The Badlees Story

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Fred Shade was an executive for A&M Records who worked out of Philadelphia and whose primary mission was making sure that A&M artists were played regularly on radio stations throughout Pennsylvania. This was kind of a systematic and predictable routine, being there was a finite amount of stations that catered to any specific genre, each with a finite amount air time, especially during the coveted, prime "drive time" hours. But during the spring of 1995, Shade was baffled by the fact that he was having difficulty getting as much air time for A&M artists, due to these stations dedicating some of this time to an unsigned local band. After doing some research into the band, Shade decided to check them out himself and drove to a Badlees performance at a night club. Not only was he won over by the performance, but Fred Shade soon began to champion the band within A&M itself.

In preparation for the push of the second single from River Songs, "Fear of Falling", Terry Selders took some measures that he had not before, but was confident would be beneficial in this situation. First, he hired a professional radio promoter to handle the arduous task of actually getting the song onto those stations during those prime hours. Also, the band hired a professional film maker to shoot a music video for the song.

The video was shot in and around Harrisburg over the course of a few days. There were color live performance shots from a show at the Metron, interspersed with black and white footage of the band members along the riverfront and on a walking bridge (which happened to be destroyed less than a year later in a massive flood). The end result was a well produced, professional video the nicely captured the mood of the song as well as introduced the band to a video audience in an adequate fashion. The only minor flaw of this video was the decision to truncate the climatic coda section of the song for time saving purposes.

"Fear of Falling" Video on YouTube

When River Songs was initially released, Selders pitched it to several major labels and each, including A&M had turned it down. A few months later, with independent sales of the album topping 10,000, the impressive success of two singles, and with Fred Shades working the system from within the company, there was clear interest in signing the Badlees to the newly-merged A&M subsidiary label Polydor/Atlas. But the band was not rash in their decision to jump on board, because they knew their stock was quickly rising and they wanted to land the best deal possible. Soon, other labels showed interest such as Lava and Columbia Records. In fact, one night in the summer of '95 representatives from Columbia drove down in a limo from New York City to a Badlees gig on the Jersey shore. Selders remembers that they brought the entire band and crew out to dinner where they negotiated the terms of a possible record deal. The establishment was having karaoke that night and Terry found it fascinating that all these novice singers came up to sing their songs, completely obvious to the fact that a potential million dollar record deal was being negotiated between a rock band and Columbia records a mere twenty feet from where they were performing their karaoke.

With this growing interest in the Badlees by multiple major labels, Polydor made the next big move to attract the band to their label. On July 18, 1995 the entire band was flown to Los Angeles and given the "star" treatment. They were given a personal tour of Charlie Chaplin Studios in Hollywood, which was then the headquarters of A&M Records. Later they were taken to dinner at Mezzaluna Restaurant in Brentwood, which was very famous at the time due to its role in the O.J. Simpson murder case. While at the restaurant, Terry was on the phone with his attorney, ironing out the final details of a deal that the Badlees would sign that night.

The deal with Polydor/Atlas was for two albums, River Songs and a future album, in exchange for a substantial sum of upfront money to the band and national tour support by the record company to help sell the albums. River Songs was accepted by the company "as is", with no further production required for the national release. The fact that an independently produced album, recorded outside the major studio system, would be released by a national label in its original form is was an absolutely incredible feat for the time.

For the band members, the signing was more of a relief than a euphoric high. They were all around the age of thirty and had worked for many years to get to this point and looked at the signing with Polydor as just another step along the way. In fact, after they signed the deal in California, they flew home to Pennsylvania and played a scheduled gig in a mid-sized bar that very night.

Polydor’s strategy for single releases mirrored that of Terry Selder's earlier strategy, but in the opposite order. They began by pushing "Fear of Falling", which had already entered the U.S. mainstream rock chart at the time of the signing, and would later put emphasis on "Angeline Is Coming Home" in early 1996, with "Gwendolyn" becoming the third single released from the national album in the summer of ‘96. River Songs was released nationally in mid October 1995 with the exact same mixes and artwork as the Rite-Off release that previous February, changing only the sequence of the first four songs in an ill-advised move to place the "hits" right up front.

The Badlees would spend the next year and a half constantly playing, usually as a supporting act for a national headliner. Their first really big show was opening up for Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page & Robert Plant in front of an audience of about 17,000 at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo, NY on Thursday, October 19, 1995. Later they would join tours for Bob Segar, Greg Allman, The Gin Blossoms, and Edwin McCain, among others and perform throughout North America.

In March of 1996, the band shot a video for "Angeline Is Coming Home". The video was directed by Anthony Edwards, an actor then staring on the television drama E.R. Edward's co-star on the show, Emmy award-winning actress Juliana Margulies, was cast to play the "Angeline" character in the video. Edwards was a personal friend of Nick Gatfield, then president of the Polydor/Atlas label, who pitched the video idea to the band. The video was shot right there on the Chaplin soundstage at A&M, which was the same location where many famous music videos were created, such as "Every Breath You Take" by The Police, "Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker, Jr., and the star-studded video for "We Are the World" in 1985.

A full crew of about 60 people worked on the video for "Angeline" and would carry a price tag of over $100,000. Terry Selders half-jokingly says that the catering bill alone was almost as much as the entire cost of the "Fear of Falling" video, shot in Harrisburg a year earlier. The band would later reveal that they were less than satisfied with the end results of the "Angeline" video and come to nickname it “Very Expensive Mistake”.

"Angeline Is Coming Home" video on YouTube

The video did play on VH1 for a short duration and the song itself ultimately reached the Billboard’s Top 40 and climbed to #20 on the mainstream rock charts, making "Angeline Is Coming Home" the biggest chart success of the Badlees career. Having the marketing efforts of a major label like Polydor and being included on major arena tours were definite factors in the Badlees growing national popularity.

However, this was also a kind of double-edged sword. As a supporting act, the shows they played were limited to 35-45 minutes in duration, with their song selections strictly confined to those off of River Songs. Also, the label began touting the band as "the next Hootie and the Blowfish", a short-sighted and rather inaccurate claim that diminished the Badlees' already rich legacy by insinuating that they were all about the latest fads and commercial success. Still, the band soldiered on through 1996, accepting whichever tour Polydor asked them to do, sometimes with only a few days notice to pack up and be at a certain city to perform for 10,000 people or more.

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