Inside Badfinger’s Warner Bros. era
Things had really started to go south for Badfinger near the end of their run on Apple Records.
Despite scoring three Top 10 and one Top 20 hits, money had been siphoned from them by their ruthless manager, and a general interest in them was waning. Fortunately one label was interested: Warner Brothers, to whom the band was signed and subsequently released two most excellent albums, and also fortunately, Real Gone Music has deigned to reissue them both, complete with scads of bonus tracks, featuring demos and alternate mixes of most of the tracks on the albums.
The self-titled Badfinger album, at the suggestion of Badfinger bassist Tom Evans, had originally been titled For Love Or Money (test pressings had been sent out with that title-I even saw a review of the album with that title), but at the last minute Warners put the kibosh on that, along with the corresponding artwork, and settled on the self-title. The album–compared to most Badfinger output–is rather laid-back, but Chris Thomas’ fairly murky production creates a really nice vibe. The opening track, “I Miss You”, is one of Pete Ham’s greatest ballads and should have been a hit, but alas that was not to be. Pete also shines with the fine uptempo “Shine On” and another wonderful ballad, “Lonely You”. Guitarist Joey Molland, who had really begun to show his songwriting chops on Straight Up, comes up golden here with “Love Is Easy” (which, although a great tune, was a poor choice for a single), “Island” and “Give It Up”, and drummer Mike Gibbins chimes in with a rare songwriting credit, the folky “My Heart Goes Out.” Badfinger was a really solid effort, but was merely a prelude to what came next.
Many RNRG readers know about the tragic story surrounding Badfinger’s second Warner Bros. album, Wish You Were Here, how it was released with great fanfare, only to not be promoted and pulled from the shelves after only seven weeks due to the aforementioned manager, Stan Polley, embezzling funds meant for Warner Brothers. It’s utterly amazing that the band, who already were in turmoil over management/label transgressions, were able to make what many consider to be the best album of their careers, but indeed they did.
Despite all of the pessimism, Wish You Were Here absolutely bursts with musical optimism, being a lot more rockin’ than its predecessor and containing some of Badfinger’s most amazing melodies. Songs like “Dennis”, “Know One Knows” (sic), “Just A Chance”, “In The Meantime/Some Other Time”, “Meanwhile Back At The Ranch/Should I Smoke” and…well, pretty much everything on the album are would-be classics; it’s a shame that we’ll never know how the album could have done chartwise, and whether or not any bit hits might have sprung from it.
Despite being works in progress, the bonus tracks on Badfinger are almost fully realized recordings, and could have served as an album unto themselves. The alternate mixes on the Wish You Were Here bonuses add instruments and vocals which weren’t on the released recordings; occasionally they don’t really work, but often they do, and to paraphrase Pete Ham, their so fine (see what I did there?).
Tragically, despite the fact that Wish You Were Here was virtually stillborn due to non-judicious business, Badfinger never really found out about that. Pete Ham, being the leader of the band, took it all very personally, and it’s likely that this was one of the factors which led to his suicide the following year. We’ll never know how much more greatness he had in him, but thankfully we have these two wonderful albums, along with their past work, to enjoy.