Q&A / BADFINGER: What happened to them

HAROLD PHILLIP BENSON ...

Badfinger was a Welsh/Irish group that started out as the Iveys in 1961. They became the first group signed by Apple in 1968 and renamed themselves “Badfinger” after an earlier incident when John Lennon was in the studio, recording with his mates on piano the song “With a Little Help from my Friends”, but playing with just one finger as the other was injured. From ’70 to ’72 they had four consecutive worldwide hits. After Apple folded in 1973, Badfinger struggled legally, personally, financially and with songwriting. This led to Peter Hamm, a key group member, taking his own life in 1975. For the next three years, the remaining members of the group struggled against a backdrop of legal troubles and financial troubles. Their LP’s flopped during these years, and two members, Molland and Evans, bickered on and off. They were in conflict, in part, on how to revive their legacy. In ‘83, Evans died by suicide. Some of their hits were either written and/or produced by McCartney or Harrison. Here are four of their biggest hits:

Come and Get It

No Matter What

Day After Day

Baby Blue

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THOMAS SCOTT ROBERTS ...

Badfinger seemed to be cursed by bad luck, yet they should have been and could have been one of the top bands of their day. They remain a lesson to those who believe that being in a band and recording guarantees riches.

They started as the Iveys, in Swansea, Wales, with Pete Ham, David Jenkins, Ron Griffiths and Roy Anderson. Before they ever had a recording contract, Anderson was replaced by Mike Gibbons, and Jenkins by their first non-Welsh member, Tom Evans.

The Iveys were heard and championed by Beatles’ roadie Mal Evans, and signed to Apple Records. The bad breaks started early. When their first single, Maybe Tomorrow, charted poorly, their LP of the same name was cancelled (although it did come out in Japan.) The Beatles themselves got involved in a makeover. A new name was chosen, Badfinger, and a new album started. Some new tracks, some remixed from the first album, and three were used in the film THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN. One, Come And Get It, was written and produced by Paul McCartney, and gave them their breakthrough hit- though the bulk of their songs were original, with all members writing. Apple was set to release the soundtrack album, but lost the rights when Thunderclap Newman’s Something In The Air was included, and they couldn’t secure the rights. Instead, the label forged a connection by calling the new album MAGIC CHRISTIAN MUSIC. Before it was over, Griffiths had been replaced by Joey Molland.

Things went pretty smoothly for the second LP, NO DICE, which featured the hit No Matter What, but it all got sticky again with the next album, STRAIGHT UP. The initial version, produced by Geoff Emerick, was rejected by the label. George Harrison took over producing, and played on some of it, including the huge hit Day After Day. Then George was called away by his commitment to the Bangla Desh concert (in which Badfinger played.) Todd Rundgren finished the album. It was poorly reviewed upon release, but has been reconsidered in years since, and now many consider it the band’s best.

They signed with a manager from the US, Stan Polley, who got them to sign a contract that enriched him, but drove them into debt. He got them signed to Warner Brothers, but they had one more album due to Apple. That outing, ASS (as in fool, or donkey) was also initially rejected and delayed. And the songwriting credits were complicated by the fact that Molland, who wrote most of them, did not share the same representation as the others. Apple got around that by crediting all songs to the band instead of the individual writers.

Neither ASS, not the first Warner Brothers album, BADFINGER, sold well, and- being out at roughly the same time- seemed to hurt, rather than help each other. The next WB album, WISH YOU WERE HERE, was cancelled shortly after release. due to discrepancies in the finances (Polley’s contract.) Ham left, and was replaced by Bob Jackson. Ham was talked into returning when WB took a ‘No Pete Ham, no deal’ stance. Then Molland left. The third WB album HEAD FIRST, was in progress when Ham, overtaken by depression due to their finances (they were sinking in debt due to their contract) hanged himself. The album was cancelled, and the band fell apart.

Attempts were made to restart. Molland and Evans reunited and released two new LPs, AIRWAVES and SAY NO MORE. They chose not to include Gibbons. Sometime later, Evans, still haunted by Ham’s suicide, also hanged himself. Legal tangles continued, but Molland and Gibbons toured for a time. Gibbons has since died, leaving Molland the only member from the period of their greatest success. He still tours sometimes under the Badfinger name, and, needing the cash, has re-recorded their early hits in ‘Best Of’ collections.

There’s a lot more detail to all of it but that’s an overview. They deserved so much better, but thankfully are still remembered, and their music can still be heard.

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