HEAD FIRST
SPECIAL FEATURE



Several bootleg versions of Badfinger’s third but still unreleased Warner Brothers album have been been available for some time. Titles such as “Head Start” and “Lost Treasures” have feaured these unreleased tracks, Pete Ham’s last with Badfinger.

All these releases have more or less suffered from poor sound and distortion. Recently yet another bootleg called “Head First” has been released, this one featuring both the Warner mixes done early 1975 and the Apple rough mixes from December 1974.

The Warner mixes are a mix of the multi-tracks with the start and end being clean and banded together. All of the instrumentation is present and various studio techniques have been employed on the vocals and solos.

The Apple mixes are more a rough mix meant for the band members and management as a menas to assess the work in progress.


From the very informative and well-written sleeve notes of this recent Head First release I have copied following notes about the 10 tracks:



1. Lay Me Down (Pete Ham)


Lay Me Down is a rocker written by Pete Ham. It ranks as a classic pop tune as No Matter What. Had the song been released as a single there can be little doubt that the song would have been a hit. The song was later released ( with a tape fault during the intro ) on the Best of Badfinger Vol 2 released on Rhino in 1990.

The song was written by Pete within the studio confines when the band were short of tracks. Pete Ham was a good writer under pressure.

The two available mixes of this track initially sound almost identical. However, where as the Original Apple Mix has some stereo seperation, the Warner Bros. Mix is almost totally mono. Essentially all the channels of the multi-track have been panned to the centre ( or almost centered ) for the Warner Bros Mix, which results in the power and impact of the individual instruments being lost. It is only when the Original Apple Mix is played that the seperate guitar tracks and keyboard/organ tracks give Lay Me Down its true dimension. Some slight variation can be noted between the two mixes in that the organ fills, just before the chorus, are more prominent in the Original Apple Mix. This mix also contains a couple of extra second and the obligatory count in.


2. Turn Around (Bob Jackson)


Turn Around was chosen as the second track on the Apple Studio running sheet to follow Pete’s Lay Me Down. Kerner and Wise kept the same running order when they compiled their Warner Bros. Mix in early 1975.

Turn Around is a perfect foil for Lay Me Down. Where Lay Me Down is bright and up-lifting, Turn Around is moody, uncertain and bluesy. Where the former is a simple pop song with a memorable hook, the latter changes beat and tempo, being a far more complex structured song.

Although Bob Jackson had only just joined Badfinger, he had presented the band a song which was equal to any the other members were writing or had written for the previous couple of albums. Turn Around takes the band further down the path started with Dennis or In The Mean Time.

If only Chris Thomas had been in the production booth for these sessions . . .

With the opening chords, the song’s dramatic impact is evident. Bob’s organ and Mike Gibbins’ drumming set the scene like never before. Bob handles the vocals solo, and here there is a departure from the usual Badfinger sound. Bob’s vocal style is in the same vein as Steve Winwood, but this fits perfectly in with the feel of Turn Around. The Badfinger sound re-emerges during the chorus, when Bob is joined by Pete and Tom Evans, first as harmony and then as all three singing the lead.

After the peparture of Joey Molland from the band prior to these sessions for Head First, Pete needed to provide both rhytm and solo guitar work. In this track alone, he has excelled and shown the true class of his ability. ( One could be forgiven for asking, whether Joey was missed ). The solo he provides is cutting and to the point, as is his rhytm work.

What makes this song something special are the guitar licks & fills played by Pete during the verses and middle eight. Turn Around may have been written and sung by Bob, but it IS Pete’s track

The mix used by Kerner and Wise has a wide stereo picture, especially given the fact that this song follows Lay Me Down which ( in the Warner Bros. Mix ) is almost a totally mono mix. Pete’s guitar fills are placed hard left of centre, counter balancing with Bob’s organ in the far right channel. Pete’s other guitar track is placed in the centre of the stereo picture.

In contrast, the Original Apple Mix has the organ more centred which inturn seems to dominate during the verses. Pete’s guitar tracks are located effectively one in each channel.

