Monday, January 24, 2011

Chris Hillman - Pioneer

Of the five original members of The Byrds [Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, Michael Clarke], Chris Hillman has had [in my opinion] the most interesting career of them all. McGuinn and Crosby got more notoriety, but Hillman had more impact. He co-founded the folk-rock group The Byrds, he and Gram Parson practically invented country rock when they formed the Flying Burrito Brothers, and he discovered Emmylou Harris. Need I say More? Well, I will anyway.

Chris Hillman is from Southern California, just north of San Diego. It was here that he first fell in love with folk and bluegrass music. His mom bought him his first guitar, but then he discovered the mandolin, which became his stringed instrument of choice. He played in bluegrass bands the Golden State Boys and The Hillmen. The Hillmen disbanded and Chris Hillman entertained thoughts of quitting school and going to school at UCLA. Then he got a call from the guy who managed The Hillmen with an offer to join a new group in Los Angeles. This group was The Byrds. They asked him to play bass. He’d never played bass, but since he could play guitar and mandolin, he could easily adapt.

For the first three Byrds albums Chris Hillman was just the bass player at the back of the stage with the drummer, Michael Clarke. That all changed when Gene Clark left the band in 1966. McGuinn and Crosby promoted him to the “front line” and Hillman started to write songs. On 1967’s Younger Than Yesterday he contributed So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star [with Roger McGuinn], Have You Seen Her Face, Time Between, Thoughts and Words, and The Girl With No Name. That’s not bad for a guy who had not written songs before. Time Between and The Girl With No Name marked the beginning of the Byrds’ flirtation with country music as they both feature the playing of flatpicking legend and future Byrd Clarence White. For the 1968 follow-up The Notorious Byrds Brothers he contributed [either by himself or with help from Roger McGuinn and David Crosby] Artificial Energy, Natural Harmony, Draft Morning [a David Crosby tune that McGuinn and Hillman finished after they fired Crosby], Change Is Now [the only Byrds tune to feature both David Crosby and Clarence White on the same track], Old John Robertson, Tribal Gathering, and Dolphin Smile. Hillman had gotten quite prolific in just two albums. Both Younger Than Yesterday and The Notorious Byrds Brothers are widely credited to be the finest the Byrds ever did. A lot of that has to do with the emergence of Chris Hillman as a songwriter.

With David Crosby out of the picture, the Byrds needed a replacement. Chris Hillman found one while in line at his bank. He met a guy named Gram Parsons. Soon enough, Parsons was hired as a piano player. According to Roger McGuinn they “hired a keyboard player and instead got George Jones in a Nudie suit.” Gram Parsons was bitten by the country music bug, but he wanted to synthesize rock, country and R&B/soul into its own kind of music which he called “Cosmic American Music.” Such was the force of his personality that this guy who came into the band on salary pretty much dictated the direction of the next album. That album would be 1968’s Sweethearts of the Rodeo. Of course, Gram Parsons had a willing accomplice in Chris Hillman. Hillman had been a bluegrass musician before picking up a bass to join the Byrds, so he was very enthusiastic about the Byrds’ new direction. Such was Parsons’ influence that the only Byrds originals on Sweetheart of the Rodeo were written by him. Chris Hillman was happy to recede into the background, but he did have a couple of lead vocals – I Am a Pilgrim, which had been sung by Merle Travis in the 1940s, and Blue Canadian Rockies, which has been sung by Gene Autry in 1952 in a film of the same name. Of note, several Nashville musicians played on Sweetheart of the Rodeo, including pedal steel player Jay Dee Maness, but more on him later. But the die was cast – the Byrds went country all the way. Gram Parsons’ previous band, the International Submarine Band, has been credited with inventing what some call “country rock,” but they were not nearly as big as The Byrds. And to be sure, Gram Parsons could not have done it without Chris Hillman.

Gram Parsons lasted just that one album with the Byrds before he moved on to other musical things. The Byrds toured England in support of Sweetheart of the Rodeo, and they met the Rolling Stones. Gram became great friends with Keith Richards immediately. They talked about South Africa, which was then in the throes of apartheid. The Byrds were going to play some shows in South Africa. Once Keith told Gram what South Africa was like, and the segregation that persisted there, Gram told the rest of the Byrds he wouldn’t go with them to South Africa. So Gram was no longer with the Byrds. To this day Chris Hillman thinks the real reason Gram didn’t want to go to South Africa was because he wanted to hang out with Keith Richards, not because of any sensitivity to racial matters.

