The VH-1 documentary - Badfinger: Behind The Music
by Dan Matovina

Since 1991, I had hoped to assist someone in making a high quality documentary covering Badfinger's story and music. And television is the ideal medium for exposure and promotion, as it gets to so many people.

In England, there is a documentary filmmaker named Bill Cran, who has about as renowned a filmmaker reputation as you could find. He has produced and directed shows on Fidel Castro, the oil industry, Pablo Escobar, and many other subjects, and has won countless major awards. Because of a mutual friend, I was able to meet with Cran in 1994, and, lo-and-behold, he was extremely enthusiastic to do a documentary on Badfinger! Cran put out proposals, some footage was shot, a bit of research was done, Apple was contacted, and eventually, support letters were garnered from the two surviving main Badfinger members and the deceased members' estates, but the project never did get financial backing. This was very disappointing to Mr. Cran and myself.

Eventually, there existed a 1997 Badfinger documentary on video, now available on DVD, produced and directed by Gary Katz, which also includes five full-length group promotional clip/performances and one partial one. The interview segments were done by Joey Molland, Kathie Molland, Mike Gibbins, and an Abbey Road Studios engineer from the 70s, Richard Lush. Gary Katz is to be commended for getting it out and making this available to the public in continuing formats. He did make efforts to get participation from Bill Collins and Marianne Evans for the show, in order to try and get an even more representative balance, but, unfortunately, they declined in the end.

A previous 1987 Welsh-TV documentary had been done on Badfinger, and TV show segments on facets of the group had run in the U.K. over the years, but there hadn't been an overall-scope documentary with truly high-powered financial backing - until VH-1 set out to do a production of the Behind The Music - Badfinger program in 1998.

I had seen Behind The Music's first year of shows in 1997 and I knew the band's story was a natural for the format. I contacted Gay Rosenthal, who is one of the program's chief decision-makers in early 1998. She was one of two executive producers of the show and she was aware of the band and intrigued by what I told her by phone. She agreed to a meeting in Santa Monica, CA. From the get-go of the meeting she seemed very enthusiastic. I think she was also impressed by a review that week in the LA Weekly of my book. She put that right up to my face when I walked in her office door. Apparently, just seeing Badfinger with prominence in the media helped. VH-1 also had many staffers in N.Y. and L.A. I was told different employees had been pitching Badfinger as an idea around the offices. Also, Gary Katz told me he had spoken earlier to some VH-1 staffers to see if they might be interested in showing his documentary. The buzz of Badfinger evolved, the timing was right, and Rosenthal finally gave the go-ahead to put the show into production. A particular VH-1 director, Michael McNamara, was excited to work on the show and was hired. It began to be put together later that year for the fall of 1998 season.

But from the day this show started, this show was rife with problems and setbacks, and by time it aired in November of 2000, the problems did affect some of the quality level of the final show. When the show first aired, it did have a very positive effect on Badfinger's public recognition, and their CD sales jumped a lot for a few weeks after the initial five showings. It seemed to move most viewers and pleased most of the Badfinger fans, who were mostly blown away to see a TV show giving this group they loved some kind of recognition on a national level. Unfortunately, by the time it aired, Behind The Music was on it's way down, and within a year it is essentially off the air. All TV programs run a course. If Badfinger's had been out in 1998, as planned, it would have aired many more times.

I have very mixed feelings about the program. I will now discuss the program and its makings from my perspective.

As I noted earlier, the actual production of the VH-1 program began in the fall of 1998. Prior to that, the director, Michael McNamara, read my book and did research on his own. Then the interview process began. VH-1, despite an initial lack of response from Apple to licensing requests, was confident that things would eventually work out with them. I was hired by VH-1 as a Creative Consultant and I had discussions with McNamara. He asked me to give him lists of some questions for each verified interviewee. He chose things he liked and added his own. A lot of interviews he did were done in the U.S. and U.K. Unfortunately, Bill Collins, Anne Herriot, and Marianne Evans were not available for interviews when MacNamara was in the U.K. for interviews. A delay then came to the program because of Apple Corps. being consistently non-responsive to requests to negotiate terms, which finally started to worry VH-1.

