Badfinger’s stirring music has outlived their many tragedies

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Just as the Beatles were breaking up, along comes Badfinger, attacking radio stations everywhere with a song bearing an uncannily resemblance to a prime piece of power pop of the Fab Four variety. The tune we’re talking about is “Come And Get It,” which was indeed imbued with ties to the Beatles, as it was penned and produced by Paul McCartney.

A strong Beatles connection actually loomed large throughout Badfinger’s career. To begin with, Badfinger — who were initially called the Iveys — signed a contract with the group’s Apple Records, and released four full-length albums for the imprint. Coupled with Badfinger’s label relation, they also, as previously noted, sounded an awful lot like the Beatles.

Being compared to John, Paul, George and Ringo is truly a major compliment, but to brand the band clones would be a dire mistake. For one thing, they wrote original material, which was sturdy, imaginative and modern. A special chemistry additionally existed within Badfinger. They were great singers, tight players and really knew how to lock it all together.

Between the years 1970 and 1972, Badfinger harvested a total of four Top 40 hit singles. “Come And Get It” was just the beginning. Sprinkled with a smattering of handclaps, punctured by a kicking guitar solo, “No Matter What” romps and rolls with positive energy.

As for “Day After Day,” which by the way, George Harrison twiddled the dials on, the lyrical content speaks of loss, but the tempo is perky and the hooks are alive and catchy. The same can be said of “Baby Blue,” a tugging pop rocker mating confessions of failed love with radiant melodies.

Then there was “Without You,” a heart-wrenching ballad torched by a deep and groaning organ passage parallel to that of Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade Of Pale.” The gloomy, but absolutely gorgeous song was brought to the attention of Harry Nilsson, who recorded his own version that scorched the airwaves in 1972. A few decades down the road, Mariah Carey rehashed the tune and netted a big hit as well.

Ignited by chugging rhythms, “Better Days” and “Rock Of All Ages” tilt towards the boogie edge of the pond, while the bright and beautiful “Maybe Tomorrow” climaxes into a dazzling demonstration of towering choruses.

Clean, crisp and dripping with sparkle, “Dear Angie,” “Midnight Caller” and “Carry On Till Tomorrow” are further examples of Badfinger’s flair for fathering rich and vibrant pop statements. Firm arrangements, amplified by delirious harmonies, supple guitar licks and neat piano work gave the band’s intricately crafted songs character and authority.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Final surviving member Joey Molland remembers the setbacks, but also the joys, of his time with Badfinger.]

Despite the excellent offerings and the reviews to match, Badfinger soon fell into despair. Apple Records bit the dust, and although the group quickly inked a deal with the Warner Brothers label, typical music business problems ultimately arose and frustration ensued. Both Pete Ham (who was born on this day in 1947) and then Tom Evans eventually committed suicide.

Still, Badfinger’s catalog is stuffed with classics, and many of these gems have been covered by a wide spectrum of artists. Away from the sad headlines, there is still a wealth of great sounds to enjoy. Their music has stood the test of time, and the test of tragedy.

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