The Infinite Jukebox: Badfinger’s ‘Day after Day’

Bands get shafted. It’s always happened, and sometimes it feels like it always will, even though the internet has opened up more and more easily controllable avenues to achieve success, and success’s tangible evidence, money.
I remember when The Small Faces re-united in the late Seventies, and appeared on The Old Grey Whistle Test under whatever name it was then using, playing what could have been a storming version of ‘All or Nothing’ if Steve Marriott could have kept himself from complaining about how it was one of those hit songs for which they didn’t get any money, and then not being able to enjoy it for the palpable sense that he resented the fuck out of having to play it at all.
And I remember The Stone Roses in 1989, the centre of everything musical, the hinge point on which everything revolved, or would have revolved if they hadn’t been kept out of recording for years because they were trying to get overturned an exploitive recording contract that denied them any royalties on sale of CDs…
But if there has ever been a band who were shafted as cruelly as Badfinger, I really do not want to know.
Badfinger, a Welsh foursome offering the classic two guitars, bass and drums line-up, started life as The Iveys, under which name they were the first band signed to The Beatles’ Apple Records label. Their new name came from the working title of ‘With a Little Help from my Friends’. They were plugged as the ‘new Beatles’ and the publicity was so much that even I, in my impenetrable ignorance, heard of them.
The band’s debut single was a cover of an unreleased Paul McCartney song, ‘Come and Get It’. The demo of this is on one of the Beatles Anthology CDs, and the Badfinger version is identical. It was a big hit in early 1970, the band’s biggest British success, though it came and went to no. 4 without my ever recalling hearing it, at a time when I had Radio 1 on every hour I was at home.
The next year, they released a follow-up, a song called ‘No Matter What’. It was a great, solid-sounding rocker, all crunchy guitars and a powerful chorus with great harmonies. It was a new entry directly into the Top Twenty and it got to no. 5.
Then this song came out in 1972. By then, I had formed the impression that Badfinger only released one song a year. I loved ‘Day After Day’ for the extreme crispness of its production, by George Harrison no less. It combined a very sharp electric guitar lead with some strongly strummed acoustic guitar, its rhythm section was powerful and fluid and the band’s harmonies were gorgeous.
The song, for all its musical steel, was strangely melancholic. It was a love song, but there was a certain amount of despair to it. I remember finding out about you. I remember holding you while you sleep. The past tense, both the past tense, tempered by immediately following lines about every day my mind is all about you, every day I feel the tears that you weep.
But as the drums slide in, with a controlled bravado, the line that matters is the one about looking out from my lonely room, of my lonely gloom.
Bring it home baby, make it soon, they plead. I give my love to you, they promise. But there’s a forlorn air to things, echoed in the beautiful slide guitar solo, performed simultaneously by Pete Ham and George Harrison. In the end, the song peters out with a flicker of piano notes, and it was gone.
There was a fourth single, but I never heard it, and if it was released in the UK I never heard it until I discovered it on YouTube in 2020. It was a hit in America, and it should have been a hit here, but already maybe it was too late. Harry Nilsson had had a massive world-wide hit with Pete Ham’s song ‘Without You’ but Ham never saw the royalties from that that he so richly deserved. A crooked manager, a vicious contract, penury. In despair, Pete Ham committed suicide in 1975.
Eight years later, also reduced to extreme poverty by complex legal suits dragged out about royalties and earnings, Tom Evans also committed suicide. Maybe the melancholy I attribute to ‘Day After Day’ stems from the knowledge I had of what was already going on, and what would so horrifically soon, come to pass. Two such guys, with all that talent between them, driven to that length by the bastards who fasten on musicians and cheat them unmercifully.
Badfinger never were the ‘next Beatles’. They were the first Badfinger. That meant a lot and it could and should have meant more than it ended up doing. They weren’t the first, and they won’t be the last, not yet anyway.

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