Lex Neon on Pete Ham (Badfinger)

Lex waxes nostalgically on one of this favorite bands, and one of his favorite song writers. Happy birthday Pete, whose birthday lands on April 27th!

I’ve already packed my CDs for the move, but am keeping 5 discs unpacked. After all, I need music for the process of moving from my small space to a slightly larger nest. One of the CDs is a Badfinger greatest hits CD. Their sound gives me strength. There is something deep in their music that grabs hold of my mind and makes me see things a bit more clearly. Badfinger music rocks vibrantly, explores the darker recesses of life, paints the day a melancholy blue, or makes me reconsider the days I have left.

Whenever I hear Badfinger, one of my all time favorite pop bands, I can’t help but feel a little cheated and very pissed off. I know it sounds a bit selfish. I love the music because the songs make me feel happy. Albums like the 1971 LP Straight Up and No Dice from 1970 make me dance, shout, scream, and cry. I guess you could say that Badfinger music makes me “happy sad.”

What gets me is how Badfinger was treated by management and record labels, which helped lead to the early demise of Pete Ham, the mastermind behind a lot of my favorite Badfinger music. I remember hearing “Baby Blue” and “No Matter What” back-to-back in my uncle’s ’69 VW Bug one day when he picked me up from elementary school. My ears were glued to the radio until the deejay back-announced the song. The name and the sound stayed in my head.

I got older and became a rabid Badfinger fan. I started hitting the garage sales and record conventions looking for their work. I managed to get a handful of singles, and a semi-decent copy of Straight Up for my collection. To me, they were gold. Later still, I snapped up CDs (including two Pete Ham CDs full of home studio demos) where I could find them and reveled in the tunes.

Although there were four writers in the band, Pete’s songs spoke to me directly as a young writer. He had magic lyrics, chords, and haunting images.

Dig “Midnight Caller,” Pete’s song about a friend of his that turned to prostitution to earn a living. There is an aching in those lyrics that puts you right in the heart of the pain and despair. “Day After Day” is still a great example of “the rock ballad,” which includes some great slide guitar by George Harrison and piano by Dr. John. And if you didn’t know, Pete also wrote the verses for what I consider the ultimate rock ballad of all time, “Without You,” which has been performed countless times by many artists including Harry Nilsson and Mariah Carey.

I still get choked up and I catch a tear when I find myself thinking that Pete’s not here. If he were still here, I’d tell him how his voice affected a small, lonely school boy halfway around the world. I’d want to write with him, jam with him, and talk about the pitfalls of today’s music industry. I’d have him sign my original copy of Straight Up, and show it off to my friends. I’d ask him about the writing process, and tell him how his song “Dennis” really opened up a huge musical vista for my young ears. Indeed, there is a way.

So, I continue to write and record Poppermost music with my fellow feathered friends while moving to newer digs. I continue to listen to Pete’s songs and I feel the emotions in his voice as I wonder what his music would sound like today. I sit here typing, listening to “Lonely You” followed by “We’re For The Dark.” I’m touched, I’m better, I’m baffled, and I’m frustrated because I just want to tell him that I just love him.

Happy birthday, Pete. Wherever you are, thanks and I owe you.

(Lex Neon is the musical mastermind behind the music of indie sunshine pop / rock band Poppermost.  For more info, go to http://www.poppermost.com)

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~ by Poppermost on September 4, 2008.

2 Responses to “Lex Neon on Pete Ham (Badfinger)”

  1. Well said. I fully agree. I’m not pining over all rock stars who got ripped off or died, but Pete is special and his music is pure magic. Badfinger was my fav band by the time I was 10 or 11 and a zillion years later I feel exactly the same.

    Sure wish they were all still here and making music….

    • I also wish they were still here making music. Their music still inspires me to write, to have “better days,” and to celebrate the power of simple, uncluttered messages in simple, uncluttered songs. Thanks, Angeline!

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