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Reference Library: Badfinger's Mike Gibbins

From: ccs <ccs@webzone.net>
Subject: Badfinger's Mike Gibbins
Date: Saturday, November 14, 1998 7:10 PM

Badfinger's Mike Gibbons

With their harmonic, well-crafted, catchy pop tunes, many people associated Badfinger with The Beatles. It's understandable considering they were of the same era (more of the later half of it). They were inspired by The Beatles, and they worked with The Beatles. But though Paul McCartney wrote one of Badfinger's biggest hits, Come and Get It, and George Harrison began producing their album Straight Up in 1971, Badfinger strongly made and left their mark in the history of music with the strength of their own original talents. When songs possess true staying power and stand the test of time, that is a direct reflection on the abilities of the band.

I recently had the opportunity to speak to one of the original members of Badfinger, drummer Mike Gibbons. Mike is now living in Florida and recently released his first solo album, A Place In Time (Forbidden Records). He is currently working on his next album in his own studio, to be released soon, also on Forbidden Records. In light of Mike's solo pursuits and the renewed interest in Badfinger - VH-1 is doing a "Behind

The Music" feature on Badfinger and there is a movie in the works about the band, to be directed by Barry Levinson - SoundCheck took some time with Mike Gibbons to discuss his music and to talk a bit about this historic band.

For those unfamiliar with Badfinger, they formed in Wales in the mid-'60s originally under the name The Iveys. In 1967 an Iveys demo got into the hands of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Derek Taylor, which led into the band getting signed by Apple Records. Consisting of Peter Ham, Joey Molland, Tom Evans, and Mike Gibbons, the band as Badfinger eventually went on to produce several hit songs including the aforementioned Come and Get It, No Matter What, Baby Blue, and Day After Day - to name just a few.

Unfortunately typical in the music business, Badfinger eventually fell apart due for the most to the "business" - mismanagement caused a lawsuit between the band and Warner Brothers, which led to the break-up of Badfinger. Sadly, that led to the suicide of founding member Peter Ham; and less than ten years later Tom Evans also committed suicide. Though the band's history is marked with these events, Mike Gibbons is quick to defend the days with Badfinger, stressing there were many, many great times with the band. Badfinger was not about lawsuits and bad business deals and suicides, Badfinger was about well-crafted, enjoyable, solid songs that continue to entertain people of all ages to this day.

SoundCheck: Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me - it's a privilege. I would like to talk with you first about your solo album [A Place In Time] and I understand you are working on a new album as well, right?

Mike Gibbons: Yeah, it's almost done.

SC: I noticed on there that you played piano and keyboards, in addition to drums. Was this something new or have you always played piano?

MG: Yeah, I've always dabbled in it. It's the easiest medium to write on for me.

SC: I'm sure easier than writing with drums! What was the first instrument you picked up when you were growing up? Was it drums or did you start with piano?

MG: Yeah, my dad bought me a drum kit when I was about 14; and that was it.

SC: Now you wrote the songs on A Place In Time and I know you did a little writing with Badfinger, was that something else you also did when you were a teenager - as far as songwriting goes?

MG: Well, not really - everybody in those days joined the band just to get the girls! [Laughs] You didn't have to be a very good musician; you owned the equipment, you were in the band. It was just juvenile good fun.

SC: But obviously to go and play the drums - or at least to choose that instrument and play, you must have been inspired musically in some way.

MG: Oh yeah. When I was about 14, The Beatles were huge and the Stones were getting huge, it was a big British buzz going on, wasn't it. You see all the girls screaming and running after The Beatles and you go "Oh I want to do this!" That's easy. So everybody and their brother got the same haircut and even the same equipment. It was just fun. It wasn't like a business, it was fun fun.

SC: Now your son, Owin, he's going to be playing guitar on your next album?

MG: We're starting to record him right now. In fact, I've been playing the drums for him and my back is aching! He plays the good stuff, you know? The modern stuff.

SC: Did you give him any advice when he realized he wanted to get into music - based on what you had been through?

