Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Badfinger 7: After Pete

The tragedy of Badfinger has been only slightly redeemed by the recognition that has multiplied in the years since Pete Ham took his own life. For most of the ‘70s and ‘80s, one could still hear at least “No Matter What” and “Come And Get It” on the right radio stations, and even AM radio continued to embrace Nilsson’s version of “Without You”. But thanks to the “businessman” who arguably sent Pete to his early grave, the people responsible for creating that music saw barely a penny for their talent.
The surviving members attempted to carry on in a variety of combinations; Joey Molland and Tom Evans even put out a couple of albums under the Badfinger moniker, but even they couldn’t get along. In 1983, apparently never having gotten over what happened to Pete, Tommy also chose suicide via hanging.
From time to time an act called Badfinger could be found playing a state fair or amusement park; most likely the only original member was Joey (oddly, the last to join the band and first to walk). The Apple catalog remained in legal limbo, but the Warner Bros. material was mined in the CD reissue era. The UK-only Shine On offered eight songs from Badfinger and four from Wish You Were Here, while in the US, Rhino Records went even deeper on the hopefully titled (for 1990) The Best Of Badfinger Volume II, with a more balanced sampling from the two Warner albums, bolstered by four unreleased tracks and two songs from one of the Joey-and-Tommy albums. Joey also spearheaded the audio sweetening and release of Day After Day, a vintage 1974 concert, on Rykodisc.
Once EMI and Apple settled their litigation, Badfinger’s albums were finally made available on CD, along with the requisite bonus material. Meanwhile, an enterprising engineer named Dan Motavina wrote a book about the band, and ingratiated himself so much to the surviving members and estates to include CDs of demos and whatnot with each printing. Rykodisc got into the act with two CDs of Pete Ham demos, shepherded by Motavina, but including dubious (again) overdubs by original Ivey Ron Griffiths and latter-day Badfinger keyboardist Bob Jackson in an attempt to be contemporary yet “authentic”. (Of the two, 7 Park Avenue is more listenable, though Golders Green boasts sketches of songs people would recognize.)
Motavina was also responsible for the 2000 release of Head First, which presented the band’s final recordings with Pete but without Joey. It’s not a happy album; the pressure of having to create so much material had finally taken its toll, and with the exception of the four songs that had already appeared on the Rhino collection, it’s a disappointing epilogue. (The extra CD of demos doesn’t help either.) VH-1’s Behind The Music special appeared the same year, along with a new compilation. The Very Best Of Badfinger gets points for including tracks from the two Warner Bros. albums, but at the expense of some of the better songs on the more solid 1995 compilation simply titled The Best Of Badfinger.
The Apple albums were made available again with the digital relaunch of the catalog in 2010, and the two Warner titles followed some time later. Today, only Joey Molland is left to reap any rewards. Yet the fact that these albums are in circulation is triumph enough.

1 comment:

  1. There was also Natural Gas (Joey), which wasn't a bad little album at all, but had the misfortune to be released on the Private Stock label, which went belly-up despite some pretty big hits (Samantha Sang, Walter Murphy) - that came after Badfinger Mark I, and before Mark II. Also, the first of the two Joey-Tommy albums was pretty good, just short - as if they expected a two or three Pete songs to fill it out.