They were supposed to be the next Beatles; but a series of tragedies, mismanagement and “rock and roll rip-offs” left Badfinger little more than a sad footnote in musical history.
But now the 1970s power-pop band are finally getting the recognition their fans believe they deserve, as the city of Swansea today unveils a blue plaque to troubled frontman Pete Ham, who committed suicide, aged 27. The plaque, close to the city’s railway station, will honour Ham as one of the region’s “finest musical talents”.
At the peak of the band’s fame he played “Here Comes the Sun” at New York’s Madison Square Garden with George Harrison, but Ham is now largely remembered for writing a song – “Without You” – that Harry Nilsson, and Mariah Carey would later cover to global success.
Dan Matovina, a US record producer wrote one of the few books about the band – Without You: The Tragic Story of Badfinger – is to speak today at the ceremony. He will say: “Pete Ham presented us with beautiful songs, people fell in love to his songs, got married, to them, reflected on their broken hearts, dwelled on the messages of peace, love, kindness, understanding, he reached out in testament of the best of the human spirit.”
The band had started out as The Iveys in the mid-1960s and were discovered by Beatles’ roadie Mal Evans. Their demo records convinced The Beatles to make Ham’s group the first signing to their Apple Records.
After a rocky start, they changed their name and a song written by Paul McCartney called “Come and Get It” gave Badfinger an international hit.
They would go on to produce hit songs including “No Matter What” and “Day after Day” before writing “Without You”, which has been covered about 180 times.
Ham was the driving force behind the band. “He was so gifted, but it came not just from talent but hard work, a perseverance, a belief in himself that great effort could bring fulfilment and success,” Mr Matovina said.
Problems started towards the end of 1971 after issues with Apple Records, and the band headed to Warner Brothers Records. They had hired American Stan Polley as their manager a year earlier, which would have tragic consequences.
During the next few years, despite releasing a series of albums, tensions rose and the band began to split at the seams. Polley had signed them to a ruinous contract that left him with the lion’s share of the earnings – sparking a series of legal disputes.