Badfinger 1970 albums

Buy Magic Christian Music
Buy No Dice

Badfinger 1970 albumsBadfinger thrust into the world of popular music with their first two releases, the soundtrack Magic Christian Music and the rock album No Dice. The first of these was actually an unplanned hybrid of five songs recorded specifically for the film The Magic Christian and seven songs released in the late 60s when the group was known as “The Iveys”. The latter was their pop/rock breakthrough as it significantly expanded the group’s popularity with a handful of indelible songs.

Based in London, The Iveys caught the attention of Mal Evans in early 1968, shortly after he was brought on board the Beatles’ brand new Apple Records. The group was signed to the label in April 1968 and immediately began recording soft rock styled pop singles, which were released throughout the next several months. In early 1969, Maybe Tomorrow by the Iveys was compiled from previous singles and released as a debut album. Later that year, the group changed their name to Badfinger and recorded a few songs, produced by Paul McCartney, intended for a multi-artist soundtrack to The Magic Christian. However, when Apple couldn’t retain the rights to Thunderclap Newman’s “Something In the Air”, the label decided to release a Badfinger-only soundtrack.

The band refined their sound in a more rock-oriented direction on No Dice. This was due in part to the arrival of guitarist Joey Molland, formally of the band The Rain. The four group members also recorded sessions on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass album. Mal Evans was the original producer for this album but, after Apple execs expressed dissatisfaction with the sound, longtime Beatles’ engineer Geoff Emerick was brought in to finish the album. Even though No Dice was released during a very competitive Christmas season for rock records, it did very well commercially and became the band’s best-selling LP.


Magic Christian Music by Badfinger
Released: January 9, 1970 (Apple)
Produced by: Paul McCartney, Mal Evans, & Tony Visconti
Recorded: Abbey Road, Trident, IBC & Olympic Studios, London, 1968-1969
Side One Side Two
Come and Get It
Crimson Ship
Dear Angie
Fisherman
Midnight Sun
Beautiful and Blue
Rock of All Ages
Carry On Till Tomorrow
I’m in Love
Walk Out In the Rain
Angelique
Knocking Down Our Home
Give It a Try
Maybe Tomorrow

No Dice by Badfinger
Released: November 9, 1970 (Apple)
Produced by: Geoff Emerick & Mal Evans
Recorded: Abbey Road & Trident Studios, London, April–August 1970
Side One Side Two
I Can’t Take It
I Don’t Mind
Love Me Do
Midnight Caller
No Matter What
Without You
Blodwyn
Better Days
It Had to Be
Watford John
Believe Me
We’re for the Dark
Band Musicians
Pete Ham – Guitars, Paino, Vocals
Tom Evans – Bass, Guitars, Vocals
Ron Griffiths – Bass, Vocals (Magic Christian only)
Joey Molland – Guitars, Vocals (No Dice only)
Mike Gibbins – Drums, Vocals

 

“Come and Get It” was written by McCartney during the sessions for Abbey Road but not included on that album. He offered the song to Badfinger along with his producer services on the condition that they record it exactly like this demo. The opening track and lead single from Magic Christian Music, “Come and Get It” was the group’s first hit, reaching the Top 10 in both the US and the UK.

Magic Christian Music by BadfingerOther new tracks recorded for the movie included “Crimson Ship”, “Give It a Try”, “Midnight Sun”, and “Rock of All Ages”. The latter song was also produced by McCartney and has a pure, Early-Beatles’ inspired rock feel that made it a highlight of the album’s first side. “Dear Angie” was written by bassist Ron Griffiths and producer Tony Visconti as the Ivey’s second single in 1969. Griffiths left the group later in the year, making this his only composition for the band.

Tom Evans started off as a guitarist but later moved to bass following the departure of Griffiths and the arrival of Molland. On Magic Christian Music, Evans composed and sang lead vocals on many tracks, including the folk-tinged “Fisherman”, the pop-oriented “Beautiful and Blue”, the quasi-psychedelic “Angelique”, and the closing ballad “Maybe Tomorrow”. This last track was the Ivey’s first single in mid-1968 and includes string arrangements by George Martin, but had disappointing chart success following its release.

