Todd Rundgren talked about his time producing Badfinger's 1971 Straight Up album and its second single, "Baby Blue," which has become one of 2013 hottest tracks, thanks to its inclusion in the final scene of AMC's Breaking Bad. On Tuesday (October 1st), after hitting Number One on the iTunes charts, the song sat at Number 13. Spotify reported that streams of "Baby Blue" rose 9,000 percent, and Billboard posted a 3,000 percent sales gain. Although the Beatles' Apple Records proteges remain beloved for their power pop classics, such as "No Matter What" and "Day After Day," the hanging deaths of leader Pete Ham -- who wrote "Baby Blue" -- and Tommy Evans in 1975 and 1983, respectively, has cast a pall over the band's history.
Rundgren told The Hollywood Reporter, "The band in retrospect was one of these kind of tragedies . . one of those head-shakers. They had a lot of problems dealing with management and that sort of thing. So a lot of the time when the band's name comes up, it's usually in this context of an 'if only' kind of thing: 'what if' this, 'what if' that. And it's kind of interesting now to have the band getting some recognition in a different context. Good for them! . . .They were kind of like almost an ersatz Beatles. And when their very first records came out, like 'Come And Get It,' they were produced to sound like the Beatles, in a way. Paul McCartney's writing songs for them! So it was kind of a way of broadening the Beatles' franchise, I think. . . Badfinger was almost filling a void that was opened up when the Beatles stopped recording together."
He spoke about his work on Straight Up, which started out being produced by the Beatles Grammy Award Winning engineer Geoff Emerick and then George Harrison. When Harrison left the project to orchestrate The Concert For Bangla Desh, Rundgren was hired by Apple to remix and re-record Badfinger as he deemed necessary: "I got two batches of tapes: the ones that George had worked on and the ones that Geoff Emerick had worked on, and they sounded like two completely different records. The intention had been that George was going to do a complete record with them using that au courant sound that was going around at the time, (a la) Phil Spector, that involved five or six acoustic guitars playing all the time, double-tracked drums and all kinds of stuff to make it sound really big. But everything that you produce with that style tends to sound the same. I was a little more interested in actually moving a little closer to what Geoff Emerick was doing, which was trying to capture what the band actually sounded like."
Although many groups in the late-'60s and early-'70s preached peace, togetherness, and brotherhood, sole surviving band member Joey Molland says that Badfinger was literally a living and breathing example of a type of "Rock Socialism": "We were tied together, yeah, by those agreements, by that band feeling -- we did share everything. And everything and anything to do with the band was owned by everybody in the band. Badfinger was like some kind of throwback or something, I don't know. It was like we all formed a band when we were in school, or something. And we hung out together, we lived together -- we did everything together, went to shows. We didn't sit in each other's lap, or anything like that, but we slept on each other's couches (laughs) that's for sure."
Joey Molland, who plays lead guitar on "Baby Blue," told us that unlike other bands who have four very strong writers within the group, he and Pete Ham -- the two dominant forces in Badfinger -- meshed well, both with their material and their signature power pop guitar sound: "Pete and I both liked to play lead. And what would happened would normally happen, if Pete had a song, then I would normally play lead on it -- like, I play lead on 'No Matter What'; 'Better Days' -- Pete played the lead on that. And we worked together very well, there was no kind of conflict between us. He liked the way I played, I like the way he played and we were completely different kinds of players."