Badfinger were typical of many bands that have their origins in the sixties. After learning their trade, performing cover versions of popular tunes of the day, notably the Beatles in their case, songwriting and composing talent starts to surface and the desire to produce more home-grown material becomes more and more important.
There was, and still is albeit to a much lesser extent, amongst all up-and-coming bands, the urgent desire to become signed to a record label. In those days this was virtually sacrosanct, it had to be done if the band was to flourish.
The rise and fall of Badfinger
The band were originally from Swansea and had made a pretty good name for themselves, originally having been known as The Iveys. They appeared often at venues in their local area and were frequently billed as support for major touring bands such as The Who, The Moody Blues, The Spencer Davis Group and others of that ilk.
After considerable efforts from their manager, Bill Collins and with help and considerable intervention from Mal Evans, who was an aide and assistant to the Beatles, the band were signed to Apple – the Beatle’s own record label. They were the first act to be signed to Apple who did not originate in the Beatles.
The Iveys first single received a mixed reception ranging from good, (top ten placings in Europe and Japan), in some countries to being completely ignored in the UK and failing to chart.
The breakthrough came when Paul McCartney offered the band one of his songs, “Come And Get It” which he had written for the film, Magic Christian. It was recorded along strict guidelines laid down by Paul and, predictably, sold by the truckload, over a million copies worldwide and reaching number 4 in the UK charts.
Just prior to the single’s release, in 1969, a name change was agreed upon. Badfinger was suggested by an Apple executive and won over the other suggestions from the Fab Four which included “Home,” “The Cagney’s” and “Glass Onion.”
Pete Ham’s “No Matter What” became the next best seller, having first been declined by Apple for release as a single it went on to reach number 5 in the UK charts and was the first Badfinger written release to appear in the UK top ten. Interestingly, it is reported that this song was originally included in the film “Wayne’s World” but later edited out due to copyright issues.
No longer dependent on other songwriters to such an extent, Pete Ham and Tom Evans went on to prove this beyond any shadow of doubt when they penned “Without You” which appeared on the “No Dice” album and became a massive hit for Nilsson in 1972. Later that same year they received an Ivor Novello award for that song.
The good times, however, did not continue to roll and problems at Apple along with poor performance from the band’s management led to financial difficulties and personnel changes.
By 1975, lawsuits in progress and the band’s finances in ruin, it all got a bit too much for Pete Ham and he ended it all by hanging himself in his garage/studio at his Woking home.
Pete Ham died on the morning of 24th April 1975 leaving an unborn daughter and his girlfriend Anne Herriot.
It would be fair to say that Tom Evans never got over the death of his friend and colleague. He was involved in a reunion and reforming of the band and released a couple of albums as such but with no real commercial success. By 1983 things had deteriorated significantly and money issues were still a significant part of the band’s life.
On 19th November 1983 it all became too much for Tom and, after an argument with Joey Molland over royalties and the like, he took his own life in the same manner as Pete Ham, by hanging himself.
The financial and management matters were clearly bad and looking for blame could lead one to delve into quite murky waters but one thing remains clear – Badfinger, as a band, as songwriters and as performers did their job very well indeed – Badfinger were good, very good.
Badfinger – Essential Listening
My selections for you to become familiar with Badfinger would have to be, No Matter What (2010 – Remaster) and Come And Get It (2010 – Remaster) those two singles being pretty much essential listening. Album wise, the following will not disappoint:
No Dice – Remastered 2010: “No Matter What” came from this album and the other tracks are equally worth listening to although not always as obviously suited to single release. A pretty impressive first album though and well worth download/buying .
A compilation, “Come And Get It”: Includes “No Matter What” & “Come And Get It” good value with most of the good stuff on it.
Official Badfinger website: http://badfingeruk.com/