Saturday, March 22, 2008

Straight Down

Badfinger was cursed, as anyone reading this blog probably already knows. They seemed charmed for a while in the early 1970s, when in addition to their four exquisite hit singles, they backed up Ringo Starr on "It Don't Come Easy," and John Lennon on several tracks for Imagine, and George Harrison and friends at the Concert for Bangla Desh. In 1972, Harry Nilsson turned "Without You," originally on Badfinger's 1970 album No Dice, into a Number One hit.

Then everything fell apart. In 1973, their final album for Apple, Ass (nice name, guys), failed to yield any hit singles. Their first album for Warner Bros., Wish You Were Here (which would also soon prove to be a bad choice for a title), similarly stiffed in 1974. By the end of the year, guitarist Joey Molland had quit.

Then things got even worse. Founding member Pete Ham, who had written "Baby Blue" and "Day After Day" and "No Matter What," took his own life in June of 1975, in part because of the criminal mismangement of the band by the sleazy Stan Polley. (Ham's suicide note concluded: "P.S. Stan Polley is a soulless bastard. I will take him with me.") Pete Ham was 27; his daughter Petera was born a month after he died.

The last album recorded with Ham, Head First, would not be released until 2000 because of legal difficulties. After dissolving following Ham's death, Badfinger reconstituted itself under the leadership of Tom Evans (the original bassist and the co-writer of "Without You") for 1979's Airwaves and 1981's Say No More, neither of which spawned any hits. Molland returned, but he and Tom Evans fought, and ended up leading rival versions of Badfinger on tours in the early Eighties. In 1983, Tom Evans hanged himself from a tree in his backyard.

And there let us leave this tale, and return to the glory days. Here are the boys introduced by none other than Kenny Rogers, back when his hair and beard were still the color of a well-roasted chicken, on his early Seventies variety show "Rollin on the River." Note that despite the success of the band, Pete Ham still couldn't afford a shirt:

1 comment:

Alex said...

(Working my way backwards through your blog...)

I'd heard several times that Tom Evans left a suicide note addressed to Joey Molland which just said "You're next" -- but I'm wondering now if that was just a sick joke people were circulating.

And I recently found out that I saw Tom Evans' last live performance in Providence, RI in 1983.