Friday, June 03, 2011

Top 10 Artists: Badfinger

Back in the early to late 1990’s, my two closest friends were Matt and Kyle. We each had strong and quite different opinions on the best bands in the land. (Matt’s favorite band was Van Halen; Kyle’s favorite drummer was Ringo.)

The three of us all agreed on very few bands, but one of them was Badfinger.

Badfinger is one of my Top Ten Favorite Artists of All Time.

Their history is filled with bad luck and bad timing, and they never became as successful as they could have been. (Typical of their luck, their edition of Behind The Music on VH1, while having one of the most compelling stories, was the lowest-rated episode of the series. The episode is not currently mentioned on VH1's website. I found this on IMDB: "Much like the band itself, this 'Behind the Music' episode was somewhat jinxed. It was originally commissioned to be the 76th BTM episode, but due to numerous pitfalls, setbacks, and curses, it ended up airing approximately two years or about sixty episodes later than originally planned." According to another source, the episode was so low rated that it was aired only six times, during a time when VH1 was airing their "Behind the Music" series nearly around the clock.)

Badfinger evolved from The Iveys, an early 1960’s British band. After a small lineup change, recording an album (Maybe Tomorrow) as The Iveys, and contributing three songs to the Magic Christian movie soundtrack, the band consisted of Pete Ham, Tom Evans, Mike Gibbins and Joey Molland.

Picked up by The Beatles' Apple label in 1968, in 1969 they adopted the name Badfinger. (Apple Corps' Neil Aspinall proposed "Badfinger", in reference to "Bad Finger Boogie", an early working title of Lennon/McCartney's "With a Little Help from My Friends", as Lennon had hurt his forefinger on a piano by using only one finger.)

Badfinger released No Dice in early 1970.

The single from this album, "No Matter What", peaked in the United States at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1970. The song is often regarded as an early offering in the power pop genre – and is also the ALL-TIME FAVORITE SONG of my friend Matt. (I personally can’t yet pin down my all-time favorite song, though Matt's entry is a worthy one.)

"No Matter What" - from No Dice, written by Pete Ham

Other stand-out tracks on No Dice are "Better Days", "I Don't Mind", and the closer "We're for the Dark". The album also contains the original version of "Without You". Although Badfinger did not release the song as a single in Europe or North America, it was taken to number one on the Billboard charts in 1972 by Harry Nilsson, and again became a hit for Mariah Carey in 1994. "Without You" has been the top money-earner for Badfinger in publishing royalties, having been covered by over 180 artists. The song was also picked to provide the title for Dan Matovina's 1997 biography, Without You: The Tragic Story Of Badfinger. Of course, continuing in Badfinger's tragic tradition, the out of print book is much sought after and commands $499 on Amazon for the hardcover version.

Starting the countdown of my Top Ten Favorite Badfinger Songs (in chronological order)…

"Midnight Caller" - from No Dice, written by Pete Ham

"We're For The Dark" - from No Dice, written by Pete Ham

Recordings for their next album Straight Up began in early 1971 under the direction of producer Geoff Emerick at Abbey Road Studios, who produced the bulk of No Dice. Although these early recordings were completed and both the album and a single, "Name of the Game", were ready to be released, Apple Records co-president George Harrison decided the album could be improved under his personal direction, which led the single to be canceled and all the material recorded up to that point to be shelved. Harrison recorded a couple of new tracks with the band in the summer of 1971, as well as re-recording a couple of the original tracks. (He can be heard playing a slide-guitar duet with Pete Ham on the song "Day After Day", with Leon Russell featured on piano.) Additionally, Harrison and Phil Spector planned a different string arrangement for "Name of the Game", but this apparently never came to pass.

"Day After Day" - from Straight Up, written by Pete Ham

Due to a hurriedly assembled benefit concert that summer, The Concert for Bangladesh, at which Badfinger performed, Harrison lost interest in the Straight Up project and did not return to it after the concert. Apple retained Todd Rundgren to finish the album. Rundgren utilized recordings begun by both Emerick and Harrison, re-recorded some of them, and also recorded several new tracks with the band (notably "Baby Blue") in less than a month. (It had already taken the band over a year to record what songs they had.)

"Baby Blue" - from Straight Up, written by Pete Ham

"I'd Die Babe" - from Straight Up, written by Joey Molland

"Perfection" -from Straight Up, written by Pete Ham

Although recordings for their next album began as early as 1972, shortly after the release of Straight Up, Ass wasn't released until November 26, 1973 in the United States and May 1974 in the UK. The album was originally delayed because of production quality, as the band attempted to produce the album themselves after producer Todd Rundgren departed the project with just two songs recorded. After a first version of the album was rejected by the label, Apple engineer Chris Thomas was hired as a first-time producer to improve the overall recordings and make new track selections.

