything they want. But, to tell you the truth, my experience in music in the beginning of it all was so bad coming out Badfinger, being lied to and all that stuff, that I never encouraged my children to take it up as a career. I encouraged them to play but not to do the career bit. I regret that a little bit now but it’s just the way it was and that’s how I felt about it. What made it difficult is that I didn’t get the Les Paul (guitars) that I wanted, but it took years before I could even get a house for my family. Just the little perks that my family would have enjoyed in all the different aspects of life would have been a different world, and I kind of resent that of those people who are responsible for that in our case. It’s kind of hard for me to let that go.
Q: But your songs on this album are very upbeat, and not about pain and regret.
Molland: I’ve been blessed that I’m an optimistic guy and I’ll always get up tomorrow and get ready for work. I’ve always lived like that and I plan to continue doing that.