Badfinger had four consecutive worldwide hits from 1970 to 1972: “Come and Get It” (written and produced by Paul McCartney, “No Matter What”, “Day After Day” (produced by George Harrison, and “Baby Blue”. The future looked bright, “Come and Get It” released in December 1969 in the UK, and January 1970 in the US sold over a million copies worldwide, reaching the Top Ten throughout the world: No.7 on the US chart and No.4 in the UK. But the future for Badfinger was set to decline, with line up changes and legal battles that would haunt the band and it’s members forever.
They were supposed to be the next Beatles but a series of tragedies, mismanagement and “rock and roll rip-offs” left Badfinger little more than a sad footnote in musical history.
The Iveys formed in 1961 in Swansea, Wales from The Panthers and in March 1965, drummer Gibbins joined The Iveys. The group secured gigs around the Swansea area, opening for prominent British groups such as the Spencer Davis Group, The Who, The Moody Blues and The Yardbirds.
In August 1967, Liverpudlian guitarist Tom Evans, of Them Calderstones joined the ranks and the following year Beatles’ roadie/assistant Mal Evans and Apple Records’ A&R head Peter Asher saw them perform at the Marquee Club, London. Afterwards, Evans consistently pushed their demo tapes to every Beatle until he gained approval from all four to sign the group to their Apple label.
Paul McCartney offered the song “Come And Get It” to the group, although he had written the song for the soundtrack of The Magic Christian. Producing the track in less than one hour, McCartney made sure that they copied his own demo note-for-note.
In October 1969, pending the release of “Come and Get It”, the band and Apple agreed upon a name change, as The Iveys were sometimes confused with “The Ivy League”. Suggestions were put forward, like John 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.
Around this time they hired guitarist Joey Molland, who was previously with Gary Walker & The Rain, The Masterminds, and The Fruit-Eating Bears, with his addition requiring Evans to shift to bass.
A string of memorable hit singles followed after the success of “Come and Get It,” – “No Matter What,” “Day After Day,” and “Baby Blue” but the band saw almost no reward from that success. Instead, four years of hit singles and international tours precipitated the suicides of its two creative members and legal proceedings that left lawyers as the only ones enriched by the group’s work.
1974 was, for the band, the culmination of a series of events that would keep lawyers and accountants busy for years. The individual group members found themselves impoverished and in debt despite their years of work, and with little prospect of seeing any of their money at any time soon. A third album, entitled Head First, (on Warners), was hastily recorded by the group late in 1974 but was never released. The group’s affairs, already a shambles, had turned into a nightmare.
On April 23, 1975, a year into these financial and professional crises, Ham who was critically short of money, with no prospect of seeing any that was owed to him, hanged himself in his garage. Ham was aged 27 at the time; his suicide fell just three days shy of his 28th birthday. He left behind a pregnant girlfriend, who gave birth to their daughter one month after his death. His suicide note had the statement, “I will not be allowed to love and trust everybody. This is better.”
After Ham’s death, Badfinger dissolved. By 1977, both Joey Molland and Tom Evans were out of the music business and were flat broke, During 1982 and 1983, Molland and Evans operated rival touring bands, each using the name Badfinger, which created personal and professional conflict.
During the evening of 18 November 1983, Tom Evans argued with Joey Molland of Badfinger on the telephone, chiefly regarding potential publishing monies. Early the following morning, on 19 November, Evans was found dead by suicide, his body hanging in his back garden from a willow tree.
In 1994, the year in which Mariah Carey covered the song “Without You”, the royalties for Ham’s estate received over $500,000, and the song has since been recorded by over 180 artists. In April 2013 a blue plaque was unveiled to honour Pete Ham in his hometown of Swansea.
Dan Matovina, a US record producer who wrote one of the few books about the band – Without You: The Tragic Story of Badfinger, said: “Pete Ham presented us with beautiful songs, people fell in love to his songs, got married, to them, reflected on their broken hearts, dwelled on the messages of peace, love, kindness, understanding, he reached out in testament of the best of the human spirit.”
Important Dates In The Life Of Badfinger:
27 Apr 2013
A blue plaque was unveiled at Swansea railway station, Wales, honouring Peter Ham who co-wrote 'Without You', a hit for both Harry Nilsson and Mariah Carey. Ham who was a member of Badfinger were signed to The Beatles Apple Records label, (and enjoyed their biggest hit in 1970 with a Paul McCartney penned, 'Come And Get It'. Ham took his own life in 1975 at the age of 27.
4 Oct 2005
Mike Gibbins drummer with Badfinger died in his sleep at his Florida home aged 56. Badfinger had the 1970 UK No.4 & US No.7 single 'Come And Get It'. He had also been a member of The Iveys during the 60’s.
15 Jan 1994
American singer songwriter Harry Nilsson died in his sleep of heart failure after spending the previous day in the recording studio. He recorded 'Everybody's Talkin' from the film Midnight Cowboy and wrote hits for Three Dog Night and The Monkees. Had the UK & US No.1 single with his version of the Badfinger Evans & Ham song 'Without You.' When John Lennon and Paul McCartney held a press conference in 1968 to announce the formation of Apple Corps, John was asked to name his favorite American artist. He replied, "Nilsson". Paul was then asked to name his favorite American group. He replied, "Nilsson".
