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Badfinger

From Academic Kids

Badfinger was a British band from the 1960s and 70s. Their meteoric rise and tragic demise became a cautionary tale for the rock music industry. Once widely touted as the heir apparent to the Beatles, Badfinger is now seldom remembered outside their native land of Wales.

The band originated with guitarist/keyboardist Pete Ham (1947-75) and a group called The Panthers. Members changed to resemble the first band line-up, with Ron Griffiths on bass guitar and David "Dai" Jenkins on guitar. The trio formed a band called the Iveys, named after a street in Swansea, Wales. By 1965, Mike Gibbins had joined as the drummer, and the band began playing locally with such groups as the Spencer Davis Group, the Who, the Moody Blues and the Yardbirds. The following year, with manager Bill Collins, Badfinger worked in London, both for David Garrick, a local singer, and as a solo act. In 1967, David "Dai" Jenkins left and was replaced by Tom Evans.

This line-up signed with the Beatles label Apple Records in 1968 and Paul McCartney soon became enamored with the group's vocal sound, if not their unassuming name. He proposed a change to his proteges, still known as the Iveys.

John Lennon wanted to call the band "Prix" and Paul McCartney wanted to call them "Home", but no one could decide upon a name until Neil Aspinall suggested another Beatles-inspired moniker: "Badfinger." This was a reference to "Badfinger Boogie", an early working title of "With a Little Help from My Friends," from "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band".

Studio recording was difficult for Badfinger, with many failed attempts at a single occurring before the group finally offered "Maybe Tomorrow" in 1968. The single did well in the Netherlands and Germany, but not so well in England or the United States. Business and personal problems with Apple Records also contributed to the record's failure. However, enough interest was generated to keep the band alive for another year.

Paul McCartney wrote the band's breakthrough song, "Come And Get It", intended for part of the soundtrack to The Magic Christian. It was a hit throughout Europe and the United States, where it reached the Top Ten. Ron Griffiths soon quit the band to spend more time with his family. After the departure of Griffiths, the band reorganized into their definitive lineup. Tom Evans became the bassist, while guitarist Joey Molland joined in time to tour in support of Magic Christian Music, the band's first major outing.

In 1970, Badfinger released the album No Dice, the group's first true album. The riff-heavy "No Matter What" has endured well on classic rock stations, while "Without You", became a bigger hit when sung by Harry Nilsson and Mariah Carey. One wonders at the potential songwriting talents of Pete Ham and Tom Evans, had their partnership survived the coming tragedies.

Badfinger subsequently found a new manager in Stan Polley, who would prove their downfall. The group toured in America, where their debut album had been well-received, but the group still saw no money and felt like they were living in the shadow of the Beatles. Some music critics had made unfavorable comparisons, during the anti-Beatles backlash that ensued, following the breakup of the Beatles in 1970.

The band's career began increasing exponentially. The band recorded many sessions for fellow Apple Records labelmates, notably George Harrison's All Things Must Pass," and John Lennon's Imagine."

Badfinger's second album, Straight Up came out in 1971, including "Day After Day", "Baby Blue" and "Name Of The Game", all popular singles on both sides of the pond. 'Straight Up' was hailed as the most requested CD release in Goldmine magazine during the early 1990s. George Harrison and Todd Rundgren took production credits on this, Badfinger's most commercially successful record. The group also performed during the Concert For Bangladesh, raising their critical stock even further among the rock intelligentsia.

Unfortunately, Apple Records' finances in the post Beatle era were in chaos and Polley did not get on well with Allen Klein. Straight Up was not marketed effectively. Even more unfortunately, Stan Polley had been stealing income from and impoverishing the band members as they toured and recorded non-stop.

The sessions for what would be Badfinger's third and last album for Apple, Ass began in September 1972 at Apple's basement studios at 3, Saville Row, and would continue at five recording studios over the next nine months. During the recording of "Ass", Stan Polley negotiated a multi-million dollar deal with Warner Brothers Records. The album's release would be held up until June, 1974, by legal proceedings which followed Badfinger's departure from Apple. "Ass" featured a satirical record cover of a donkey (the band) following a carrot on a stick (Polley's promises to the band) -- a theme more recently purloined by American band Styx. "Ass" was only released following the release of their debut album "Badfinger" for Warner Brothers and it failed to even reach the charts.

A mere six weeks after the Ass sessions were completed Badfinger entered the studio to begin recording the material for their first Warner Brothers release, Badfinger. With the band's popularity in America at its peak, they recorded Wish You Were Here which was released in November (1974). These two Badfinger albums had more in common with another Beatles-inspired rock band that had just emerged, namely Queen but American and British critics panned the albums as bland and disappointing.

Disgusted with Badfinger's in-fighting over money and songwriting credits, Pete Ham left the band to focus on his songwriting just as the band were starting rehearsals for an October, 1974 U.K. tour supporting the British band Man. He was replaced by guitarist/keyboardist Bob Jackson. Before the tour actually began, Ham rejoined the group. After the tour, Joey Molland quit the band due to disagreements about how to handle the management situation.

With Polley's urging, Badfinger reconvened to record a quick follow-up to Wish You Were Here, mere weeks after the album was released. Head First was assembled during two tense weeks of recording sessions in early December 1974 at Apple Studios. Badfinger's line-up now consisted of Ham, Evans, Jackson and Gibbins. Warner Brothers, by now acutely aware that Badfinger was being badly used by Polley for his own financial gain, rejected the album and simultaneously initiated legal proceedings to pull the music recently recorded for "Wish You Were Here" from store shelves.

Head First became lost in more than a figurative sense, since Warner Brothers never returned the 16-track masters, but Badfinger’s new keyboardist, Bob Jackson, had retained a copy of the rough mix completed by engineer Phil McDonald on 15 December 1974. This tape is the basis of the 2000 Snapper release of Head First. Dan Matovina [wrote in detail (http://www.mindspring.com/~crimson3/bkxcrpthead.html)] about the events surrounding Head First.

On 24 April 1975, Pete Ham hanged himself in his garage studio in Surrey. His suicide letter blamed Stan Polley, "a soulless bastard," for the group's misfortunes, a tragic irony since Ham had been most supportive of Polley's management early on. For years afterward, lawsuits and bankruptcies haunted Badfinger on both sides of the Atlantic. Ham left behind a widow and a daughter, Petera.

With Pete Ham's suicide, Badfinger had lost their arguably most talented member. However, Joey Molland had emerged as a songwriter during the band's recording career. Together with American session musicians, he and Tom Evans revitalized the Badfinger lineup, without Mike Gibbins. However, ego problems and lineup changes stalled the recording in 1978. Badfinger's "comeback" album Airwaves finally came out in 1979

To promote the album, Joey & Tom recruited Peter Clarke (Stealers Wheel) on drums and Tony Kaye (Yes) on keyboards. However, the poorly-recorded album fared poorly, and the band was reduced to playing small-time venues in the U.S. Tony Kaye later rejoined Yes after the September 1983 tour.

Ultimately, Tom Evans and Joey Molland split acrimoniously in 1981. From 1982-1983, they briefly operated rival bands, both using the name Badfinger. On 19 November, 1983, Tom Evans hanged himself at his home, in an eerie replay of Pete Ham's 1975 death scene. For all intents, Badfinger was over.

In August 1984, Molland, Gibbins and Jackson played a small number of U.S. dates as part of a 20th Anniversary of the British Invasion in America package tour.

Since Tom Evans' death, Joey Molland and Mike Gibbins have alternated between recording projects and Badfinger live albums and compilations. Molland now lives in the Minnetonka area of Minnesota, where he has been writing a definitive band history and performs frequently in the region as "Badfinger".

In 1999, a new collection of posthumous Pete Ham recordings revealed his unfulfilled promise as a gifted rock musician. More recently, the City of Swansea planned a museum exhibit, commemorating the Welsh members of Badfinger.

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