Evans co-wrote “Carry on Till Tomorrow” with Pete Ham. This track may be the most complex on the album, starting dark and melancholy, but adapting contrasting musical arrangements ranging from simple folk with rich vocal harmonies to sweeping strings and blistering lead guitar. Ham’s other contributions to Magic Christian Music are the upbeat, jazzy rocker “I’m in Love”, the sixties folk tune “Walk Out In the Rain”, and the Roy Orbison-like crooner “Knocking Down Our Home”, a song with piano, clarinets, and Caribbean-like beats in a laid back and breezy journey through catastrophic irony.

Starting with No Dice, Ham would play an increasing role in Badfinger’s musical direction, as evident on the hard rock opener “I Can’t Take It”. Still, this album was incredibly democratic compositionally with drummer Joey Molland writing or co-writing several tracks. “I Don’t Mind” is a flange-induced rock ballad, sung by Evans with Emerick adding subtle production effects. “Love Me Do” is the first song with Molland on lead vocals as a very basic rocker and apparent homage by the band to their mentors.

No Dice by BadfingerThe true heart of the album begins with Ham’s ballad “Midnight Caller”. This simple but exquisite song features beautiful vocals by Ham to his simple, rocking piano, steadily strummed acoustic, slightly funky bass and subtle drums. The hit song “No Matter What” was originally cut from the album when Apple considered its sound (produced by Mal Evans) to be insufficient. Later in the sessions, however, the group needed another track and revisited this track to find a pure pop/rock sound that perfectly fit the times in late 1970. Complex harmonies, call and response vocals, and good rock instrumentation with effective sonic treats like a distorted organ and fine lead guitar, all worked to make this simplest of upbeat love themes one the group’s biggest ever hits, peaking at number 5 in the UK and number 8 in the US.

The polar opposite of previous feel-good song, “Without You” is a melancholy classic and a true collaboration between Ham and Evans. Actually the song is a fusion of two ballads with Ham’s “If It’s Love” used for the verses and Evans’ chorus giving the song its title. Badfinger’s version features a smooth, George Harrison-like lead guitar by Molland and a long outro chorus with building instrumentation. However, this original version was far from the most popular version of this song, which has been covered by over a hundred artists. Harry Nilsson heard the Badfinger recording of this song and instantly decided to cover it on his Nilsson Schmilsson album in 1971. His version topped the US pop chart for four weeks in 1972, and was one of the highest selling singles for that year. When Nilsson passed away in 1994, Mariah Carey decided to record the song as a tribute to him and it once again topped the pop charts.

Side two of No Dice contains some lesser known tracks which are of no less quality. Ham’s “Blodwyn” is an upbeat, drinking pub type folk song with Country-inspired lead guitars, while “Better Days” with interlude guitar riffs and Elvis-inspired lyrics by Molland as well as an effective key change for the final verse. “It Had to Be” is a simple ballad written by Gibbins with Ham offering the emotive lead vocals, while “Watford John” is a band jam with a boogie piano named after a studio engineer employed by Apple.

The album ends very strong with a gem each by Evans and Ham. “Believe Me” is a John Lennon-inspired rock screed with harmonized vocals and a methodical but powerful delivery, along with the best overall guitar lead on the album, a duo effort which is slightly harmonized and slightly competing. This track was one of the earlier efforts by the group and Mal Evans. An absolute gem by Ham, “We’re for the Dark” completes the album as a simple but effective arrangement with tremendous sonic effect. This includes a fine fade-in of single acoustic, Ham’s double-tracked vocals, and the slightest accompaniment of bass guitar and orchestration, which never overpower the root acoustic and vocal elements. Although there are no drums, there is a consistent, rapid, heart-beat like beat throughout, which works to boast the songs motion overall.

Upon completion of No Dice, Emerick and the band began recording songs for a potential follow-up album. Although the project never materialized, several of these tunes appeared as bonus tracks on later versions of this album, with the beat-driven, slow rocker “Mean, Mean Jemima” being the best of this lot. In 1971, Badfinger started over with a new album project which spawned Straight Up, another successful pop rock release by the group.

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1970 Page ad

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 45th anniversary of 1970 albums.

