THE MAKING OF THE NEW
The Very Best Of Badfinger
Dan Matovina tells the story of the new "Very Best Of Badfinger" CD
Introduction by Jesper Vindberg;
On September 12, 2000, Capitol/Apple Records is releasing the new CD "The Very Best Of Badfinger", a compilation of the group's Apple and Warner Brothers material. Below, author Dan Matovina reveals some info on the evolution of this project. The CD's European release will be later on this fall.
Back in early 1998, some months after the publication of Without You: The Tragic Story Of Badfinger, I contacted Capitol Records about revitalizing Badfinger's available CD catalog. I pressed the idea that all the original albums should be remastered and reissued, along with a new Best Of package put out. Various people in the company were very interested in the concept, but no real action was taken. Then Paul Atkinson came to the company as the new Head of Catalog and Reissues. A veteran in the business, he first became known as the guitar player in the English band, The Zombies, and amongst his many jobs in the industry he later worked for Columbia Records helping coordinate some of Paul McCartney's albums. Atkinson had learned about the possible VH-1 Badfinger documentary and with his interest piqued, he said he'd like to do some new releases regarding Apple and Badfinger. He discovered I had developed a good relationship with Apple. He requested I be the Creative Consultant. We met. I was approved and hired. We began to make plans.
From the beginning Atkinson treated me with the utmost professional respect and I feel his intentions for the project always were what he felt were in its best interests. Atkinson decided he'd like to focus on both a definitive Badfinger "Best Of" and an Apple Artists "Best Of". The plan became to do the Badfinger project first. He said any plans for releasing the individual Badfinger albums or a rarities packages would be considered for the future, pending the analysis of the public's response to this project. Atkinson eventually decided against a double Best Of Badfinger CD, mainly for potential sales reasons. Thus began factors of this alliance that exists between the more "corporate" business concerns and the issues most important to the "fan base."
I must say that Atkinson expressed in the beginning there could, and probably would be, a number of other cooks-in-the-kitchen popping up with this project, and he made it clear he wanted to try and minimize that factor, as it can be a major headache for him. I had to respect his decisions. He trusted, based on the book and my background, that I had a pulse on the material and knew basically what the fans wanted.
Atkinson was in favor of using Warners material for the CD - if it could be licensed. This presented a huge challenge, as he'd have to convince Apple to cross-pollinate the release. Also, Atkinson was totally game for rarities to be included. He had to convince Apple of that, too.
Atkinson sold his ideas in person to the Managing Director of Apple, Neil Aspinall. Once the project began, I had to propose for one CD's worth of material. The available pool was an Iveys album, four Apple albums, two Warner Brothers albums, the unreleased Head First, and the two post-Pete Badfinger albums, not to mention all the outtakes. It was incredibly difficult to sort this down to one CD.
The hits were obvious for selection. I also wanted the CD to flow like an album. Additionally, I felt it should emphasize the heyday of the group and showcase all of the members fairly. I felt a number of "rarities" needed to be on the project, to influence many of the people who've already bought the previous CD's to buy this. Atkinson agreed.
First off, Atkinson dismissed anything from Airwaves and Say No More. This was partly based on the hassle to garner more "rights," but he had listened to the records and he felt their material wasn't that strong. He didn't care for the Airwaves demos either. I had pushed for the "Hold On" demo early on, but he said "not good enough."
The first official overall draft idea which I presented for the CD was:
Matter What (Ham) 13.
When I Say (Evans) 2.
Day After Day (Ham) 14.
Get Away (Molland) 3.
Baby Blue (album version) (Ham) 15.
Do You Mind (alternate version to bonus track) (Molland)
Name Of The Game (single version - Harrison/Spector mix)
In the Meantime/Some Other Time (Gibbins/Molland)
Come And Get It (McCartney) 17.
Dennis (Ham) 6.
Rock Of All Ages (Evans, Ham, Gibbins) 18.
Lonely You (Ham) 7.
Carry On Til Tomorrow (Evans, Ham) 19.
Lay Me Down (new mix) (Ham) 8.