Almost immediately Gram hooked up with Chris Etheridge, a bass player with whom he had worked before. They decided to form a band. Shortly thereafter, Chris Hillman came back from South Africa, patched things up with Gram, and told him it was a mistake for the Byrds to go to South Africa. He also told Gram he was going to leave the Byrds, and could he join Gram’s new band? Thus was born the Flying Burrito Brothers. Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman lived in a house in the San Fernando Valley they dubbed “Burrito Manor.” There they together crafted the songs that would become their debut album, The Gilded Palace of Sin. One such song was Sin City. It was the tale of an innocent country boy’s descent into the urban jungle. It was partially inspired by the band’s then-manager, Larry Spector, whose office was on the 31st floor who, according to Hillman, “robbed us, and whose office was on the 31st floor. We were taking a tongue-in-cheek, risqué jab at everything – the earthquake, the bad manager, the Vietnam War.” Chris Hillman had the first verse and the chorus [This old earthquake’s gonna leave me in the poorhouse/ It seems like this whole town’s insane/On the 31st floor/A gold-plated door/Won’t keep out the Lord’s burning rain], but asked Gram to help him finish the song. The leadoff track on The Gilded Palace of Sin was Christine’s Tune. Another Hillman/Parsons collaboration, it was about David Crosby’s girlfriend, Christine Hinton. She was at one time the head of the Byrds’ fan club. According to Hillman, “we took a light poke at her because she was being mischievous about our ongoing problems with our exes.” She got killed in a car accident shortly after Woodstock so they renamed the song Devil in Disguise. Parsons and Hillman came up with a good road song, Wheels. It’s a companion piece to Sin City, with the theme of escaping from temptation and the turbulence of an evil place (the 31st floor perhaps?). Juanita [also a Hillman/Parsons song] is the true story of a 17-year old girl who tries to pull a guy out of a booze-and-drug-induced descent into Hell before eventually giving up and walking out [for the very last time]. Since it’s release in 1969, The Gilded Palace of Sin still has not been certified gold, but I’ve seen it written that those who did buy the album all formed bands. Bands like Wilco, Whiskeytown, Son Volt,and artists like Dwight Yoakam, Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris, and Elvis Costello all have recorded music that sounds like The Gilded Palace of Sin – such was its influence.

High Fashion Queen is another Hillman/Parsons song. It appeared on Burrito Deluxe. It was recorded at a manic pace. In 1999 Emmylou Harris put together a Gram Parsons tribute called Return of the Grievous Angel. Chris Hillman got to recut High Fashion Queen with Steve Earle. According to Hillman: “The way Steve and I cut it was the way it should have been cut but never was. I don’t know what we were doing on that album. It was like crazy music, with real fast tempos and spotty rhythm section.” I guess they were in a hurry – it sounds like it. Hillman did another tribute of sorts. This one was with Roger McGuinn. They cut Bob Dylan’s You Ain’t Going Nowhere for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will the Circle Be Unbroken Volume II. They originally cut it for Sweetheart of the Rodeo. McGuinn sang the lead then. This time he and Hillman recorded it as a duet. But I digress…

After Hillman fired Gram Parsons from the Flying Burrito Brothers and replaced him with Rick Roberts in 1970, they recorded another album, The Flying Burrito Brothers. The band started to splinter, but before they broke up, Chris Hillman found a female folk singer in Baltimore while on tour. Knowing that Gram Parsons was looking for a girl to sings harmonies with, he told Gram about this girl. As it turns out, that girl was Emmylou Harris. It wasn’t Gram Parsons who discovered Emmylou – it was Chris Hillman. Shortly thereafter, Chris Hillman left the Flying Burrito Brothers and joined with Stephen Stills. Hillman helped Stephen Stills create what I think is the best album of Stills’ career, Manassas. Stills’ tour de force covered a lot of musical ground, to include Latin jams, rock, blues, country, folk, and bluegrass. Hillman’s influence on the album can be heard on the album’s second side [it was a double LP], subtitled The Wilderness. That’s the side that has the more country/bluegrass feel. Hillman also contributed my favorite song from the Manassas album, It Doesn’t Matter. I first heard It Doesn’t Matter when I visited Carol in Fort Collins back in 1985. It appeared on an imported Stephen Stills “greatest hits” album that I bought while visiting her. So whenever I hear it today, I am always happily reminded of those carefree days when Carol and I were inseparable. Unfortunately, the band lasted a little less than two years. Atlantic Records was more interested in a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young reunion, so Manassas was doomed. What a shame – they were a much better band than CSN&Y could ever hope to be.

