[21 July 2005]
Live: Day After Day is a reissue of a previously out-of-print album originally issued by Rykodisc in 1990. That this “live” album’s original release was bogged down in lawsuits and infighting between the surviving band members, the families of the deceased members, and other band representatives is sadly fitting. A recent and enthusiastic convert to the band—but by no means an archivist—the best I can piece the story together is that in the midst of the band falling apart in the mid 70s, departing guitarist Joey Molland and his wife—without really telling any of the other members—maybe stole, maybe took for safe-keeping from the band’s studio live tapes of a 1974 Badfinger concert. In 1989, he cleaned up the tapes by over-dubbing an oppressively loud and horrendously sampled snare drum, re-recording his own guitar parts and vocals, most likely adding new harmony vocals and bass guitar, and re-ordering the songs so that his own make up four of the album’s first five tracks and Pete Ham’s five contributions are pushed to the last half of the album.
Molland took the tapes to Rykodisc, believing that he had sole rights to the tapes and that he had sufficiently notified drummer Mike Gibbins, the only other living member from the band’s original line-up, which is represented on the album, as well as the widows of guitarist Pete Ham and bassist Tom Evans. Apparently he didn’t, though, and the contract he signed to put the album out gave him all of the album’s sales royalties. When any party who could be making money from the album found out about its release, lawsuits ensued over exactly who had rights to the original tapes, who knew about the album before it came out, how sales should be split, and how much was due to Molland for his production work. After the case was finally settled, a decision was passed down on how to split the sales royalties amongst all the parties. Pitifully, nothing was left after legal fees.
Whatever the truth of the situation, it doesn’t change the fact that this recording is thoroughly joyless, and the last place someone curious about the band should look. Having not heard the original release, it’s hard to imagine any of the sound issues were fixed on this reissue. The snare drum is still painfully loud and harsh, and most of the guitars and many of the vocals were clearly not recorded live. The mangled track order is also left intact, and it’s really a waste that Molland ordered the songs in the way that he did. He sings four of the first five songs while Ham’s contributions are left to the last five tracks, undoing any kind of variety. It completely undermines one of the major advantages—in the form of three capable lead vocalists—that Badfinger was fortunate to have.
Ham, who took his own life the year after the concert that this album represents, was largely responsible for the band’s most popular and best songs. The three on this album—“Baby Blue”, “Name of the Game”, and “Day After Day”—are songs six, seven, and eight, and nothing in the album’s first half can match them, making the whole thing feel woefully lopsided. Many contend that Badfinger felt that they were too readily seen as a polished studio act and wanted to be taken more seriously as a hard rock band. Certainly, the track selection and indulgent guitar workouts here would attest to that. Personally I think there’s too many of the latter kinds of bands and not enough of the former who really warrant the money spent on their studio time, so I’ll take Ham’s singles over five-minute solos any day.
There’s still a lot that needs to be said about Badfinger: about how everything they were trying to express seemed to be just so beautifully beyond their means and how that adds to their sad appeal; about their legacy as real pop craftsmen; about how they were brought up in the withering shadow of the Beatles but still impossibly managed to thrive for a brief period. But talking about it in the context of this album is hardly appropriate. As it’s essentially a studio album posing as a live album, it really only makes sense to compare it to the band’s other studio albums, to which it can’t begin to stand up. New fans and the curious are wise to start early with No Dice and Straight Up, making their way backwards and forwards through the band’s catalog according to taste, while always dodging this pothole of a release.