Badfinger were the most storied of the Beatles imitators because they
were actually on the Beatles' label, Apple, in the early '70s. And
Paul McCartney wrote their best-known hit, "Come and Get It." And they
suffered a great deal at the hands of evil managers and record
companies. Still, there's maybe half an hour of good music in their
entire oeuvre, all of which you can definitely lead a meaningful
existence without ever having heard.
Their guitarist/vocalist was Pete Ham, a figure so minor in rock
history that his suicide by hanging somehow went unnoticed by Greil
Marcus in his scabrous essay "Rock Death in the '70s: A Sweepstakes."
But that doesn't stop the archivists at Rykodisc from clogging up our
cultural landfills with more garbage. For Golders Green is
literally garbage demos, instrumentals, fuck-arounds and bouts
of lost confidence (like the 22-second "Gonna Do It") that Ham never
intended for regular release.
So anyone who listens attentively to this disc is akin to A. J.
Weberman, the journalist who stole Bob Dylan's garbage in 1970. Not
much was discovered then beyond the fact that Dylan spelled vanilla
with two n's. There's even less to learn about Pete Ham simply because
he's an infinitely less interesting figure than Dylan. In fact, the
major revelation of Golders Green is that reissue labels are
threatening to become indistinguishable from such dubious professions
as handwriting analysis, numerology and Titanic grave robbery.
And so it goes. "Goodbye John Frost" (RealAudio excerpt) sounds like "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da."
"Without You" ([RealAudio excerpt] which Nilsson and Mariah Carey would later rescue with
a properly improper dose of schlock) sounds like "A Day in the Life"
AND "I Am the Walrus." "Pete's Walk" is a waste-of-time instrumental.
The Beatles were well-known for their instrumentals remember
"Flying" from Magical Mystery Tour? Oh, you don't? Hmmm ...
The liner notes do little to illuminate this detritus. Clueless
observations like " 'Dawn' is a true forerunner to a unique musical
style popularized by Stevie Wonder (Talking Book period) and
early Chicago" or "The strains of Pete requesting another cigarette
signals the opening of 'When the Feeling' " serve only to reinforce
the package's neurotic insularity. Golders Green is for "pop
music" fans who only know to delve deeper into their cultist idols
rather than dealing with the messy existence of the Backstreet Boys,
Limp Bizkit, Ricky Martin, Sarah McLachlan or Too $hort pop
music in actuality rather than in theory.
Phony Beatlemania will never bite the dust; but is it so much to ask
that Beatles-imitator mania die out?