Brando's Feature: Richard DiLello on Badfinger

Richard DiLello circa 1972 "Robbed & Rolled (Death of a Player)"
by Richard DiLello

Richard DiLello was a good friend to Badfinger. Apart from working with the Apple label (a self-ordained "House Hippie") he also took the sleeve photos for the Straight Up LP and designed the "No Dice" sleeve. With the eventual collapse of Apple, he lost contact with Badfinger, but he never forgot the group. His reminisces of the Apple facade are brilliantly chronicled in his hilarious novel, "The Longest Cocktail Party, which has many references to Badfinger.

In 1975, he was invited to the Shoreham Americana Hotel in Washington to take part in the "Rock And Roll Expo". He chose as his speech the subject of Badfinger and Pete. His piece was brilliantly written and ran like this:

My name is Richard DiLello and I worked with the Beatles at Apple Records in London from the summer of 1968 through to August of 1970 as a photographer, publicist & press officer goffer; this means you go for this, you go for that, you go for whatever is called for.

Out of that experience I wrote a book called, "The Longest Cocktail Party" which was published by Playboy Press in 1972.

In the summer of 1968, a young band called the Iveys came to Apple looking for a recording contract. After the Beatles listened at an audition tape, they were signed, their future looked bright ahead.

In 1969 the Iveys changed their name to Badfinger and proceeded to release four albums through Apple records; "The Magic Christian", "No Dice", "Straight Up" and "Ass". They had their first hit with a Paul McCartney composition "Come and Get It".

Other singles followed "Day After Day", "No Matter What", "Maybe Tomorrow", "Baby Blue" and "Without You" which Harry Nilsson parlayed "into a world-wide number one hit song.

Badfinger enjoyed a close working relationship with the Beatles. They played on John Lennon's "Imagine" album, on Ringo's single, "It Don't Come Easy" and George Harrison's album, "All Things Must Pass" in 1971.

The driving force behind Badfinger, their main songwriting talent, lead guitarist and vocalist was a kid from Wales named Pete Ham. On the morning of April 24th 1975, Pete Ham was found dead in his London garage - a suicide by hanging. He was twenty-seven years old.

The Longest Cocktail Party According to Joey Molland, the group's rythymn guitarist and in the records of the coroners' inquest investigating the suicide, a note was found next to Pete's body. It read, "Stan Polley is a soulless bastard". Remember that name Stan Polley.

Stan Polley was Badfinger's manager from 1970, from the time the group broke into national prominence in the United States with their highly acclaimed album "No Dice". Badfinger trusted Stan Polley with their careers, their bank accounts and their creative lives. Their trust was given with no reservations, unconditionally.

At the time when I asked them if they thought they were being given a fair shake by their management they told me that Stan Polley was a millionaire in his own right, prior to their association and that he was looking after them not out of any personal financial ambitions, but because he genuinely loved the group. And this is when everything started to go haywire. Shortly after that time, up until the morning of April 24th 1975 when Pete Ham took his own life because everything he had worked for & dreamt of began to sour irrevocably, Badfinger had been weighed down by a nasty and ugly and torturous battle over their finances; over control of their own money, over a respectable fortune that they had earned by virtue of their talent and too many on-the-road, one-night stands to remember.

They didn't realize it then but they were being set up. They know it now, but it's too late. Even a rabbit has sense enough to dig two holes for itself in case one gets blocked off, because a rabbit knows that even in the most bountiful of gardens there are predators who exist only because there are those weak enough to be preyed on.

Badfinger left Apple in 1972 and signed with Warner Brothers records following an offer that was to allow them the musical freedom and financial independence they needed to fulfill their enormous promise as a band, but from the time of that signing, Badfinger was kept constantly in the dark about information regarding their personal finances. It was an extremely lucrative contract that should have ended once and for all the nagging uncertainties that are seemingly inherent in the growth of a rock group. It didn't.

Things only got worse. Badfinger split-up and regrouped several times as the pressure of staying alive and paying bills began to mount. They kept asking, "Where's all this money we've made?" - "In the bank" they were told; and that is where it stayed, but they weren't getting any of it. Polley then became involved in a feud with the group and in litigation with Warmer Brothers over the dispensation of the band's money.

A suit was then brought by Warner's publishing company against Badfinger itself. It is on file at the Los Angeles Superior Court. The suit asks for $183,333.33 which concerns publishing royalties that allegedly were not placed in escrow. Badfinger made a lot of money, for a lot of people and they "wound up broke, their vision shattered, their leader driven to suicide.

Badfinger, photo by Richard Dilello Pete Ham was ripped off and murdered by the very system he was working to become part of. His death is difficult to relate to because it just doesn't fit into the traditional high decibel demise we have come to associate as part of the rock and roll experience. Death by hanging under the existing circumstances is both intolerable and repulsive.

Each of us has a responsibility to recognize each other's breaking point; in the case of Pete Ham every one was too busy stuffing their own pockets to take the time out to ask him how he felt about it. While everyone else was looking the other way, Pete Ham went into a garage and strangled himself. Result? We can now add one more victim to the casualty list of "No One Waved Good-bye".

Pete Ham lucked out because he didn't know that the world is full of greedy unethical people whose only reason for living is their ability to juggle figures on paper, to create lies out of truth, to manipulate other people's fortunes to their own advantage. When he finally realized this, after all his money was gone, his mind snapped like so much brittle glass. If ever a real "Report To The Commissioner" was called for, now is the time. But it won't happen. Instead, we'll hype ourselves by saying that things are getting straightened out. Just because, Jive Davies and a few other record company potatoes are getting lawsuits shoved down their throats. But all that will blow over and it will be as if none of it had ever gone down. If Stan Polley the group's last manager, and Bill Collins, the group's first manager and Allen Klein and ABKCO industries and Apple records and Warner Brothers took so much as a dime from Badfinger that they weren't entitled to, if they withheld so much as a nickel that they weren't ethnically entitled to, then each and everyone of those named individuals and officers of those companies must share the full burden and life-long guilt of Pete Ham's death.

It really would make a big difference in this business of robbed and rolled, If John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr would come forward and make a public statement on the circumstances surrounding Pete's death. He was their friend and they owe it to his memory to do so. But they probably won't because it won't occur to them that the death of another player is all that important.

It's more than a crying shame that Pete Ham ended up as a single column news item in Rolling Stone and that the people he worked with - the John Lennons, the Paul McCartneys, the George Harrisons, the Ringo Starrs - will let his death go unavenged; it's symbolic of the most cancerous aspects of the music business today.

Straight Up, photo by Dilello Legally sanctioned theft is being carried out under the guise of "Artist management" by the New Wave Aquarian Barron Robbers. If artists want to change all that, then they are going to have to set up their own information bank where by all dealings between themselves and management becomes a matter of public record. Public legislation must be enacted so that if a court of law ever find a person stealing from an artist, then that person, persons or conglomerate, should never again be allowed to handle anyone else's financial affairs.

But that will never happen because no one will make the effort. As a result the Stan Polleys, the Allen Kleins and the muscle-bound financial monoliths will continue to become more bloated by their own insatiable greed and in time the music will only get louder and uglier.

Watch out kids. It may only be Rock and Roll to you but to them it's just another way of ripping off another million; to them it's the music that comes last and matters least. Aloha Rock and Roll.

Brando comments: This article was in a pack of papers I purchased some seven or eight years ago. I do not know the source, it is not listed on the paper. I've heard the article called "Robbed & Rolled" and "Death of a Player", I don't actually know the correct name, although the article lists it as "Robbed & Rolled". Also, there exist audio tape of DiLello giving this speech. DiLello's acknowledgment of the mistreatment of Ham occurred shortly after his death some 24 years ago. Rykodisc continues it's efforts to right the wrong by releasing it's second volume of Ham material on July 13, 1999.

Back to Brando's Feature Page
Back to Brando's Badfinger Page