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    Badfinger: US TV: Midnight Special 02 May 1979

    Badfinger appearing on Burt Sugarman’s Midnight Special (Airwaves, 1979)

    From a 2003 interview with Tom Brennan (Tom Brennan’s Badfinger Library):

    Brennan: Do you know the date that the show was taped? I know that it was first aired on May 4, 1979.
    Schell: It was taped on Wednesday, May 2, 1979. So that would work with a Friday May 4 air date.
    Brennan: Was “Airwaves” performed at the beginning, or did the performance start straight with “Look Out California”?
    Schell: I honestly don’t recall the sequence. “Love Is Gonna Come At Last” was the single that was charted and in rotation at the time. Dynamically, it would seem logical to record that one first, but the show might have slotted the hit differently in editing.
    Brennan: Were there other songs performed but not taped or not aired?
    Schell: No, just the three.
    Brennan: What did you mean (when you mentioned earlier) that Joey didn’t finish playing? Can you elaborate further on that part of the story?
    Schell: Sugarman probably taped the equivalent of three or four shows that day. We were the last act to tape in a six- to eight-hour session. So from the wings throughout the day, we heard other artists — especially the headliners — do take after retake.
    When our turn came, we cranked thru our three tunes fairly quickly — one or two takes each. The engineering was dreadful. Whatever the last song was, Joey reasonably believed we should be permitted to do it one more time. He kicked it off, the band followed, and the stage crew promptly killed the mains. And that, as they say in Hollywood, was a wrap.   §§§

    From a 2006 interview with Davis Everett Flanders:

    DEF: ‘Love Is Gonna Come At Last’, the group’s hit at the time Midnight Special aired, was based around a 12-string guitar. Why wasn’t 12-string used in the video as it was in the recording?
    Schell: Good question! We rented a 12-string Rick (Rickenbacker) specifically to do the single on Midnight Special. Trouble was, when I plugged in the instrument sent over by the studio rentals, it didn’t play.
    So the guitar roadie tore into it and announced shortly thereafter that the instrument’s electronics were hermetically sealed with what looked to be soda pop — silencing it for all practical purposes.
    DEF: Did that mean last-minute changes to the arrangement — not having the 12-string?
    Schell: Well, there’s a funny adjunct to the story along those lines: With the Rick out of the game, I sat down in the dressing room with my six-string and worked out a variation of the 12-string picking which, to my ear, more closely emulated the 12-string voicing than the original part played on six.
    As luck would have it Joey walked by and, hearing my variation on his guitar work, stopped in to, shall we say, point out its incorrectness. (laughs) So, no — no changes to that part of the arrangement. Truth be told, in the end the mix that aired was so flawed, with instruments and voices drifting in and out, six versus twelve became almost a non-issue.   §§§

    From a 2019 interview with Mark Strothmann:

    Strothmann: How did it come to be that you were able to meet up with the band? Where were you in your career at that point?
    Schell: Well, it was kismet. And where I was in my career at that point was: I was ready. I’d actually prepared for playing with Badfinger or a group of their stature for over a decade. And I was ready.
    I met them thru Pete Clarke, who was playing drums. Clarkie and I met in a bar across the street from where they were rehearsing for the Airwaves tour. He said they were looking for a second guitarist/vocalist who could play slide. We agreed it was a good fit, since I already knew their entire repertoire leading up to Airwaves: Since picking up a guitar in 1969, I’d studied and mastered all their recorded work beginning with Magic Christian.
    Clarkie’s a warm, friendly guy, and he was very supportive from the get-go. He sat me down and pointed things out as we listened to Airwaves together. He gave me a copy and told me to learn it backward and forward, especially Joe Tansin’s parts and the vocal harmonies. I did.
    I auditioned with Joey and Tommy uplugged in Joey’s living room, presumably to hear how we sang together, and we started full rehearsals not long after that.
    Strothmann: When you started with them, was it known that you would only be with them for this performance?
    Schell: When I started rehearsals, “Love Is Gonna Come At Last” was number 16 in Billboard. Then it stalled. A flurry of anxious phone calls and meetings between T & J and Joe Smith followed. The news spread quickly to the rest of us that Elektra had pulled promotional support from the single. That led to a precipitous drop in moods as well as in the charts. Rehearsals continued right up to taping the Midnight Special.
    Strothmann: How did band practice go? Did you jell with them right away? (Sounds like it.) You come from a much harder rock background, how did that play into it?
    Schell: If by ‘harder rock’ you’re referring to my work under pseudonym with The Hollywood Squares, you’re right — that’s edgier. That project was a brief, experimental detour into early LA punk, to shake off the Easy Listening coma of the early 70s. Musically, I’m a product of the British Invasion raised in the Deep South. My peers were Tom Petty and the Allman Brothers.
    And don’t let the polished, powerpop sound you hear on Badfinger records fool you. We were all hard-core rockers! J & T liked to play fast and loud too. Listen to Joey’s guitar solo and Tommy’s vocal on “Lookout California”. That’s the real deal! Clarkie’s among my favorite rock drummers.
    As far as rehearsal itself… Apparently, before my arrival it was decided that we wouldn’t be performing earlier hits and favorites on tour. I never voiced it, but I believe it’s a mistake for any popular act to eschew in concert their most popular work. It also makes for a very short song list, which results in short rehearsals and thus early arrivals at the pub. Thankfully, they later reversed their position on playing the hits.
    Strothmann: Where in the South are you from? Did you play in bands that played with Petty & The Allman Brothers and/or were you friends?
    Schell: I grew up in the Tampa Bay area and played most everywhere that existed in FL at the time, so I worked pretty much the same circuit as the Allmans — one-nighters and opening for major acts. Never crossed paths with Petty. I think the Heartbreakers/Mudcrutch were later and more Gainesville-based. Before Disney, Florida was a big state comprised of small and mid-sized towns miles apart, both geographically and culturally. Back then at least, most any serious musician got out ASAP — at least as far as Macon or Atlanta — or kept going to Nashville, NY or the West Coast.
    Strothmann: Do you have any stories about Tommy/Joey/others?
    Schell: The group was pretty reserved offstage — so no stories of the hotel-trashing genre, I’m afraid.
    Joey was the glue. And his LA story is the classic tale. According to Badfinger mythology, Joey was making ends meet by laying carpet in the San Fernando Valley when the Airwaves project was born. I completely related to that. I paid the rent by tuning pianos when I first got to town.
    Tom was a man of few words. I really didn’t get to know him well at all. Tony’s a nice guy. He had his own social circle. When the rest of us would go for a drink after, he’d head for the beach. Tony’s got a great resumé (laughs).
    Last but not least would be Pete, our manager and Tommy’s chauffeur, and very much an indispensible part of the unit. He spoke US English like me, and was one of those amazing people who can keep a level head full of details amid the most stressful or chaotic of circumstances.
    Although we never met, I admired Joe Tansin a great deal after studying his work on Airwaves. I believe, like myself, he prefers the more controlled environment of the studio, and his performances reflect that craftsman-like approach. Personally, I think they should have held onto Joe.
    Strothmann: When you left, was it in that you had done your job with them, or was it a parting of ways? What did you do after that?
    Schell: It was a parting. Not due to different visions of the path forward, but rather a lack thereof. I was just the first of many thru the revolving door.
    After that, … Well, it looked like Joe Walsh & Timothy Schmit were in the Eagles for the long run (pun intended), and Fleetwood Mac was dissolving — so, with little remaining of the 70s, I welcomed the eighties and New Wave enthusiastically. A few projects in and out of the studio and a whole lot of fun. Then in the mid 80s I came to my senses. (laughs)
    Strothmann: How did you find out about Tommy’s passing?
    Schell: Somewhat symmetrically, I found out in much the same way I learned of Pete Ham’s passing: Someone said to me, “Did you know…?” The Business was very, very hard on those guys. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars it didn’t consume me like it did them and so many others I admired.
    Strothmann: You say that Tommy was very quiet during your time with them. He battled severe depression; the tragedies he had to endure must have made things much more chaotic too. I know it may not be easy to recall, but did Tommy seem to be quiet because maybe he was depressed? …because normally people say Tommy was a wild man (laughs).
    Schell: Not hard to recall. (Well, yeah, sometimes it is: It was 1979.) Just to clarify: I said Tommy was a man of few words, not that he was quiet (laughs). Again, I didn’t know Tommy well — definitely not well enough to assess his state of mind. But I’ve had the mixed blessing of working closely with talented, highly creative people often enough, and I know what we call their “gift” is hardly without cost. They pay dearly for their work product in ways we cannot imagine — even in the best of times.   §§§