Forever in the shadow of The Beatles, who signed them to Apple Records, Welsh band Badfinger had enough timeless pop songs under their belt to become a household name but sadly, it was never to be.
Although he shared most of his songwriting duties with bassist Tom Evans, singer/guitarist Pete Ham was the principal penman for Badfinger, and he wrote a string of great tunes over a seven-year period.
My favorite is a song called “Baby Blue,” which showcases his knack for a catchy guitar riff, a great melody, and the open-hearted sentimentality of his lyrics.
“Baby Blue” appears on the band’s third album “Straight Up” and reached number 14 on the Billboard pop Singles chart back in the heyday of wide-open formatted U.S. radio.
The version above is the band “live” on the “Rollin’ on the River” show hosted by Kenny Rogers, of all things. The vocals with Pete and Tom are live, but (as was the custom back then and is fairly frequent still) the instrumental tracks are taped.
This song has an instantly familiar refrain and the moment its over, the hooks stay with you. Ham had a knack for wearing his heart on his sleeve and making you believe every word. He wrote the song for a girl named Dixie and every time I hear it, I picture how lovely she must have been and how hard he fell for her.
Ham’s idealistic nature didn’t jive with the shark-infested waters of the music industry. Tragically, he hanged himself in 1975 less than a year after releasing “Wish You Were Here,” which is Badfinger’s most accomplished record. Record company troubles, mismanagement, and lawsuits were too much for Ham to handle and his idealism–so apparent in his songs–was shaken to its core. Sadly, in 1983, Evans would follow Ham and hang himself for similar reasons.
A song Evans and Ham wrote together called “Without You” was covered and made into a number-one hit by Harry Nilsson in 1972 and reached bnumber three in 1994 as covered by (of all people) Mariah Carey.
Still, it is “Baby Blue” that I always return to, partially because of its wide-eyed innocence and partly because of its timeless vocal and guitar hooks. Maybe that’s why its been covered by everyone from Aimee Mann to Mary Lou Lord to Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs.
The Great Songs series so far: