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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Badfinger: BBC In Concert 1972-73


BADFINGER: BBC IN CONCERT (1972-73; 1997)

1) Better Days; 2) Only You Know And I Know; 3) We're For The Dark; 4) Sweet Tuesday Morning; 5) Feelin' Al­right; 6) Take It All; 7) Suitcase; 8) Love Is Easy; 9) Blind Owl; 10) Constitution; 11) Icicles; 12) Matted Spam; 13) Suitcase; 14) I Can't Take It; 15) Come And Get It.

And we finish off our exciting journey with the world's unluckiest rock band by dropping a few words on yet another attempt at a live album, and yet another somewhat unlucky one, although it is by far the best one available — certainly a huge improvement over the horrendous plastic surgery of  Day After Day.

Badfinger did three major recording sessions for the BBC services, one of them apparently lost and two others saved. Both of the saved ones were recorded in a real live setting, at the Paris The­atre in London, with a year's interval in between, and both are well representative of Badfinger's «authentic» live act. The sound, unfortunately, seems to have been taken from soiled copies, and leaves a lot to be desired, especially for the first show, where the vocals sometimes barely ma­nage to rise above the noise level, and the noise level is sometimes a little overwhelming due to the lack of proper instrument separation. But — hey, still beats an electronic drum overdub.

On the other hand, here, at last, we get to fully appreciate Badfinger as a sweaty, hard-rocking band onstage — and not just hard-rocking, but intentionally and consciously ignoring all of the hits in favor of extended instrumental jams and crunchified LP-only tracks. Each of the two sets includes up to not more than two «light» numbers (ʽWe're For The Darkʼ / ʽSweet Tuesday Mor­ningʼ and ʽIciclesʼ); everything else is distor­ted, loud, heavy, well in the scheme of the early 1970s hard rock scene à la Free and Grand Funk Railroad (as distinguished from the darker «heavy metal» scene of Led Zep and Sabbath).

In a total state of defiance, two of the first seven numbers even happen to be Dave Mason / Traf­fic covers — six minutes of ʽOnly You Know And I Knowʼ and nine minutes of ʽFeelin' Alrightʼ, although, frankly, the songs are just used as excuses for jamming, as is ʽSuitcaseʼ, the only num­ber here that was played at both shows. And the jamming is predictably passable — Pete and Joey do all they can to create a good mix of their own pop melodicity and the old stock of rock and roll clichés, but they cannot keep it interesting for longer than a minute or two, and very quickly start going in circles (on ʽSuitcaseʼ, actually, they seem to be going in circles for almost the entire duration — hey guys, if you can't do better than get stuck with the same riff for bar after bar after bar, it might be a good idea to stop and try something else).

Much is forgotten for the sheer kick-ass power of the bookmarks — ʽBetter Daysʼ, sped up and grittified, is as energetic a lead-in as ʽI Can't Take Itʼ is a lead-out. In general, the shorter the per­formance, the higher the resonance: in the overall heated context, even the funky ʽMatted Spamʼ, which was hardly a highlight on Badfinger, feels right at home in between the metallicized ʽCon­stitutionʼ and ʽSuitcaseʼ.

Cutting it short, these sessions do finally prove that, with proper planning and effort, Badfinger could have easily landed themselves a fine, respectable live album that could hold its own next to all the biggies of the era. Could, but did not. In order to truly qualify, these BBC sessions should have (a) belonged to a single, coherent show (because, what, two versions of ʽSuitcaseʼ? Ple­ase!); (b) cut down on the jamming (the six fast minutes of ʽOnly You Know And I Knowʼ are perfectly enough, completely lay out all the instrumental techniques of all the band members and do not require to be further supported by the nine slower minutes of ʽFeelin' Alrightʼ); (c) included a few of the hits — not ʽDay After Dayʼ, perhaps, which never worked well live, but why not ʽNo Mat­ter Whatʼ?; (d) been recorded, or preserved, in better quality. Satisfy all these conditions, and you get yourself a platter worthy of a... well, of a T. Rex or a David Bowie live album, at the very least (we won't be pushing things too far here).

So it's a damn appropriate way to finish up the section — show just one more thing that Badfin­ger could have been, yet never became. In the end, their legacy for the wide crowds consists of Mariah Carey's version of ʽWithout Youʼ (and she actually learnt the song from Harry Nilsson and pro­bably does not know the real authors herself up to this day), and their legacy for the nar­row crowds mainly consists of three old power pop hits (ʽNo Matter Whatʼ / ʽBaby Blueʼ / ʽDay After Dayʼ) plus, maybe, ʽCome And Get Itʼ (a Top Of The Pops version of which is, by the way, included on this BBC disc as a small bonus to fill up empty CD space). Is this explainable? Yes. Understandable? By all means. Justified? No way. If you haven't already done it, go buy a Bad­finger CD. Do good by Petera Ham, who did not even get to see her dad.

Check "BBC In Concert 1972-1973" (CD) on Amazon

2 comments:

  1. "as distinguished from ..."
    You do realize that your usage of the terms hardrock and heavy metal is quite anachronistic, do you? Being from 1963 I can witness that until the late 70's the two were synonymous. That makes quite some sense - as only four bands (five if you count Grand Funk Railroad; that band wasn't big in western Europe) had hit the market in a big way there was no need to separate the two. So nobody did.
    Distinguishing hardrock from heavy metal only became meaningful because of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.

    As I wrote before I quite like the vocal part (the first two minutes) of Suitcase, with its fine introductory riff and its mean slide guitar.
    Better Days perfectly makes clear why this band never had a serious chance. Now matter how hard they tried, they remained a bunch of pussies compared to their competitors.
    That oabviously should nobody prevent from enjoying their output nowadays.

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  2. Could Badfinger have wised up and gone the glitter pop route? After all, they were on the same level instrumentally as Sweet and Slade. Perhaps cobbling together some football chants and putting on some Alvin Stardust clothes might have turned things around for them. It's not as though they'd be selling out or dumbing down - after all, this is Badfinger we're talking about, not the Who.

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