Tuesday, 17 November 2015

45 Years Ago: Badfinger Hit the Big Time With ‘No Dice’

In the late ’60s, a band could hardly ask for a better leg up than being anointed by the Beatles — and being given a Paul McCartney original to record — but Badfinger were always about more than their association with the Fab Four, and they proved it decisively with No Dice.

Released in the U.S. in November 1970, No Dice marked the band’s second release under their recently adopted moniker, having dropped their previous name, the Iveys, before putting out Magic Christian Music earlier in the year. The first non-Beatles act signed to Apple Records, they’d reaped an immediate windfall courtesy of their new label bosses in the form of “Come and Get It,” a Top 10 hit written and produced by McCartney — all of which contributed to a wave of reviews that suggested Badfinger were the Beatles’ musical heirs apparent.

Those comparisons would begin to wear on the band over time, but they definitely worked in Badfinger’s favor in 1970, when the pain of the Beatles’ breakup was still raw and the press was preoccupied with finding acts capable of carrying their mantle (or concocting conspiracy theories about secret reunions). Still, while Badfinger’s sound owed an obvious debt to their corporate benefactors, they weren’t about to make a habit of relying on outside writers for hits.

With No Dice, they were aided in this regard by the arrival of rhythm guitarist Joey Molland, who cemented what would become the group’s most commercially successful lineup when he stepped in for departed bassist Ron Griffiths. With Molland in the band, guitarist Tom Evans switched to bass, triggering a sonic shift further augmented by the addition of Molland’s vocals and songwriting to a creative blend that already included guitarist Pete Ham and drummer Mike Gibbins.

The result was a record that sounded substantially heavier and scruffier than Magic Christian Music — a collection of songs that firmly placed the Iveys’ pop sound in the past. “We wanted to be a rock band more than anything else. We didn’t want to be a Disney band. We didn’t want to be the Archies,” Molland later explained. “Most of the big hit records in those days were pop songs — you know, ‘Yummy Yummy Yummy’ was going on then. And the pop fans were very clean cut, and the Iveys took those images.”

As they had before Molland’s arrival, Badfinger split songwriting duties during the No Dice sessions, with each of the band members landing at least one solo composition on the track listing. That said, Ham exerted arguably the strongest influence on the record, writing or co-writing seven of the 12 songs — including its sole single, the Top 10 proto-power pop hit “No Matter What,” as well as the heartrending ballad “Without You,” a Ham/Evans co-write whose sweeping grandeur would later make it a massive hit for Harry Nilsson (and, decades later, for Mariah Carey).



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