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Badfinger were a Welsh/English rock band formed in Swansea that were active from the 1960s to the 1980s. Their best-known lineup consisted of Pete Ham, Mike Gibbins, Tom Evans, and Joey Molland. They are recognised for their influence on the 1970s power pop genre.
The band evolved from an earlier group called the Iveys, formed in 1961, which became the first group signed by the Beatles’ Apple label in 1968. The band renamed themselves Badfinger, after the working title for the Beatles’ 1967 song “With a Little Help from My Friends” (“Bad Finger Boogie”). From 1968 to 1973, Badfinger recorded five albums for Apple and toured extensively, before they became embroiled in the chaos of Apple Records’ dissolution.
Badfinger had four consecutive worldwide hits from 1970 to 1972: “Come and Get It” (written and produced by Paul McCartney, 1970), “No Matter What” (produced by Mal Evans, 1970), “Day After Day” (produced by George Harrison, 1971), and “Baby Blue” (produced by Todd Rundgren, 1972). Their song “Without You” (1970) has been recorded many times, and became a US number-one hit for Harry Nilsson and, decades later, a UK number-one for Mariah Carey.
After Apple Records folded in 1973, Badfinger struggled with a host of legal, managerial and financial issues, leading to Ham’s taking his own life in 1975. Over the next three years, the surviving members struggled to rebuild their personal and professional lives against a backdrop of lawsuits, which tied up the songwriters’ royalty payments for years. Their subsequent albums floundered, as Molland and Evans alternated between cooperation and conflict in their attempts to revive and capitalise on the Badfinger legacy. In 1983, Evans also died by suicide.
1961–1969: The Iveys
Signing to Apple
After receiving an invitation from Collins, Beatles roadie/assistant Mal Evans and Apple Records’ A&R head Peter Asher saw the Iveys perform at the Marquee Club, London, on 25 January 1968. Afterward, Evans consistently pushed their demo tapes to every Beatle until he gained approval from all four to sign the group. The demos were accomplished using a mono “sound-on-sound” tape recorder: two individual tracks bouncing each overdub on top of the last. When Evans signed the Iveys to Apple on 23 July 1968, they became the first non-Beatle recording artists on the label. Each of The Iveys’ members were also signed to Apple Corps’ publishing contracts. The Iveys’ early sessions for Apple were produced by either Tony Visconti or Evans.
The group’s first single, “Maybe Tomorrow”, produced by Visconti, was released worldwide on 15 November 1968. It reached the Top Ten in several European countries and Japan, but only number 67 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and failed to chart in the UK. The US manager of Apple Records, Ken Mansfield, ordered 400,000 copies of the single—considered to be a bold move at the time in the music business—and pushed for automatic airplay and reviews from newspapers, which he secured. Nevertheless, Mansfield remembered the problems: “We had a great group. We had a great record. We were missing just one thing … the ability to go out and pick up people, and convince them to put their money on the counter”. A second Tom Evans composition, “Storm in a Teacup”, was included on an Apple EP promoting Wall’s Ice Cream, along with songs by Apple artists such as James Taylor, Mary Hopkin and Jackie Lomax. The chart success of “Maybe Tomorrow” in Europe and Japan led to a follow-up single release in those markets in July 1969: Griffiths’ “Dear Angie”, also produced by Visconti. An LP containing both singles and titled Maybe Tomorrow was released only in Italy, Germany and Japan. This limited release strategy was thought to be the work of Apple Corps’ president, Allen Klein; an Apple Corps press officer, Tony Bramwell, remembered: “[Klein] was saying, ‘We’re not going to issue any more records until I sort out this [Apple Corps] mess.'”
After the unexpectedly limited releases of “Dear Angie” and Maybe Tomorrow, Griffiths complained about The Iveys’ handling by Apple in an interview for the Disc & Music Echo magazine, saying: “We do feel a bit neglected. We keep writing songs for a new single and submitting them to Apple, but they keep sending them back, saying they’re not good enough”. Paul McCartney read the interview and offered the song “Come and Get It” to the group, although he had written the song for the soundtrack of The Magic Christian. Before the recording on Saturday, 2 August 1969, Griffiths remembered the whole group being so excited they couldn’t sleep. Producing the track in under one hour, McCartney made sure that they copied his own demo note-for-note: “They were a young band … they said, ‘We want to do it a bit different, wanna get our own thing in’. I said ‘No, this has gotta be exactly like this, [McCartney’s demo] ‘cos this is the hit’.”