 

All Things Must Pass
by George Harrison

Buy All Things Must Pass

All Things Must Pass by George HarrisonWe start our three part mini-series called “Life After Beatles” with All Things Must Pass, the triple LP album which George Harrison the month the Beatles officially broke up. However, much of the material on this album dates back to later Beatles projects (usually as material rejected by the band) as well as personal contemporary influence from artists like Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan. For the Beatle who was often relegated to a supporting player with one or few compositions per album, this was a massive break out for Harrison as he firmly established his own musical identity and introduced methods like his signature slide guitar technique. The result was a critical and commercial success and some consider this to be the best of all the former Beatles’ solo albums.

Harrison previously recorded two experimental solo albums called Wonderwall Music and Electronic Sound, both of which made use of early synthesizers. Following the release of The Beatles’ White Album in late 1968, Harrison took a trip to America, which included a stop at Dylan’s residence in Woodstock, NY as The Band was working on their self-titled sophomore album. Inspired by the songwriting methods of Dylan and his protégés and a renewed fascination with the guitar, Harrison began writing prolifically, and contributed songs to artists Billy Preston, Doris Tory, an Cream. Harrison also briefly toured with Clapton and his group Delaney & Bonnie and Friends. Although he began to openly discuss recording a solo album in 1969, it was not until The Beatles’ break-up in the Spring of 1970, that Harrison moved forward with the project.

Producer Phil Spector was invited to listen to Harrison’s growing library of unreleased compositions, some of which dated back as far as 1966. These diverse songs ranged in sub-genres from rock to country, Motown, Gospel and Indian music, as well as many hybrid fusions of these styles. Even though there was enough finished material to release a triple-length album, Harrison reportedly made demos of at least twenty other songs, most of which have yet to be released. Due to Spector’s rich “wall of sound” recording method, it is hard to discern exactly who played what on which track. However, this album did employ an incredible roster of talented rock musicians to back Harrison. Along with Clapton and Preston, these included fellow Beatle Ringo Starr, Dave Mason, Alan White, Phil Collins, and all four members of the group Badfinger.


All Things Must Pass by George Harrison
Released: November 27, 1970 (Apple)
Produced by: George Harrison & Phil Spector
Recorded: Abbey Road, Trident, & Apple Studios London, May–October 1970
Side One Side Two
I’d Have You Anytime
My Sweet Lord
Wah-Wah
Isn’t It a Pity
What Is Life
If Not for You
Behind That Locked Door
Let It Down
Run of the Mill
Side Three Side Four
Beware of Darkness
Apple Scruffs
Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp
Awaiting on You All
All Things Must Pass
I Dig Love
Art of Dying
Isn’t It a Pity (version 2)
Hear Me Lord
Side Five Side Six
Out of the Blue
It’s Johnny’s Birthday
Plug Me In
I Remember Jeep
Thanks for the Pepperoni
Primary Musicians
George Harrison – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Eric Clapton – Guitars
Klaus Voorman – Bass
Ringo Starr – Drums

All Things Must Pass starts with the ballad “I’d Have You Anytime”, a song co-written by Harrison and Dylan in Woodstock in November 1968. This opener features a fine guitar lead by Clapton, although he was not originally credited due to contractual concerns. The first minute and a half of the hit “My Sweet Lord” is quite brilliant in its approach. But this song does get quite repetitive and the backing religious chants wear thin later on in the song. The song turned out to be a mixed blessing as Harrison’s biggest pop hit (number one for four weeks) but also controversial due to the lawsuit for copyright infringement due to this tracks similarity to the sixties pop hit “He’s So Fine”.

“Wah-Wah” is a track with great sonic texture and arrangement that was written during Harrison’s brief departure from the Beatles in early 1969. It was the first track recorded for the album and includes a great performance by Badfinger in backing Harrison. “Isn’t It a Pity” is even older, dating back to the 1966 Rubber Soul sessions. Two distinct versions of this melancholy ballad were included on the album, with the seven-minute side one closer being the more popular version, which reached the top of the charts in Canada.

George Harrison and Eric Clapton in 1970The fantastic rocker “What Is Life” is one of Harrison’s most indelible tunes, driven by a rich guitar riff, great melody, and strategic horns, all of which helped make it a top-ten hit in the United States. Originally, the song was a concerted effort at “blue-eyed soul” but the result is much closer to heavy rock/pop. Written solely by Dylan, “If Not for You” is a bright pop song with slight Caribbean elements and the only song not at least partially composed by Harrison. “Behind That Locked Door” follows as a Country-waltz with some steel guitars in distance, while “Let It Down” was one of a few presented to the Beatles during the Let It Be sessions, but ultimately rejected by the other band members. “Run of the Mill” starts with blissful blend of guitars while the lyrics express some frustration with the circumstances surrounding the Beatles’ business practices.

The album’s fine third side begins with the slow drudge and subtle, building intensity of “Beware of Darkness”. The lyrics of this song reflect Eastern philosophy and the wariness of corrupting influences. A light tribute to rock fans, “Apple Scruffs” is dominated by harmonica, upbeat strummed acoustic, and rich harmony vocals. The clicking percussion by Mal Evans gives it a feeling of spontaneity. “Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)” contains some good melodies and great sonic feel as a distant slide guitar and near piano work well together, while “Awaiting On You All” is a Gospel rock revival that is almost too richly produced for its own good.

The excellent title ballad is filled with rich instrumentation and a great overall vibe. First recorded with The Beatles, the song was originally released by Billy Preston on his Encouraging Words album. Harrison was influenced by The Band’s communal music-making with the lyrics drawing from Timothy Leary’s poem “All Things Pass”. “I Dig Love” has a raw sound and catchy groove – repetitive but in useful way, while “Art of Dying” contains more great rock elements. The side four closer “Hear Me Lord” is an explicit prayer asking for help in becoming a better person, with a strong chorus in background and a very animated piano throughout.

The final two sides of the album is known collectively as “Apple Jam”, with four of the five tracks being improvised instrumental tracks. The best of these is the long droning “Out of the Blue”, a two-chord jam with decent sax lead early on and subtle piano and organ motifs later. “I Remember Jeep” contains some synthesized effects overdubs and features former Cream and Bind Faith drummer Ginger Baker, while “Thanks for the Pepperoni” is the most roots-rock oriented jam. The only vocal track on these two sides is “It’s Johnny’s Birthday”, which was recorded as a gag to present to John Lennon on his 30th birthday.

All Things Must Pass launched a long and respectable solo career for George Harrison, concluding with his 15-year final project Brainwashed. Still, few dispute that this first post-Beatles release is Harrison’s true masterpiece that would never be equaled.

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1970 Page ad

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 45th anniversary of 1970 albums.

 

Badfinger’s 1974 Albums

Buy Badfinger
Buy Wish You Were Here
Buy Badfinger Combo (Badfinger, Wish You Were Here, & BBC Sessions)

Badfinger and Wish You Were HereBadfinger had one of the saddest roller coaster rides of the early 1970’s rock n’ roll era. Despite personal tragedies, they recorded and released two quality albums, Badfinger and Wish You Were Here, both of which were released in 1974 and brought the promise of top-level fame within their sights. But this was not to be, as the group had a fraud perpetrated in their name which ultimately led to financial ruin, both these 1974 albums being ultimately pulled from the shelves, and the ultimate tragedy of band leader Pete Ham committing suicide in early 1975. In fact, much of the world would not know these albums even existed for over three decades.

Badfinger had a fairly good run early on in their career from 1969 through 1971. aside from the Beatles themselves, they were the most successful artists on the Apple Records label. However, by 1972 Apple was in serious financial disarray and Badfinger had decided to part ways once they completed a final album they were obligated to deliver to the label. The group’s new manager, Stan Polley had secured what seemed to be a very lucrative deal with Warner Brothers. By late 1973, Badfinger was in the London studio serving the dual purpose of finishing their fourth and final album for Apple (eventually called Ass) along with recording their initial effort for Warner Brothers.

Although recordings for the album began as early as 1972, Ass wasn’t released until late November 1973 due to production problems. In the end, Apple engineer Chris Thomas was hired to finish production duties. Thomas would stay on for both of the 1974 albums. Most of the material on Badfinger was written in the studio as it was recorded, and that album was released very shortly after Ass. The band continued on its hectic schedule, going on a short but intense tour of America in the Spring of 1974, with one concert being recorded for a possible live release.

In April, Badfinger headed to Caribou Ranch recording studio in Colorado, to record their second album of 1974, Wish You Were Here. Their reported $3 million deal with Warner Brothers, called for a total of six albums over three years, so the band had no real incentive to take time off, especially since Polley had assured they’d be advanced $225,000 for each new record (although the band would never see any of that). Further, Warner‘s publishing arm had become increasingly troubled by a lack of communication from Polley and the status of an escrow account for these advance funds. After completing Wish You Were Here, Badfinger had a legitimate masterpiece in the making. But soon, it would all start to unravel due to actions not of their doing.


