Sunday, March 14, 2004

Badfinger Boogie

The handful of people that have read my blog since I started it ask me the same question: What the heck is Matted Spam? So here's the answer! Yay!

Matted Spam is a song written by my favorite musician, Pete Ham. He played with a group in the 70's called Badfinger. Anyone who knows me has heard of this band...they're my Beatles, I guess you would say. They recorded four albums on The Beatles' Apple label before it went under. Afterwards, Badfinger went over to Warner Brothers for three more LP's before Pete Ham died and the band dissolved. The first album from WB (entitled Badfinger) is where you'll find the song Matted Spam. It's a jazzy, upbeat little number about being happy again after a long depression. On Pete Ham's posthumous solo CD 7 Park Avenue, there is another version, the demo version and it's more bluesy. I like that one better.

I was first introduced to Badfinger about 12 years ago when I worked as a board operator for Oldies 92.9. One Sunday afternoon, I was pulling songs for my next hour, one of which was Badfinger's "No Matter What." My first thought was "Badfinger? What a name..." and continued about my business. Then I played the song. It starts out with this heavy guitar riff which is different from a lot of the oldies we played. It caught my attention right away. And then Pete started singing. I loved his voice; it was deep and smooth and full of enveloped me. No other singer's voice has ever done that before.

I immediately grabbed a book that we had on hand to make DJ's seem like they know everything about music and looked up Badfinger. The first few entries simply documented when each single came out. There weren't very many of them: "Come & Get It" was first (it was from the soundtrack to the Ringo Starr movie "The Magic Christian" which is a freaky-ass movie and the Badfinger album "Magic Christian Music." Paul McCartney wrote it and it's the only song Badfinger recorded that they didn't write themselves.), "No Matter What", "Day After Day" and "Baby Blue." There were a couple other songs released in the 80's I later found out but the book I had was too old to have them listed. Anyway...

A side note. One of their songs is known by everyone the world around. I bet I could sing it to my grandmother and she would recognize the song. In the early 70's, Pete Ham and Tom Evans wrote a ballad called "Without You." It was covered by Harry Nilsson and made into a huge number 1 smash. Heart has redone it, Air Supply, Mariah Carey...yet very few people know that Badfinger wrote & originally recorded the song on their "No Dice" LP. Now you know.

So, on with the story...the next entry that I found for Badfinger in that book was under deaths and it read "4-24-1975: Peter W Ham (27), Badfinger. (hanging)" Eeyeww! He killed himself? I was curious now. Another member of the Died At 27 Club and I'd never heard of him. I wanted to know why he hung himself. I grabbed another book and looked them up. Not only did I not find out the reason for the hanging but I found out that Tom Evans who played bass and sometimes sang lead hung himself in the mid-80's! What the hell? This band was cursed!

At the time that I got into Badfinger I didn't have a computer, no access to the internet, no easy way of finding anything out about these boys. I scoured Recycle Records and bought all of their albums (including three copies of "Straight Up" because I liked the gate picture and because I was selfish!) and the "Concert For Bangladesh" box set because Badfinger was there at the request of their then-album producer George Harrison. Pete actually plays guitar with him on "Here Comes the Sun." But there was no info in any of these albums. None were re-releases with additional information on the deaths of those two talented men.

Then Apple Records finally started releasing their catalogue on CD. Slowly, I got all of their albums plus some greatest hit compilations that gave me the whole story. It turns out that when they signed with Warner Brothers, they gave 51% control of the band to a man named Stan Polley. He handled all the money...and he handled it right into a bank account with his name on it and then disappeared. Badfinger was broke and they owed money to Warner. Pete was broke, couldn't make his house payment and his girlfriend was pregnant. He sunk into a deep depression...some of his songs like "Ringside" & "No More" tell the story of his downfall. One night, 4 days before his 28th birthday Pete got drunk with Tom, told him that he knew a way out and went home, hanging himself in his garage.

It's the most tragic story I've ever heard. Combined with the fact that Pete Ham, to me, was the most talented musician and songwriter I've heard...everyone should do themselves a favor and check out Badfinger!

Recommended listening: THE IVEYS -
Maybe Tomorrow (Badfinger's first incarnation)

Magic Christian Music
No Dice
Straight Up
Ass (my fave album)
Wish You Were Here (recorded at Caribou Ranch studios in the Colorado mountains!)
Head First
Say No More (Joey & Tom only)
Airwaves (Joey & Tom only)
Best of Badfinger
Best of Badfinger Vol II

7 Park Avenue
Golders Green

Over You

The Pilgrim

Mike Gibbins, the drummer, has a couple solo albums out, as well, that can be found on-line.

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