The holy trinity of power pop to me is…Badfinger, Big Star, and The Raspberries…those were the 70s pioneers. Badfinger was the most successful out of the three…hit wise anyway. You can hear later bands like Cheap Trick, The Posies, The Cars, Teenage Fanclub, Matthew Sweet, and even KISS get something from each three.
My love for this song is over the top. Baby Blue, to these ears, is the perfect power pop song. It has the right combination of the British crunch and pop with an irresistible guitar riff. Lets talk about that guitar riff. I know there are other good rock riffs but the perfection in this one is sensational. He plays a variant of it through the song that is always changing plus a walk down or two. Nothing is always clearly defined as verses and choruses and that is just pure brilliance. The solo is simple but fits perfectly. No nuance in this song is wasted…it was in there for the good of the song…not meant to be flashy.
It’s a hook here, a hook there, and a hook everywhere…and…I’ve been hooked since I first heard it. Everything blends. Even the ending is perfect. On top of that it was produced by a power pop guy Todd Rundgren.
You can hear a young Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick listening and learning from this.
I had gone through Han’s entire album draft without mentioning my name sake…Badfinger…I’m here to rectify that now. I learned about Badfinger as a wee young kid who thought “Come and Get It” was a long-lost Beatle song. I found out more about them and bought the album Straight Up. I liked many of their album cuts more than their hits.
As they went along they started to move away from the power pop genre because of the too close Beatle connection. They kept being compared to the Beatles which is impossible to live up to. During live performances they became a jam band to distance themselves more. Later on, they made some excellent albums that no one heard because of a manager who would make Allen Klein (Satan, snake, etc) look good. Arguably the most tragic story in rock and roll…but that is for another day. We are looking now at Badfinger in 1972 before the rug was pulled out from underneath them.
A year ago or so I posted a ranking of my favorite power pop songs. Baby Blue was at the top of my list before I wrote it, during the process of writing it, and is still at the top. The others have changed places depending on my mood but not this one.
The song peaked at #14 in the Billboard 100 in 1972. The “Dixie” in the song was Pete Ham’s ex-girlfriend, Dixie Armstrong whom he’d met during the band’s US tour of 1971. Dixie was from Wichita Kansas (thanks run-sew-read).
The song was revitalized again in the great show Breaking Bad. I’m happy that Breaking Bad showcased this song so that another generation knows the song and hopefully that will lead more people to learn about Badfinger. After the show’s finale with this song…the song entered the charts again.
*** Here is the clip from Breaking Bad…but warning…it has a major spoiler for those who haven’t watched it.
Or you can watch them below that with an awkwardly cool Kenny Rogers introducing them. The music is not live but the vocals are…they are playing to a backing track (such was TV at the time)…but listen to those live voices…. they are plugged in so they are probably playing low along with the backing track.
Guess I got what I deserved
Kept you waiting there too long, my love
All that time without a word
Didn’t know you’d think that I’d forget or I’d regret
The special love I had for you, my baby blue
All the days became so long
Did you really think, I’d do you wrong?
Dixie, when I let you go
Thought you’d realize that I would know
I would show the special love I have for you, my baby blue
What can I do, what can I say
Except I want you by my side
How can I show you, show me the way
Don’t you know the times I’ve tried?
Guess that’s all I have to say
Except the feeling just grows stronger every day
Just one thing before I go
Take good care, baby, let me know, let it grow
The special love you have for me, my Dixie, dear.