#138 & 139 – Baby Blue by Badfinger
I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but The Classic Rocker is all about memories. I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but The Classic… oh, wait. Sometimes I do.
So, after making that guideline clear and understandable, let me say this song brings back a big one. Except there’s a twist. Baby Blue had nothing to do with the following memory. It had already been a hit decades before and wasn’t even being played while I had an experienced memory of a lifetime.
Baby Blue appears on my digital playlists more than any other song by Badfinger. That’s saying a lot because this band had four fab hits within a short time period in the late sixties and early seventies that I still enjoy. In addition to Baby Blue, I’m referring to Come and Get It, No Matter What and Day After Day. And the use of fab was on purpose since the Badfinger quartet was signed to Apple Records, which was owned by the original Fab Four quartet.
It also didn’t hurt that their first hit was written and produced by Paul McCartney, and they were introduced as members of George Harrison’s backup band during The Concert for Bangladesh. But after Baby Blue was released in 1972 and scored as another big hit on college radio, the band’s story turned tragic. The dark side of the music business hit these guys full force with devastating bad deals and lost fortunes resulting in two suicides within the group. It wasn’t anywhere near the rock and roll lifestyle fantasy you’d expect for a band scoring hits on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.
Baby Blue turned up twice as a Dream Song thanks to the mysterious workings of the waking mind. As mentioned, it’s frequently on my playlists which is probably why it appears twice in the recent memory category. In other words, I had just heard it. And both times, on September 29 and November 28, my waking brain forgot to remember about my days rocking out to college radio. Instead, it took a mysterious turn to a sold-out show decades later in a comedy club.
Here’s the story…
In the fall of 1994, my wife Deceptive Deb (not exactly a handed-down traditional family name) and I were still newlyweds and about five months into our permanent arrangement of everlasting love. Since we weren’t exactly teenagers (far from it), one of our dreams was to have a baby and still be young enough to enjoy hanging out with him or her before we’re the ones being fitted out for diapers and daycare. Our clock was ticking but we didn’t know when – or even if – it would happen.
I had also just embarked on a new career as a newspaper columnist. Yes, in 1994 people still read newspapers. It was only after I realized they weren’t that The Classic Rocker was born as a digital, online rambling of words.
One of my weekly columns was about the comedy scene in Cleveland, Ohio. Since I had worked with many comedians during my career in New York and Los Angeles, this employment meant I’d get to hang around with my friends when they were in the city and watch their shows in clubs and theaters without paying for anything. Not a bad gig, except when I’d receive my paychecks and realized the newspaper was also keeping me hanging around without paying for anything.
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A couple weeks in advance I learned one of our favorite comedians would be performing at a large comedy club in Cleveland called Hilarities. This was a huge venue for a “club” and could seat over five hundred comedy fans per show. Thanks to the comic’s popularity his shows were sold out, but also thanks to my important newspaper credentials, Deceptive Deb and I would have a table in a prime location two or three rows from center stage on a Friday night.
In the days before this laugh fest, I remember walking into our kitchen a few times to find Deceptive Deb in the middle of low-key, almost whispering, phone conversations. What’s up with that? But after delivering that standard question I would receive the standard “You’re an idiot” look that husbands can detect from great distances. Even as a newlywed I had already learned it’s best to play the part of an idiot in these cases and not to ask any more questions.
We arrived for the comedy show and nothing about the evening seemed any different than the countless times we had been at the club before. The owner and manager had become friends and we were led to our table at the prime location. We ordered drinks and it didn’t faze me that Deceptive Deb had a Pepsi while I went for a beer. I figured that was a clear signal she would be the designated driver and I might have another (or two) by the end of the night.
We watched the two opening comics and were ready for the show’s headliner. But instead of the MC appearing on stage to make the introduction, the manager walked up to the microphone and asked for the audience’s attention. Probably not expecting the unexpected, it seemed like all five hundred (plus) people in the showroom quieted down and waited for him to make an important announcement. I had no idea what he would say and thought maybe some lucky audience member would be gifted with a new car or a free vacation to a tropical island.
It was neither. Oprah was not in the audience.
He was holding a champagne bucket filled with ice and a bottle of bubbly decorated with bows and ribbons. Once again, I had no idea and might have assumed it was for somebody’s birthday or possibly Oprah’s arrival.
It was neither. Instead, he called out my name and asked if I was in the audience. Okay…
He knew I was in the audience since he had walked us to our table and had even hung out for a few moments to talk. A bit caught off guard but always ready to roll with the punch(lines), I went with the “joke,” raised my hand and called out, “I’m over here!” He looked at me, held up the bucket and said, “This is for you!”
What was up with that? I had no clue…
He walked off stage and came to our table, bringing the microphone with him. The spotlights followed and next thing we knew, Deceptive Deb and I were the stars of the show. He placed the champagne bucket on the table and handed me an envelope. But before I had a chance to open it, he told me to stand and read it out loud into the microphone.
I still had no clue. But I did know this…
The Classic Rocker has no problem being the center of attention and talking in public. It’s called “showbiz” and when the spotlight is on – I’m on!
I stood up, opened the card, and started reading. The sold-out audience stayed quiet, probably hoping I would change my name to Oprah and award them with cars or vacations. Deceptive Deb stayed seated and looked as confused as I did with everything that was going on.
Note to the Academy Awards – this moment should have earned her a nomination for Best Actress. I continued to read into the microphone…
“Congratulations!” the card said on the front. I opened it – still with no clue – and continued out loud…
“You’ve knocked-up your wife!”
The next few memory moments are a blur, but I’ll guarantee they included shock and surprise. I have a mental picture of looking up with bulging eyes and a wide-open mouth as the audience erupted with BIG cheers and applause. Deceptive Deb stood up, we hugged and… Well, like I said, it was and still is a blur.
It turned out her whispered and secretive phone calls were setting me up for this big moment. Nice one… to say the least!!
We must have eventually sat down because I’ve retained a memory of not standing through the rest of the evening. The champagne cork was popped and I’m sure I had a glass of the bubbly and Deceptive Deb possibly a sip or two, before it was time to continue the show. After the headliner, who was (and still is) known as one of the funniest insult comedians in the biz and someone I’d known for years, was introduced he stood on stage and glared at our table. He finally spoke into the microphone:
“My show was f***’n delayed for YOU?!”
Again, the audience cheered, I waved, and we were back to laughing. If there was a category in Dream Songs for the best comedy show I’ve ever attended, this was it.
So, to get back to what we were talking about earlier, Baby Blue was never heard that night. But hearing it today brings back the blur of that evening, which was also my first experience with a baby of our own. Things were never really the same after that, my baby blue
For whatever reasons, WordPress won’t allow me to include a video of Badfinger performing Baby Blue. But you can check it out on YouTube at this LINK.
Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.
For information about author presentations for both books – including rare concert films – visit BeatlesProgram.com
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