Here’s where my knowledge of Chris Hillman’s music gets a bit fuzzy. I know he recorded albums with J.D Souther and Richie Furay [of Buffalo Springfield fame]. He also reunited with Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark to record a couple of albums. I don’t have any of them. From what I’ve read about them, they’re extremely average, but that’s just what I’ve read. I couldn’t rate their quality first-hand because I’ve never heard them. After these projects Chris Hillman founded the Desert Rose Band, which included the talents of guitarist/banjo player Herb Pedersen, guitarist John Jorgenson, Jay Dee Maness [who played pedal steel on Sweetheart of the Rodeo], drummer Steve Duncan and bassist Bill Bryson, all of them Southern California session musicians. The Desert Rose Band enjoyed much success in country music in their eight-year run [1985-93]. I don’t have any of their records either, but someday I might remedy that oversight.

Now, back to some more Chris Hillman music I do have. After the break-up of the Desert Rose Band, Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen continued to work sporadically as a duo. They recorded two country albums. In 1996 they returned to their roots with Bakersfield Sound. Bakersfield Sound includes songs recorded by or associated with Buck Owens, the Everly Brothers, the Louvin Brothers, Merle Haggard and Hank Williams. The review from asserts that Hillman and Pedersen are steeped in this material, which they perform with authority and conviction. I have the disc – I have to agree with their assessment. Bakersfield Sound is well worth owning. On their next project, Way Out West [2002], Hillman and Pedersen mix things up a little bit. Not only do they play straight ahead country music, but they also throw in a little gospel, a little bluegrass, a little bit of folk. Twangy guitars abound on this easy-going album. Way Out West is another album well worth owning.

When they weren’t recording as a duo, Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen teamed up with Tony and Larry Rice to record three bluegrass albums – Out of the Woodwork [1997], Rice, Rice, Hillman & Pedersen [1999], and Running Wild [2001]. On these discs, Hillman revisits some of his past. He plays bluegrass versions of songs from Manassas [So Begins the Task], Flying Burrito Brothers [Do Right Woman, Do Right Man], Stephen Stills [4+20], the Grateful Dead [Friend of the Devil] (ok, he wasn’t in the Dead, but they were contemporaries), the Beatles [Things We Said Today] (again, he wasn’t a Beatle either, but they were contemporaries of the Byrds], a nicely arranged Dimming of the Day from Richard Thompson, and lots of originals. If you want to hear four musicians playing bluegrass music perfectly, these three albums are good to have. These guys really did check their egos at the door. On a side note, Tony Rice has an all-instrumental compilation of his own [58957:The Bluegrass Guitar Collection] – get it now!

In 1998 Chris Hillman released his Like a Hurricane [not to be confused with the Neil Young song of the same name]. A country-rock record, there is one song in particular that catches the ear. That song is I’m Still Alive. As Hillman describes the song: “I wrote this after having visited one of my oldest friends, who was in the hospital waiting for an organ transplant. When I was with him that day, he was literally days away from dying. He never gave up and showed me what courage in the face of overwhelming diversity truly is.” That friend – David Crosby. In 2005, Chris Hillman released The Other Side [produced by Herb Pedersen]. The opening cut is both an eye-opener and jaw-dropper – a bluegrass version of the Byrds’ classic Eight Miles High. That alone is worth the price of the CD. Also on The Other Side – a bluegrass version of It Doesn’t Matter. The rest of the tunes are Chris Hillman/Steve Hill originals. It’s all good.

2010 saw the release of Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen At Edwards Barn. This is a live album recorded in a barn in Nipono, California during a concert staged as a benefit for a local church. Here Hillman and Pedersen, with a little help from their friends Larry Park, David Mansfield, and Bill Bryson, revisit the past and give it the bluegrass treatment. Gems from the Byrds [Turn! Turn! Turn!, Eight Miles High, Have You Seen Her Face], the Flying Burrito Brothers [Wheels, Sin City], a tune from Buck Owens [Together Again], the Desert Rose Band [Love Reunited, Desert Rose], a couple of Chris Hillman/Steve Hill originals, and a Herb Pedersen original from 1972 [Wait a Minute] grace this live retrospective. This journey through the past is a must have for any fans of the Byrds or the Flying Burrito Brothers.