MG: No, I did not - all I did was give him an acoustic guitar when he was about ten. Either way, because I think the music business is one of the toughest ones; and I know a lot of great musicians that are penniless. . . including me! I wouldn't advise anybody one way or the other. I think you either want to do it or you don't. It takes a certain kind of person to stay with it.

SC: I'm sure you are probably anxious to talk about your new stuff and your new album coming out. Is the next one going to be similar to A Place In Time sound-wise?

MG: No, it's a little bit different. I did A Place In Time on one 8-track ADAT in a shoebox of a studio. In fact, I wasn't recording the stuff just to put out, even though it's recorded, but to make demos for other people to do and sing. Then my buddies and Forbidden [Records] and everything, said man, they're good enough to put out; and I said, "really? You're kidding me!" But yeah, I've got a handle on that production side of it now and the new stuff is more stripped down and not too heavy on the keyboards. It rocks.

SC: Would you consider it rock pop type of music?

MG: It's a bit of everything. It rocks a bit more than A Place In Time. That album was like a bunch of crap out of my head, you know, over the years. I had all that shit going on in my head and it's out now so I got room to do some better stuff!

SC: So, VH-1 is doing a "Behind The Music" documentary about Badfinger and Dan Matovina's biography ["Without You: The Tragic Story Of Badfinger"] is going to be made into a movie, directed by Barry Levinson?

MG: Yeah, I talked to the guy who is going to do that movie out of Studio City in L.A., but the book is just the book. The book will assist it, but it's not going to have anything to do with the book really. He wants it from the horse's mouth kind of story. But some of that stuff in that book - I haven't read it, I've read bits of it - and the only thing that's right in the book is the quotes of people that were there. He did a pretty good job, so I hear, but he got into the money side of it and that's all wrong. He didn't know anything there. It's all painted as a tragedy and it wasn't, really. I mean, six, seven, eight albums and people loved it, and it was great. It's not all bad news. But he turned that book into like a squabble over money and things and it wasn't like that. When you're in litigation you're not squabbling. It's not a squabble. You can't get the money without going through that process. It's lawyers and things. It's not like we were fighting with each other.

SC: You all got along.

MG: Right. It's ridiculous. The book - so I heard - makes it look like we were a bunch of rats in a sinking ship and somebody's getting the last morsel of cheese.

SC: I guess because the subtitle of the book is "A Tragic Story" right away that puts a negative connotation on it that people think that. But he probably did that just to sell - I hate to say that, I don't know him - but maybe he thought if people see "A Tragic Story" they'll pick it up and read what the "tragic story" is. But like you say, it wasn't all tragic. There were good times and good things.

MG: I mean, really he kept the bad memories and most of them were really good. I mean, nobody can play God; if somebody wants to take themself out, what can he do? It happens every day not just in rock and roll.

SC: Actually, when I was preparing for this interview, in light of all that and what I read, I wanted to ask you, too, of your experiences in the past with Badfinger what you felt was the best and the happiest - just to put more of a positive turn on all that.

MG: Oh yeah. We had great times. Like you said, meeting The Beatles and all that - actually playing with a couple of them. We did the Bangladesh concert with George [Harrison] and Eric Clapton and all those guys. That was the very first, ever, benefit concert for something. It was magical. I mean a lot of good stuff went down with the band. We did a lot of traveling and had a lot of good fun. Nobody could party like us! Like you said, a lot of good stuff; people don't realize that. They dwell, on the bad shit all the time. Even the movie - without the tragic stuff there wouldn't really be a movie. You got The Beatles, the band, and then what went down, and a few of this and a few of that. It's like a paradox. There wouldn't be a book. There wouldn't be a movie.

SC: Are you going to have say or contact with either of these projects?

MG: Yeah, oh yeah, on the movie side of it, I'll be consulting for that. So that will take me around the world a little bit. VH-1, I guess they'd have to do the same deal. They don't come to you, do they? You go to them, I think. I don't know. I don't know how it works.

SC: What did you do in between Badfinger and A Place In Time, musically?

