Friday, April 04, 2008

Without You: The Tragic Story of Badfinger

By Dan Matovina

Mal Evans had continued to receive reels of Iveys demos from Bill Collins over the past few months. On May 6, 1968 he brought a fourth set of songs into Apple. Peter Asher, who was now Apple's head of A&R, remembers Mal's excitement, "He was talking very enthusiastically about The Iveys. This was unusual. Normally Mal didn't express very strong opinions about anything." Derek Taylor, the label's publicist, said that he was quite taken. "The Iveys had an extremely melodic, professional, coherent sound. It stood out amongst all the other tapes that were coming in. And it sounded like a record, which was the best test."

Paul McCartney was equally impressed. He gave Mike Berry a call. "Paul said to me, 'Have you heard the new Iveys tape? It's fucking great!' I told him, 'That's the sign of a good publisher, Paul. To see it before anyone else does.'"

Word got back there was serious interest from Apple. Beverley recalls, "Apparently Paul McCartney had mentioned that he particularly liked the song 'Knocking Down Our Home.' Pete was saying, 'He really liked it? He really liked it?!' I can't tell you how thrilled he was."

At this point, Collins was pretty much assured The Iveys would be offered a publishing contract. As it was, the key to any Apple deal was The Beatles. In theory, any signings had to be approved by all of them. But, with each Beatle going in different directions, it wasn't easy to get something finalized. Most of the early Apple signings were actually rooted in one specific individual's interest. McCartney sought Mary Hopkin and succeeded. George Harrison wanted Jackie Lomax, 'No problem.' Peter Asher had to have James Taylor, and he secured him. Label president Ron Kass lobbied for his first love, The Modern Jazz Quartet. It seemed all the top dogs got their one hot ticket. "But John Lennon was scathing about everybody," says Asher. "He would say, 'Who needs James Taylor or The Iveys when you have true artists like Yoko Ono?' "

Though the Apple staff was impressed by the new Iveys tape, they weren't in agreement regarding a recording deal. McCartney mentioned nothing yet struck him as a surefire 45 hit. But Mal Evans wasn't about to give up. On May 21, 1968, Mal brought yet another set of Iveys demos to Apple. Peter Asher recalls, "We would normally have a meeting every week or two, which I would be in charge of, and whomever else was available. There'd be some quorum of the Beatles; a couple, or all four, if you were extremely lucky. We had this meeting, and Mal made an extremely impassioned speech about how much he liked The Iveys and believed in them. Paul admired them. George and John liked the new tapes. And we all liked Mal. So there was no hesitation. They became Mal's baby."

Bill and The Iveys were told it was now a matter of paperwork. They were going to be signed to both Apple Records and Apple Music Publishing. The group was stunned. "We were euphoric," says Ron. "Everyone was going crazy. But we didn't have any funds to have a party, so we just ran down to the local pub."

The group continued to do shows -- two weeks of gigs in Italy, sporadic engagements around Wales, a set at The Cavern in Liverpool -- before the recording contract was finally signed and secured on July 23, 1968. It called for a three-year term, with two one-year options. Bill recalls discussing it with George Harrison. "He said, 'Tell you what Bill, you're not going to get ripped off like we were getting ripped off in our day. With us you get five percent and you don't pay for production costs.' I thought that was a fantastic deal. I didn't negotiate this, I'm no businessman. That's what he wanted to do."

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