Fox News reporter James Rosen was asked to write the liner notes for Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen At Edwards Barn. He tried to define Chris Hillman. A young man who came of age during the psychedelic 60s, who took flight as a Byrd, found brotherhood among the Flying Burritos, flourished as a Desert Rose, and emerged as a titan of country and bluegrass around the same time he was being enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. How does one define such a man with one word? Rosen chose “open.” I choose “pioneer.” I think they both fit. If you listen to what I’ve heard the man produce over the last 45 years, I think you’d agree. He's made a lot of beautiful music.

Chris Hillman & Steve Earle - High Fashion Queen

Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen - Turn! Turn! Turn!

Stephen Stills/Manassas - It Doesn't Matter

Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen - Eight Miles High

Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen - So Begins The Task

The Flying Burrito Brothers - Devil in Disguise

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Frank Zappa - You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 2

Frank Zappa released six collections of live music under the title You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore. Five the six volumes feature bands from different eras of Frank Zappa’s career. Of the six volumes, Volume 2 is unique because it features only one band. Volume 2 is presented as a single concert from Helsinki, Finland. It’s subtitled “The Helsinki Concert,” but I’ve read in places on the internet that this collection was the compilation of the best performances of two (maybe three) concerts recorded in September 1974. Whether it’s one show or cherry pickings from three, it’s all edited together so well I can’t tell the difference, except maybe in one place (where Chester Thompson’s drum solo at the end of Don't You Ever Wash That Thing? abruptly ends and Pygmy Twylyte starts). Not that it matters one way or the other – it sounds great. One thing that stands out is how tight the band is. This particular group of people played together for a couple of years, and it sounds like it they played together every night over those two years. These musicians play like they’re linked together telepathically.

Of the twenty songs that appear on this album, five were unreleased at the time the show was recorded. Five appeared on the live Roxy & Elsewhere (recorded in December 1973 and was released less than 2 weeks before these Helsinki performances). When one compares the performances on Roxy & Elsewhere and YCDTOSA Vol 2 one can easily tell the band benefitted from much touring. The music is instrumentally complex. The band navigates the many twists and turns of Frank Zappa’s music effortlessly. What is missing from YCDTOSA Vol 2 are the funny spoken-word introductions to the songs that you hear on Roxy & Elsewhere [like Cheepnis or Village of the Sun]. But that is a minor complaint because there was a language barrier in Finland not present in Los Angeles.

For one evening only, Frank and Company played a request, Satumaa (Finnish Tango). Napoleon Murphy Brock tried his best to sing in phonetic Finnish, but he butchered it anyway. One gets the impression the band was sight-reading the whole time, but pictures exist of them rehearsing the song beforehand. One funny moment came toward the end of the show. When FZ asked the crowd what they wanted to hear, one brave soul yelled out “Whipping Post.” Apparently he had been listening to The Allman Brothers At Fillmore East. Amazingly, neither FZ nor anybody in the band knew the Allman Brothers tune. FZ asked the guy to hum a few bars. You don’t hear anything from the guy so FZ tells the band to launch into Montana. There are a couple of false starts and apparently someone complained (I think it was Ruth Underwood and Chester Thompson) the band played it too fast. After they third time they played real slow, prompting FZ to comment they were playing at the tempo of a ballad (FZ didn’t do ballads – ever). To top things off, FZ improvised his own lyrics and tried to fit a “Whipping Post” theme into it. Years later, Frank Zappa and his band learned “Whipping Post” and played it in Finland. According to a Finnish guy who reviewed this album for Amazon, he claimed to have been at the later show, he attributed the following to FZ: "guess what - we now know the song you requested back in '74", and performed it.

As for my, some of my favorite moments come on some of the older stuff, like the The Dog Breath Variations/Uncle Meat combination. I also likes the Village of the Sun/Echidna's Arf combination as well. I think it sounds much better than what was released on Roxy & Elsewhere. Pygmy Twylyte is much longer in Helsinki [it's a monster!]. Of note, the guitar solo on Inca Roads was lifted from this performance and became part of the recording on One Size Fits All. FZ must have really liked the solos he played for Inca Roads because I've got five versions of it between his Shut Up & Play Yer Guitar, Guitar, and Trance-Fusion collections.