Badfinger by Badfinger
Released: February 1974 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Chris Thomas
Recorded: Olympic Studios and AIR Studios, London, June-November 1973
Side One Side Two
I Miss You
Shine On
Love Is Easy
Song for a Lost Friend
Why Don’t We Talk?
Island
Matted Spam
Where Do We Go from Here?
My Heart Goes Out
Lonely You
Give It Up
Andy Norris

Wish You Were Here by Badfinger
Released: November 1974 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Chris Thomas
Recorded: Caribou Ranch, Nederland, Colorado, April-May 1974
Side One Side Two
Just a Chance
You’re So Fine
Got to Get Out of Here
Know One Knows
Dennis
In the Meantime/Some Other Time
Love Time
King Of the Load
Meanwhile Back at the Ranch/Should I Smoke
Band Musicians (Both Albums)
Pete Ham – Guitars, Piano, Vocals
Joey Molland – Guitars, Vocals
Tom Evans – Bass, Vocals
Mike Gibbins – Drums, Keyboards, Vocals

 

After Badfinger and Wish You Were Here were pulled from the shelves in early 1975, they would not be commercially available in the United States for over 30 years. When a Badfinger compilation was released in the early 1990s, only tracks from the four Apple albums were included, leaving many young music fans with the impression that Badfinger’s career finished in 1973. With the proliferation of mp3s near the turn of the century, interest about these “lost” albums began to grow and they were finally released on CD in 2007.

Badfinger 1974 albumBadfinger is a direct and concise attempt at a pure pop album. All four members of the group composed songs, starting with Pete Ham’s ballad “I Miss You”, a mainly solo piece that doesn’t contain much in sonic arrangement or lyrical depth, but is beautiful in its simplicity. In sharp contrast to the opener, “Shine On” is a bright, acoustic-folk-influenced track with great melodies and hooks. Seeming ready made for product placement, “Shine On” falls almost too perfectly into early seventies “have a nice day”, feel-good, sing-songy song. “Love Is Easy” was written by guitarist Joey Molland and is beat-driven and one of the few tracks to be released as a single from either of the 1974 albums.

Ham’s “Song For a Lost Friend” is the first song on album that is not a direct, front and center pop tune. This measured composition is the first song on Badfinger that reaches the level of excellence Badfinger was able to traverse. A great guitar lead follows philosophical lament that, in retrospect, could sum up Badfinger’s career as a whole;

You had a goal, you know you aimed so high, you had a soul, you knew you had to try
You’re just a victim of the time of day no matter what you say or do, you saw your dream and you just took a play and for a while your dream came true – what could you do?”

Taking about a minute for a clever intro of someone entering their house and turning on the radio to a distant rendition of the very song we’re about to hear, Tom Evans‘s “Why Don’t We Talk?” is a very John Lennon-ish type of song in its approach. Molland’s “Island” is the most hard rock based on the first side, built on rudimental riffs, driving rhythm sections, and potent guitar lead.

Badfinger‘s second original side is far superior to the first, with each band member composing some unheralded gems. These four tracks are sandwiched between a couple of unique tracks which bookmark the side. “Matted Spam” is a full-fledged funk n’ soul, complete with driving bass, a full horn section and a later saxophone solo. This song of optimism is infectiously bouncy and catchy with an almost Gospel feel of revival. The closer “Andy Norris” straddles the line between old time rock of the fifties and an early prototype for upcoming acts like The Ramones.

The four standout tracks that are the heart of quality on Badfinger start with “Where Do We Go from Here?” by Evans. It is excellent, melodic, and driven by a cool Wurli piano with tactical guitar licks music and vocals desperate but controlled. Evans’s bass has a bit of Caribbean feel in its beat, which is confirmed later with a short steel drum lead. “My Heart Goes Out” is a British-flavored-folk track with unique arrangement, composed by drummer Mike Gibbins. The chorus of string instruments including mandolin, dobro, and acoustic guitars gives a special melancholy vibe that keeps things interesting. “Lonely You” is one of the truly best power ballads of the early seventies as Ham advances the McCartney-esque strain of soft pop to the next level. This may be a bit sappy for some, but there is not a flaw in this song compositionally or sonically as musically the blend of piano and acoustic are exquisite and guitar leads are potent and the arrangement has long outro to absorb the overall feel as it dissolves. Molland’s “Give It Up” seems to have tapped into nineties grunge about two decades early. This track is very dynamic with an eerie, quiet beginning and verse before it launches into strong part with blended, distorted guitars and a long coda contains wild, lead guitars which pushed the sonic limits of the early seventies. These four powerful, Side B tracks really preserve Badfinger as a relevant rock album four decades later, in spite of its poor reviews and weak sales upon its original 1974 release.