Baby Please (Ham, Gibbins, Molland) 20.
Love Time (Molland) 9.
I'll Be the One (Evans, Ham, Gibbins, Molland) 21.
Meanwhile Back At The Ranch/Should I Smoke
We're For The Dark (Ham) 11.
Sometimes (Molland) 12.
It's Over (Evans)
1. No Matter What (Ham)
13. When I Say (Evans)
2. Day After Day (Ham)
14. Get Away (Molland)
3. Baby Blue (album version) (Ham)
15. Do You Mind (alternate version to bonus track) (Molland)
4. Name Of The Game (single version - Harrison/Spector mix) (Ham)
16. In the Meantime/Some Other Time (Gibbins/Molland)
5. Come And Get It (McCartney)
17. Dennis (Ham)
6. Rock Of All Ages (Evans, Ham, Gibbins)
18. Lonely You (Ham)
7. Carry On Til Tomorrow (Evans, Ham)
19. Lay Me Down (new mix) (Ham)
8. Baby Please (Ham, Gibbins, Molland)
20. Love Time (Molland)
9. I'll Be the One (Evans, Ham, Gibbins, Molland)
21. Meanwhile Back At The Ranch/Should I Smoke (Ham/Molland)
10. We're For The Dark (Ham)
11. Sometimes (Molland)
12. It's Over (Evans)
This list incorporated solid rarities, a good mix of the various writers, their major hits (for radio plugs, put up front), tunes that could have been hits, songs not on the other "Apple Best Of" that fans had rated highly in polls, and some of the band's rock'n'roll side. Badfinger was a great "rock" band, and I really felt that aspect of them definitely needed to be showcased more than the previous Best Of Badfinger had.
Atkinson listened and immediately decided these following songs were not up to snuff: "Do You Mind," "Get Away," "Sometimes," "In The Meantime/Some Other Time. As the idea of this project circulated, other people at Capitol and EMI developed input. Major heads from Capitol and EMI each expressed concern over the missing "Maybe Tomorrow" and missing "Without You.' My theory on those, first of all, I didn't feel the CD should be too ballad-heavy, second of all - with this restriction of one CD of material "Maybe Tomorrow" had already been out on the previous Best Of Badfinger, Magic Christian Music, and Maybe Tomorrow CD's; it's really an Iveys tune, and it sounded a bit out of context because of its production style. As far as "Without You," I felt, it was not one of the band's most polished performances and productions. Plus, it does sometimes get scrutinized against Nilsson's version by the press, usually not favorably. Despite my arguments against the two songs, this "corporate" aspect came in, and these two songs "had" to be on the project. Obviously, the company felt "Without You" was a "selling-point" and I couldn't debate it's potential for that.
The project's progress was soon slowed to a crawl as a major snag came up over the licensing of Warners material. It's a very long story, but it took over ten months for the songs to be cleared, and at the end of the day, Warners said they wouldn't deal with "Lay Me Down," because of the hassle of researching it regarding right's. So it was gone from the project, as was any other "Head First" track's possibility. Also, I was told I could not draw from the Warner Brothers pool of material any further at this point. Atkinson felt it was going to be "too much of a hassle to deal with Warner Brothers any further." So I couldn't even propose "Your So Fine", "Just A Chance," "Give It Up," "Island,' or any other exceptional tracks from the two Warner Brothers albums.
Atkinson eventually picked "Midnight Caller" and "I'd Die Babe" from a wider choice of material which also included "Sweet Tuesday Morning," "Crimson Ship", "I Can't Take It," "The Winner," and "I Don't Mind". What I didn't know was Neil Aspinall had not heard, or had his say, in this CD material yet. Late in the game, he finally heard one collection of material and he disliked "Baby Please." It was gone. Now, there were no potential rarities on the package except for, possibly, the "Harrison/Spector" mix of "Name Of The Game" (if the master could be located). Knowing this project could use at least one rarity, I proposed other leftover unreleased tracks, "No Good At All" and "Sing For The Song". Atkinson did not think they were strong enough. I also gave him four more choices not yet proposed, "Apple Of My Eye," "Believe Me," "Suitcase," and I re-pushed "Sometimes." He didn't like any of them. I did tell him the CD still had six and one-half minutes to fill, but Atkinson was getting so overwhelmed by the hassles of the project by this time (such as trouble in getting responses from Apple), and other project hassles he had to deal with, that he said, "this is enough music and it will have to do." I also didn't get to reconfigure the order a bit, as I would have liked.