Many reviews I’ve read about this volume say of the six volumes, this one is the best because of its single-concert format, and because the greatness of the band playing challenging music. It’s the only volume I have in the series. Someday I hope to get other volumes, but until then I’ll be content to list to this nugget from FZ’s vault. If you have to start anywhere in the series, Volume 2 is the place to start.

Disc 1A Token of My Extreme/Stinkfoot/Inca Roads/RDNZL/Village of the Sun/Echidna's Arf (Of You)/ Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?/Pygmy Twylyte/Room Service/The Idiot Bastard Son/Cheepnis
Disc 2Approximate/Dupree's Paradise/Satumaa (Finnish Tango)/ T'Mershi Duween/The Dog Breath Variations/Uncle Meat/Building a Girl/Montana (Whipping Floss)/Big Swifty
The PlayersFZ – lead guitar, vocals/Napoleon Murphy Brock – sax, flute, vocals/George Duke – keyboards, vocals/Ruth Underwood – percussion/Tom Fowler – bass guitar/Chester Thompson - drums

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Allman Brothers Band – The Fox Box, 2004

Since 2003, two years after Warren Haynes rejoined the Allman Brothers Band, the band has participated in the Instant Music program. Here’s the deal – shortly after each Allman Brothers show is over, you have the opportunity to purchase a copy of the concert you just heard. So if you ever want to be on your own Allman Brothers live album, just go to a show. If they run out of copies of that day’s show, don’t worry. The Allman Brothers will sell you a copy on the Hittin’ the Note website. The prices vary depending on how many CDs are needed to capture the show in its entirety. I like to get them because I don’t go to shows anymore, but I still want to hear the Allman Brothers in their environment – the stage. The last time the Allman Brothers recorded a studio album was in 2002 [Hittin’ the Note], so if you are interested in hearing songs you’ve never heard the Allman Brothers play, getting their shows from their website is a pretty good deal. They’ve taken to play music made famous by other musicians [the Grateful Dead, the Band, Howlin’ Wolf, Son House, just to name a few], plus they’ve rearranged some of their old music.

In September 2004, the Brothers played a three-night stand at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre. The setlists:

September 24, 2004Disc 1
Mountain Jam/Trouble No More/Midnight Rider/Wasted Words/Worried Down With the Blues/You Don’t Love Me/Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More
Disc 2
Rockin’ Horse/Hot ‘Lanta/Melissa/Come and Go Blues/Can’t Lose What You Never Had/Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad? ->Franklin’s Tower
Disc 3
Black Hearted Woman/Dreams (w/Jack Pearson)/Mountain Jam (w/Jack Pearson)/ Southbound (w/Jack Pearson)
September 25, 2004Disc 1
Les Brers in A Minor>Don't Want You No More/It's Not My Cross To Bear/Statesboro Blues/Stand Back/Who's Been Talking/Soulshine/Good Clean Fun/Old Before My Time/Woman Across the River
Disc 2
Instrumental Illness/The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down/Leave My Blues At Home/Key To The Highway/Don't Think Twice, It's All Right (Susan Tedeschi, vocals and guitar)/ One Way Out (Vaylor Trucks, guitar)
Disc 3
Blue Sky/Dreams/Les Brers in A Minor/Layla
September 26, 2004Disc 1
Revival/Every Hungry Woman/Done Somebody Wrong/Hoochie Coochie Man/Desdemona/High Cost of Low Living/Forty-Four Blues/End of the Line
Disc 2
Dreams/I Walk On Gilded Splinters/Stormy Monday/The Same Thing (Rob Barraco, piano)/ In Memory of Elizabeth Reed (Rob Barraco, piano) >drums>
Disc 3
In Memory of Elizabeth Reed>bass>In Memory of Elizabeth Reed/Don't Keep Me Wonderin'/No One To Run With/Whipping Post

During this run at the Fox, the Brothers played 51 different songs [give or take a couple], and only one of those songs appeared each night – Dreams. They mix up the setlist every night. That’s one thing I love about this band. They don’t play the same songs night after night. They rotate different songs in and out of the setlist to keep them from getting stale. On the second night they played two songs from Derek & the Dominos’ Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs because that was an album Duane Allman played a large part in making. On the third night they played I Walk on Gilded Splinters, another song Duane Allman had a hand in recording [with Johnny Jenkins on his Ton-Ton Macoute album]. As a treat, Gregg Allman sang Dickey Betts’ Blue Sky. The rule of thumb where Dickey’s songs are concerned is this – they’ll play Dickey’s instrumentals, but if Dickey sang a song on the original album, the band won’t play it live. That’s why you’ll never hear them playing Ramblin’ Man. But they got a lot of requests, it was Atlanta, so the Brothers let them have Blue Sky. On two of the three nights Warren Haynes sang songs from Howlin’ Wolf [Who’s Been Talking, Forty-Four]. On the same night they played the Layla songs, bassist Oteil Burbridge treated the crowd with his own rendition of the Grateful Dead classic Franklin’s Tower. These days you never know what to expect at an Allman Brothers show.