Wish You Were Here by BadfingerDuring, its very short seven week span on the shelves in late 1974, Wish You Were Here did receive positive reviews, and for good reason, as this may be Badfinger’s overall best work. The album forges higher-end seventies pop with contemporary rock, including elements of folk, country, prog and hard rock. Like the previous album, each band member contributed to the songwriting, starting with Ham’s pure rock-driven rocker “Just a Chance”. The harmonized vocals throughout this track announces that this album is something a bit different from past Badfinger LPs. “You’re So Fine” follows as an upbeat acoustic, with a picked-electric that has a Byrds-like quality. Written by Gibbins, the vocals are again vocals harmonized nicely and a beautiful solo guitar interlude leads to country-inspired lead with a subtle vocal chorus and slight harmonica add the great vibe of this tune. The strummed acoustic, dark and moody “Got to Get Out of Here” may by Molland’s prophetic (or telegraphed) telling of his coming departure from the band. A very simple arrangement, with just some excellent organ overtones over the simply strummed acoustic chords, the lyrics seem to tell of the chaos of the era – “Got to get out of here, a man who feels the space begins to need the wall…” A very deep and introspective track.

Badfinger in 1974

Ham’s “Know One Knows” brings the mood back up with a clever play on words after the building intro breaks into steady, descending groove under the pleasant melody. The between-verse interludes are interesting and powerful with fine drum fills by Gibbons and the bridge lead is backed by spoken words by Japanese singer Mika Kato. “Dennis” is a tremendous song on Wish You Were Here and one of the best of Badfinger’s career. This brilliantly chilling song about a child teetering between mischief and innocence is presented in three distinct parts, it starts with very moderate piano-backed verses, cut with strong and slow guitar riffs. The song then moves to more upbeat, almost doo-wop rock section with an exquisite chord structure and passionate vocal harmonies and backing parts. “Dennis” maintains a deep and sweet tenor, but yet there’s a tone of desperation in the closing “there’s a way” part which closes the song. The song’s title is actually an adjective (as in “Dennis the Menace”) and not a noun, as it was written by Ham about his girlfriend’s son, not named Dennis.

Side two begins with “In the Meantime”/”Some Other Time”, the closest to prog rock that Badfinger ever got. Starting with an eerie orchestration before breaking into the rudiment and riff filled “In the Meantime”, the part of the song that seems to preview the sound from emerging American groups like Kansas and Styx. the track alternates back and forth between Gibbins and Molland compositions, with décor of fine strings and horns through all the multiple parts of this suite. In contrast to that seven minute opus, “Love Time” is a very short and direct acoustic ballad, which brings the mood back to the moderate, mellow, middle, where Badfinger seems to work so well. An ever-so short bridge with guitar solo nicely leads this song into final, abrupt verse.

“King of the Load” is Evans’ only composition and lead vocal on Wish You Were Here, containing a great electric piano and vocals with guitar accents during choruses that are particularly beautiful and another strong guitar lead. That being said, this song may suffer from lack of clarity in the lyrics and its odd title. The closing medley “Meanwhile Back at the Ranch”/”Should I Smoke” is an incredible rocker with a strong rhythm, melody, and some of the best second vocals during the choruses. The song gets a bit more moderate during Molland’s “Should I Smoke” part but still carries much of the same drive, albeit accented by orchestration. This closing track solidifies the album as a true classic rock album for all time.

