Friday, April 24, 2015

40 Year Itch: The Death of Pete Ham


Pete Ham : Lay Me Down (demo)

Badfinger : Lay Me Down


    The music industry doesn't realize that musicians in its care must be treated with gentleness and sincerity, only then will the music grow and flourish. Musicians are special, sensitive people who give much, and many, like Badfinger, are adrift within a hostile so-called "industry" that seems based solely on money and self-interest
-Tony Beresford-Cooke, friend

On April 24, 1975 a despondent Pete Ham hanged himself in his garage studio. He left behind a note for his pregnant girlfriend Anne who discovered his body.





That last line again:

"Stan Polley is a souless bastard. I will take him with me"


   Sam Polley is the business manager who signed Badfinger to a deal with Warner Brothers which came with a huge multi million dollar advance that the members of Badfinger would never see. In return the band had to produce two albums and an additional two singles every year. 
   Noting $100,000 in missing funds, the publishing division of Warner Brothers spent a year trying to contact Polley. They got no response.  So WB Records pulled the band's excellent comeback album, Wish You Were Here, off the shelves. Polley still wasn't taking or returning calls. Now, as Badfinger began recording their next album, to be titled Head First ( and featuring bitter songs like "Hey Mr Manager" and " Rock'n'Roll Contract") lawyers got involved. They stopped payment on Warner Brothers checks to Badfinger and convinced record execs to turn down the new album. To top it off Apple was suspending royalty payments to avoid getting swept up into the lawsuit. And still no word from Sam Polley.
  By April of 1975 Pete Ham had a pregnant girlfriend ( for whom he had written "Lay Me Down"), new house payments, no money and no way to earn any money. He told his bandmate Tom Evans he knew a way out. He died at the age of 27.
   Head First was released 26 years after it was recorded.




1 comment:

  1. One of the worst casualties in the history of rock music, Badfinger. Talented guys, sweet rocking music amidst soulless bastards and corporate power. At least they were able to leave some great music, some of which they still don't get credited for. Their "Without You" is erroneously credited to Harry Nilsson who made it famous but who didn't make it. Nice post. Thanks!

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