American Top 40 PastBlast, 4/8/72: Badfinger, “Baby Blue”

My sister and I somehow wound up with a few (but only a few) of my father’s 45s once we started our own collections in the latter half of the 70s. One of them was Badfinger’s “Come and Get It.” Since we didn’t get any late-era Beatles singles from Dad, this was our earliest and perhaps only exposure at the time to the iconic Apple label. The B-side, “Rock of All Ages,” is also completely boss (it happens to contain the eerily prescient line, “you’re takin’ all my money and I guess you think it’s funny but I don’t”). I saw on the label that both songs appeared in The Magic Christian, but didn’t (and still don’t) know the least thing about the film.

As years went by, I heard “No Matter What” and “Day After Day” on the radio plenty. They’re two of the most magical, amazing pop songs of the early 70s, and it’s truly impossible for me to say which one I like better. Harry Nilsson’s cover of their composition “Without You” was a standout to me, even at age 8. Their fourth and final Top 40 hit, “Baby Blue,” never received similar attention, at least in my hearing; in fact, it’s only been this decade that I’ve come to know it well (and not because of Breaking Bad). Debuting at #26 on this show, it had a pretty quick and short run up to #14, but it’s also fantastic.

The tragic story of Badfinger—the corrupt management, the problems with record labels (Apple folded while they were signed to them, Warner Bros. withheld money due to issues with their manager), the suicides of guitarist/lead vocalist Pete Ham in 75 and bassist Tom Evans in 83—shows how business crap can overwhelm people who just want to make music (okay, they wanted to make money making music, too).  It’s always a loss when folks can’t handle an unfair hand that fate has dealt them, but selfishly I’m sad there wasn’t any more epically great stuff from these guys after “Baby Blue.”

Evans and Joey Molland, their other guitarist, regrouped under the same name in the late 70s (past and future Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye was also on board). I was completely unaware of the two singles that charted while I was in high school: “Love Is Gonna Come at Last” in the spring of 79 and “Hold On” two years later (reaching #69 and #56, respectively). A quick listen this week has me a) thinking “Hold On” is the better of the two and b) wishing it’d been a bigger hit.


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