A point of criticism can be levelled at the Original Apple Mix here, that Bob’s vocals are almost drowned during the verses, where as the Warner Bros. Mix, being so wide, leaves plenty of space for all vocal and instrumental tracks.

The three part lead vocals on the Warner Bros. Mix sound afr more “produced” than that on the Original Apple Mix.

The final chord fade is two seconds longer on the Original Apple Mix.

Also of minor interest is during the “count in” ( only available on the Original Apple Mix ), different levels of “noise” can be heard with associated clicks, which more than likely corresponds to the overdubs being “punched in” following the main session.


3. Keep Believing (Pete Ham)

Following the Moody Turn Around, Keep Believing, written by Pete, is a message to Joey about keeping faith in his career. “If you want to blame somebody, you can blame it all on me.”, shows Pete felt he was partly to blame for what was going down and the current situation the band was in. One could also argue that, given the very soul wreching Pete Ham demos from the same era, which have surfaced in the 1997 official release 7 Park Avenue, part of the message of this track is Pete telling himself that things must eventually get better and that he himself must keep the faith.

The studio chatter, at the start of the Original Apple Mix of Keep Believing, tells us that take no. 14 was used as the final backing track, onto which were then recorded.

There are considerable variations between the two mixes, which are even apparent during the introduction. The Original Apple Mix has the backing/harmony vocals ( more than likely Pete and Tom ) panned to the left and right channels, with Pete’s lead vocal track centred within the stereo picture. The Warner Bros. Mix however has the harmony vocal tracks alongside Pete’s lead vocals in the centre.

The bass is centred in both mixes, as are the drums, exept there is an extremely wide stereo effect on the tom toms. ( the Warner Bros. Mix has the widest and best example of this. )

The rhythm guitar, lead guitar and guitar fills are almost identical between mixes, although the quality of the sound and feel in the Warner Bros. Mix is a far better counterpoint to Pete’s lead vocals. The Original Apple Mix has the ( or one of the ) keyboard tracks far too high in the mix, which causes it to dominate at times.

The main difference betwen the two mixes is the percussion track evident in the left hand channel of the Warner Bros. Mix. This percussion track adds thythm on the half beat and some light and shade to the song, which does not exist in the Original Apple Mix. If the percussion track is there in the Original Apple Mix, it is over shadowed by everything else and is not perceiveable.

The fade is slightly longer on the Warner Bros. Mix.


4. Rockin’ Machine ( Mike Gibbins )


Rockin’ Machine is another one of Mike countryesque songs. One could wonder whether he was watching TV with the sound turned down, when he wrote this one as well ( reference to Cowboy from Ass ). Although regarded by Mike as something which he just threw together, Rockin’ Machine has a melody and a hook which lingers. So much on, that when the track finishes after approximately a minute and a half, one feels almost cheated that there isn’t more of the song to listen to.

Given the country feel ( or should that be Welsh-country feel ) to the track, the rest of the band help out appropiately. Pete plays some nice slide guitar and Bob’s almost ( slow ) honky tonk piano tracks add to the song’s “down south” disposition.

Again there is considerable variations between the Warner Bros. and Original Apple Mixes of Rockin’ Machine. There differences are primarily in the panning of the various tracks creating the stereo picture. Basically the Original Apple Mix. has everything almost centred, producing effectively a mono mix. Where the Warner Bros. Mix has Mike’s lead vocals centred and the backing vocals panned far right and left, which brings life and space to the song.

The studio chatter at the start of the track is far louder in the Original Apple Mix and this mix also has a longer fade. This longer fade may be for the fact that someone in the band starts making “dog” noises at the end of the fade. The K9 backing vocals are not evident in the Warner Bros. Mix.

5. Passed Fast ( Tom Evans / Bob Jackson )


Passed fast, written by Tom and Bob, along with Turn Around, written by Bob, are the two tracks from the Head First sessions which could have easily have been mistaken for outtakes or un-released tracks from the Wish You Were Here sessions.

Opening with a simple piano, followed by the full band playing with amps set on eleven, along with the powerful and emotional lyrics, would have fitted perfectly into the previous album’s running sheet. Passed Fast invokes the same reaction of the listener as In The Meantime/Some Other Time (from Wish You Were Here) and Give It Up ( from the self titled album ). . And just like Give It Up, it has a superb twin solo coda, something too often faded out on Badfinger studio recordings.

It is noteworthy that, given that Tom had not played a large role in writing for Wish You Were Here and at the time of that album, Bob was not even in the band, the two were taking a major role musically as well as contributing original songs for the new album.

The heavier (some would say dramatic) sound of this track, can be attributed to the natural progression from the sound from the previous album, as well as now having a keyboard player as a member of the group.

The differences between the two mixes are obvious even from the start of the piano introduction. As well as the fact the Original Apple Mix has the studio chatter with the engineer announcing that it is the 2nd take of the intro ( confirming that the piano intro was part of the piano overdub ), we have Bob’s count in. The difference in the level of the piano between the two mixes is considerable, with the Warner Bros. Mix being almost 12 dB lower. However, this lower level of piano also produces a far more dramatic effect when the whole band comes in.

In the Original Apple Mix, just prior to Tom’s opening lyric, we hear again Bob’s count in, this time the count is from the actual session in which the track itself was recorded. It is interesting to note that the two “countins” ( for the piano introduction overdub and for the main track ) do not match, with the second being almost a single beat too early. More evidence that the piano part intro was an overdub.

Pete’s guitar chords sound a little more edgy and “staccato” like, on the Original Apple Mix, where as the Warner Bros. Mix has them smoother and mixing in with Bob’s piano work. The same can be said about Tom’s vocals. There is definitely an edge to them on the Original Apple Mix.

The overalll sound of Mike’s drum kit is best on the Warner Bros. Mix, with his snare drum and cymbals being much more to the fore on this version.

During the middle 8 of the Original Apple Mix, it appears that Bob and Tom are fighting a loosing battle with Pete’s guitar licks. Where as at the same point in the Warner Bros. Mix. Pete’s guitar licks are panned slightly more to the outside of the stereo picture and dropped down somewhat in the mix, not too far to lose them, but far enough to not detract from the vocals.

There appears to be an ample use of echo in the drums in various areas ot the Warner Bros. Mix ( remember the US version of the Baby Blue single has an exceptional amount of echo used ). For example the echo can be heard after the whole band comes back in for the one and half bars ( 6 beats ) in the middle of Bob’s piano near the end of the track.

The final guitar solo coda varies between the two mixes, with the Original Apple Mix being almost 10 seconds longer and essentially beoing everything that was recorded. ( the band can just be heard stopping at the end of the Original Apple Mix.) The Original Apple Mix tends to slightly favour the guitar solo located in the left channel, when compared to the Warner Bros. Mix, but this is a minor variation only. What is far more distinct in the Warner Bros. Mix is Mike’s drum work, and superb drumming it is.


6
. Saville Row ( Pete Ham )

If MIke’s Rockin’ Machine could be considered a rehearsal or something thrown together, then this Synthesiser based track, written by Pete, is definitely a working piece in progress. Clocking in at approximately one minute, it is in reality no more than a doodle on the keyboards, maybe an introduction to some other piece Pete had on his mind at the time. In any other situation, the producers and recording engineers would not have spen more than five seconds listening to Saville Row and then passed onto the next track. However. given that the band had not been allocated much studio time, completed tracks were not in abundance, so apparently everything was considered for the L.P. running order.

There are some light variations in the mixes ( mainly locations of one or two of the sunthesisers in the stereo picture ), however given the nature of the piece that are not really of that much concern

The introduction of the track with what sounds as a cymbal being ( did Mike play on this track as well? ) is louder and longer on the Original Apple Mix. The Warner Bros. Mix contains approximately 15 seconds more of fade out. Which begs the question, how much more of this track is still left in the can?


7. Moonshine ( Mike Gibbins, Bob Jackson and Tom Evans )

Although is credited to Mike, Bob & Tom, it has all the haul marks of a Mike Gibbins inspired track. Moonshine has all the Badfinger trademarks: delightful guitar fills, acoustic rhythm guitars, vocal harmonies, a superb melody and lyrics that come from the heart.

