Sunday, November 1, 2009

Deep Bands- Badfinger

Badfinger - Straight Up

Picture: Cover of the Straight Up album.
L to R: Joey Molland, Tom Evans, Pete Ham, and Mike Gibbins.
PS: I could not find ANY copyright free pictures of Badfinger.

Once seen as the Beatles’ apprentices, Badfinger were supposed to be the next great thing. The band, formed in Swansea, Wales, had some success but in the end Badfinger may have the saddest story in rock n roll.

In 1965, a band called the Iveys were making a name for themselves. The band consisted of Pete Ham (guitar/vocals), Roy Anderson (drums/vocals), Ron Griffiths (bass/vocals), and Dai Jenkins (guitar/vocals). Anderson and Jenkins left after only a short time and were replaced by Mike Gibbins and Tom Evans. In 1968, the Iveys were signed to Apple Records. Apple Records was a new record label found by the Beatles. In 1969, Maybe Tomorrow was released. The self-titled track was chosen as the single and had the potential of being a hit. Sales were disappointing and the band needed help to stay alive. That same year the band worked on Magic Christian Music, the soundtrack to the comedy movie The Magic Christian starring Ringo Starr and Pete Sellers. Griffiths left the band and before the album was released in 1970, the band changed their name to Badfinger. The name came from the working title of the Beatles hit “With A Little Help from My Friends” (“Badfinger Boogie”). Beatles road manager Neil Aspinal suggested the name and it worked. The band also hired guitarist Joey Molland to replace Griffiths. Evans switched over to bass. When Magic Christian Music was released the single, “Come and Get It”, written by Paul McCartney, became an instant hit.

In 1970, Badfinger got to work on their next album. That album, No Dice, is now seen as the band’s first good album. The album contained songs such as “No Matter What” and “Midnight Caller”. However, the standout track was the Ham/Evans written ballad, “Without You”. It wasn’t much of a hit but singer Harry Nillson made it a hit a year later. No Dice did fairly well in the charts, reaching #28. In 1971, George Harrison helped produce the band’s next album Straight Up. Harrison had to quit his job not long after as he was organizing a charity concert for Bangladesh. Harrison made it up to them and invited the band to join him onstage for the concert. Pete Ham, Tom Evans, and Joey Molland were playing accoustic guitars and were hard to hear while Mike Gibbons was playing percussion. Jealousy arose when Harrison invited Ham to play “Here Comes the Sun” at the concert. Todd Rundgren replaced Harrison as producer for Straight Up, which was released in 1971. Despite having hits with “Baby Blue” and “Day After Day”, the album tanked in the charts and received a number of negative reviews. Ironically, the album is now thought to be one of the band’s best.

Back in 1970, Badfinger were under new management when they picked Stan Polley as their new bussiness manager with Bill Collins still as their manager. In 1972, the New York Times published an article that stated that Polley was a “bagman” for the Mafia at one time. Family and friends advised the band to be careful but the band decided to stay with Polley, which would soon be the band’s downfall.

In 1973, Ass was released. It would the last album by the band released on Apple Records as Badfinger had now switched to Warner Brothers Records at Polley’s suggestion. A self-titled album was released in 1974 and failed to do anything. Despite this, the band recorded their next album in Colorado in Baribou Ranch. That album, Wish You Were Here, was critically praised by Rolling Stone magazine. Fans today cite the album as the band’s best album. However, Polley’s management had not been in touch with Warner. Polley was now the cause of the band’s finanical problems (which I can’t understand so I won’t go into them so much). Polley tried to get Pete Ham signed as a solo artist as he had left the band briefly after a 1974 tour. When he rejoined three weeks later, the band was now a five piece band with keyboardist Bob Jackson in 1974. Joey Molland quit the band soon after a short UK tour due to tensions in the band.

Two weeks in late 1974, the band (now a four-piece band again) had recorded material for what would become the album, Head First. Polley gave the tapes to Warner Brothers, who refused to release as $100,000 advanced payment was missing from an escrow account. As a result, distribution of Wish You Were Here was stopped everywhere in December 1974. Head First was finally released in 2000.

Badfinger spent the first months of 1975 trying to figure out how to get out of their financial siutation. By April, the band wasn’t recieveing any salaries. Pete Ham was very fed up with this. At the time, Ham was about to become a father to his girlfriend Anne’s baby daughter. On April 24, 1975 the unthinkable happened. Anne woke up in the morning to find Ham, hanging in this studio garage. Ham was dead at the age of 27. His suicide note read,

“Anne, I love you. Blair (Anne’s son) I love you. I will not be allowed to trust or love everybody. This is better.- Pete

P.S.: Stan Polley is a soulless (sic) bastard. I will take him with me.”

Without any question, Badfinger was over in April 1975. However in 1979, Tom Evans and Joey Molland reformed Badfinger and released an album called Airwaves. The new band toured with ever changing line-ups. Some of these line-ups included Mike Gibbons and Bob Jackson. After 1981’s Say No More was released, Molland quit Badfinger due to tensions with Evans. Molland formed his own version of Badfinger, which got Evans pissed. Evans continued with his version and had Bob Jackson in the band as a permanent member while Mike Gibbons joined on occasion. However in 1983, finacial troubles caught up to Badfinger again. Evans was asked by former manager Bill Collins for a share in the royalties for “Without You”. Early in the morning of November 19, 1983 Evans and Molland had a heated argument on the phone about the band’s income and the “Without You” royalties Evans had. When Evans’ wife woke up hours later, she discovered Evans…hanging in the backyard by a tree. Evans was now dead at the age of 36.

In the early 1990’s, singer Mariah Carey had a hit with her version of “Without You”. Also in 2000, an episode of Behind the Music aired on Badfinger. Today, Joey Molland continues to tour with his version of Badfinger. Mike Gibbons kept drumming until his death on October 4, 2005 at the age of 56 due to natural causes. Bob Jackson continues to play keyboards for different bands. In 2006, I got to interview Jackson via email. Pete Hams daughter, Petera Ham, appeared at the 2006 Badfinger convention along with Tom Evans’ son Stephen and bob Jackson.

Recommended albums: No Dice, Straight Up, and Wish You Were Here

Personal thoughts: I like Straight Up the most but still, I really like Wish You Were Here.

Recommended songs: No Matter What, Come and Get It, Day After Day, Without You, We’re For The Dark, Midnight Caller, Baby Blue, Timeless, When I Say, Maybe Tomorrow, Dennis, and Meanwhile Back At The Ranch/Should I Smoke

Recommended compilation: The Very Best of Badfinger, released in 2000. You can easily buy a copy on Amazon. Make sure you don’t get any re-recorded hits. This one has the original recordings. Plus, it was my first Badfinger CD. I then got No Dice and Straight Up. Wish You Were Here can easily be downloaded for a cheap price ($8.91 or cheaper). That’s what I did but you can buy a reissue from 2007 on Amazon also.

Also if you go YouTube, try looking for the Behind the Music episode on Badfinger. Highly informative, despite missing some things. Just type in “Badfinger behind the music”.

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