Once Apple finally relayed they were likely on board, in early 1999, I already had a scheduled trip to England for other business. So I called Anne, Marianne, and Bill and convinced each to do interviews while I was there, which McNamara asked me to conduct. All three were done in one day, along with location footage being shot, but many technical problems put everything way behind schedule and the situations made the interviewees feel awkward at times. All the interviews were also much shorter than hoped for, too. Also, during this time, Apple still hadn't given a definitive response to some of the negotiations. In fact, at one point, while I was in England, an assistant to Neil Aspinall alleged to a VH-1 staffer in California that Neil Aspinall had said "no" to use of films, when Apple was asked again for a signed document, even though a contractual document had already been returned to VH-1 from Apple verifying an alleged agreed upon price for licensing films. "Photo-use" had already been approved at this point. So there was confusion to everyone. I had already been at Apple that week to select photos for potential use in the show, but had not seen Neil that particular day. I contacted Neil and he acknowledged he would likely license the films and photos, once the prices and the "rights" had been fully sorted by Apple's lawyer in the U.S. Of course, everyone from VH-1 now thought this improved communications would allow the program to keep moving in a somewhat timely manner.

But, the show was unexpectedly put on hold, when one of the executive producers at VH-1 suddenly decided the show needed a "Beatle" presence to justify its completion. I think there was always some paranoia at VH-1 that Badfinger had so little "name-recognition" to the general public, and thus, the show might not do well in the ratings. George Harrison had also turned down different requests to interview and would not agree to license any Bangla Desh movie clips. No explanation was given for that and this baffled VH-1 staffers and it took some of the steam out of their engine.

It actually took about another whole year before Paul McCartney became potentially available to answer some Badfinger questions, which he did in New York City on the back end of a promotional interview for his CD Run Devil Run. The morning of the interview, I reminded the newly-appointed interviewer (it was originally going to be Michael McNamara) to please make sure to fit in some questions about Badfinger (he had a strict 20 minute time limit with Paul) as it had been so long since the "Badfinger issue" had been addressed and I was concerned he would overlook it. The interviewer said his priority had been instructed to be to promote Paul's new release, and it might be tough to get "Badfinger" questions in. I pressed to the interviewer that the Badfinger show may not happen if he didn't ask some questions on them. Luckily, the interviewer liked Badfinger, and respected my book, which he'd read. He said he'd try. Fortunately, he did get in two questions to Paul regarding Badfinger, and I'm very thankful to him for doing so. It seemed likely Paul may have talked a lot more on Badfinger, if given the opportunity, as he was quite upbeat in answering the questions. The results satisfied the VH-1 executive producers to the point the show was re-scheduled.

The Badfinger: Behind The Music show finally began production again in early 2000. More film and photo research were done. More interviews were done. Formation of a show script started, transcribing began of the interviews, and compiling of potential-use interview sound bites was executed. The next snag became the legal approvals from Apple and Warner Brothers. With a projected new Very Best Of Badfinger CD from Capitol/Apple/Warner Brothers planned to tie in to the program, Capitol each needed clearance approvals to time their release with VH-1. When these weren't happening in a timely manner, the VH-1 show was again, halted indefinitely.

After waiting for many months for these things to be resolved, I received info that Apple's lawyer and Capitol were at a standstill, as it turned out, and it turned out to be because of a miscommunication which caused a following lack of communication. When I was told, by a Capitol Records executive, that they very probably would not put out the projected Very Best Of Badfinger CD unless this show went off, I faxed Neil Aspinall, laying out all the situations and possible benefits again, and the next day, Capitol's manager of their reissues department called me and told me Neil had told his lawyer in the U.S. to "get it done," meaning the VH-1/Capitol negotiations. It still took many months more to clear the Warner Brothers issues, and it was an extremely frustrating to wait. When VH-1 finally developed a schedule of Behind The Music shows for the fall season of 2000, they did put the Badfinger show on the schedule, even though it was still at some risk, because it wasn't fully cleared in every area at that time. I do think the pressure of the shows impending airing led to the stronger efforts to clear the Warner Brothers rights, as everyone didn't want to miss the boat, and issue were finally resolved.

Meanwhile, a new "director/producer" had been hired, as Michael McNamara had since moved on to other work. This new producer also doubled as the "script" writer, as the previous one had been fired from working on Behind The Music programs. The new "director/producer," knew little about Badfinger, and initially relied heavily on a very sketchy first-draft script effort by the previously fired writer, which had numerous errors. This new director had not realized many of the faults inherent in the script. I had been brought back into the show only about three weeks before it had to air. The new director eventually realized how terribly off this script was factually, but he didn't start over from scratch, which I feel he really should have done, and so it was a constant battle to correct mis-information. The show was now way behind in development, as it really needs at least twelve weeks of focused preparation.

I was asked to work at the VH-1's offices, with everyone involved, in finishing off the show, and it was harried, to say the least. I was there for a couple of weeks. My role was not as a decision-maker regarding any editorial decisions or editing choices. I was not in the editing rooms. I was sometimes shown scripts, as they were updated, and was shown partially edited segments, mostly for fact-checking and a quick discussion. I was also used for pointing out what other materials or interview bites were being overlooked, and what might be useful to their points of focus. But the only major input I really had was a lot of the music they used, much because I knew the the songs and lyrics, and they didn't have time to research the music as much. Still, they made all the final choices as to where to put music and I did feel a few choices were not apropos at all.

I did most of the research for them in terms of finding what photos and films were available, and actually had to make some of the financial negotiations for some of them because VH-1 were so behind in that area. But a few things ended up being used without VH-1 getting proper clearance before the show airing, and that was a shame, as it came back to bite VH-1, who were sued in one case. I did arrange for the free contribution of the Pete Ham home movies (owned by John Ham), the Tony Beresford-Cooke films, and the Japanese documentary footage.

At one point, toward the end of the production cycle, a plea was made by the producers for an extension of the initial program air date. It was not allowed, mostly because the budget had already gone way overboard and the powers-that-be were under serious numbers crunches at that time. Behind The Music is 44 minutes of air-time (60 minutes with the commercials), with very complicated storylines, and any decisions had to be made hard and fast as to "what to include," "what to cut," "budget considerations," etc. It was a very difficult challenge for all of the producers (five ended up being involved) and the editors (there were five of them, too, as two were fired at different stages), and this caused a lot of confusion at times. Some great performance clips, which could have been included, fell by the wayside. For example, usually one editor is used for a program. One editor would know what has been already used, would have studied all the materials, etc. With five editors, all working in a short time frame, it created chaos and some wasted efforts, as segments were put together and dropped because they ultimately didn't work together, materials were repeated, or crossed over into other areas. Some photos and clips in the show ended up being out of context for the era discussed, and those problems could've been cleaned up with more time. Some sound glitches also could have been cleaned up. There was a lot of sloppiness to the final product.

Personally, I ended up with very mixed feelings in regards to the results. Of course, I did have high expectations. I did end up feeling "okay" with the show, after I was alarmed for weeks that it would end up being totally unsatisfactory. One of of my chief disappointments was the last minute dropping of Pete Ham's daughter, Petera Ham. The ASCAP story segment was edited shorter at the very last minute, for time considerations, and this changed what I felt the main context of this controversy was. I can only say that the result, as portrayed in the show, distressed Petera Ham's mother, Anne Herriot, greatly. She had agreed to her interview with the expectation that Petera Ham would at least be seen and mentioned in the program, and this ASCAP portion is where Petera's segment was to be shown and discussed. Marianne Evans was also upset that her comments on the children not getting to enjoy the limelight onstage for their fathers at ASCAP ceremony were not used. From Marianne's perspective, that was her primary issue of the ASCAP ceremony controversy - that these kids would so rarely get a chance to be involved in something honoring their fathers and it was diffused, she feels, unfairly, by others going onstage. So, I did feel bad for Anne and Marianne, especially after I worked so hard to convince them to participate in the VH-1 show.* see below for more on the ASCAP controversy.

Personally, I also felt the VH-1 program's overall direction didn't "showcase" Badfinger enough as to their art, and didn't address their positive personal character issues enough. There were some great interview bites that weren't used. The show did state some of the band's virtues, but, in my opinion, it didn't provide enough visual or sonic proof as to why Badfinger were a great band, so that the public could more fully appreciate why the loss of any future music was such an enormous tragedy, beyond the obvious sorrowful deaths of two of the members who were much-loved.

Also, there were some factual errors in the program, and some misleading sections, such as this one - that, in 1972, the band members and co-manager, Stan Poses, knew about business manager, Stan Polley's, Mafia connections. That has never been stated by any group member or Stan Poses. I told a VH-1 producer there was no actual proof of any of the band or Poses being aware of that at the time, but he kept the segment in as such. He was obviously so intrigued by the "mafia" angle. That is "tabloid" TV, in my opinion.

I will say that most of the producers were courteous. Yes, I felt some important things weren't utilized. But any person getting closely involved in any documentary will have their different opinions as to what they think should be used, what gets focused on, etc. That's human nature. For your information, Badfinger record producer, Chris Thomas, was not utilized, as his interview, unfortunately, had an audio problem. Al Steckler of Apple was in the show's intro, but not credited. About four or five other people, who were interviewed, also did not make the show. It would've been hard to fit everyone in. Al Wodtke had a great story about Tom Evans singing "Maybe Tomorrow" at a rehearsal in 1983, that almost got in, but it was dropped for time's sake. Believe me, it is a challenge for filmmaker's to make these decisions, and the producers would have liked to include a lot more, if they could. They really wanted to make it a 90 minute show. Most of the VH-1 people involved in this program did appreciate the band a lot.

I commend the efforts by the people at VH-1 and thank them for getting the show done. The staff was very respectful and enjoyable to work with.

The shows' promo ran constantly for a week before its initial airing. But, it was pretty weak in regards to hyping the show. It used a bunch of tabloid-oriented sound bites that, ultimately, weren't even in the show. This partially happened because the show was so behind at the time that VH-1 had an intern pick out some material and send it to a New York production team, who had almost no knowledge of Badfinger. The production team had to wade through this stuff and put something together in a few hours. It turned out to be confusing and dreary. This certainly did little to draw in any extra audience.

Bottom-line, the VH-1 Behind The Music Badfinger program did promote Badfinger favorably, and it had a positive impact on sales for all the Badfinger-related CD's sales over the first week the program was shown (five airings). There was a six-fold to nine-fold increase in Badfinger-related CD sales related to the barcodes scanned through Sound Scan's weekly tabulated accounting of sales. Unfortunately, because the Badfinger: Behind The Music program did not have a initial high TV rating, compared to shows on Madonna, Cher, REM, Creed, etc., VH-1 ultimately kept it low on the totem pole for replays (it re-aired only about four or five times), and the programmers alleged to me, in the year 2002, that the Badfinger show is now "retired," along with dozens of other Behind The Music shows they have done. But if the name, Badfinger, got big again, I'm sure VH-1 would air it again.

Also, the claims on the internet that have come out that it was the lowest rated show ever are completely bogus. It wasn't. That is a lie perpetuated by those who have an agenda. I was in the office when the ratings sheet was faxed over to the producers a few days after the initial airing and it was discussed. Yes, the ratings were lower than initial shows on Cher, Creed, Madonna, but the producers expected that. The ratings of a show are affected many things, by the impact of the promos, the competition on the air at that time slot, the name-recognition of the artist profiled. Badfinger has an interesting story. If it had been aired a lot over the years and it would have had developed a buzz and, eventually, a lot of people would have seen it - such as the Behind The Music shows on Leif Garrett, Tony Orlando, and other more obscure artists that got their show out years earlier. By the time Badfinger aired, VH-1 was moving to profiles of current artists. So, it was really more the bad-luck timing of when Badfinger finally aired so late in the game that hurt it from airing more over the next few years. I really don't know if the Apple restriction of air plays truly affected the amount of airings at all. The programming department did not indicate that to me as a factor years down the road when I would check. They said they had started to bury dozens of shows after they has more ratings success with artists like Creed, Shania Twain, and No Doubt, as those shows went through the roof. They told me, personally, they loved the Badfinger show, but economics were tough and they had instructions to stick with big-name artists airings at that time. Eventually the show disappeared.