Depending on which town they’re playing in on a given night, they might have someone sit in with them. For instance, on the first night, Jack Pearson [who replaced Warren Haynes in the band 1997-99 but never recorded with them] sits in on three songs. Susan Tedeschi [Mrs Derek Trucks] guests with the band on the second night to sing Bob Dylan’s Don't Think Twice, It's All Right.

These guys have been playing together for ten years now. It’s the longest-lived incarnation of the band in its 41-year history. They’re all sober [even Gregg, since 1996], they ‘re all healthy [even after Gregg’s liver transplant in 2009], and they are playing great. Gregg is in fine voice every night. That couldn’t be said “back in the day.” Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks each have their solo gigs [Gov’t Mule and the Derek Trucks Band, respectively], so the Allman Brothers really is a part-time gig for them. That’s what keeps these guys fresh, and what makes these shows special. There are 175 recorded since 2003. So if you’re like me, you love the Allman Brothers Band but can’t afford to go to shows anymore, wander over to Hittin’ the Note to see what they have to offer.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Badfinger - Straight Up

Straight Up
is Badfinger's third album for The Beatles' Apple Records. Twelve songs in all, it has 10 good-to-excellent songs and two outstanding songs [Day After Day and Baby Blue, both singles written by Pete Ham]. It has been very hard to find on CD until 2010, when Apple re-released the entire Apple catalog. Included on the new release are six bonus tracks, some of which were recorded with Geoff Emerick producing. The album had been originally recorded between January and March 1971 with Geoff Emerick. George Harrison heard the album and rejected its release, telling them "you can do better." When I hear the Emerick-produced early versions compared with those subsequently produced by either George Harrison or Todd Rundgren, I agree with George's assessment. The songs are good, they don't sound bad at all but Badfinger could do better, and they did.

George produced four songs with the band [Day After Day, I'd Die Babe, Name of the Game, and Suitcase] before he had to back out and tend to making the arrangements for The Concert for Bangladesh. George was so taken with Day After Day that he asked the band if he could play on it. If you're familiar with the song, that's him playing slide guitar with Pete Ham. George heard Name of the Game had potential to be the third single from Straight Up, so he arranged for two remixes to try to get a sound he was looking for. He didn't find the elusive sounds, so Name of the Game was never released as a single. It's still a very good song and remained an album track. Suitcase was written by guitarist Joey Molland about his experiences on the road touring. George Harrison came up with the arrangement. Originally it had the words Pusher pusher, on the run but George said "they won't play it on the radio, so Joey changed Pusher, pusher to Butcher, butcher. George plays guitar on I'd Die Babe. He also helped Joey Molland finish the lyrics [uncredited].

When George Harrison relinquished his production duties, he brought in Todd Rundgren to finish what George had left unfinished. Out of these sessions came Baby Blue, Pete Ham's love letter to someone with whom he had a relationship on tour [his "Dixie dear.."]. Pete Ham and Joey Molland had five songs each on Straight Up, while bassist Tom Evans claimed the other two [he co-wrote on of Joey Molland's songs, Flying]. On their previous two releases [Magic Christian Music and No Dice], Joey Molland wasn't as much of a songwriting presence. But on Straight Up he delivers. Given that Straight Up was rejected once, and had three producers, it's a good sounding record. The songs are all solid, and the band played well. Much has been written about how "Beatlesque" Badfinger's sound was, and that was a double-edged sword for them. They were often derided as second-rate Beatles. They got help first from Paul McCartney, then George Harrison, so how could they help from sounding a little bit like the Fab Four? But taken on it's own merits, Badfinger's sound [tight harmonies, three capable lead singers, loads of guitars, the odd bit of piano, and all four members wrote songs] worked for them. I like their stuff. This is textbook English power pop. If you have the chance, give Straight Up a spin.
Day After Day
Baby Blue