MG: I did a few things - Bonnie Tyler - we did that song It's A Heartache. I did that and her album. It went double Platinum, I think; and I toured Germany with her. Then another Australian country and western singer - Digbe Richards. I was doing session work basically. I did an album with a guy called David Tipton. I did a bunch of stuff, I can't remember half of it. But mostly I had started another family! I had two more boys. An eleven year old and a nine year old. I do the baseball and all that stuff. The "Average Joe." I don't like playing out much, so I've got my little studio there and keep on writing. It keeps me off the streets - and out of the bar! [Laughter]

SC: Well that's good!

MG: I don't know - it's not good! When I build my new studio I'm going to build a bar inside of it.

SC: Oh then you'll have it all in one place.

MG: That's right! I bought a couple of acres down in the corner here and I'm going to build a house on it with a barn and put the studio in the barn. Right now you can't swing a dead cat in my studio. [Laughter]

An album of Badfinger's, that never got released, entitled Head First now may be finally released as The Last Sessions, this may include some bonus tracks as well. At this point Mike and I discuss it a bit, though at print time the final details were not yet ready to be released to print.

MG: It was the last thing Pete Ham did. Joey Molland had already left the band at that time. So it was just the three original members and Bob Jackson. That might very well come into fruition. I've got to do some homework first. Make sure I don't step on anybody's toes. I'm tired of litigation, you know? I'm still doing it with Joey Molland.

SC: That's a shame.

MG: I know. I've never sued anybody in my entire life - but I've been sued so many times.

SC: That's a story right there. There have been so many musicians that have been through that or still go through that that you hear all the time.

MG: Don't sign nothing guys. Don't be shy. Don't sign anything until you've had it thoroughly reviewed. Because the large print giveth and the small print taketh it away!

SC: A while back you guys [Badfinger] worked with George Harrison and Todd Rundgren, are you still in touch with any of those guys at all?

MG: Not really. Well, I saw Todd play locally not long ago. He had his gigantic Kaoroke set up on stage. So I went backstage and had a little chin

wag with him. He's funny. He's a good man. He helped us out tremendously as a producer. As much as people in the band didn't like him - Joey didn't like him, Pete didn't really like his input. I thought he was brilliant.

SC: Really? But did they like the final results?

MG: I think so, yeah. I think they were just a little bit blown away with him - because he was too cool. He's done well for himself.

SC: And George Harrison? Do you ever see him around?

MG: George is a bit of a recluse, isn't he.

SC: That's true.

MG: I was at Apple [Records] - before I went to Amsterdam, when I was London - I went in there for an hour or two and it was nice to be in there.

SC: It must have been nice! So you have good memories there, too.

MG: I miss London sometimes. It's like New York, there's a buzz going on. It was cool.

SC: Speaking of a buzz in London, is there anything musically that you like out there, that you do listen to?

MG: Not really. I don't really pay attention.

SC: You just do your own thing?

MG: Yeah. I'm a freak when it comes to music. I'll play anything. Don't get me wrong - I love a lot of music. Offhand, I can't tell you what.

SC: Just curious if you had any opinions of what is going on out there now. It doesn't really matter because a lot of what's going on now is stuff that went on in the past anyway, it just comes back again.

MG: It's revamped. I think there's a bit of a brainlock going on with music. Oh, I don't know what that means. . . but people remix something, they rehash things. I'm all rapped out, you know?

SC: Brainlock is a good word, because if they don't do anything new and creative, they just take from the old and you just always hear those influences.

MG: I think the music business plays it safe. If you're not in the modern flavor-of-the-month bracket, you haven't got a chance. I'm lucky with my music because I don't really give a crap. I know I've got at least a couple of thousand of old-fashioned guys like me that are Badfinger freaks and they like my style of writing, so I'm guaranteed a little market. I'm not out to rule the world.

SC: You're just doing what you enjoy.

MG: Yeah. I'm just doing it for me and then if people like it, then great. It's good therapy for me. You've got to get it off your chest. I've got to hit those drums or I'll go mad! [Laughter]

SC: Your outlook is great, considering what you've been through. It's inspiring for people to read this, you know with all the ups and downs, and...

MG: I don't want to bring anybody down.

SC: You've gone through ups and downs and you keep going and you're still doing what you love, still putting out music. The past is behind you but you're not completely discarding it. You appreciate what happened and go on - I think that's great.

MG: Well, thank you.


by Debbie Catalano


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