The Great Songs: Badfinger – Baby Blue

by Eric Melin on September 22, 2010

in Columns,The Great Songs

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.

Baby_blue_badfingerAlthough 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.

badfinger-straight-up coverHam’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:

The Great Songs: Big Star – Thirteen

The Great Songs: The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset

The Great Songs: The Jayhawks – Blue

The Great Songs: Pavement – Summer Babe

The Great Songs: The Zombies – Care of Cell 44

The Great Songs: The O’Jays – Back Stabbers

The Great Songs: Queen & David Bowie – Under Pressure

The Great Songs: George Jones – He Stopped Loving Her Today

The Great Songs: Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart

The Great Songs: KISS – Deuce

The Great Songs: The Flying Burrito Brothers – Hot Burrito #1

The Great Songs: The Flaming Lips – Do You Realize??

The Great Songs: Pink Floyd – Astronomy Domine

The Great Songs: The Beach Boys – Surf’s Up

The Great Songs: Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get it On

The Great Songs: Slayer – Angel of Death

The Great Songs: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Beyond Belief

The Great Songs: The Replacements – Unsatisfied

The Great Songs: Cheap Trick – Surrender

The Great Songs: Guided by Voices – Motor Away

The Great Songs: The Louvin Brothers – Knoxville Girl

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers and regular critic for KCTV5. He’s a member of the BFCA, VP of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also the current 2013 Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

Facebook Twitter Google+ YouTube 

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Randall September 22, 2010 at 7:28 am

Yes! “Baby Blue” always seems to get overlooked for “No Matter What” and “Come and Get It.” Those are fine songs, but “Baby Blue” is my favorite, too.

Reply

2 Karl Koelle September 22, 2010 at 8:08 am

Love the Finger; love reading these things cause I always pick something up. I am considered by my wife and friends to be a music trivia geek, but I did not realize that “Without You” was a Badfinger song originally. Great, thanks, now I won’t get any work done cause I’ll be working to find the mp3 of the Badfinger version.

I will say I am not surprised necessarily; Badfinger did write terrific lyrics song after song. Keep up the great work!

Reply

3 Eric Melin September 22, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Thanks Karl! I love that you called them “the Finger.”

Randall- I love all those songs, but I really think that album-wise, “Wish You Were Here” is their most solid release. They were really at the top of their game right before Ham’s death. So sad.

Reply

Leave a Comment

 

Previous post:

Next post: