Badfinger was the first band to be signed by Apple Records, but back then they were called The Iveys. Their first album, Maybe Tomorrow, was not considered a success, and the title song stalled at #67 on the singles chart in March of 1969. Enter Paul McCartney.
(Joey Molland [guitar], Mike Gibbins [drums], Pete Ham [guitar/keyboards] Tom Evans [bass] Pete, Tom & Joey did most of the lead vocals and songwriting.) [Do Joey & Pete look a bit like McCartney & Lennon to you?]
Paul McCartney knew Apple’s new band wasn’t happy with their progress…so he wrote a song for them…”Come And Get It”. He also made a complete demo of the song with him playing all the instruments. The band heard the song and liked it, but thought they might do it their own way. Paul told them that if they wanted a hit, they should perform it exactly like the demo. They did. “Come And Get It” was a #7 hit in Billboard’s Top Ten in early 1970, and broke the band internationally.
Before the release, there was one other piece of business. They needed a new name that sounded less lame. The Beatles had recorded a track at a time when John Lennon hurt his hand, and he was playing the piano with just one finger. They called the track “Bad Finger Boogie”. Long-time Beatles assistant Neil Aspinall suggested the band be named Badfinger, and it stuck.
“Come And Get It” was included in the movie The Magic Christian, which starred Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr. Another movie song “Carry On Till Tomorrow” (written by Pete Ham & Tom Evans) was produced by Paul McCartney and featured an arrangement by George Martin. Badfinger included those songs on their own album which they called Magic Christian Music to take advantage of the publicity generated by the movie.
Notable cuts included a couple of their Iveys’ recordings remixed…”Maybe Tomorrow” and “Dear Angie”, along with a cool rock track “Midnight Sun”.
Badfinger was able to follow up their success with another catchy Top 10 song, “No Matter What” (#8), from the album No Dice in late 1970. Other standout tracks included “Midnight Caller”, “We’re For The Dark” and “Without You”…with the line…”Can’t live, if living is without you”. The first time I heard “Without You” wasn’t by Badfinger, but by Harry Nilsson who had a #1 hit with his amazing cover version. My wife and I were driving home from a movie, we heard the song on the radio, and I said…”Someone’s been listening to Paul McCartney”. It was only later I found out it was written by Badfinger’s Pete Ham and Tom Evans. Badfinger was often compared to The Beatles, and that similarity showed in their songwriting, even through the filter of another vocalist.
Badfinger went back into Abbey Road Studios in January of 1971. Pete Ham and Tom Evans were producing a new album with the help of Beatles’ engineer Geoff Emerick. After they thought it was complete, Apple management rejected it as not being good enough. Enter George Harrison.
George had already worked with Badfinger when they helped him on his epic All Things Must Pass album. He produced four songs for Badfinger’s new album, Straight Up, including their biggest hit “Day After Day” (#4) on which Harrison plays a slide guitar duet with Pete Ham.
Harrison was called away for business in L.A., leading to the Bangladesh benefit concert at which Badfinger performed with Harrison. The remainder of the album was produced by Todd Rundgren. Among the cuts he produced was another hit “Baby Blue” (#14). The hits “Day” and “Blue” were key to the album’s success.
Above is the full lineup of songs on the 1993 CD release of Straight Up, including bonus tracks of the original Geoff Emerick versions. One of my favorites since the album’s release in late 1971 has been “Name Of The Game” which George Harrison produced. Then in 1993 I heard the original version that had been produced by Geoff Emerick, and liked it even better! That version is a little more uptempo and has horns arranged by George Martin. The Emerick versions of “Money” and “Flying” also include George Martin arrangements, and are better than the Todd Rundgren versions. Rundgren had sped up the recordings of those two songs, and the vocals sound thin (and a little like The Chipmunks). Special thanks to Dirt Cheap Records in Lincoln, Nebraska whose owner sold the CD to me before it officially went on sale.
Straight Up is considered Badfinger’s best album, and is referred to as a Power Pop classic. Just want to note that Pete Ham’s songwriting was at it’s peak. He wrote and sang the three best cuts…”Day After Day”, “Baby Blue” and “Name Of The Game”.
Badfinger’s career sputtered from there. They released three more albums with the four-man lineup, but the financial problems at Apple, a switch to Warner Brothers, and bad management (by Stan Polley) brought an end to the band’s success, and left them without the money they had earned.
The most tragic part of the Badfinger story is that Pete Ham became depressed and took his own life in 1975 at the age of 27…and that was followed by Tom Evans also taking his own life in 1993.
Badfinger fans are still saddened by what happened, but try to focus on all the great music the band created. Badfinger member Joey Molland was quoted as saying Pete and Tom would probably be surprised and happy about how their songs have stood the test of time.