For the packaging of the CD, Atkinson wanted Phil Smee for the overall design. He also requested Andy Davis write the liner notes, as I had turned down Atkinson's request that I do them. I felt I had enough roles in the project. I had worked with both gentleman and I highly recommended their talents. They both did an outstanding job. Some minor changes were made during the course of the designing (the cover's fancy font-style was substituted for a "modern, clean" one, pictures inside were replaced). There was one last-minute major change. Neil Aspinall said he had trouble reading the word "Badfinger." He suggested the four individual photos at the top be dropped, along with some dividing lines. That was done, no questions asked. I wish I could have been there to make arguments for the alternative of another font, or some other alteration to make it clearer for him, and still keep the pictures, but by then the pressure was on EMI and Capitol to get these approval issues over with.
As far as the project's sound quality, again, this was a hugely critical issue to me. Especially since the previous Capitol/Apple releases had what I felt was poor mastering. Because the master tapes were in the U.K., and Apple won't allow them to be flown overseas, the work was scheduled to be done at Abbey Road Studios in London. I came over there to help discern the right tapes to use and to supervise the mastering there. Unfortunately, some of the various masters were not located at the time and some "copies" that existed had to be used, or previously EQ'd "production masters."
The mastering date was delayed a few days and it ended up being done just before I had to leave England. As it turned out, I was not given able to give much direct input at the time the engineer was working on it, partly because of time constraints. I sensed there were things I didn't like with the work or approach, but I was going to have to evaluate it later back in America. As it turned out, it was not close to the quality level I'd hoped for. There were a lot of very harsh aspects and other sonic problems. It was going to be too difficult to explain making major changes on the phone. So I convinced Paul Atkinson to let me supervise a brand new mastering session in America. Computer file transfers were sent to Capitol Record's mastering room in Los Angeles. Other Badfinger tapes stored in the U.S. were pulled. I worked hand-in-hand with engineer Ron McMaster to re-do the mastering. He allowed me to have input and it was a pleasure to work with him.
I'd have to say, in my opinion, the sound quality came fairly well for most of the project. For some of the tracks, we did not have maybe the best source tape, but everything came out reasonably improved, especially the Straight Up tracks. If I'd had my choice, I would have worked on four of the songs a bit more, but Atkinson didn't feel he could spend any more over the budget than his company had already granted.
As it turned out, the final Spector/Harrison single mix of "Name Of The Game" (version 1) was never found. Harrison or Spector may have it on their personal premises. They were not requested to search for it, as it was only at the last minute we found out their final mix was definitely missing. There were some available outtake mixes by Spector/Harrison, but they are too sloppy and weren't approved for use on this project. The Geoff Emerick produced and mixed version of "Name Of The Game" was used.
All in all, I feel the CD ended up very strong. It is Badfinger after all. Granted there are no "new" tracks on it. But, for its colorful packaging and greatly-improved sound alone, I'd highly recommend this CD, even for people who already have the material.
The release date in the U.S. for The Very Best Of Badfinger is September 12, 2000, with the "hope" the VH-1 special will air relatively soon after. I hope the CD inspires more projects to get out. If you have suggestions regarding future Badfinger-related projects, or feedback on this particular CD, email firstname.lastname@example.org under the subject header BADFINGER REISSUES and I will forward the emails to the key people at the companies that really can make things happen. I know the key contacts at Capitol, Apple, Warner Brothers, Rhino, Rykodisc, etc. Your voice can be heard. There's a lot more that can be done for this band's reputation and memory. Speak up on these future CD projects if they are important to you.