Come and Get It: Appreciating the Magic of Badfinger

If there were ever a case where the melancholy flavor of a band’s music echoed the band’s actual experience, it was the achingly sad saga of Badfinger.

Originally known as The Iveys, the band transformed into Badfinger, after the working title (“Bad Finger Boogie”) of The Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends.” The best-known lineup featured Pete Ham (guitar), Mike Gibbins (drums), Tom Evans (bass), and Joey Molland (guitar).

The Beatle connection served the band well, and helped them craft some of the most tuneful, memorable power-pop hits of the 70s. The band seemed to have it all: superb songwriting, excellent musicianship, a “look” and, yes, a little help from their friends.

The band’s breakthrough, 1970’s “Come and Get It” was written and produced by Paul McCartney, whose demo was a roadmap for an instant hit.

Beatle confidante and road manager Mal Evans flexed his nascent production muscles on “No Matter What” (also from 1970). It still sounds great after all the years.

In 1971, George Harrison took his turn at the helm, with “Day After Day.” (Badfinger also played, though deeply in the background, on George’s Concert for Bangladesh.)

The next magician in the producer seat was Todd Rundgren, who crafted the haunting “Baby Blue” in 1972.

For peak heartbreak, consider the band’s 1970 version of “Without You.” Harry Nilsson later had the bigger hit with it in 1971, and Mariah Carey put her stamp on it in 1994, but Badfinger more than holds its own.

After this string of success, recording five albums for Apple Records, things took a really bad turn. The story is long and sad, but suffice to say it was a Category-5 storm of unraveling, including Apple’s dissolution, managerial malfeasance, financial shenanigans, internal quarreling, and – eventually – mental illness. In the end, both Pete Ham and Tom Evans took their own lives. (If you want to dig deeper, consider this documentary.)

As awful as the headlines are, there is always the music – beautiful songs, immaculately produced and performed. We don’t need any more reminders about how cruel fame, and the music business, can be; but we can treasure the legacy of this remarkable band.

-Al Cattabiani

Photo: Retro floyd, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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5 comments on “Come and Get It: Appreciating the Magic of Badfinger

  1. Henry Albert Smith, III

    Great piece, Al, about a truly great band. I had the privilege of seeing them live at my cute little college in Western Maryland, Frostburg State, and they packed the same punch there as they did on record. I imagine you’re familiar with the lovely “Shine On – A Tribute to Pete Ham” album, too.

  2. Richard Cecil Short

    Anyone remember “Apple of My Eye” and “Midnight Caller”? Great Bad finger tunes.

  3. John Smistad

    “Perfection” from the LP “Straight Up” reveals a band of some considerable substance, lyrically and musically.

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