19 Nov 1983
English musician and songwriter Tom Evans from Badfinger, took his own life after a bitter argument with Badfinger guitarist Joey Molland about the royalties for 'Without You'. (Evans co-wrote 'Without You' a hit for both Harry Nilsson and Mariah Carey). Family members said the singer, songwriter was never able to get over his former bandmate's Pete Ham's suicide.
24 Apr 1975
Peter Ham, British singer, songwriter with Badfinger committed suicide by hanging himself in the garage of his Surrey home, aged 27. Ham co-wrote 'Without You', with band mate Tom Evans (who also later committed suicide). The song won an Ivor Novello award for Song Of The Year in 1973, and was a hit for Harry Nilsson and Mariah Carey. Ham was a founder member of The Iveys, who became Badfinger, were signed to the Beatles' Apple label, their first hit 'Come And Get It' was written by Paul McCartney.
11 Mar 1972
Harry Nilsson was at No.1 on the UK singles chart with his version of The Peter Ham and Tom Evans song 'Without You'. First recorded by Badfinger in 1970, the song was also a No.1 for Mariah Carey in 1994.
19 Feb 1972
Harry Nilsson started a four week run at No.1 on the US singles chart with his version of the Badfinger song 'Without You.' His vocal was recorded in a single take and his performance was rewarded with Nilsson's second Grammy Award.
29 Jan 1972
The triple album The Concert For Bangladesh went to No.1 on the UK album chart. Organised by George Harrison to raise funds for the people caught up in the war and famine from the area. The set featured; Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Eric Clapton, Ravi Shankar and members from Badfinger.
1 Aug 1971
The Concert For Bangladesh organised by George Harrison to aid victims of famine and war in Bangladesh took place at New York's Madison Sq Garden. Featuring Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Eric Clapton, Ravi Shankar and members from Badfinger. Harrison had to shell out his own money to maintain the fund after legal problems froze all proceeds. The triple album release (the second in a row by Harrison), hit No.1 in the UK and No.2 in the US and received the Grammy Award for Album of the Year.
24 Jul 1969
Paul McCartney recorded a demo of his new song ‘Come and Get It’ at Abbey Road studios in London. McCartney gave the song to The Iveys, (soon to become known as Badfinger). The song was later used as the theme for the movie The Magic Christian. The Beatles also recorded ‘Sun King/Mean Mr. Mustard’ for their forthcoming Abbey Road album.
24 Apr 1968
The Beatles new company, Apple Records turned down the offer to sign new artist David Bowie. (Apple later signed Mary Hopkin, James Taylor, Badfinger and Billy Preston).
20 Apr 1968
Apple Music ran advertisements soliciting tapes from unknown artists, offering financial grants as part of a deal to release records on the Apple label. Artists such as Badfinger, James Taylor, Mary Hopkin, Jackie Lomax, David Peel and Elephant's Memory were signed up.
April 24, 2019 at 10:29 pm
Those are terrible re-recorded versions you’ve linked to this very nice article. Dan Matovina could help you with that. The original recordings should be linked! Thanks for caring
April 25, 2019 at 8:37 am
Thanks Ron, we will look into that and thanks for reading the article.
February 22, 2020 at 9:09 pm
Neil I didn’t know you were involved with this!
I do have such memories of the fine songs they produced.
April 24, 2020 at 7:22 pm
These are mostly Joey’s Badfinger recordings. Could at least hear Pete’s voice on his songs.
Rock And Roll 1955
October 25, 2020 at 4:22 pm
George Harrison was supposed to produce Baby Blue but was working on his Bangla Desh concert at the time. Todd Rundgren took over as producer.
November 19, 2020 at 11:05 pm
Tom Evans having never gotten over Pete Ham’s death died after heavily drinking. The argument was over held up monies in the courts to which Joey Molland had no control over.
March 20, 2021 at 9:20 pm
Such a good band Badfinger. Typified 70’s Music “Without You in my favourite top 20 of all time. Neilson had a great voice but much prefer Peter Ham’s “Badfinger” version of the song. A songwriter singing from the heart, R.I.P.
Leland W Fortner Jr
September 23, 2021 at 2:29 pm
I have their best of cd. This band was robbed of becoming the big star of Great Britain! I was not in their shoes, but what I’ve listened to, went over the top in my 70 years of listening to real music. Suicide is not the answer. Living in valleys to climb the highest mountains, maybe could have brought their songwriting straight to the heavens and a very successful career. Peace.
August 13, 2022 at 12:21 pm
I listened to some of the recorded tracks on this page. They weren’t Badfinger, they were Joey Molland doing his own remakes. They were great recordings, but the gist of this article is how poor management & mishaps led to the death of Pete Ham & Tom Evan’s. Their voices should be heard, in my opinion.
November 11, 2022 at 3:05 pm
SIMPLY AMAZING BAND, SONGS AND STAGE PRESENCE!! My wife COOKIE and I met in College in ’71 and Dated and Married, with “DAY AFTER DAY” on its run! As well as “BABY BLUE” and “NO MATTER WHAT” as well!! They sure applied! Loved these guys and their songs! HOW SAD IT ALL WAS AS IT ENDED LIKE IT DID!! ALL DUE TO A CROOKED MANAGER!!
50 YEARS NOW FOR US ON NOVEMBER
18TH THIS MONTH!! AWE, THE MEMORIES AND GREAT TOMES!!!