BADFINGER: THE AMAZING SAGA OF A BAND
By Alan Chrisman (All Articles written BY ALAN CHRISMAN), copyright 2014.
Badfinger has always been one of my favorite bands. Badfinger was a Beatles-produced band in the early 70’ who had 4 albums and 4 top hit singles on the Beatles’ label, Apple Records. Amazingly, one of my favorite songs by them “Baby Blue” had a resurgence in 2013, as it was chosen for the final episode of the popular Breaking Bad TV show, and it ended up back in the charts at no. 14. Some people may not know they also wrote the song, ”Without You” which Harry Nilsson had a number one hit with in 1972 and Mariah Carey in ’94.
Originally called The Iveys, they were formed in ’64, a Welsh band consisting of Pete Ham(lead guitar), Ron Griffiths(bass) and Dave Jenkins(rhythm guitar) Roy Anderson (later Mike Gribbons on drums) and named after a street in Swansea. In Aug.’67, Jenkins was replaced by Liverpudian Tom Evans. They were the first non-Beatles band signed to The Beatles’ new Apple label in 1968. They released some songs and Ep’s, “Maybe Tomorrow” and “Storm in a Tea Cup” (written by Evans) and ) “Angie”(written by Griffiths), and produced by later Bowie producer, Tony Visconti ,and Beatles’ roadie, Mal Evans, who was instrumental in getting them signed with The Beatles. They changed their name to “Badfinger”,after an incident when John Lennon had hurt his finger playing what was later to be the Beatles’ song, “With A Little Help from My Friends.” They released their 1st Lp, with some of the above songs from the soundtrack of a film Ringo was appearing in with Peter Sellers, The Magic Christian and their 1st album was called Magic Christian Music. Around this time, Liverpudian guitarist Joey Molland (who even looked like McCartney) replaced Griffiths and Evans moved over to bass. Paul McCartney produced and gave them a song he had written,“Come and Get It”,and told them if they just sang it like he said, it would be a hit. He also produced it (some fans thought at the time that it was actually McCartney singing it, comparisons with The Beatles and their harmonies, also that would somewhat shadow them), even though they had their own sound and were all excellent songwriters too. But he was right and it became a big worldwide smash. Their next album, “No Dice” had the aforementioned “Without You” and “No Matter What” hits released in 1970. Their 3rd Apple release was the solid “Straight Up” LP, produced by George Harrison and Todd Rundgren with the hits, “Baby Blue” and “Day After Day”. They also played on several Beatles’ solo albums like Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and Ringo’s single,”It Don’t Come Easy”. And they played at Harrison’s Bangladesh Benefit Concert in ’71 and Ham with Harrison for his “Here Comes The Sun” duet.
But then fate was to turn on this storied band, for the Beatles broke up in 1970, just at the height of Badfinger’s success, with their record label in lawsuits and Badfinger’s money too tied up for years afterward. They released their final album for Apple Ass in 1973, with their goodbye song ” Apple of My Eye”. Afterwards, they got a deal with Warners Bros label, and released two decent albums Badfinger and Wish You Were Here in 1974. But they also met an unscrupulous new manager and he disappeared with the advance money the record company had given them and that put them on the financial hook for his actions and Warners wouldn’t publicize their albums or release any future ones. They went back in Apple’s studio one last time to record Head First, but it wasn’t released until 2000. And it was only the beginning of their troubles, for their main songwriter, Pete Ham, was found hanged in April, 1975. The remaining members tried to carry on in various bands and solo projects for the next several years. Molland and Evans recorded a “comeback” album Back on The Airways for Electra in ’79. It’s actually, one of their best, I think, besides their Apple releases, with several quite good songs on it like the title rocker and the Beatlely ballad single, “Love Is Gonna Come at Last”; I recommend it if you can find it.
I actually met the remaining members and got their autographs when they played Ottawa, Canada’s Barrymore’s Hall in the early 80’s. They released another decent album “Say No More” in ’81. But soon they fell apart again and at one time, there were two rival touring bands, one led by Evans, one by Molland, both claiming to be Badfinger. This led to more lawsuits and money woes and tragically, in Nov. ’83, Tom Evans also committed suicide, still evidently despondent over his earlier bandmate, Pete Ham’s, death eight years before.
Thus Badfinger’s story became more known for its tragedy than its music often, unfortunately. All the members had recorded various solo projects that were finally released over the years: Pete Ham’s 7 Park Avenue (’97) and Golder’s Green (’99); Tom Evan’s Over You: The Final Tracks(’95) and Molland has 4 albums After The Pearl (’85), The Pilgrim(’92),This Way Up(2001) and Return To Memphis (2013). Badfinger fans are advised to check them out for they all contain some well-written songs. I met member, Joey Molland, again at the Connecticut Beatles’ Convention in’94 and he signed my beloved original Apple album Staight Up. Goldmine collector’s magazine said that Straight Up was the most requested out-of- print album in 1988 their subscribers wanted released again. Under pressure, Apple Records did re-release their Badfinger albums on CD , as Come And Get It: The Best Of Badfinger in 1995 and the Very Best Of Badfinger in 2000.
Finally, the surviving member of Badfinger, Molland, (drummer Gibbons died in Florida in 2005) and the other members’ families got their royalty payments settled in court. Pete Ham’s song “Without You” alone was worth over a half million dollars for his in ’94, when Mariah Carey had hit again with it. Breaking Bad’s TV airing caused a re-hit of “Baby Blue, 42 years after its first release and their music has only increased in respect over the years.
So the amazing story of Badfinger was to be fated both good (produced by and played with The Beatles) and bad. Dan Matovina’s book, Without You: The Tragic Story of Badfinger was written in 1998 and re-issued in 200O.
But to me, what’s important is their great music, that’s stood the test of time and I was lucky to get to meet them and hear them play their songs. Badfinger remains my favorite band (next to The Beatles) and their songs have proven to last. One of the bands I managed, played “ Baby Blue” , especially for me, at the Ottawa Beatles’ Conventions I organized. For You, Baby Blue.
Badfinger doing their original version of “Without You” performed by it’s composer, Pete Ham, in a rare TV performance: https://youtu.be/PPco24LS31A
Badfinger doing ” Baby Blue”: https://youtu.be/C53QAuOoSgc