A SMALL SALUTE TO THE ONE-TIME HEIRS APPARENT TO THE BEATLES
35 years on many classic rock fans still feel a slight pang to think of the sad suicide of Pete Ham, the brilliant but troubled lightning rod at the center of Badfinger. Today marks the anniversary of Ham's death, but rather than mull over that mortality shaking idea, we'd rather celebrate some of the most enduring music to come out of a period hardly short in enduring music. There were a lot of reasons that all four members of The Beatles enthusiastically signed Badfinger (originally named The Iveys) to Apple Records in 1968 – the first non-Beatles to join the label. Ham possessed an emotion drenched, one-of-a-kind voice and the whole band tossed off hooks and harmonies that sunk into listeners with a quickness. Badfinger's legacy of rock solid musicianship, pop savvy, killer vocals and high level craftsmanship lives on in groups like The Mother Hips, Wilco, Big Light and innumerable others. While his surviving mates have, to one degree or another, carried on making music, today we raise our glass to Pete Ham, whose music continues to inspire and entertain long after he left us.
In many ways, "No Matter What," originally released as a single in 1970 and still a staple of AOR radio, is THE definition of power pop heaven.
"I guess I got what I deserved," is one of the finest opening lines you might find, a bit of stinging self-recrimination that hits home instantly. This one continues to haunt rockers, showing up in covers by Aimee Mann, Phil Keaggy and many others.
This Badfinger weepie put Harry Nilsson on the charts and long ago entered the melodramatic singer hall-of-fame (where it's been handled to varying degrees since by Mariah Carey, Frank Sinatra, and numerous American Idol contestants), but we like it best with Ham singing.
Ham had a knack for laying his heart bare in his love songs, and none were more potent than this three-minute marvel.
Here's a 1973 rehearsal of one of the group's deep album cuts. Exploration of their catalog, particularly their first four records, will reveal a lot of gems that weren't singles but fly nearly as high as their better known material.
You know you've got some serious mojo when George Harrison invites you up to play an acoustic duet on one of his signature tunes in front of a packed Madison Square Garden. This version of "Here Comes The Sun" is one of the lovelier, quieter moments from Harrison's landmark Concert For Bangladesh.
Ham was a pretty badass guitarist, as evidenced by this wah-wah addled romp through bandmate Joey Molland's boffo "Suitcase" off arguably their finest album, No Dice.
We conclude with Ham at the piano cracking open the human condition with real poetry. You are dearly missed by some of us, Pete. Hope you found peace wherever you may be.