The album was further delayed when a disagreement surfaced between Apple and Badfinger's management on publishing copyrights. The majority of the tracks on Ass were written by Joey Molland. Molland, unlike his bandmates, never signed a publishing agreement with Apple Music, instead assigning the individual copyrights of his songs selected for Badfinger albums to Apple Music after production. Badfinger's then-manager, Stan Polley, attempted to use Apple's lack of a publishing agreement with Molland to block release of the album; he told Molland not to agree to any individual assignments, and Molland obliged. To circumvent Polley's strategy, all songs on the US and UK album releases of Ass were credited by Apple to Badfinger, not to the actual authors.

Ultimately, Ass peaked at #122 in the Billboard 200 and did not chart in the UK. The single "Apple of My Eye" only peaked at #102 on Billboard's "Bubbling Under" chart in America. After the album was deleted from the Apple catalog a large number of heavily discounted copies appeared in cut-out bins at U.S. record stores during the 1970s. The original CD version released in the 1990s is now rare because it was re-released only in a few countries (UK, Canada and Japan) for a limited period.

Ass was the last original album issued by Apple that was not by an ex-Beatle. From then on, only the Beatles as solo artists and Yoko Ono released records on Apple until the label went out of business in late 1975.

As Badfinger was completing work on Ass, Badfinger's manager, Stan Polley, signed the band to a three-year, six-album deal with Warner Brothers. As a result, shortly after the band and producer Chris Thomas completed recording of Ass, they found themselves back in the studio making a new album for Warner.

Although the album is technically untitled, it is commonly referred to as Badfinger.

The intended title, For Love Or Money, was misplaced by the label at the time of production and was never used. The intended title referred to Badfinger's label change from Apple Records to Warner Brothers.

Unfortunately for the band - and the fans - this release and the next are, in my opinion, the two best of Badfinger's albums. And until many, many years later, these were also the rarest of their albums.

"Lonely You" from Badfinger, written by Pete Ham

"Shine On" from Badfinger, written by Pete Ham and Tom Evans

"Song for a Lost Friend" from Badfinger, written by Pete Ham

Although the album received positive reviews in Rolling Stone magazine upon its release and is sometimes considered to be the band's best work, their next album Wish You Were Here was pulled out of record stores in 1975, seven weeks after release, because of a lawsuit between WB music publishing and Badfinger's management. The album's abbreviated manufacturing run and short tenure on the market has made the original LP relatively rare.

I personally saw the album in a used record store on Magazine Street in 2002 for $110 – and would have bought it if I had had the money on me.

Before being recalled, the album had time enough to chart, peaking at #148 in the US. In the 1990s it was re-released in CD format in Japan and Germany only. Until the album was eventually released on CD in the United States in 2007, a complete set of those songs was a music Holy Grail for me.

"Got to Get Out of Here" - from Wish You Were Here, written by Joey Molland

"In The Meantime / Some Other Time" from Wish You Were Here, written by Mike Gibbins / written by Joey Molland

"Meanwhile Back at the Ranch / Should I Smoke" from Wish You Were Here, written by Pete Ham / written by Joey Molland


Despondent with the frustrating situation of his record company and his manager, in April 24, 1975, Pete Ham committed suicide by hanging. He was 27.

For me, this is when Badfinger ceased to exist.

The next three years saw surviving members trying to rebuild their personal and professional lives against a backdrop of lawsuits. Comebacks with the albums Airwaves (1978) and Say No More (1981) floundered, as Molland, Gibbins and Evans see-sawed between cooperation and struggle in attempts to revive and capitalize on the Badfinger legacy. Having seen Ham's body after Ham's wife had called him, Evans reportedly never got over his friend's suicide.

On November 19, 1983, Evans also took his own life by hanging – at the age of 36.


Pete Ham, who I feel was the backbone of the group, has two posthumously released albums. The better of the two is 7 Park Avenue.

If you want to check out only one Badfinger album, I recommend Badfinger: Best of Volume II, which contains the best of the later albums.


Here is a link to a website about a Badfinger convention in 2006.



Both Badfinger and The Beatles had a song entitled "Love Me Do". Here are both. Which do you prefer?


jason said...

I've always liked that first song....
"No Matter What", even if I didn't really ever realize who sang it.
I quite like some of their other stuff too.

Gotta say I prefer the Beatles' "Love Me Do", however :)

Breezy said...

You make some lovely lists! You're always very thorough.