5-4-3-2-1 Magazine , 1984
A sing-songy Paul McCartney tune, "Come & Get It" effectively launched the career of a new group on the Apple label in early 1970. Formerly The Iveys (in honor of one of the group's inspirations, The Hollies), the newly christened Badfinger came along at a time when we needed some relief from Woodstock and the impending breakup of The Beatles. Badfinger was young and optimistic, and their brand of rock was melodic & fun, with a trace of pathos, and distinctly molded in the mid-60s pop tradition. The band's chief songwriter, Pete Ham, gave the group its most thoughtful songs, but it was far from a one-man show. Pete, Tommy, Joey, & Mike were a team.
Following a patchwork first LP containing early Iveys tracks (the single "Maybe Tomorrow", written by Tommy Evans, standing out) plus newly recorded material (including the beautiful "Carry On Til Tomorrow") the band was given its first full-fledged LP release, "No Dice". A basic, raw sound was on display, with tight playing and a high energy level. Highlights included the opening rocker, "I Can't Take It", "Without You" (recorded by Nilsson to become his biggest hit), the single "No Matter What" (with its unmistakable intro), and "Were For The Dark", the LP's closer. Most importantly, the LP held promise for a bright future.
With "No Dice" entering the U.S. TOP 30, Badfinger was doing well in terms of record sales, but the association with the world's most famous rock group was not a total blessing. It helped them get attention from the press, but it also prompted criticism (especially in England) by those that tagged Badfinger as Beatle imitators. Of course, it didn't help that they were a four man band, and one of their own songs was titled "Love Me Do". It seemed only their fans (mostly In the U.S.) sided with them.
"Straight Up" was the next release, containing two hit singles, "Day After Day" and "Baby Blue" plus some first-rate Pete Ham ballads: "Take It All", "Perfection" and "Name of the Game" (originally planned as the first single).
A two-year period of discontent in the ranks of Badfinger followed, as the band struggled to break free of the ever-crumbling Apple Records. When their first LP for Warner Brothers was set for release, Apple maliciously retorted by dredging up unfinished demo tapes and releasing the package as "Ass", thereby squelching sales of both LPs. "Badfinger" was issued, but the obvious single choice, "Lonely You" was passed over by Warner Brothers in favor of "I Miss You", which promptly missed the charts entirely. In England, Joey Molland's "Love Is Easy" was the 45, but a pressing mistake made the disc sound distorted and, thus, got no airplay. It was backed by Mike Gibbins' pretty ballad, "My Heart Goes Out", featuring some lovely mandolin playing.
In the fall of 1974, the last LP by the original Badfinger appeared. "Wish You Were Here" was undoubtedly their finest longplayer to date, with producer Chris Thomas giving the band a full yet uncluttered production, and the material was varied and interesting, but distinctly Badfinger. The whole LP is exceptional, but the high point is Pete Ham's stunning "Dennis", with its smooth tempo changes and intriguing storyline. Much in the same way as "Abbey Road" was for The Beatles, "Wish You Were Here" can be looked upon as a masterful signing off from a great group.
Not that it was meant to be. Bad luck seemed to plague Badfinger all along the way. For every triumph, the band paid a heavy price. Their story includes shady management deals, record company hassles, and an unjust ignoring of the group in their native country. All of this and more finally took its toll on the members of Badfinger, resulting in Joey leaving and, sadly, Pete Ham's and, most recently, Tommy Evans' suicide deaths.
1984 saw a Badfinger lineup including Joey Molland, Mike Gibbins, and Bob Jackson (who had joined the group following "Wish You Were Here") participating the 20th Anniversary of British Rock package tour. Their set was brief but sprightly.
The original Badfinger left as many as four LPs worth of unreleased material which hopefully someday (when all the legal matters are straightened out) will see some sort of release. It is the music that, needless to say, deserves to be heard.
Pete, Tommy, Joey and Mike poured their hearts and souls into their craft, and one listen to any of the above-mentioned records will give you a sense of what Badfinger was offering the rock and roll world. I'd say it was something pretty special.