Every so often here I'll do an article under the auspices of Lost Wax. The premise being if I think there is a song, album or band that has fallen through the cracks, faded with time or never been heard in the first place, I'll shine a little light on it. Today's Lost Wax is one of the most tragic 'what ifs...' in rock n roll history, right up there with What if Buddy Holly's plane didn't crash and Jimi didn't OD. Today's subject is the band Badfinger, who had all the gifts and pressures of being the band the Beatles thought should be the next Beatles.
Very few bands make it after being labelled 'the next Beatles'. Some like the Bee Gees and Oasis have moderate success, but most are like Terrence Trent D'Arby (remember him?), they were better off being labelled 'the next Pete Best'. It's a huge weight to be measured by that stick. Badfinger got that label from the Beatles themselves, arguably the most important band in the history of Rock n Roll. The Beatles have, in one way or another, influenced every band after them and their lives, loves and bitter breakups have done as much to shape rock as their music has. The Beatles had the Midas touch when it came to music and sadly the Midas touch when it came to people. Every person they touched seemed to get turned to gold and cut apart for profit. In 1968, at the height of their power, they applied that touch to a little band from Wales called The Iveys. First, they renamed them to 'Badfinger', then when they were struggling at the studio, Paul McCartney came along and gave them 'Come And Get It', which was their first big hit, but it also stamped them in the mold of a Beatles clone. It was a comparison that would dog them for quite a while.
In their short time as rock stars Badfinger got hit by the triumvirate of bad band issues: They hired a financial manager that basically stole every penny they had and eventually stopped returning their calls. Their label, the Beatles' Apple records, fell into internal chaos as the fab four refused to even talk to each other. Finally, and partially because of the financial troubles and lack of backing from their labels, Their lead singer Pete Ham killed himself in 1975 effectively ending the original group and ultimately contributing to the suicide of another founding member Tom Evans, in 1983. But before the wheels of stardom came flying off the bus Badfinger managed to create some of the best music you've ever heard.
Okay, okay, Badfinger are not that unknown a band. In fact, an incarnation of them still tours today. For people of a certain age they are very well known, and if you watched Breaking Bad you know at least one of their songs. However, I still think they deserve a reviewing because they are one of those quintessential bands on the edge of rock 'n' roll consciousness. I could poll 5 people and 4 might have heard of the name but not know much more about them. I could then play 5 songs in a row that all 4 would instantly recognize. So here are those top 5 songs. They actually have many more fantastic songs (in fact they continued making music after Pete Ham's death), but here are 5 powerful songs from the band The Beatles gaveth and in no small part, tooketh away.
Meanwhile Back at the Ranch/Should I Smoke? - This starts out with the crunchy guitar notes that are Badfinger to the core. Then it's right into Pete Ham's distinctive voice. This song is a fun intro to the band. It contains all that makes them Badfinger along with a healthy dose of what got them compared to the Beatles.
Come and Get It - This is a Paul McCartney song, arranged by McCartney and sung by them. It's a good Sir Paul song.
Day After Day - If you confused this one for Eric Clapton from his Derek and the Dominoes period, you're not alone. But this puts you right in the Badfinger roundhouse: the bittersweet love song. They do this particularly well.
No Matter What - That opening riff! Loud and fun. And then some great Revolver period lyrics.
Baby Blue - This song right here. There's more regret and understanding of relationships in 3 minutes here than in most novels. Many of you know it from the end scene of Breaking Bad. This one song brings it all together into pure distilled Badfinger: Opening power chords channeling into progressive guitar notes combined with beautiful haunting lyrics. The 2nd and third stanzas seem to be sung by the whole band. It's also the one tinged with the most melancholy. The Baby Blue of the song could just as easily be a metaphor for the collapse of the band.
Guess I got what I deserved
Kept you waiting there too long, my love
All that time without a word
Didn't know you'd think that I'd forget or I'd regret
The special love I had for you, my baby blue.
Guess that's all I have to say...