Badfinger was my favorite act on the radio in the early ’70s. It’s no coincidence that the first entry in my series The Greatest Record Ever Made! was Badfinger’s “Baby Blue,” nor was there ever any likelihood of me choosing any other song to open my eventual GREM! book.
Have to repeat the mantra for those who came in late: An infinite number of songs can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. “Baby Blue” stands out as my favorite among Badfinger favorites, and if I had to pick just one–ONE!!–song and stick with it as GREM!, “Baby Blue” would be among the finalists. But I loved all of the Badfinger songs I heard on the radio when I was in middle school. “Come And Get It,” the song Paul McCartney gave to the lads, was wonderful, but the singles written by the group’s own Pete Ham were better. “Baby Blue,” of course. “No Matter What,” which many think of as Badfinger’s signature tune. And this irresistible ballad “Day After Day.”
I am not generally a ballad guy, except on those occasions when I am. I’m infinite, too. “Day After Day” just soars, its heartfelt tale of devotion and longing propelled by a sound taken straight from Abbey Road, a sliding guitar that seems to mourn and hope at the same time, piano that proclaims ’70s pop music in all the best ways, harmonies, the experiences of love, wishes, dreams, regret, and AM radio all made as one.
In 1994, Syracuse musician and promoter Paul Davie organized a live event to commemorate the 30th anniversary of The Beatles‘ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Paul’s own British Invasion tribute combo The Fab Five would play a set of period-appropriate covers and a set duplicating The Beatles’ performances for ol’ Stoneface Sullivan back in ’64. The Fab Five would also back up Terry Sylvester of The Hollies and Badfinger’s Joey Molland in separate sets.
The Fab Five at that time included Gary Frenay and Arty Lenin from The Flashcubes and Screen Test, along with Davie, local music legend Dave Novak, and veteran drummer Dave Miller. As mentioned in my liner notes for the Screen Test anthology Inspired Humans Making Noise, Dave Miller wasn’t as familiar with the Badfinger material as he was with the rest of the evening’s rockin’ pop syllabus, so NYC-based ‘Cubes/Screen Test drummer Tommy Allen agreed to come back to the ‘Cuse for a Screen Test gig on Friday night and the Badfinger portion of the British Invasion show Saturday night. Joey Molland also showed up at that Friday night Screen Test show, and he joined the lads for an unplanned, incredible rendition of “No Matter What,” setting a high bar for Saturday night’s show.
The next evening’s show met that bar, maybe even surpassed it. It was neither the first time nor the last time I saw Molland perform, but it was without question the best time. Molland just cooked with the fab quintet of Screen Test plus Davie and Novak. Our Joey acquitted himself well on Badfinger’s hits and album tracks, singing most of the leads, including those originally done by the late Pete Ham. But for “Day After Day,” Molland ceded the lead mic to Arty Lenin.
And Arty friggin’ owned it.
I was 34 years old, a drink in one hand, my lovely wife Brenda on my arm. But I was also 11-12 years old again, my ears stapled to WOLF-AM and WNDR-AM in ’71 and ’72, hearing music that promised something better than my adolescent doldrums, my preteen angst, looking out of my lonely gloom, day after day. It was…everything, the good and the bad, with good winning out in storybook fashion. I was nearly speechless. After the set, I found my voice and walked up to Arty to say, “Dude, you are Badfinger!”
Pop music is a time machine. It’s not just memories, and it’s not just the past, because all the things we saw and heard and felt and tasted and dreamed and cried over or bled for remain with us. Always. The records don’t remind us–we would remember anyway–but the sound connects us, then and now, now to then. I don’t want to be 12 again. I wouldn’t mind having a little more hair, a few less pounds, and a better back, and it sure would be nice to skip one or a hundred of the heartbreaks along the way. But living is now, ending in -ing rather than -ed. Every day, my mind is all around you. Turn it up. Every day, I feel the tears that you weep. It’s okay. Night after night. Day after day.
We have time.