November 18, 1983 – Tom Evans was born on June 5th 1947. The sad and tragic story of Evans and his fellow bandmate Pete Hamm is amplified by the greed grabbing conditions that the music industry has always been plagued by; ruthless and dishonest.
Tom Evans was a very talented bassist, guitarist, singer, songwriter, who started his music career as a member of “The Inbeateens” in 1961. With the growing recognition of the Beatles, he soon progressed to a Liverpool mod/soul group called Them Calderstones.
In 1967, he joined a Welsh band called The Iveys who changed their name to Badfinger in 1969, while under contract with the Beatles’ owned Apple Records. Paul McCartney gave the group a boost by offering them his song “Come and Get It” which he produced for the band. It became a featured track for the film The Magic Christian, which starred Ringo Starr and Peter Sellers and put Badfinger on the map.
They followed up with major successes in 1970 and 71 with titles like “No Matter What,” “Day After Day,” and “Baby Blue”, each featuring some of Toms vocals, songwriting capabilities, background harmony and dual leads. His high-career moment came with the composition “Without You”, co-written with bandmate Peter Ham. The song became a No.1 hit worldwide for Harry Nilsson and has since become one of the top worldwide evergreens, covered by hundreds of performers.
Evans & Joey Molland of Badfinger argued on the telephone, reportedly about the publishing royalty of the song “Without You.” Following the argument, Tom sadly hanged himself in the garden at his home at age 36 on November 18, 1983 at age 36, in an eerie replay of fellow band mate Pete Ham’s 1975 death scene. Marianne Evans, his wife, was quoted in a documentary as having stated that “Tommy said ‘I want to be where Pete is. It’s a better place than down here’ ….”
The band had everything going for them. They were in the right place, playing the right music, at the right time. They wrote great songs and got the attention of all the right people, including Paul McCartney.
What could go wrong?
Badfinger are like an allegory for everything that’s wrong with the music business.
They were signed to Apple records, the Beatles’ label and had legendary producer Tony Visconti (not that he was legendary at the time) as their producer got their first album.
The management came under Alan Klein. He was the manager of the Stones, but also managed the Beatles after Epstein’s death. Forget what you’ve heard about Yoko, Klein was the person who drove a wedge between the Beatles.
With the troubles caused by the Beatles’ break up and the general mismanagement of Apple, the band were largely left with no promotion and the album was nothing like as big as expected.
Their song Without You was rather undervalued by the band and buried as the closing song on side one of they’re first album. It was the result of two songs. Pete Ham had a verse he liked but a chorus he didn’t; Tom Evans had a chorus that worked but a verse he didn’t like.
However, many other people noticed it and it was recorded very successfully by Harry Nilsson, before becoming something of a standard and being recorded by dozens of other people, including Mariah Carey.
The royalties should be a straight forward 50/50 split between Ham and Evans. However, there was rumoured to be a verbal agreement to include the rest of the band. The management of the group was taken over by Stan Polley, an American entertainment manager. Polley created a contract that gave all the band members a set salary incorporating writing royalties. Polley’s company was included within this, effectively giving him over ten times the income than any members of the band received, while also splitting writing credits with members who weren’t involved in the composition.
The following court case tied up the band in legal wrangling for several years and created divisions between the members, making the band unworkable.
In the meantime the Nilsson version of Without You was huge. Under normal circumstances writing a big hit record, especially in the early 70s, could set you up quite comfortably for life. However, the issues of royalties meant this wasn’t the case. With at one point the song being attributed not only to Ham and Evans but also to fellow band mates Mike Gibbins and Joey Molland, as well as their former manager, Bill Collins.
In 1975 Ham became so depressed, over the court case, and financial problems that he hanged himself, citing Polley as one of the causes. He was 27. The financial issues continued with several law suits and a claim for royalties against Evans by the remaining members. In 1983 Evans also hanged himself.
Mike Gibbins and Joey Molland continued to tour as Badfinger. After much further issues, to the best of my knowledge, the royalties are now exclusively shared between the estates of Ham and Evans, which seems a little too late!