In the six years (1969-75) that Badfinger had its classic members (Pete Ham, Joey Molland, Tom Evans and Mike Gibbins) they signed with Apple Records, released seven albums, Harry Nilsson took their song “Without You” to number one, had three top 10 hits of their own and were one of the forebearers of the power pop sound as we know it today.
Then over the course of 1974 and 1975 it would all be gone. Joey Molland left the band, and Badfinger left Apple for Warner Bros. Their manager, Stan Polley, mismanaged the band and their money. Warner became suspicious of Polley’s financial dealings and decided legal action was needed. They also decided to cut the band off, and stop any marketing of their albums. The band had no money, a terrible manager, and a bleak future. The pressure was too much for lead singer/songwriter Ham, and he hanged himself in 1975. He was 27. His suicide note blamed Polley, “P.S. Stan Polley is a soulless bastard. I will take him with me.”
The band did try to continue after Ham’s death, and released two more albums. Tensions between the Evans and the returning Molland eventually led to the band disbanding for good in 1983. Evans hanged himself following an argument with Molland over past royalties the same year. Molland continues to tour, and is the only classic member still alive after Gibbins death in 2005.
I first heard Badfinger in the oddball 1969 movie The Magic Christian starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr. I bought a used VHS copy because the movie is based on the book of the same name written by Terry Southern, and I was in a real big Dr. Strangelove/Stanley Kubrick kick. I do not actually remember hearing the Paul McCartney written “Come and Get It,” but after watching the Badfinger episode of Behind the Music I remembered where I had originally heard it. Badfinger actually have two other songs in the movie, but “Come and Get It” is the most popular for obvious reasons. It sounds like a Beatles song, and the band dealt with this criticism during their whole career.
Badfinger is one of the more tragic bands in rock n’ roll history. With better management they could have been one of the major groups of the 1970’s. They never won any awards or had an album reach higher than number 28 on the charts (1970’s No Dice), but you can hear their influence on artists like Elvis Costello and Weezer. Unfortunately, Badfinger is on a list with hundreds of other bands that are largely forgotten by the public and classic rock radio.