The music business. Not a vocation for the faint of heart. For some it can be a benevolent giver, rewarding hard work, talent and persistance with success and wealth, or at the least, a living wage. For others, and they are legion, it can be a cruel mistress, rewarding each step forward with two steps backward, talent and inspiration reaping apathy and frustration, hard work producing only hard times. If ever there was a band for which the stars refused to align, it was the band called Badfinger, a group that despite a string of hit singles, never got the rewards they were due.
Originally a group called The Iveys, guitarist/keyboardist Pete Ham, guitarist Dal Jenkins, bassist Ron Griffiths, and drummer Mike Gibbons Got together around 1964 and were based in London. A year later, Jenkins departed the band and was replaced by Tom Evans. Their manager, Bill Collins had them working as a backing band for vocalist David Garrick and as a band on their own. While Garrick ultimately faded into obscurity, the band made a name for itself and atracted the attention of many in the business wanting to work with them, including one Ray Davies of The Kinks. Collins, keeping the band on a short leash, saw any such overtures as a threat to his own authority and rebuffed these opportunities. Finally there came an offer even he could not refuse when Mal Evans, road manager for The Beatles offered to work with The Iveys, impressed as he was with their sound. He got them an audition with the Beatles' newly formed Apple Records and they impressed Peter Asher, Apple's A&R man. Paul McCartney himself submitted a song to the group to be their first single on the condition that it be played exactly as it appeared on the demo McCartney supplied. The band of course agreed and "Come And Get It" became the band's first hit.
The song, a proposed part of a soundtrack for a movie called The Magic Christian, went to #4 in the U.K. and #6 in the U.S. Midway through the recording of the song, Griffiths left the group. Tom Evans switched to bass and Joey Molland was recruited to play guitar. It was at this time that the band changed it's name to Badfinger, after a Beatles' song "Badfinger Boogie", a working track that ended up as "With A Little Help From My Friends". This was to avoid confusion with another band called The Ivy League who were moderately successful at the time.
Ham and Evans were seasoned writers by this time and along with Gibbons, provided much of the rest of The Magic Christian's soundtrack, In addition they worked on Gearge Harrison's solo album All Things Must Pass, played on Ringo's solo song "It Don't Come Easy",and contributed to John Lennon's album Imagine. They also found time to record an album of their own in 1970 called No Dice,which contained another hit, "No Matter What" as well as "Without You" which became a hit for Harry Nillson.
1970 also brought them together with manager Stan Polley, a shrewed experienced individual who had the expertise the band felt they needed at this point. Polley went right to work, first re-organizing the group's finances (red flag) and somehow as a result saw little money of their own. They released the next album, Straight Up at the end of 1971. The album was difficult to record going through two producers, George Harrison and Todd Rundgren in trying to find usable material. The album did include two major hits, "Day After Day " and "Baby Blue". Straight Up turned out to be a fine piece of work, and would have been more successful had Apple done more to promote it, but at the time Apple Records was having business problems that would ultimately shut the label down. Badfinger found itself on its own in terms of pushing the record.
The band toured constantly in 1972 and late that year attempted a self -produced follow-up album. It produced no hits and to make things worse, the band saw less and less money due to manager Polley's machinations. Nearing the end of their Apple contract, Polley engineered a big-money deal with Warner Brothers. In the meantime the band released their final Apple recording, Ass. This album had no tour to promote it and therefore tanked, as well as the subsequent self-titled album,the first for Warner Brothers. Apple by this time had collapsed, tying up the band's royalties for what turned out to be years. The group then recorded its next album, Wish You Were Here. Although this was the most critially acclaimed work they had in years, their money woes escalated when millions went missing from an escrow account set up for the group by Polley.On the advice of the group's attorneys, Wish You Were Here was withdrawn weeks after its release.The legal mess became huge,and the band's hastily recorded third Warners album was never released . The label dropped them. With the band impoverished and with no prospects of seeing any money any time soon, Pete Ham left the band, and on April3,1975 he hung himself in his garage at home.
Evans and Molland tried to contiunue the band on and off with different members starting in 1978, but the instability of the group efforts along with the ongoing legal entanglements proved to be insurmountable. On November 19,1983, after a loud argument with Molland on the phone, Tom Evans became the second group member to commit suicide by hanging.
The music business...a cruel mistress indeed.