Hopefully, more documentaries and films will get done on Badfinger (another very good TV documentary on them did come out in the U.K. in 2002), as Badfinger's story is an important one. Thanks again to everyone who helps and continues to support their cause in a professional and respectful manner.

Footnote on ASCAP* - The major issue regarding the 1995 ASCAP awards ceremony controversy, from Marianne Evans (Tom Evans' wife) and Anne Herriot's (Petera Ham's mother) perspective, is that Tom and Pete's children, Stephen Evans and Petera Ham, were overshadowed at an award ceremony that was meant to celebrate the radio airplay success of their fathers, Pete Ham and Tom Evans, co-written song, "Without You". The song had been a major hit over the year 1993/1994, as covered by Mariah Carey. It was being celebrated as one of the fifty "most-played" musical compositions over a year's period.

As of year 2003, ASCAP, who keeps track of radio airplay, and pays to its enrolled writers per each airing of their songs, now has an incorrect "five" parties listed in their database as the "writers" of "Without You." This happened because of incorrectly filled-in renewal cards sent in by Bill Collins after a 1985 lawsuit settlement concerning a dispute over various royalty payments. ASCAP, in then needing new financial direction of how to divide past and future payments at that time, requested specifics, after the lawsuit was settled, on all the relevant song titles involved in the dispute. Bill Collins, for whatever reason, intentional or by mistake, put all five names as the "writers" concerning every song on the renewal cards. In fact, still, as of the year 2003, almost every song ASCAP has listed in their database, of songs done by Badfinger during the Apple-era, are listed as written by "Collins, Evans, Gibbins, Ham, Molland."

Due to that Badfinger-related financial settlement, all five parties involved do have certain financial shares in certain song copyrights generated incomes, but the parties are not supposed to be listed as mutual "writers" on any credit listing. Clearly, this was not a part of the settlement, and it is not portrayed on any of the court-related documents.

Unfortunately, to this day, a good number of other Badfinger songs covered by other artists are now ending up with the "Collins, Evans, Gibbins, Ham, Molland" listing as the writers on CD credits. This is because of of that error in ASCAP's system. For the 1995 award ceremony, an ASCAP employee, who wouldn't necessarily know the history of the song, sent ASCAP award invitations to the listed writers in their database. The ASCAP computers writer database perceives the "writers" of the composition "Without You" to be Collins, Evans, Gibbins, Ham, Molland.

In contention of the 1995 award show invitations they received, Marianne Evans and Petera Ham felt that Joey Molland, Bill Collins, and Mike Gibbins should have realized these invitations had cited the three of them as fellow "writers" of the song, and it was a mistake, and they felt that the three of them should have acknowledged that they were "accidentally" being honored as "co-writers" of the song. Thus, if they were to come to the ceremony, it would be just as friends to observe the ceremony, and they should have called ASCAP themselves to say there's been a mistake in that regard.

Weeks before the event Marianne Evans was very upset and she was crying to me on the telephone. From her perspective at the time, the five parties were mistakenly being credited. This is what she perceived from her ASCAP invitation. She said she'd called ASCAP, but they weren't particularly sympathetic to hassling with the issue at this time. Marianne was further upset because, she claimed to me, she had been contacted by Bill Collins and the Mollands, who said that they were going to the show, and her impression was that they were happy to be accepting awards. This upset her to no end. Pete Ham's daughter, Petera Ham, was also not understanding of why this situation was developing. Petera eventually decided not to attend, though she told me she would have loved to have gone. It certainly seemed clear to these two women that they knew what the award was for, as they discussed it with me over the phone weeks before the award ceremony.

