April 24th, 1975 – Pete Ham (Badfinger) was born Peter William Ham in Swansea, Wales on April 27, 1947. He formed a local rock group called The Panthers around 1961. This group would undergo several name and lineup changes before it became The Iveys in 1965. The band was relocated to London by The Mojos manager, Bill Collins, in 1966, and they continued to perform for three years throughout the United Kingdom. As it was, Ham eventually became the prominent songwriter for the band, as a Revox tape recorder was made available by Collins to encourage him. Ray Davies of The Kinks took an initial interest in the group, although tracks produced by Davies did not surface commercially until decades later. In 1968, The Iveys came to the attention of Mal Evans (The Beatles personal assistant) and were eventually signed to the Beatles’ Apple Records label after approval from all four Beatles, who were reportedly impressed by the band’s songwriting abilities.
The Iveys changed their name to Badfinger with the single release of “Come and Get It,” a composition written by Paul McCartney, and it became a worldwide Top Ten hit. Ham had initially protested against using a non-original to promote the band, as he had gained confidence in the group’s compositions, but he was quickly convinced of the springboard effect of having a likely hit single. His own creative perseverance paid off eventually, as his “No Matter What” composition became another Top Ten worldwide hit after its release in late 1970.
He followed up writing two more worldwide hits with “Day After Day” and “Baby Blue.” His greatest songwriting success came with his co-written composition “Without You” – a worldwide number 1 when it was later covered by Harry Nilsson and released in 1972. The song has since become a ballad standard and is covered by hundreds of singers from many genres worldwide. An Ivor Novello award for Song of the Year was issued in 1973 along with Grammy nominations. George Harrison used Ham’s talents for a number of album sessions including the All Things Must Pass album and for other Apple Records artist’s recordings. This friendship culminated with Ham’s acoustic guitar duet on “Here Comes the Sun” with Harrison at The Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, later portrayed in the theatrical film of the concert.
In 1972, Badfinger was picked up by Warner Bros. Records, as the Apple Records label was crumbling and it seemed the band was primed for major recognition. Unfortunately however the era from 1973–75, found Badfinger embroiled in many internal, financial, and managerial problems and their music was stifled. By 1975, with no income and the band’s business manager uncommunicative, Ham became despondent and he hanged himself in the garage of his Surrey home.
Ham was aged 27 at the time; his suicide fell just three days shy of his 28th birthday. He left behind a pregnant girlfriend, who gave birth to their daughter one month after his death. His suicide note had the statement, “I will not be allowed to love and trust everybody. This is better.”
It also included an accusatory blast toward Badfinger’s business manager, Stan Polley: “P.S. Stan Polley is a soulless bastard. I will take him with me.” News of Ham’s death was not widely disseminated at the time, as no public comment was made by The Beatles, Apple Corps Ltd, or Warner Bros. Records.
Ham is often credited as being one of the earliest purveyors of the power pop genre. His most widespread effect in popular music is the ballad “Without You,” written with Badfinger bandmate Tom Evans. Collections of Ham’s home demo recordings have been posthumously released: 1997’s 7 Park Avenue, 1999’s Golders Green and 2013’s The Keyhole Street Demos 1966–67. On 27 April 2013, Ham was commemorated by his hometown’s first official heritage blue plaque. The unveiling ceremony took place at Swansea’s High Street station, located at Ivey Place, on what would have been Ham’s 66th birthday. Following the unveiling, which was performed by Ham’s daughter Petera, a tribute concert featuring two original Iveys members was held at Swansea’s Grand Theatre.
As is the case with suicides, Ham reached a point where death seemed to be the only solution to his problems. He met band mate/co-songwriter Tom Evans in a pub near his home on the evening of April 24th, 1975, three days before his 28th birthday, and told him: “Don’t worry, I know a way out.” Fortified with drink, Ham went back to his home, wrote a note in which he expressed his bitterness towards his manager and hanged himself in his garage. Evans hanged himself seven years later leaving a note that stated, he wanted to be where Petey was.
The story of one of power rock’s eternal melodies “Without You”, left its creators in desperation, like the 15 minute of fame legacy kills.