Badfinger's Straight Up: Greatest Classic Rock of All-Time
When I was a young lad of... oh... about 12 or 13 years of age, I was given an scruffy old 8-track player along with a few 8-track tapes.The tapes were an odd assortment of late 60's and early 70's rock, country and jazz. One of those cartridges had lost its label somewhere along the line, but its plain black casing did not deter me from giving it a listen. And oh what wonderful sounds I found!
From start to finish it was an excellent album. In fact, it was the best music I had ever heard! I played that 8-track over and over and over until it did what 8-tracks tend to always do at some point -- it broke! To make matters worse, even after months of playing the tape, I still did not know who the artist was or even what any of the songs were called! These days a simple Google search of a few lyrics would have unlocked this mystery, but back in those days things were not so simple.
Every now and then I would catch the end of one of the songs on the radio, but I never was able to find out any information. Looking back, I must admit I was a pretty dumb kid because even in the days before the Internet it wasn't that hard to figure out who a band was. Especially a popular band. A phone call to a radio disc jockey would have probably done the job. If you haven't guessed by now, this band was none other than Badfinger! (Had you in suspense there, didn't I?) And of course, the album was Straight Up.
I eventually learned all about Badfinger when I walked into my local record shop one summer afternoon in 1979 where the clerk (who coincidentally would later end up being my district manager when I was working for a different record store chain in a different state years later) was playing Straight Up. He told me all about Badfinger including that they were releasing their new album Airwaves in a few days. Finally I had found my way back to paradise!
To say Straight Up is a masterpiece of classic rock power pop has to be the understatement of the century. Every song on the album, from the gentle opener "Take It All" to the appropriately titled closer "It's Over", is a gem in and of itself. When you put these precious jewels together, you have a collection that can best be described by the title of the 11th song on the album -- "Perfection".
The album is best known for its two hit singles -- "Day After Day" which peaked on the Billboard Top 40 at #4 and "Baby Blue" which made it to #14. Both of these are excellent examples of what you will find on the album, but these are just the tip of a monumental iceberg. Take a moment to enjoy "Baby Blue " in the video below and then we will take a look at a few of the other great songs on the album.
"Suitcase" is a song about life on the road as a rock and roll star and is "one of the better documents on the subject" (Matthew Greenwald, All Music Guide). It is a rocker with a bluesy boogie beat and was a staple of Badfinger's live shows in the early 70's and always a crowd pleaser that could get people moving.
Perhaps the greatest ballad ever written, "Sweet Tuesday Morning" stands out for its beautiful lyrical style that is soft and gentle yet upbeat and bouncy at the same time. Simply put, this tune is songwriting at its very finest and illustrates why Joey Molland should be considered a songwriter on par with Lennon, McCartney and Burt Bacharach. (Yes, I said Burt Bacharach.)
Another great song is "Name of the Game". This is my favorite Pete Ham song and that is saying a lot because as much as I enjoy Joey Molland's songwriting, I would have to say Pete was the better of the two. Not only is this musically a fantastic song, but the lyrics are pure poetry. A great tune in every way possible.
That being said, "Perfection" is the song that sometimes makes me question whether or not "Name of the Game" is truly my favorite Pete Ham song because it is a very close second. It also has great lyrics, but then that is really typical of all the songs Badfinger wrote over the years.
"I'd Die Babe" is another upbeat Joey Molland number that gets toes tapping and fingers snapping. I don't know if anyone really snaps their fingers to music anymore, but if there were a song that could make it happen, this would be the one. The amazing thing is that this is just one of the dozen classic tunes on this album!
The tragedy that surrounds Badfinger's career has kind of overshadowed what a great band these guys were. Straight Up is my favorite release from the band, but all of the albums with the original line-up are noteworthy, particularly No Dice and Magic Christian Music. Do yourself a favor if you are not familiar with Badfinger and check them out today!