McCartney had been commissioned to contribute two other songs to the film’s soundtrack; after “Come and Get It” was successfully recorded, he offered to produce two of The Iveys’ original compositions to fulfill those commissions, for which he selected “Carry On Till Tomorrow” (commissioned as the main title theme for the film) and “Rock of All Ages” (commissioned as background music for a party scene). All three tracks appeared both in the movie and on its soundtrack album. McCartney then recruited George Martin to provide the string arrangement for “Carry On Till Tomorrow”. As Griffiths fell ill midway through these sessions, Evans played bass on “Rock of All Ages”, “Midnight Sun” and “Crimson Ships”.
Pending the release of “Come and Get It”, the band and Apple agreed that the name “The Iveys” was too trite for the prevailing music scene, plus The Iveys were sometimes confused with “The Ivy League”, so a name change for the band was needed. Suggestions were put forward, including Lennon’s “The Glass Onion”, “The Prix”, “The Cagneys”, and “Home” from McCartney. 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 and was using only one finger. In December of 1969, the band agreed on Badfinger.
Harrison would later state that the band was named after Helga Fabdinger, a stripper the Beatles had known in Hamburg.
Departure of Griffiths and hiring of Molland
At the end of October 1969, Griffiths, who was the sole married occupant of the communal group’s home and also was raising a child (born in December 1968), left the group. His responsibilities created friction, mainly between Griffiths’ wife, Evans, and manager Collins. Griffiths later said: “Tommy [Evans] created the bad blood. He’d convinced the others that [I was] not one of the boys any more”. Drummer Gibbins remembered that he wasn’t even consulted about the decision: “I was considered a nothinghead at that point. I wasn’t even worth conversing with”.
As the release date of “Come and Get It” was approaching, The Iveys looked for a replacement for Griffiths. After unsuccessfully auditioning a number of bassists, they hired guitarist Joey Molland, who was previously with Gary Walker & The Rain, The Masterminds, and The Fruit-Eating Bears. His addition required Evans to shift from rhythm guitar to bass.
“Come and Get It” was released as a single in December 1969 in the UK, and January 1970 in the US. Selling more than a million copies worldwide, it reached Top Ten throughout the world: number seven on the US Billboard chart on 18 April 1970, and number four in the UK. Because The Iveys’ Maybe Tomorrow album had only been released in a few markets, the band’s three songs from The Magic Christian soundtrack album were combined with other, older Iveys tracks (including both of The Iveys’ singles and five other songs from Maybe Tomorrow) and then released as Badfinger’s first album Magic Christian Music (1970). The album peaked at number 55 on the Billboard album chart in the US. In addition, Derek Taylor commissioned Les Smithers to photograph the band in March 1970. His photograph has been acquired by the National Portrait Gallery.
New recording sessions for Badfinger also commenced in March 1970, with Mal Evans producing. Two songs were completed, including “No Matter What”, which was rejected by Apple as a potential single. Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick then took over as producer, and the band completed its second album in July 1970. During the recordings, the band were sent to Hawaii on 4 June, to appear at a Capitol/Apple Records convention, and then flew to Italy to play concerts in Rome. No Dice was released in the US in late 1970, peaking at number 28 on the Billboard album chart. The Mal Evans-produced track “No Matter What”, as re-mixed by Emerick, was finally released as a single, and reached numerous Top Ten charts around the world—peaking at number eight in the US, and number five in the UK. An Emerick-produced album track from No Dice titled “Without You” became even more successful after Harry Nilsson covered the song in 1972; his version became an international hit, reaching number one on Billboard in the US, and also spending five weeks at the top of the UK chart. The song began as a merger of two separate songs, with the verses penned by Ham and the chorus penned by Evans. The song won Ham and Evans the 1972 Ivor Novello award for “Song of the Year”. […]
Last updated on October 12, 2019