BADFINGER: BEATLES PRODUCED BAND

“BABY BLUE”/ BADFINGER: THE AMAZING SAGA OF A BAND

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

 

 

 

 

 

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9 thoughts on ““BABY BLUE”/ BADFINGER: THE AMAZING SAGA OF A BAND

  1. larryallenmusic

    Great post and a truly great band! I remember all the rumors swirling around about them in the early 70’s, that they were actually the Beatle’s in disguise and what not. Being on the Apple label and so much real Beatle’s involvement only fueled the fire, I guess. And the fact that their songs were ubiquitous on Top 40 radio in those days. I seem to remember that for a while you never saw both bands in the same place and there was a big hoo-rah over that, too. I guess everyone just wanted to believe the Beatles would get back together, even if under disguise! My favorite was “Day After Day”. Thanks for your insights, Alan!

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    1. Ron Griffiths

      Hello Alan. I am writing in protest at the misleading information in paragraph three on the Badfinger article. Yes the band originated in south Wales , however, Joey Molland was never in The Iveys , and was not in the band when we recorded our first two singles and albums on signing to Apple records.I am continually air-brushed out of the band’s history by this man and Joey does not need any more assistance ! A correction or reproduced piece would be appreciated. Many thanks . Ron Griffiths ( original member ofIveys and Badfinger )

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  2. Ron Griffiths

    I do not know who put the article above in the public domain , but I wish to protest as loudly as I can about being ” airbrushed” out of the band’s history. In paragraph three it states ” The four band members were originally from south Wales “. Joey Molland wasn’t ( a) from south Wales and (b) wasn’t in the band when we signed to Apple Records. He was not on the first two singles or the first two albums. Any chance of a retraction or correction would be appreciated.

    Yours most sincerely.

    Ron Griffiths.

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    1. Alan L. Chrisman Post author

      Ron, Thanks for responding to my Badfinger article. It’s a real privilege to hear from one of it’s founders. I would certainly be glad to make any changes about your original role in the Ivy’s and early Badfinger. As we all know, this band has, unfortunately, a very long history of in-fighting and a somewhat complex story. I didn’t say all members were from Wales, but also from Liverpool too(where Tom and Joey were from). My info said you left in Oct.’69 and Tom Evans moved to the bass position you had occupied, when Molland joined around that time. You say you were on the 1st two singles and 1st two albums( Maybe Tomorrow). Again its a bit confusing because those a singles and albums were only evidently originally released in Japan, Germany, and Germany. My Canadian copy of Magic Christian Music Apple Lp ha says on liner notes at top”Tom playing bass” But you are listed as composer of “Angie” (which is one of my favorite songs on it, by the way). So when exactly Ivy’s transitioned to Badfinger is unclear exactly and who played what on each song. But anything you can do to clear these things up would be much appreciated. And as I say, I will be glad to make any changes if you send me the information.I have long been a Badfinger fan, and my main goal was to at least expose, perhaps younger people especially, to this great band. Thanks again for your kind reply.

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    1. Alan L. Chrisman Post author

      Thanks Francie. I just replied to original Ivys and early Badfinger member, Ron Griffiths, himself.As told him I will be willing to make any necessary changes and include them if he sends me the additional info. My article was mainly about after the band became known as Badfinger. As you know, this band has a long history of in-fighting and it can be a confusing exactly who joined exactly when and who played on which songs, etc.. But like I said to Ron, if he provides the more detailed info i will try to include. Also As I explained to him, my main goal was to just get something out there to arouse the curiosity of, especially young people, who may not even know of this perhaps often underrated band. I grew up at the time of their music and they have always been my favorite band ever since, next to Beatles, on which I’m currently working on new book. Clearly with your name of “Ivy”, so are you a dedicated fan of The Ivy’s and Badfinger too. Thank for replying.

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  3. Danny Darcy

    I’d like to have read about their early days when the Ivy’s were back up to the Mojos at a Welsh gig & LewisCollins Mojos bassist )dad Bill approached the band to manage them, and any stories of their time
    At 7 Park Avenue Hampstead which they shared with the Mojos, their guitarist Nick said he was there when Peter was composing Without you . Both the Mojos & Peter had different
    songs out called 7 Park Avenue, both brilliant bands, the house should be included on that rock tour bus
    Of London. Many parties there where even local lad Ray Davies dropped in.

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  4. Jose Nieves

    Mike’s last name is spelled Gibbins not Gibbons. Also, he released solo albums after Badfinger with very good songs.

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