This is a beautiful song co-sung by Tom and Bob. Pete supplies gorgeous lead guitar fills, Bob’s Fender Rhodes keyboard work is three years ahead of its time ( Billy Joel would use the same feel on Just The Way You Are). The drum work from Mike produces the perfect drumming feel for this co-written piece.

The real tragedy is that it took fifteen years for this song to be officially released ( see Best Of Badfinger Vol 2 ).

It is Badfinger legend that not much effort or time was spent on the Warner Bros. Mix. Well, maybe Moonshine dispels that piece of so-called history. The Original Apple Mix, although with some nice touches ( which were carried through into the Warner Bros. Mix) is basically very rough.

The twin lead guitar fill tracks are placed in each channel for both mixes. However the Warner Bros. Mix, then combines them during the middle eight and guitar solo sections of the song. Acoustic and rhythm guitars appear in each channel, slightly left and right of centre. Both mixes have the backing/harmony vocals in the centre channel, along with the main lead vocal tracks.

What makes the Warner Bros. Mix such a superior mix over the Original Apple Mix is the placement and level of Mike’s drum kit. Cymbals are more distinctive and the tom toms in the far left-hand channel almost punctuate the track. Also in the Warner Bros. Mix the second middle eight “answering” backing vocals are placed first into the far left-hand channel and then the next time around into the far right hand channel, allowing these “answering” backing vocals, as well as the main lead vocals to be heard clearly. The corresponding section of the Original Apple Mix of Moonshine is just an intelligible mess.

The Original Apple Mix has the count in, not present in the Warner Bros. Mix.


8. Rock’n Roll Contract ( Tom Evans )

Writing Rock’n Roll Contract appeared to be the only way that Tom could get back at Stan Polley ( their manager, who basically had ripped the band off for may hundreds of thousands perhaps millions of dollars ). He wrote about his frustrations with their manager in this song.

After reading the lyrics of Rock’n Roll Contract, one is left with no doubt as to the state of Tom’s hatred for Polley or the way he felt he ( and the rest of the band ) had been used.

This song was again recorded for the 1980 Say No More L.P.

There is little difference between the Original Apple Mix and the Warner Bros. Mix. The track is full on rock’n roll with heavy guitar emphasis and a pulsating bass line and drum pattern that has so much energy it could sustain a small community in power for years.

Rhythm guitar tracks are placed slightly left and right of centre in both mixes, with the lead guitar and guitar fill tracks being centred for the Warner Bros. Mix and slightly right of centre for the Original Apple Mix. The keyboard tracks are almost identical in both versions except for some dramatic Grand Piano chords just after the line”You took to the grave, now it’s gone.. Yeah, it’s gone..” which are far more prominent in the Original Apple Mix.

During the recording for this track Mike may have used twin kick drums, as it appears that there is a kick drum track in each channel. In fact the whole drum kit is spread across the entire stereo picture and sounds as if it was mike’d up close during the recording process. The Warner Bros. Mix has the better of the two drum sounds.

The vocal tracks are centred as per usual and the only difference between the two mixes is that the Warner Bros. Mix has a more “produced” sound to them.

One point of note is the manical laugh tracks, just after the line “ ..man told me not to worry ‘bout the business..” The Original Apple Mix has the two laugh tracks combined and panned from left to right, where as the Warner Bros. Mix has one laugh track in each channel.

The talking during the chorus ( apparently Tom’s abuse at Polley ) is higher up in the mix in the Warner Bros. version. The Original Apple Mix has some studio chatter at the start of the track and what appears to be Tom saying “..you are the bastard.. “just as someone slightly off mike gives a chucklr at this comment.

The Original Apple Mix has almost a two second longer fade than the Warner Bros. Mix.


9. Back Again ( Mike Gibbins )

One of the strenghts of Badfinger was the fact that it had four excellent song writers. ( five if you include Bob Jackson ). When one of the band appeared to have a writers block, one of the others would come up with a classic song to record. Mike had contributed brilliant tracks for the Wish You Were Here album, and for Head First he had three tracks. Back Again was one of them.

