Categories: Arts Pop

‘Baby Blue’ finale prompts Badfinger resurgence

Few bands in rock history have had worse luck than Britain’s Badfinger. Signed in 1968 to The Beatles’ Apple Records, it accepted an introductory gift from its benefactors, the tune “Come and Get It” by Paul McCartney. After the auspicious beginning, and early-‘70s smashes “Baby Blue,” “No Matter What” and “Day After Day,” things went downhill fast. As a result of financial mismanagement, the group went broke, leading to suicides of singers Pete Ham in 1975 and Tom Evans in 1983. The 2005 death of Mike Gibbins from a brain aneurysm left a sole surviving member, guitarist Joey Molland, who lives in Minneapolis and tours as Joey Molland’s Badfinger; he appears in San Francisco this week, playing the band’s acclaimed third album “Straight Up.” Five years ago, Molland got a boost from an unexpected super fan that hints at a happy ending.

Full disclosure here: “Baby Blue” is my favorite song of all time. Where were you on Sept. 29, 2013, when it aired on the tragic final scene of “Breaking Bad”?

I was sitting on my couch, watching the show like everybody else. And I didn’t know it was coming, so I was astounded. And it was great for us. Badfinger had a No. 1 record the next week, and sales supposedly went up 9,000 percent. I got an ASCAP royalty check, and we started selling out a lot of venues on the strength of that, and a lot of young people were suddenly aware of the band. So it was a great thing for Vince [Gilligan] to do, to pick our song.

Series creator Vince Gilligan was notoriously secretive about “Breaking Bad.” But you had no idea he’d been attempting to license “Baby Blue” at all?

Not me, no. The license for that song is held by Apple and the Ham estate, so I never really know what’s going on with those things. But I do get a share of the publishing royalties because we had a deal between us where the songwriter got the lion’s share, but all the other guys got a tiny piece of it. Because at the time, nobody knew who would write any hit songs.

”Baby Blue” makes perfect “Breaking Bad” sense. Walter White’s crystal meth was blue, and the opening lyric is “Guess I got what I deserve.”

That was the line. Pete wrote it about a girl named Dixie that he met on tour in Tucson. She came to England with him, but then decided that she didn’t like England and moved back to America. And that was the end of that.

A “Breaking Bad” connection is an amazing Badfinger coda.

We actually made a commemorative shirt that says “Breaking Badfinger,” in the show’s same kind of chemical lettering. I sent one to Vince Gilligan, too.

IF YOU GO
Joey Molland’s Badfinger
Where: Chapel, 777 Valencia St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. April 22
Tickets: $35 to $40
Contact: (415) 551-5157, www.ticketfly,com

Tom Lanham

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