As the first act signed to the Beatles' Apple Records in 1968 (back when Badfinger were still called the Iveys), things got off to a pretty impressive start for the melodic U.K. band, which featured Ham (guitar), Mike Gibbins (drums), Tom Evans (bass) and Joey Molland (guitar). They had no shortage of hits in their early days, the late Sixties through the early Seventies, including "Come and Get It" (written for them by Paul McCartney), "Day After Day" (produced by George Harrison, who also plays slide guitar on the track), "No Matter What" and "Baby Blue."
But, very long story short, once their association with Apple Records ended, things got a bit tougher for Badfinger. The hits started to dry up, and before they knew it, they were facing nonstop crises regarding management, money, leadership—and, well, pretty much every other aspect of running a band. Two classic-era members even committed suicide—Ham in 1975 and Evans in 1983. Gibbins died from a brain aneurysm in 2005.
Interest in the band surged (a bit) in late 2013, when "Baby Blue" was featured—to dramatic effect—in the Breaking Bad series finale, but it's safe to say it's died down since then.
There is, of course, a lot more to the Badfinger story, and if you're interested, you can check out this 2015 interview with Molland. That said, our topic today is the band's music and, more specifically, the songs that didn't get the recognition they deserved back in the day. I should mention that some of these tracks are archival and were released much more recently—several years after the classic band ended their run.
Enjoy this guide to 10 of Badfinger's finest under-the-radar songs!
"Know One Knows" from Wish You Were Here (1974)
Here's a great Ham tune from late 1974, during the band's Warner Bros. Records years. And yes, Badfinger's Wish You Were Here came out almost a year before Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here.
"Apple of My Eye" from Ass (1973)
Ham wrote the song about his mixed feelings upon the band's leaving Apple Records (which was the "apple of his eye") to pursue a larger contract by moving to Warner Bros. It would become the original group's last single to chart in the U.S., although it missed making the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 102 on the "Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles" chart. But there's one bright spot: the song reached number 11 in South Africa.
"Sympathy" from Airwaves (1979)
Sure, this song represents the shell of a once-great band fighting to stay relevant in the unfriendly late Seventies, when disco and New Wave were all the rage, but it still shows signs of greatness. Hey, would you rather listen to this or "Disco Duck"? It was written by Joe Tansin, a brand-new member of Badfinger at the time. At this point, Molland and Evans were the only remaining original Badfinger gents.
"Lay Me Down" from Head First (1974)
Although it was recorded in late 1974, Head First didn't see the light of day until 2000. Like so many of Badfinger's greatest songs, this one was written by Ham. One can't help but wonder if it could've been a hit in '74.
"Blind Owl" from Ass (1973)
This rocking Evans tune, a highlight of Ass, sports one hell of a rolling guitar riff. In fact, although Badfinger are best remembered for their Beatles-inspired pop gems, this song owes much more to Southern rock. The Allman Brothers Band's Brothers and Sisters was riding high on the charts when Ass was released.
"Keep Believing" from Head First (1974)
Another fine Ham tune from Head First, a mid-Seventies album that was finally released in 2000. This one features some tasty George Harrison-style slide work.
"Without You" from No Dice (1970)
Sure, you know this classic song, but you're probably familiar with the 1971 Harry Nilsson version or, if you're less lucky, the 1994 Mariah Carey version. It was, however, written by Ham and Evans and originally recorded by Badfinger. Paul McCartney once described the ballad as "the killer song of all time." I've always thought Badfinger could've done more with the instrumental/solo section; it always seemed like a wasted opportunity. Still, there are some lovely arpeggios!
"Constitution" from Ass (1973)
It's unusual to hear Badfinger rock out to this degree, but here it is. The song, which finds the band veering into Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and/or Blue Cheer territory, features some fine guitar playing by Ham and Molland; Molland wrote it, by the way.
"Shine On" from Badfinger (1974)
This is pure, shiny Seventies radio rock, complete with a catchy guitar solo and some nifty acoustic work. You can almost see all the feathered hair bobbing up and down as this track plays in someone's 1973 Ford Gran Torino wagon.
"You're So Fine" from Wish You Were Here (1974)
Badfinger goes country-rock—and it's awesome. Everything works on this Gibbins composition—the impressive slide guitar, the rich, dense acoustics and the band's trademark vocal harmonies.
"Carry On Till Tomorrow" from Magic Christian Music (1969)
This lilting but powerful Ham/Evans composition features guitar work that sounds very much like early Paul McCartney and Wings records, which makes perfect sense, since McCartney produced it. This tune is featured in the 1969 film Magic Christian, and its strings were arranged and conducted by Beatles producer George Martin.