Yet again Mike’s acoustic tendencies come to the fore, with this lovely up tempo ballad for a loved one. The use of acoustic instrumentation and poignant melody produce one of the highlights of Head First.

This is one track where there are considerable variations between the two available mixes. The Original Apple Mix is essentially an almost mono mix, with most of the multi tracks panned towards the centre of the stereo picture. It is only at approximately 50 seconds into the track, when the synthesisers and guitar tracks ( emulating a pedal steel ) come in, that any channel seperation is apparent.

Everything else, including vocals, percussion, acoustic guitars, keyboards, harmonica and bass are lumped into the centre.

However in comparison, the Warner Bros. Mix has almost a Beatlesque feel about it. The acoustic guitar tracks are placed in the left-hand channel and the vocals are centred. Nothing apart from the vocals ( and associated echo ) can be heard in the right-hand channel until the synthesisers and guitars come in at approximately 50 seconds into the track.

It may be due to the fact that the acoustic guitars are panned hard left or centre or maybe they have been “produced” to achieve a smoother and purer sound, along with a”ringing” echo in the opposite channel ( this could also be due to mike leakage during the recording process ) , but the Warner Bros. Mix have them sounding as good as anything Badfinger had previously recorded.

The fade-out on the Warner Bros. Mix is approximately one second longer then the Original Apple Mix .


10. Mr Manager ( Tom Evans )

If the first attempt at telling Stan Polley that he wasn’t welcome any more at the Badfinger inner sanctum wasn’t subtle enough ( see Rock’n Roll Contract ), Tom’s Mr Manager left nothing to the imagination.

Basically this is an open letter to Stan Polley , telling him to fuck off. Maybe if the song had been written in the 1990’s and not in the 1970’s, we can be ceratin that evn more vitriol would have come out in Tom’s lyrics.

The weird thing about Mr Manager is that for all the anger in the lyrics, the melody itself has a great hook and you are still humming it long after the track has finished. ( an iron fist in a velvet glove . . maybe..).

Of the two, the Warner Bros. version is the better mix. The Original Apple Mix causes the song to have a “lodding” feel, where as the Warner Bros. Mix has “space” between the instrumentation tracks and along with variations in the placement of the backing vocals, produce a far more enjoyable end result.

Both mixes start off in a similar fashion, with the entire band kicking in, but dominated by the “jew harp” sound of Bob’s keyboard ( very similar in fact to the sound achieved in the song Up On Cripple Creek by The Band ). The Warner Bros. Mix have these two keyboard tracks far left and far right of centre, where as in the Original Apple Mix they are only part the way left and right of centre.

The drum kit in both mixes is almost entirely mono. located flat centre, as is the bass track. Other rhythm tracks ( guitars and keyboards ) are located just left and right of centre.

The main variations between the two mixes are the placement of the backing vocals and the lead guitar fills / solo tracks.

The lead guitar fills / solo track is in the far left channel for the Original Apple Mix and centred for the Warner Bros. Mix.

What produces the subtle ( and enjoyable ) variations in the Warner Bros. Mix is the location of the backing vocals. Where as in the Original Apple Mix all vocal tracks ( lead and backing ) are centred, it is only the lead vocals that are centred in the Warner Bros. Mix.

In The Warner Bros. Mix the backing vocals for the first verse are located far right of centre. During the chorus there are seperate backing vocal tracks located in the far right and the far left of the stereo picture. Then for the second verse the backing vocals have moved to the far left of centre. The apparent movement within the stereo picture produces a far wider aural sensation than what really exists.

Again Badfinger folklore says that the Warner Bros. Mix were rushed, however some thought certainly went into the mix for Mr Manager.

The song ends with Tom’s classic final line, if ever there was an end to an album: “ .. waiting for the phone to tell me you and I are through..” This final line of vocals appears to have been recorded on a seperate vocal track from Tom’s lead vocal ( maybe during the over-dubbing of one of the backing vocal tracks. ) Although it isn’t apparent in the Original Apple Mix, the Warner Bros. Mix has an entirely different “feel” about it from the rest of Tom’s lead vocals.



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