Eventually, once Marianne got to the event in Beverley Hills with her son, Stephen, she told me she had hoped that ASCAP would have cleared the error of the credits, as she had informed them. She remained cordial in her interactions with everyone. But when the award was announced, and the five names came up onscreen, all listed as co-writers of 'Without You," Bill Collins, Joey Molland, and Mike Gibbins did make the decision to go onstage, and this distressed Marianne greatly. Especially, when Joey Molland stepped forward and pumped his fist and held the award above his head. That really rankled Marianne. She left abruptly with her son, Stephen, after the awards were given out.

In a videotaped interview segment done at the show, both Bill Collins and Mike Gibbins acknowledged it was "a shame that Pete and Tommy couldn't be here." Joey and Kathie made no specific mentions of Pete or Tom when asked on camera by the videographer for their reaction to the award and the show itself. The videographer consistently asked what they felt about this award for "one of the fifty greatest songs of all time." He, obviously, had been misinformed as to the true nature of the award. That isn't even remotely what the award was for, nor was that indicated on the invitations.

Mike Gibbins later asserted that he didn't realize he was going to be called onstage to accept an award. In a 1999 interview Mike said "… when we did that awards show for Without You, everybody was invited to an awards show. We went "okay, cool. Let's go to L.A." … And when they put the thing up to get the awards, they said written by William Collins, Pete Ham, Tom Evans, Mike Gibbins, I was like, "What?" Because everybody knows Pete Ham and Tommy wrote that song… So ASCAP just, they should have a bit more forethought… It was a really bizarre moment because we didn't co-write nothing, we just played the instruments. But when we went there we thought it was the Badfinger Award, right? Like the, the writers would have got their name on their plaque. I didn't know it was going to say, I wrote the friggin' song, because I wouldn't have turned up if that was the case, all right?"

Joey Molland claimed in his interview with VH-1's, Michael MacNamara, (verbatim from their transcript) "I didn't know what the award would be. We just got an invite in the mail, uh, did we want to attend the um, this, the, this ASCAP function in Los Angeles, uh, the Music Awards or something. Eh, Without You was being given an award for radio play, was how the thing was worded. I've, I've got the invite somewhere. And I'm initially, uh, was, I didn't really want to go. I thought it might be, I thought it was a bit much … it was a good excuse for us all to get together. And party a little bit. So, we went there. And uh, uh, I, I wish I'd never gone, honest to God, because we, they announced the, the song on stage and, and we all went up to, to on the stage to pick up these awards.And they said, uh, you know, the writers. They announced it right, and writers, Peter Ham, Tommy Evans, Joey Molland, Mike Gibbins, Bill Collins, you know, and everybody, and, uh, oh, so ever since then, you know, it's been this very, Joey Molland said he wrote without you, which is bullshit. Uh, when we got the award, I was happy. I, I, I held the award like this. This is great. I felt great about it. And it wasn't, it wasn't for me. It was, it was 'cause of the song that won the award, and I thought that was a great achievement. I thought it was great. And I was happy and I'd had a few drinks and I turned around, and, and uh, lo and behold, man, you know, it was a bad scene… It was worth, the trip was worth it for me for that. But uh, but that's what the story is with the ASCAP award."

Joey can be seen on a videotaped interview, after the ceremony, holding up the award and declaring "This is great! Got an award!" In her interview, Kathie Molland thanks Mariah Carey for covering the song, and she can be heard on another section of the videotape talking about Marianne and Marianne's escort as countless snapshots are being taken of Joey's award plaque which very clearly states "Joey Molland - writer of Without You." Bill Collins attempted to mend fences with Marianne on this issue years later and I know they were on good terms before Bill Collins died in 2002. Marianne Evans told me that, as of the year 2003, that since the day of the ASCAP ceremony in 1995, she has had no communications at all from the Mollands.

ASCAP was approached by various parties at various times to try and correct this issue of the credits, but, as of the year 2003, this issue has not yet been resolved. Hopefully, it will in the future, because fifty years from now, history may portray that "Without You," and other Badfinger songs, as having been co-written by five people instead of the correct people who wrote each song. And that is incredibly unfair to all of the five parties involved in this issue, their heirs, and the public at large that this should continue. The monetary divisions are set. That is not being disputed any more. But the proper "writer" credits are not in the records. Some people care, some don't. Time will tell where this issue goes...