Wish You Were Here would be the band’s final album with their principle line-up of Ham/Molland/Evans/Gibbins, as Molland quit Badfinger shortly after its release. Still, in spite of the dire cloud that was descending on the group, the remaining members soldiered on and immediately went back into the studios to record their planned third album for Warner Brothers. In just eleven days, Ham, Evans, and Gibbons recorded the Head First album, but the label outright rejected this album as it was now clear that Stan Polley had embezzled all the previous advance money and a lawsuit was filed on December 10, 1974. With their current album suddenly withdrawn from shelves and their follow-up rejected, Badfinger desperately attempted to reach Polley to resolve the situation, but he would not return their calls. On April 24, 1975, Pete Ham hanged himself in the garage of his new home he could no longer afford. His suicide note ended with “P.S. Stan Polley is a soulless bastard. I will take him with me”.

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1974 images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1974 albums.

 

Straight Up by Badfinger

Buy Straight Up

Straight Up by Badfinger

After the success of their 1970 album No Dice, Badfinger finished recording its third album with Geoff Emerick as producer. But the tapes were rejected by their label, Apple Records. So one of the founders of the label, George Harrison (Apple was founded by all four Beatles), took over as producer of the album. This continued the long relationship that Badfinger had with the Beatles, starting with being the first artists signed to the Apple label. Paul McCartney wrote “Come and Get It”, which would become their first big hit. Members of Badfinger played on Harrison’s album All Things Must Pass, Ringo Starr‘s hit single “It Don’t Come Easy”, as well as John Lennon‘s album Imagine (check out our review of that album). In fact, the band’s name came from a working title of the Beatles hit “With a Little Help From My Friends” called “Bad Finger Boogie”.

Harrison himself would not be able to finish the album, as he needed to steer his efforts towards his benefit Concert for Bangladesh (where Badfinger also performed), so he turned production over to Todd Rundgren. The resulting album, Straight Up, contains such good pop craftsmanship that it sometimes feels like your listening to AM radio in the early 70s, with the diverse styles of pop that jump from one to another. This could be a double-edged sword, as the varying production methods may disrupts the overall “flow” of the album. But on the flip side, there are no bad songs among the dozen on this album – no filler or sub-standard songs – so there is always something rewarding upon multiple listens.

Further, although Badfinger is alleged to have grown to hate the Beatles comparisons with their own sound, they sure did not shy away from that musical pathway enough times on Straight Up.
 


Straight Up by Badfinger
Released: December 13, 1971 (Apple)
Produced by: George Harrison & Todd Rundgren
Recorded: Abbey Road Studios & AIR Studios, London June-July, 1971
Side One Side Two
Take It All
Baby Blue
Money
Flying
I’d Die Babe
The Name of the Game
Suitcase
Sweet Tuesday Morning
Day After Day
Sometimes
Perfection
It’s Over
Band Musicians
Pete Ham – Guitar, Piano, Vocals
Tom Evans – Bass, Vocals
Joey Molland – Guitar, Vocals
Mike Gibbons – Drums

 
Straight Up may have marked the pinnacle of Badfinger’s short but brilliant heyday. Tragedy would soon befall them in the years to come, especially after they left Apple for Warner Brothers in 1974, where they would make much more excellent music, most od which would get shelved due to legal problems originating from the manager, which ultimately led to the suicides of Ham (in 1975) and Evans (in 1983).

The album begins with a rather peculiar selection, the moody and melancholy “Take It All”, which is a fine number by Pete Ham, but not the usual upbeat song you expect to kickoff a rock n roll album. That upbeat song is the second track, “Baby Blue”, written by Ham and produced by Rundgren, with a complex yet catchy guitar riff and a simple, early-sixties-like drum beat performed by drummer Mike Gibbons.

Guitarist Joey Molland added a few of his own numbers with “Suitcase”, “Sweet Tuesday Morning”, and “Sometimes”, written in his own unique style, edgy and not quite like anything contemporary. Bass player Tom Evans also penned multiple songs on the album in a style loosely associated with John Lennon.

Day After Day single

However, Pete Ham was the true genius within Badfinger. Beyond the album’s first two songs, he wrote three other superb songs on Straight Up. Two of these – “Perfection” and “The Name of the Game” should have been big hits, while the third one, “Day After Day”, was one, reaching #4 on the Billboard charts. The song was not only produced by Harrison but also featured the ex-Beatle on lead guitar as well as Leon Russell on piano.

Some rock historians contend that Badfinger would have had much more success had they had come around five years earlier or five years later, but the early seventies were not very receptive to their Beatle-esque pop songs. Whether this is true or not, we can certainly appreciate them now from the vantage point of four decades in the future.

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1971 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1971 albums.