The Tragic Story of Badfinger

Songs You May Have Missed #193

badfinger

Badfinger: “Meanwhile Back At the Ranch/Should I Smoke” (1974)

And speaking of Badfinger…

Sooo many stories associated with this song. First, it’s from an album, Wish You Were Here, from which promotion was withdrawn by Warner Bros. due to money that was stolen by Badfinger’s manager, Stan Polley. For years the album was unavailable, even into the CD era, and the music never got the recognition due it. It was just one more tough break for a band who had more than anyone, leading eventually to the suicides of two of its members. The story of this band is one of the most heartbreaking in all of pop music.

The song itself was created by stitching together parts of songs by Pete Ham (“Meanwhile…”) and Joey Molland (“Should I Smoke”), a tactic that had previously proven successful, to say the least, when Ham had written the verses and Molland the chorus of what would be a monster hit by Harry Nilsson, “Without You”.

Ham’s lyric was inspired by an affair he was having with the wife of a band roadie, and the condemnation he received for it.

The Forgotten Hits: 70’s Rock and Pop

Every era and genre of music has songs that were popular in their day, but whose footprints have been washed from the sand over time. Our goal in this series of posts is to resurrect their memory; to help in a small way to reverse the process of the “top tenning” of oldies formats, which reduce hit makers from previous decades to their most popular song or two and then overplay them until you almost loathe an artist you used to enjoy (think “Sweet Caroline” or “Don’t Stop Believin’”).

I’ll be citing the Billboard pop charts for reference. Billboard Hot 100 charts of the 60′s and 70′s were a much more accurate reflection of a song’s popularity, before there were so many other ways for a song to enter the public consciousness (reflected by the number of pop charts Billboard now uses). It was an era when radio ruled–before a car commercial, social music sharing site, or Glee were equally likely ways for a song to break through.

badfinger

Badfinger: “Baby Blue”

#14 in 1972

Badfinger were responsible for three of the decade’s classic pop songs, “No Matter What”, “Day After Day” and “Without You” (which Nilsson recorded a Grammy Award-winning version of). But “Baby Blue” from 1972 is a lost treasure and a classic case of pop oldies radio’s “top tenning” of its format. Give it a listen and see if you agree it deserves a better fate than its obscurity:

_____________________________________________________

I'm In You

Peter Frampton: “I’m in You”

#2 in 1977

Following the impossible-to-follow Frampton Comes Alive album, the LP credited with single-handedly bringing the record industry out of a mid-70’s slump, Peter Frampton was somehow talked into one of the most unfortunate cover shoots in pop music history. Where he’d looked like a badass guitar hero on the iconic live album’s cover, here he looked like kind of a pussy. And “I’m in You”, as a musical follow-up, was kind of a pussy song.

Don’t get me wrong, I love pussy rock songs. But when you’ve just established yourself as an FM radio god (we made the disctinction back then, because AM was still home to top 40 stations) and recorded the 14-minute “Do You Feel Like We Do” and brought the talk box into our collective consciousness and so on, “I’m in You” seemed like a concession to the female segment of your audience, and a betrayal of the pale young boys–you know, the ones who bought Frampton Comes Alive.

A career-killer if there ever was one. Frampton never really recovered from this.

Nice song, though.

_____________________________________________________

Alice Cooper Goes to Hell alice From the Inside

Alice Cooper: “I Never Cry”

#12 in 1977

“You and Me”

#9 in 1977

“How You Gonna See Me Now”

#12 in 1978

I know, I know. Alice Cooper, Shock Rocker. In your face, “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, “School’s Out” Alice. To the uninitiated he was one-dimensionally demented. But I’ll say this for the man Bob Dylan called the most underrated songwriter of his generation: he could write a pretty ballad. No less than three qualify as Forgotten Hits in my book. All date from a period when he was trying to kick the bottle and change (or at least broaden) his image.

His personal life needing to be put in order, Alice the man had to learn to keep Alice the character onstage, for the sake of his own sanity and longevity. Like Kiss a couple of years later, he even took the makeup off. Looks rather charming I think on the “You and Me” 45 sleeve above–though it’s hardly Peter Frampton in pink silk pants…

____________________________________________________________

sally g

Paul McCartney: “Sally G”

#17 in 1975

Ever restless in the first post-Beatles decade, Paul seemed to record in a different location each time he worked on a record. The flip side of non-album single “Junior’s Farm” came from sessions he recorded in Nashville in 1974–and the fiddle and steel guitar didn’t exactly make it a country song. They made it a McCartney song with fiddle and steel guitar. But even as a stylistically atypical B-side it went top twenty on the pop charts. A cute, largely forgotten piece of Paul’s catalog.

____________________________________________________________

 Hearts

America: “Woman Tonight”

#44 in 1976

Although the guitar effect known as the “talk box” has a history dating back to 1939, Peter Frampton’s use of the effect on Frampton Comes Alive‘s “Do You Feel Like We Do” was the effect’s first exposure to many. But a few months earlier America (of all people) used it on the reggae-tinged single “Woman Tonight”. The song isn’t typical of America’s stuff–it’s neither the dour meditation of “A Horse With No Name” or a pretty harmony-laden ballad like “I Need You”. It sounds like a party song. And maybe it’s because it sounds so little like an America song that radio programmers have left it behind. Or maybe it’s because it never charted very high in the first place. Either way it deserves another listen.

___________________________________________________

Endless Wire

Gordon Lightfoot: “The Circle is Small”

#33 in 1978

“The Circle is Small” was the final top 40 hit in Gordon Lightfoot’s nearly 8-year run as a pop star. He’d never really followed up the success of the #2 “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” a year and a half earlier. Funny how you don’t really see the end of an artist’s run until a few years go by and you’re wondering whatever happened to… Such was the case with Lightfoot, at least as an American pop artist. He remains a Canadian folk music legend, though, to this day.

Gord’s hits like “Sundown”, “If You Could Read My Mind” and “Carefree Highway” fit the playlists of senior radio perfectly. But they’ve never found a place in the rotation for his final chart hit. The circle is small, indeed.

_________________________________________________________

5th

The Fifth Dimension: “If I Could Reach You”

#10 in 1972

“If I Could Reach You” was the last top ten, or even top thirty, hit of the many the Fifth Dimension racked up between 1967 and ’72. The sophisticated, proto-Adult Contemporary ballad peaked at #10 and I don’t know why it doesn’t slot into the same radio formats that still keep “Wedding Bell Blues” and “One Less Bell to Answer” and “(Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All” in the mix. Marilyn McCoo’s melancholy delivery nails it on this ode to unrequited love. Should be a classic. It’s a buried treasure instead. Dig it.

%d bloggers like this: