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Paul McCartney Rocking with Wings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul on stage with Wings during the Band on the Run tour. L.A. 1976

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Come and Get It Recording facts

Paul McCartney was commissioned to do the soundtrack for Magic Christian by himself, but Abbey Road work was pressing, and he turned to The Iveys (to soon be Badfinger) for the music. After he convinced the movie company they would do a good job, but he would still oversee, they agreed.

McCartney completed his demo of “Come And Get It” in 20 minutes of recording time before a Beatles session. He then took it to The Iveys and asked if they would like to record it. The band gotten a letter from McCartney that summer of 1969, requesting a meeting, and asking if he could drop by to talk to them.

Naturally the band said to come on over, and McCartney asked them if they would record a song he’d written, and they should record it just as he had arranged it. He then had them take a copy home to practice, acknowledging they were songwriters and arrangers in their own right, but try it his way for just this time.

Paul took them into Abbey Road a week later on August 2, and said he would audition each band member for the lead vocal. The first order of business was to lay down the track. As the band gathered around a piano, and began to discuss the arrangement, suddenly John and Yoko appeared. Tom recalled: “They were kind of walking through and Lennon stopped and looked over at Paul, bowed his h ead, and said, “Oh wise one, oh sage, show us the light.” They next thing I knew he walked out the door. “I thought, “Wait a minute, that was John Lennon!”

The group kept going, and Pete, Tom, and Ron each took a try (Ron was soon to quit, and be replaced by Joey Molland). Paul selected Tom Evan’s as the best voice for the song, and the song was recorded. Paul added tambourine also, and they recorded the song with the simple arrangements.

The group and McCartney traveled to Apple to play the track, and Pete Ham told the story of George Harrison coming in to listen. The Beatle said nothing after the song was played, and pulled out a lump of has and said: “Smoke this. And then go see what you can do!”

McCartney then played “Come And Get It” for Commonwealth United Films, who was producing The Magic Christian, which was to star Peter Sellars, Ringo Starr, Raquel Welch, and others. They loved the song, and gave Paul the go ahead for more music from The Iveys.

The band watched the first few minutes of the film, and Paul asked for a “Simon and Garfunkel” kind of style for the music. Pete and Tom went off and wrote “Carry On Till Tomorrow,” and brought it back to Abbey Road. McCartney hired George Martin to write the strings, and he finished it over a weekend. It does not say who decided that there would be two modulations, the song starts in Cm, goes to Dm for the last chorus, and finishes in Ebm with the breathtaking harmonies that reach to the heavens, and so define Badfinger.

Badfinger finds member at Beatlemania birthsite

I just read in “Without You” an interesting bit of information. Badfinger was losing a key member just as they were taking off, Dai Jenkins, and were scouting around for a replacement. They had done a few dates in Liverpool, and during a night off, they went around to scout the local talent. They went to the Litherland Town Hall, and saw Tommy Evans playing with his band, the Calderstones in July, 1967, and soon after he joined Badfinger.

Litherland Town Hall (http://www.music.indiana.edu/som/courses/rock/clubs.html) has a great history for the Beatles and other Merseyside bands. This website states: “The Litherland Town Hall was the site of the “Birth of Beatlemania,” the December 1960 concert that demonstrated the group’s remarkable improvement after several months in Hamburg and sparked the first stirrings of fan hysteria in their hometown.” So you could say the key member of Badfinger’s songwriting team was first spotted at the place where Beatlemania was first observed.

Matovina’s book “Without You” details Evan’s absolute obsession with the Everly Brothers, it was his first band to really listen to and learn from. The book goes on to relate a story about seeing the Beatles. When he was fourteen, he went to see the Shadows with the Beatles at the Cavern Club. He was stunned by the show, and from then on, Evans went out and bought a guitar and never looked back.

Once when he was nine years old, he was being taken to visit his grandfather, whom he was very close to, and whom he play music with, including his biggest passion, the Everly Brothers.

Just before they arrived, according to his mother, May, Tommy was saying “Oh, I’d like to learn this Everly Brothers song. But then he walked in with his mother and her sister to find his beloved grandfather dead, the gas light had blown out and the teapot was on the stove, according to Matovina’s book.

May Evans said it traumatized Tommy. It is interesting that on the last night of Tommy’s life, he played Everly Brothers songs, and sang them with his wife, and wrote down the lyrics, according to “Without You.”

Obviously, The Everly Brothers played a serious role in his life, whether it was helping build the majestic harmonies they did in Badfinger, and the aspect of death connected to Everly Brothers, and his grandfather. And on the eve of committing suicide, he decided to play those beloved records again, maybe there is some significance or connection. Or maybe not.

Badfinger, Beatles, Paul McCartney, George Harrison

Paul McCartney played a major role in signing Badfinger, and consistently supported them. After all, Apple had a label, and to make good, they had to have successful acts. Magic Christian was an inconsistent album, and the earlier Badfinger members that were no long with the group were not even credited, Joey Molland had just joined the group, and that was that for proper credits.

So the first true Molland album was “No Dice,” and though a great album, “Straight Up” came out a more powerful product on all levels. George Harrison and Todd Rundgren both help make this happen with state of the art pristine mixing and editing, it has that clarity and purpose of Abbey Road.

Todd Rundgren was not even credited for his efforts on “Day After Day,” instead George Harrison was. Rundgren was somewhat miffed.

When Badfinger recorded “Day After Day,” George Harrison was going to do the mixing, but he had to leave due to “Concert for Bangladesh.”

So Todd Rundgren was brought in, and some thought he was kind of jerk, but in Dan Matovina’s book “Without You,” he was amazing in the studio. Plus he was very fast, the album “Straight Up” had been languishing for various reasons, and needed to be finished quickly, and sometimes it takes a jerk, if that’s the case. Rundgren put them on a merciless schedule and got the job done.

Badfinger was the first band signed to Apple Records, and John Lennon thought they should be “Glass Onion,” and when that was rejected, guess what he did with those two words.

But Lennon was ultimately responsible for their name, he came in with a bandaged finger trying to play “A Little Help From My Friends” and called it “Bad Finger Boogie,” and Neil Aspinall saw the connection and created the name.

The result was one of the greatest pop records ever recorded, when Goldmine magazine polled their readers as to what vinyl should go to CD in the early 1990’s “Straight Up” beat even Plastic Ono Band and Beach Boy’s “Pet Sounds.”

One interesting fact is that Leon Russell was brought in to play piano on the sessions, and it is known that he did “Day After Day.”

In “Without You,” the story tells how the control room was set high in the wall above the studio in Abbey Road, and when they looked down, they could only see Leon’s giant hat. They did a take, and the Leon said he was getting the feel of things. Then they finished the track, and the rest is history.

One other detail is that no one knows, or will ever know, is who played piano on “Name of the Game,” on Straight Up, according to Matovina. It could be Nicky Hopkins, Leon Russell, or Rick Wright of Yes, there are no studio records for that song that indicate the truth. It sure would be nice to know who played piano on one of Badfinger’s greatest tunes.

Another neat tidbit in “Without You” is how George Harrison was so happy with the mix of “I’d Die Babe” from Straight Up he was dancing around the control room, and was embarrassed at being caught when someone walked in. Great song, good job George.

England, Wales, Badfinger, and Beatle guitars 1977

Badfinger Story 1977

By Brooke Saunders

It all started in June 1977 when I flew across the Atlantic to London on a B.O.A.C 747 jet to attend a family reunion. As I stared out at the pale black sky over a sea of clouds, little did I know that I would soon meet the drummer for Badfinger, one of the most famous pop groups in the world. Their heavenly harmonies, ringing guitars, and close connections to the Beatles had fascinated me for years, and beyond that, there was something very personal in their music for me.

The saintly voice of Pete Ham and a mystical vision of Wales called out so strongly I was ultimately lured there after visiting England.

I’d been obsessed with the band ever since hearing “Baby Blue” on the radio back in my hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia. The compelling and haunting song stuck in my head for months; it wasn’t the Beatles, but who was it? The DJ had not announced the artist, but I asked around and discovered their albums at a record store, happily taking home Straight Up, which featured a very long haired band on the cover.

The songs were so good it was like discovering another Beatles, and course, George Harrison produced half of it, and played slide with Pete on “Day After Day,” the ultimate romantic song. Our band Rivermont learned that one immediately, and we figured out “Baby Blue,” considered by many to be a masterwork rarely equaled in pop music.

Later I got their second album, No Dice, which contained “No Matter What,” in addition to the original version of “Without You,” covered by Harry Neilson and others later. I went on from there to buy multiple copies of every single Badfinger record I could find, often available for a few dollars in the “cutout” bin at the local record store, as they were no longer in print. Our band ended up playing a half dozen of their songs on a regular basis, probably the only group in Virginia doing so.

When I heard about our Tucker family reunion in England, I really wanted to go, but could not afford it. So I wrote a long letter to my cousin Janet, who was managing the adventure, and said how much I appreciated what she was doing, but would be unable to make it. Next thing I know, a $500 check arrives in the mail from her, an amazing thing. So I ordered my ticket right away, as the time and date were planned very carefully; Janet wanted to us there in early June for the Queen’s 25th Jubilee celebrations. The plan was to all meet at Dulles Airport.

We’d been riding for hours in the plane through the long night, and then the sun finally broke through a great mass of clouds ahead of us, beaming into the cabin as it rose over Europe.  Slumbering passengers began to awaken and move around, window shades rolled up, overhead hatches banged open and shut, and then the plane seemed to sag backwards a little, and tilt downwards.

In a plummy British accent, the pilot announced the coast of Ireland was coming up on the left. With ears popping, we descended from the clouds to view a dark green sea with patches of snowy surf crashing on Ireland’s bleak western cliffs. Emerald fields came and went through patches of mist, and the plane turned right as we raced across the Irish Sea over Liverpool, then onwards south to the Midlands and the vast factory complexes. As we neared London, we went back into the mists, and finally the plane leaned and slowed to land, the pitch of the engine whine changing substantially.

I was looking out of the window into tattered clouds when suddenly a small corporate jet came from below, soared up vertically by the left wing barely a couple hundred feet away, and instantly vanished. I turned to my seatmate and others around me, but they’d completely missed it. The pilot did not mention the plane, nor did anyone else. The only thing I remember was that it was not a military jet, just a white corporate jet with no visible markings or logos.

We landed safely at Heathrow Airport, and I saw the control tower and various buildings across the runway, with a long line of black London cabs standing in the pouring rain. “Paint It Black” came to mind, and that was the first of many moments like that, seeing stereotypes in person that met or exceeded expectations for mood and atmosphere.

Everyone got into one of those black cabs and we began riding on a highway, with one of us sitting on the “tilt-up seat” behind the driver. After passing warehouses, we began to see long rows of townhouses with chimney pots, which were one of my favorite things about England, you just don’t see that type of chimney in America. We finally began to see some of the older London landmarks such as Westminster Abbey and Big Ben looming up in the distance, mists swirling around them.  The cab pulled up in front of our hotel in Russell Square, not far from the British Museum.

After getting settled, we had dinner, and several of us set off to wander the London streets at night. The rain had stopped by then, and we passed through Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus, breathing in exotic smells from all the restaurants, gaping at the amazing buildings and people passing by.

I got a huge rush from just being on that wide sidewalk, swept along by strangers, with invisible dark horizon of Europe ahead and adventure in the air. And I was breathing the very same air of so many of my heroes and other characters in history, whether the Beatles or Winston Churchill, it was one of many stunning moments when time stood still, and you saw things very clearly.

The next day we met other cousins, and went out to various lunches and dinners, and in the days following, went to the British Museum and other tourist destinations, wandering around all the old paintings and statues. While that was all right, more interesting to us was the vibrant street scene. Youth with green, magenta, and orange hair wandered the streets, and clustered in bunches wearing iron crosses and black leather jackets. Tabloids like the Sun screamed lurid headlines from the news boxes about the Sex Pistol’s latest capers. I’d seen some punks in New York City recently, but not on this scale.

Everything was about the Queen that summer, decorations, promotions, excitement, and many special events. Later in the week, we saw her pass by in a carriage in the street, watched the Beefeaters parade in front of Buckingham Palace, and took a tour of Westminster Abbey. The street scene was fascinating, lots of international flavor, you’d be walking by a shop and hear reggae blasting out, as Jamaicans have a strong presence in London. Or you would hear steel drums from the West Indies, and often see people with elaborate and colorful outfits from Africa walking by.

One day, several of my cousins and I tried to find the massive Battersea Power Station, pictured on the cover of the Pink Floyd album, Animals. We kept walking south from central London, and the huge smokestacks would appear and reappear behind the buildings, and we spent hours in the neighborhood, stopping at various pubs on the way. Of course, it is located on the south bank of the Thames across the river, quite far from where we were walking. But it was fun to try, and we punctuated the walk with visits to all the wonderful pubs available.

Another time, my cousins, including Robin and Charley, happened to walk into a party on a rooftop in London, and they came down describing to me a vivid scene of some guys throwing very carefully empty beer bottles off the roof at something below.

The next day we met some interesting musicians at the Western Bar in Piccadilly Circus, and they invited us to their “squat” in North London. The place was in Tufnell Park, in Islington, not far from Camden Town. Though they were living there illegally, it was warm and cozy, and relatively clean, and I got my look at how the squatting system worked. They would take over an abandoned house, and as long as the utilities were hooked up, they could not be evicted easily.

The squatters could not have been a more charming bunch, and they were mostly young musicians and their friends on welfare, or the “dole,” as they call it. I never saw the really sleazy side of London squats, no doubt some of the other types of people involved in this were not nearly as interesting and pleasant.

After a whirlwind of London events, we finally got in a bus, all 25 of us, and headed off to Oxford for a couple of nights. It was nice to get out of London, and experience some wonderful countryside. We passed by Shakespeare’s house, and saw the Avon River, staying with cousins a night or two there.

And then we headed southwest to Bath the next day. I was playing guitar in the back of the bus and we sang various tunes together, mostly Beatles and Badfinger.  In later years, I heard a number of people say they fondly remembered the music on the bus, even though we were certainly not performing that well, just singing along to some tunes.

The countryside began to open up and change, the sky was bigger, and we once passed a massive flat white horse carved in a hillside far away. This huge work was made in the 45-degree slope of a hill by exposing chalk to contrast against the trees. The white horse was sacred to the Celts, and ancient British culture in general, resulting in many such horses sprinkled around the island. We only saw it from the bus window as we went by, but one day I’d like to go up close.

Then came Stonehenge, and it was June 20th. We were there in the last year of public access to the structure, due to people damaging the stones or removing fragments, even defacing them with graffiti. Stonehenge was there long before the Druids, but they believed it to be a spiritual place, and worshipped there, as do many current Wicca and Druid followers. Amazingly, the multi-ton inner circles of blue stones were transported 240 miles from Preseli, Pembrokeshire, Wales, an incredible feat.

As we approached, we saw teepees and makeshift tents beside the road, old VW vans, hippie-looking folk trudging beside the road, and lots of protest signs, presumably protesting the closing of the monument. We pulled off the highway to the place you buy a ticket, and browsed a gift shop, before walking through a tunnel under the road.

Stonehenge appeared before us across an expanse of grass, a cold and forbidding structure, black under a pewter sky. The wind was strong, and green fields stretched in every direction. It was quiet except for the sound of traffic from the highway, and once in a while you could hear the sounds of the chanting protesters drifting on the wind.  There a dozen or so people wandering around the massive monoliths, very powerful place.

I recently saw a movie version of Tess of the D’Urbevilles, and the haunting last scene of Tess lying on the altar stone as the police approach to arrest her really brought back memories of the place. Most viewers probably didn’t realize she was lying on the stone where sacrifices were probably carried out, and the analogy intended was plain, as she was taken away and executed.

We kept going southwest to Bath, and had a great time there seeing all the Roman baths, and traveling the canal networks surrounding the city. It is an incredible city in many ways, I remember riding in a canal boat, looking a few feet across the still water through the stems of roses and tulips, which framed an extraordinary view of beautiful Georgian mansions on the far hillside a half-mile away. You were suspended in the water with no bank of the canal visible.

While in Bath, we took a day trip to Weston-Super Mare, and saw the famous beach and mud flats, while the rest of the party was interviewed on BBC television. Then everyone left for Scotland, and I stayed in town to see the area before heading to Wales, a plan that had been in my mind.

The next day I went to record shops, and just wandered around, and ate some incredibly hot Middle-Eastern food with someone from Iraq I happened to meet. I just could not finish the dish, and the Iraqi I was with tasted it and agreed it was inedible.

Later, I met some very friendly musicians, who invited me to stick around. I was tempted, but Wales was calling, and I decided to hitchhike to Swansea, Wales, about 100 miles or so to the west. I did not know if I could contact anyone from Badfinger while there, but I just felt drawn like a homing pigeon.

My first ride was a good one, a salesman headed to Cardiff area, and I rode along with him, talking about various things as the scenery unfolded. He knew American musicians, and also a lot about Wales.

The thing that struck me as we crossed the border was how the people and landscape changed so much. The English in general had seemed to be a lot plumper with short hair, living in a flat land, contrasting to the Welsh people, who were more slender and longhaired. In addition, the landscape became more mountainous, and the cars and houses not as fancy.

As we began climbing the famed Black Mountains, home of Merlin and the lost land of Avalon, one thing I remember vividly was our car being stopped by a vast herd of sheep crossing the road on a wide-open grassy plain, and having to wait till they passed by.

Another time we saw about 50 motorcycles parked in front of this vast old wooden lodge-like structure. The entire scene was surreal at sunset, with a steep, bare hillside framing the vast complicated structure, the darkening sky, mountains all around, and a bizarre collection of ancient motorcycles in front of the gloomy, hulking building.

We kept driving across the highlands, with wonderful panoramas around, and only a sprinkling of farms and small towns. While traveling through Wales, the one song that played in my mind the most, and captures the place better than any, is Badfinger’s “Carry On Till Tomorrow.” The lyrics, melody, and majestic harmonies fit my journey perfectly.

Then we descended, passing Cardiff to the south, a smudge on the horizon, and arrived at very small town to stay for the night. The driver mentioned there was a nice castle to visit here, and then went on to his hotel. I wanted to get out and camp, so I found a field and rolled out my sleeping bag, it was wonderful to be outside in such great weather.

When I woke up in early morning, dew covered everything, birds were singing, and a gloriously beautiful day greeted me. The soft, blue skies overhead, the flowers all around, air brushing my skin like velvet, and the feeling of adventure made for a wonderful start to the day.

After getting my sleeping bag all rolled up, I remember the guy that gave me a ride calling for me a few times from the road, to see if I wanted a ride onwards to Cardiff. But I chose to not reply, and went on to find the castle he’d mentioned. I found it, and there was a family living there nearby that offered to look after my pack while I explored the castle. A really beautiful teenaged girl helped get the pack situated, and off I went.

I paid a small sum to the old man at the gate, and there was virtually no one around when I entered. I walked around the modest granite structure, which had no great towers, cannons, or anything fancy, just crumbled stonewalls, and the King Arthur countryside spreading out in all directions.

I settled in a comfortable window ledge, and stared out over an exquisite landscape from the precipice. It was at least 150 feet to the ground below, where a beautiful little stream sparkled in the sun as it flowed through a vivid green meadow dotted with wildflowers. Sheep grazed, and you could hear them bleating every now and then in the quiet morning air. The sun rose higher, bees buzzed around flowers, melodic bird chirps sounded, and I could see the Black Mountains miles away in the distance. I just sat there enjoying the dreamy peace of my first visit to a castle. It was fortuitous I’d passed on continuing the ride with the traveling salesman, wonderful to be alone for hours in this extraordinary place.

When it was time to go, I walked out of the castle and down some winding country roads with my guitar and pack, and stopped beside a field, and played some music. I remember a young woman, probably from a farm nearby, passing by and giving me a big smile. Every so often, someone would appear, and they all greeted me, the Welsh are quite friendly.

Eventually I went to find a bus to Swansea in the nearby village, and I waited with several others at a bus stop. After buying a ticket and getting on board, it became completely unlike any bus trip I’ve ever taken. The bus driver constantly sang, told jokes and greeted everyone with a lively remark, a barrage of comments that the passengers laugh. We made our way down the narrow roads threaded through high granite walls that opened occasionally to views of green fields with sheep and cattle. We lurched back and forth on the steep roads, causing the people to clutch their belongings closer as the bus headed to Swansea.

The countryside really began changing from verdant green to a modern industrial landscape as the city approached. Swansea was built on shipping and coal mining, and many areas were heavily bombed by the Germans during World War II. No doubt many old buildings were lost, like other cities in Europe during the war.

After a bus change or two, I got out on Oystermouth Road, which faced the bay. I walked around and looked at small hotels and boarding houses until I found something cheap, a small room upstairs in a modest building. It was 3.50 pounds a night, probably $15-$18 then.

That night I started calling all the Hams in the phone book in the hotel. Some of my calls just rang and rang, and in other cases, someone answered in a heavy Welsh accent, and we got nowhere. Finally a woman said to check John Ham Music down on Mansel Street, as that was Pete’s brother’s shop. So the next morning I got the number and called, and asked for John.

He answered, and was very friendly, and invited me to the store. I hurried down there, it was easy to find, and not that far from my hotel. It was a typical music store, fairly spacious, and I told myself: Pete’s been in here many times.

I found John and talked with him awhile, he said he had tapes of Pete that he wanted to release one day. Those became the CDs “Golders Green,” and “7 Park Avenue.”

Then he finally said: “Would you like to see Pete’s guitars?” I followed him up a set of stairs to the third floor, and there on a landing, were six dusty and road-worn guitar cases, three acoustics and three electrics. I pulled out a Martin that John said Pete used it on “All Things Must Pass.” Then I opened another case, and brought out a brown Gibson SG. This one was totally modified by George Harrison, and given to Pete during the Straight Up sessions at Abbey Road and I held it in my hands in wonder, playing a few chords. The strings were rusted from the damp sea air, and the finish was dusty and a little smudged, but it still had a beautiful rose color.

Another guitar was a Les Paul with a six-position pickup selector, in which John said he used on No Dice and many other recordings.   I then pulled out a couple of the acoustics, and there was another Martin and I think, a Gibson, among them. I tinkered a little bit on the corroded strings, and I should have snapped photos, but I restrained myself in general from too much touristy photo taking or note-taking while in Wales with the Badfinger folks. But frequently I wish I’d just bought ten times as much film and blazed away, particularly of these guitars, as he said the Beatles had given them to Pete. Just holding them in my hands on that day, crouched down in a plain concrete and steel stairwell, knowing that Badfinger had really used it, much less the Beatles, was a powerful moment.

I later found out the Gibson SG was sold by John Ham in 2004 for about $700,000 to an unidentified buyer. It was made in 1964, and authenticated by Christie’s auction house as having been acquired by George in 1966, and used by him on “Revolver” and “Abbey Road.” In addition, John Lennon played it on the “White Album.” I’d like to know all the songs it was used on, but that may not be possible. It was then given to Pete around 1970, and he played it exclusively on all of the Badfinger records, and he’s always seen playing it live.

Recently, I saw a picture of it in a book of Beatle photographs displayed with the other Beatles guitars backstage at a concert in Japan. Also during my research, I found a description of the studio logs of “Something,” and it said that George used it on that classic.

Today, it’s on loan to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by the owner. Interesting note, as soon as Pete got an SG, Joey Molland of Badfinger got one also, and you can see them both playing the same type of guitar on the various videos from the time. I recently saw photographs of The Doors by Linda McCartney, and guitarist Robby Kreiger is pictured once with a brown SG, and another time I saw a picture of him with a white SG.

After this, we went back downstairs, and John Ham mentioned that Mike Gibbins, drummer for Badfinger, came in the store from time to time. Would I like to meet him? Of course, was my response, and he said he’d make arrangements.

I told him where I was staying down on Oystermouth Road, and he insisted on calling his friend Martin Ace to see if I could stay with them around the corner, knowing I had very little money. A bass player and singer, Martin was a founding member of the Man Band, of which I’d never heard, and John then gave me his address. I owe a debt of gratitude to John, besides viewing the guitars, and introducing me to Mike Gibbins and Martin Ace, I’d been able to store my huge pack and guitar at the music store for a couple of days.

I left the store, walking around the area looking for the place. It did not take long to find, and I rang the doorbell. A slender man with brown hair about 30 answered the door and welcomed me in, introducing me to his wife, and their 4-year old daughter. I put down my guitar, and we had tea.

I stayed in their living room for the next few days. It was great, they told me stories of the Man Band, and the Welsh scene in general. Each day, I’d be woken up in the morning by their adorable daughter, Jo Anne, who would come running in laughing, and jump on the sofa where I slept, delighted at the world, and a new person around. She would play with her friend “Mouse,” drawing and coloring. I learned that Mike Gibbins was her “boyfriend.”

Martin told me about traveling to San Francisco to record with John Cippilina, the world famous guitarist of Quicksilver Messenger Service.

Once I asked him what vocal part he sang, and he answered, “what ever someone else isn’t.” That stuck in my mind, I’d not thought of it like that.

I noticed how little they had in the way of possessions, a couple dozen records (mostly by Man, as the band recorded at least ten albums), a stereo, and furniture. That was about it in the small apartment, but there was family and music and love, those important things that can transcend modest accommodations.

Man was one of the best known bands from Wales, and toured Europe a lot, but were virtually unknown in the States. They made a fantastic album cover once with a huge poster of Wales inside. It would fold out automatically to be twice as large as you opened the album, an exquisitely drawn fantasy map, and very humorous.

I had gotten the address to where Pete’s ashes were scattered, and told Martin I wanted to take some flowers there. He explained where it was in North Swansea, and I went by bus to Swansea Crematorium after buying a bouquet of flowers.

On the way, I passed by the familiar mixture of unremarkable new buildings built since the air raids, and many older ones that still stood, churches, old stone houses, and hulking soot-stained Victorian-styled structures that seemed to be offices or apartments. Of course all the older buildings were slate-roofed, as Wales is one only three places on earth to get the high quality stone. Indeed, most of the older roofs of London and Britain are made of Welsh slate. Coincidentally, Virginia has excellent slate mines, along with somewhere in China.

I finally got off at the nearest stop to the crematorium, and as I started to walk down the street, I saw what seemed to be a knife sharpener with a bulky cart, and several young boys beside him across the street. I took a picture in black and white, and it remains one of my favorites to this day, a scene straight out of Charles Dickens.

Rain was spattering down as I entered the large building and walked down a dark hallway. I called out, and an old man finally emerged from a back room, and stood behind a lectern with a huge book on it, and I told him why I was there.

At first he thought I was talking about the member of another band that had died in the early seventies, a musician in Stone The Crows. I believe this band was signed by Peter Grant of Led Zeppelin to a record deal.

So I gave him the name again, and he opened up the giant book, and thumbed through the thick pages to Pete’s name, and I saw the listing, Ham, Peter William, and date he died. He pointed out to the garden, saying there was no gravestone, but that was the area his ashes were scattered.

I walked outside and raindrops began to fall again from piles of murky clouds scudding over the horizon, and there were tombstones stretching as far I could see, the graveyard was huge. I sat there a while on the bench in a circular space about twenty feet in diameter, and then threw my four orange roses down on the ground, one for each of the members of Badfinger. There was not even a marker, I guess I was expecting a gravestone at least. Not one person was there on that gloomy day, just the tombs and flowers scattered in the grass.

While sitting there, I reflected on the loss to the world Pete Ham’s death represented, both to music fans, and his surviving family and friends. Mike Gibbins told me that Pete’s mother never really recovered from the shock and loss.

I finally left and returned to my hotel. The next day I called John and he said he’d been in touch with Mike, and gave me his number. I called him and he gave me his address, and the nearest bus stop. I had to ask around when I got there to find the location of his flat. Eventually I made my way there, it was in a row of nondescript townhouses, probably built after the war. He was living with his mother-in-law, and the area was not fancy at all, but not that bad.

I knocked on the door, and his wife answered, I didn’t expect him to be in, but I went inside and he walked in. We then went back to his small bedroom, and he picked up his guitar, a Martin with a hole the size of a golf ball in the side, it was a D-18, and Mike had patched it with tape..

Mike then played a few songs he’d been writing on the guitar and said George Harrison had given it to him. Naturally I asked to play it, who knows what songs were done on this guitar? “Here Comes The Sun?” I’ll never know, but I did strum a few chords on it.  Mike was left handed so I couldn’t do much with it.

He lit one of many cigarettes he smoked that day, and I do remember tea being made, and we started talking music.  He said that his favorite album was “Straight Up,” and talked about the Beatles and other very famous people, without a trace of snobbery. He told me George Harrison only played on “Day After Day,” and no other tracks.

He pulled out his latest album purchase, “Songs in the Key of Life” by Stevie Wonder, cranking it on an ancient stereo. He was simply dressed in brown boots, jeans, and a jean jacket, very modest and quiet voiced. He said he’d started playing with Martin Ace and the Flying Aces.

He also played some songs on a Revox ¼ tape recorder he’d been taping lately, but I confess I don’t remember much about them. One was a rocker, and another was a ballad. He’d overdubbed more vocals and guitars, and it sounded great. After a while, he wanted to go out and get some cigarettes, so we walked down to a small grocery store, and I got him to pose for a few pictures, including one where he flexes his muscles while putting one foot on a toy tricycle. We had a good time, he was lively and cheerful, and we talked about various things, not particularly music.

I asked Mike about the uplifting and always beautiful mood of Pete’s voice and songs, though they usually had a tinge of melancholy. He explained the Welsh word “hiraeth,” which meant a longing for something that you don’t have for one reason or another, and not likely to get. Finally, I said goodbye, we arranged to meet again down on Oystermouth Road near where I had stayed when I first got there.

The next day we met at a pub, and we talked, but it was hard to understand what he was saying due to the volume in the place, and his Welsh accent. I asked him about “Midnight Caller,” what it was about. The lyrics stated “beneath the midnight caller, she thinks of paper green,” and he said she was a prostitute. He did talk a bit about seeing the Beatles around Abbey Road, and just music business in general.

In the few days I was there, I once played at a pub called the Trafalgar, right on the bay. Mike came to hear me, and stayed a while, that was very cool. I did not sound that great next to all these fabulous singers he was used to, but he said something complimentary.

No one could hear me play without a PA, but I managed to make it through a few songs, a couple of Dylan tunes. So we walked down to the beach to a hotel with a club in the basement called the Coach and Horses. They had a rock and roll band, with a heavy drummer and a great guitarist that was compared to Jimmy Page, and Mike said Martin and the others considered him better than Page.

We went down once to Mike’s favorite pub, the Tenby Hotel bar. Once we went to a club in a basement, it was like the Cavern, and there was a 60’s rock band playing, and we got drunk and played “drums” on the furniture like maniacs to “I Saw Her Standing There,” and other tunes. Once he said “we’re just a rock and roll band, think what you fuckin’ like.” I noticed everyone wore leather, even girls.

Once he told me he had a gig that night, and I asked him where he was playing, and he did not really want to tell me, so I did not press it. I think it was probably some terrible cover band in a hotel, a far cry from world tours and the Beatles, and he was embarrassed.

An odd thing I remember is Mike and another guy inviting me to go into another room for another party or something, and I missed the cues and did not make it that room. I’d have gladly gone anywhere he asked, but I probably had too many beers at that time, and missed the invitation.

On one of my next visits he gave me an extraordinary gift: a ¼ inch 7 ½ IPS reel-to-reel halftrack Ampex tape of their last album, to be called “Head First,” that had ten songs on it. Joey and Pete had left the band before this was recorded, and a musician from Coventry named Bob Jackson had joined, and then Pete rejoined the band. After this was recorded, it was left in the vault, and when their Warner Brothers contract was cancelled, Apple lawsuits began to affect Badfinger.

Mike wrote down the names of the members of Badfinger that sang the various songs, and gave it to me. It had “Record Plant” printed on it, though it was actually recorded at the basement studio Apple built at 3 Savile Row in London.

At one point he said the people around Badfinger were extremely bitter about the Apple and the American crooks like Allan Klein and Stan Polley, who collected 900,000 pounds and kept a lot of it. The rest was tied up in escrow in Apple. Micky said Polley told him: “you’ll never work again.” But he mentioned that he’d just gotten 2,000 pounds, which he was very happy about.

To this day, the music is hard to find, and only part of “Head First” was released in the year 2000, 23 years later. It’s really only out there as a bootleg, never released in total to be available to the public, at least to my knowledge.

I was stunned and grateful, I promised to keep it safe and asked if I could make copies to share it with my friends, and he said that was great, because it would be a long time before it came out, if ever. It is yellowed and stained a bit, but still here to this day, the most treasure musical item I have.

He also gave me several black and white photographs of the original band with Joey Molland, possibly taken at George Martin’s A.I.R. Studios in London while they were finishing “Wish You Were Here.” Or it could have been 3 Savile Row. The photos are probably the last ones taken of the original lineup of Badfinger, as Joey quit shortly after that. The pictures are clear, but very small, as they are “positives,” or photos the size of 35 mm negatives made for pre-viewing. It seems that Dan Matovina, author of “Without You,” the definitive Badfinger biography, will publish a few of them in his new revised edition. The photographer is unknown.

We’d walk around Swansea and talk about music in general, and hang out at various pubs. I met a musician named Clive John (who put out an album called “You Always Know Where You Stand With a Buzzard).” He was a very nice guy with a great sense of humor, and I also met a blind man, who could shoot darts with amazing ability, even bull’s-eyes. They would set him on the line exactly the right distance from the board, and somehow he would pull it off.

Mike also mentioned touring with Marshall Tucker Band in 72 or 73, and they were in the same hotel and nobody said a word, not so much as a wave. Badfinger was not impressed with Marshall Tucker, and consistently blew them off the stage, though they thought they were superior to Badfinger.

Then he mentioned Tom Evans was living in London, and gave me his phone # and address. I was going to contact him when I got back, and after saying good-bye to everyone in Swansea, I took a train back to London to reconnect with the friends at the squat in North London.

It was mid-July at this point, and I decided to call Tommy Evans, making arrangements to visit him in New Haw, Surrey, south of London, apparently not far from George Harrison’s mansion. We were to meet the following afternoon, but I was late getting there, and when I called him from the Tube station, he said he’d already made other plans. That was very dumb of me to be late for something so important!

During this time, British music other than Badfinger or the Beatles started making more sense to me, I really started to understand Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” and the Who’s “Quadrophenia,” albums I’d not paid much attention to before. One day when sitting in the back yard of the house, with “Breathe” playing through the stereo out of the window on a perfect summer day, I certainly did get it what Pink Floyd was after. And “Quadrophenia,” with its symphonic crashing waves and extraordinary lyrical images of London and Brighton of the 60’s, sure made a big impression. Nothing could be so exquisitely British as that album.

I bought a copy of “Never Mind The Bollocks,” the Sex Pistols classic, and sent it back to Les Gowen in Lynchburg. I hope his parents forgive me, he played it night and day at a loud volume for weeks.

The weather was extraordinary, as London was going through a massive heat wave. Day after day it was clear and very hot, and we just sat in the backyard among piles of junk, and listened to music, as some days it was too hot to do very much. I spent hours walking around the area I was staying, going to Hampstead Heath, with its glorious view of London to the south, and Highgate Cemetery. That was an amazing place, Karl Marx was buried there, and many other notables, it’s one of the most interesting and historic cemeteries in the world.

Once I was walking through there on a blazing hot August day and I saw a couple standing in what apparently was a grave, from about 25 feet away through bushes and low hanging trees. It seemed very clear they had no clothes on from the waist up. Just normal looking people, not deranged or dirty, just standing there in the sunshine in an open grave, so I kept moving. Whatever they were up to was none of my business, and later it seemed as if I hallucinated it, but I really did see something strange.

With that incident in mind, I always marveled at the sense of wonder in Britain that infused me, and the frequent dash of Alice in Wonderland in Britain, as odd scenes would unfold sometimes when you turned a corner and looked around. There was detail and history there that often gave a sense of deja vu, or explained something you might have wondered, and now you knew where it came from. So many of our American traditions and knowledge come from Britain and the incredible literature created there.

The routine during the day was to go over to our favorite pub and play pool all morning, drinking a couple of pints, and smoking roll-up cigarettes. It was very enjoyable, the sun beaming into the ancient place, full of leather and old wood, with the quiet voices of others coming and going, and the hours drifted by. Afterwards, we’d go back to the apartment and often nap, or sit around playing guitars.

Once I went to the top floor of the apartment building I’d been staying in, it was much different than the party-time ground floor space, cleaner, more spacious, and lots more sun. Best of all, they had Radio Caroline playing, which broadcasted from a ship in the Irish Sea in international waters to avoid arrest. They were broadcasting the latest punk and new wave, and lots of other music, magical songs to me, and a great radio station, legendary. But I was leaving soon unfortunately, and I wish I’d somehow explored the building more or gotten to know the guys upstairs sooner.

I boarded my plane and got back to Dulles, jet-lagged and burned out, returning in mid-August to a heat wave. It was even hotter in America, and as I trudged down the road from the airport to find a bus, a car honked and turned around, and then pulled up beside me. It was my mother and her friend, who were going to the airport to take a plane to Europe, quite a coincidence. She told me Elvis had just died, and I had not seen any papers yet.

In the several years after I met Mike in 1977, we exchanged letters about various things for a couple of years, but unfortunately, I lost them in a move. They may show up somewhere in my stuff, but I doubt it, at least I have all the pictures. Once I called him up and forgot the time difference, and woke him up, I think they might have thought it was serious music business from America, but nope, just me.

I met Mike the next time in Richmond in 1982 when he was touring with the remnants of Badfinger, including Tom Evans, Bob Jackson, Don Dacus, Reed Kailing, and Tony Kaye. I saw them play at a club in town called Crazy Horse out on West Broad Street. The first set was not good at all, and I don’t remember much of the set later, except it got better. If I’d been them at that stage, I’d probably phone it in too, playing to 70 or 80 people in some dinky club off the beaten path. I never saw Mike again after that, and he died of heart problems in 2007.

Later in Richmond around 1995, I went to see “Joey Molland’s Badfinger” a couple of times. The first was at the Classic Amphitheatre, they were appearing with a variety show featuring bands from the past, and they did 5 songs (Come and Get It, No Matter What, Baby Blue, Day after Day, and Without You). It was not that great, the boomy sound and lack of Pete’s voice did not add to the show, though the pick-up musicians played well while backing up Joey.

Before the show started, I’d sent notes back stage through a burly guard to Joey mentioning my friendship with Mike, and saying I’d like to meet him. Finally the third note worked, and the guard shuffled back reluctantly, with a message saying to meet at the Days Inn at the airport. After the show, we went to the room and knocked, they let us in. Otis Day was there, and a guy named Gary, who sang the hit sixties song “I Love You More Than Yesterday.” We hung out a while and drank beer, and then it was suggested we go down and play pool. I asked Joey a few things about guitar parts, like “Baby Blue” ending up almost in the key of C, but plainly was written in B. He said they just sped it up in the mix, and we chatted in general.

Later I saw “Joey Molland’s Badfinger” at the Boulders in about 2000, a concert venue here in Richmond, playing to a crowd of about 1,000. The show was okay in some respects, but not that special, kind of like a Holiday Inn band playing Badfinger, really. I did not even bother to try to talk to him, and he did not show much interest in coming out to sign autographs. That was the last time I saw with a member of Badfinger, and then later I heard Mike had died in Florida.

I finally read Dan Matovina’s great book about Badfinger called “Without You,” which came out in the 1990’s, and I talked to him recently about a new edition of it coming out soon. Matovina played a major role in the arduous process of retrieving royalties lost in the Apple meltdown, and negotiated with Neil Aspinall directly. Aspinall died recently, and it underlines the fact that the Beatles and the inner circle both are going away rapidly.

The Beatles roadie and all-around helper Mal Evans died in LA not long before, and he was one of the originators of the Badfinger name, which supposedly was triggered by John Lennon coming in with a bandaged finger and playing “A Little Help From My Friends” on the piano, and calling it “Bad Finger Boogie,” and Mal too it from there. Paul McCartney and Ringo are the only ones left that know the true story of what really went on in the Beatles days, including some of the Badfinger history, beyond stories from Joey. I was also sorry to hear about Joey’s wife dying in her sleep recently.

Here are some links about the Gibson SG, and its history.

http://www.stratcollector.com/newsdesk/archives/000302.html

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/tm_objectid=14990722&method=full&siteid=50082&headline=beatles-guitar-lands-at-auction-after-long-and-tragic-journey-name_page.html

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article402089.ece

By Brooke Saunders

It all started in June 1977 when I flew across the Atlantic to London on a B.O.A.C 747 jet to attend a family reunion. As I stared out at the pale black sky over a sea of clouds, little did I know that I would soon meet the drummer for Badfinger, one of the most famous pop groups in the world. Their heavenly harmonies, ringing guitars, and close connections to the Beatles had fascinated me for years, and beyond that, there was something very personal in their music for me.

The saintly voice of Pete Ham and a mystical vision of Wales called out so strongly I was ultimately lured there after visiting England.

I’d been obsessed with the band ever since hearing “Baby Blue” on the radio back in my hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia. The compelling and haunting song stuck in my head for months; it wasn’t the Beatles, but who was it? The DJ had not announced the artist, but I asked around and discovered their albums at a record store, happily taking home Straight Up, which featured a very long haired band on the cover.

The songs were so good it was like discovering another Beatles, and course, George Harrison produced half of it, and played slide with Pete on “Day After Day,” the ultimate romantic song. Our band Rivermont learned that one immediately, and we figured out “Baby Blue,” considered by many to be a masterwork rarely equaled in pop music.

Later I got their second album, No Dice, which contained “No Matter What,” in addition to the original version of “Without You,” covered by Harry Neilson and others later. I went on from there to buy multiple copies of every single Badfinger record I could find, often available for a few dollars in the “cutout” bin at the local record store, as they were no longer in print. Our band ended up playing a half dozen of their songs on a regular basis, probably the only group in Virginia doing so.

When I heard about our Tucker family reunion in England, I really wanted to go, but could not afford it. So I wrote a long letter to my cousin Janet, who was managing the adventure, and said how much I appreciated what she was doing, but would be unable to make it. Next thing I know, a $500 check arrives in the mail from her, an amazing thing. So I ordered my ticket right away, as the time and date were planned very carefully; Janet wanted to us there in early June for the Queen’s 25th Jubilee celebrations. The plan was to all meet at Dulles Airport.

We’d been riding for hours in the plane through the long night, and then the sun finally broke through a great mass of clouds ahead of us, beaming into the cabin as it rose over Europe. Slumbering passengers began to awaken and move around, window shades rolled up, overhead hatches banged open and shut, and then the plane seemed to sag backwards a little, and tilt downwards.

In a plummy British accent, the pilot announced the coast of Ireland was coming up on the left. With ears popping, we descended from the clouds to view a dark green sea with patches of snowy surf crashing on Ireland’s bleak western cliffs. Emerald fields came and went through patches of mist, and the plane turned right as we raced across the Irish Sea over Liverpool, then onwards south to the Midlands and the vast factory complexes. As we neared London, we went back into the mists, and finally the plane leaned and slowed to land, the pitch of the engine whine changing substantially.

I was looking out of the window into tattered clouds when suddenly a small corporate jet came from below, soared up vertically by the left wing, barely a couple hundred feet away, and instantly vanished. I turned to my seatmate and others around me, but they’d completely missed it. The pilot did not mention the plane, nor did anyone else. The only thing I remember was that it was not a military jet, just a white corporate jet with no visible markings or logos.

We landed safely at Heathrow Airport, and I saw the control tower and various buildings across the runway, with a long line of black London cabs standing in the pouring rain. “Paint It Black” came to mind, and that was the first of many moments like that, seeing stereotypes in person that met or exceeded expectations for mood and atmosphere.

Everyone got into one of those black cabs and we began riding on a highway, with someone sitting on the “tilt-up seat” behind the driver. After passing warehouses, we began to see long rows of townhouses with chimney pots, which were one of my favorite things about England, you just don’t see that type of chimney in America. We finally began to see some of the older London landmarks such as Westminster Abbey and Big Ben looming up in the distance, mists swirling around them. We finally pulled up in front of our hotel in Russell Square, not far from the British Museum.

After getting settled, we had dinner and set off in the London streets at night with several cousins for a walk. The rain had stopped by then, and we wandered around Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus, breathing in exotic smells from all the restaurants, gaping at the amazing buildings and people passing by. I got a huge rush from just being on that wide sidewalk, swept along by strangers, with invisible dark horizon of Europe ahead and adventure in the air. And I was breathing the very same air of so many of my heroes and other characters in history, whether the Beatles or Winston Churchill.

The next day we met other cousins, and went out to various lunches and dinners, and in the days following, went to the British Museum and other tourist destinations, wandering around all the old paintings and statues. While that was all right, more interesting to us was the vibrant street scene. Youth with green, magenta, and orange hair wandered the streets, and clustered in bunches wearing iron crosses and black leather jackets. Tabloids like the Sun screamed lurid headlines from the news boxes about the Sex Pistol’s latest capers. I’d seen some punks in New York City recently, but not on this scale.

Everything was about the Queen that summer, decorations, promotions, excitement, and many special events. Later in the week, we saw her pass by in a carriage in the street, watched the Beefeaters parade in front of Buckingham Palace, and took a tour of Westminster Abbey. The street scene was fascinating, lots of international flavor, you’d be walking by a shop and hear reggae blasting out, as Jamaicans have a strong presence in London. Or you would hear steel drums from the West Indies, and often see people with elaborate and colorful outfits from Africa walking by.

One day, several of my cousins and I tried to find the massive Battersea Power Station, pictured on the cover of the Pink Floyd album, Animals. We kept walking south from central London, and the huge smokestacks would appear and reappear behind the buildings, and we spent hours in the neighborhood, stopping at various pubs on the way. Of course, it is located on the south bank of the Thames across the river, quite far from where we were walking. But it was fun to try, and we punctuated the walk with visits to all the wonderful pubs available.

Another time, my cousins, including Robin and Charley, happened to walk into a party on a rooftop in London, and they came down describing to me a vivid scene of some guys throwing very carefully empty beer bottles off the roof at something below.

The next day we met some interesting musicians at the Western Bar in Piccadilly Circus, and they invited us to their “squat” in North London. The place was in Tufnell Park, in Islington, not far from Camden Town. Though they were living there illegally, it was warm and cozy, and relatively clean, and I got my look at how the squatting system worked. They would take over an abandoned house, and as long as the utilities were hooked up, they could not be evicted easily.

The squatters could not have been a more charming bunch, and they were mostly young musicians and their friends on welfare, or the “dole,” as they call it. I never saw the really sleazy side of London squats, no doubt some of the other types of people involved in this were not nearly as interesting and pleasant.

After a whirlwind of London events, we finally got in a bus, all 25 of us, and headed off to Oxford for a couple of nights. It was nice to get out of London, and experience some wonderful countryside. We passed by Shakespeare’s house, and saw the Avon River, and then kept heading southwest to Bath the next day. I was playing guitar in the back of the bus and we sang various tunes together. In later years, I heard a number of people say they fondly remembered the music on the bus, even though we were certainly not performing that well, just singing along to some tunes.

The countryside began to open up and change, the sky was bigger, and we once passed a massive flat white horse carved in a hillside far away. This huge work was made in the 45-degree slope of a hill by exposing chalk to contrast against the trees. The white horse was sacred to the Celts, and ancient British culture in general, resulting in many such horses sprinkled around the island. We only saw it from the bus window as we went by, but one day I’d like to go up close.

Then came Stonehenge, and it was June 20th. We were there in the last year of public access to the structure, due to people damaging the stones or removing fragments, even defacing them with graffiti. Stonehenge was there long before the Druids, but they believed it to be a spiritual place, and worshipped there, as do many current Wiccan and Druid followers. Amazingly, the multi-ton inner circle of blue stones were transported 240 miles from Preseli, Pembrokeshire, Wales, an incredible feat.

As we approached, we saw teepees and makeshift tents beside the road, old VW vans, hippie-looking folk trudging beside the road, and lots of protest signs, presumably protesting the closing of the monument. We pulled off the highway to the place you buy a ticket, and browsed a gift shop.

Then, after walking through a tunnel under the road, Stonehenge appeared before us across an expanse of grass, a cold and forbidding structure, black under a pewter sky. The wind was strong, and green fields stretched in every direction. It was quiet except for the sound of traffic from the highway, and once in a while you could hear the sounds of the chanting protesters drifting on the wind.

I recently saw a movie version of Tess of the D’Urbevilles, and the haunting last scene of Tess lying on the altar stone as the police approach to arrest her really brought back memories of the place. Most probably don’t realize she was lying on the stone where sacrifices were carried out in all likelihood.

We kept going southwest to Bath, and had a great time there seeing all the Roman baths, and traveling the canal networks surrounding the city. It is an incredible city in many ways, I remember riding in a canal boat, looking a few feet across the still water through the stems of roses and tulips, which framed an extraordinary view of beautiful Georgian mansions on the far hillside a half-mile away. You were suspended in the water with no bank of the canal visible.

While in Bath, we took a day trip to Weston-Super Mare, and saw the famous beach and mud flats, while the rest of the party was interviewed on BBC television back in Bath. Then everyone left for Scotland, and I stayed to see the area before heading to Wales, a plan that had been in my mind.

The next day I went to record shops, and just wandered around, and ate some incredibly hot Middle-Eastern food with someone from Iraq I happened to meet. I just could not finish the dish, and the Iraqi I was with tasted it and agreed it was inedible.

Later in the day I met some very friendly musicians, who invited me to stick around. I was tempted, but Wales was calling, and the next day I decided to hitchhike to Swansea, Wales, about 100 miles or so to the west. I did not know if I could contact anyone from Badfinger while there, but I just felt drawn like a homing pigeon.

My first ride was a good one, a salesman headed to Cardiff area, and I rode along with him talking about various things as the scenery unfolded. The thing that struck me as we crossed the border was how the people and landscape changed so much. The English in general had seemed to be a lot plumper with short hair, living in a flat land, contrasting to the Welsh people, who were more slender and longhaired. In addition, the landscape became more mountainous, and the cars and houses not as fancy.

As we began climbing the famed Black Mountains, home of Merlin and the lost land of Avalon, one thing I remember vividly was our car being stopped by a vast herd of sheep crossing the road on a wide-open grassy plain, and having to wait till they passed by.

Another time we saw about 50 motorcycles parked in front of this vast old wooden lodge-like structure. The entire scene was surreal at sunset, with a steep, bare hillside framing the vast complicated structure, the darkening sky, mountains all around, and a bizarre collection of ancient motorcycles in front of the gloomy, hulking building.

We kept driving across the highlands, with wonderful panoramas around, and only a sprinkling of farms and small towns. While traveling through Wales, the one song that played in my mind the most, and captures the place better than any, is Badfinger’s “Carry On Till Tomorrow.” The lyrics, melody, and majestic harmonies fit my journey perfectly.

Then we descended, passing Cardiff to the south, a smudge on the horizon, and arrived at very small town to stay for the night. The driver mentioned there was a nice castle to visit here, and then went on to his hotel. I wanted to get out and camp, so I found a field and rolled out my sleeping bag, it was wonderful to be outside in such great weather.

When I woke up in early morning, dew covered everything, birds were singing, and a gloriously beautiful day greeted me. The soft, blue skies overhead, air brushing my skin like velvet, and the feeling of adventure made for a wonderful start to the day.

After getting my sleeping bag all rolled up, I remember the guy that gave me a ride calling for me a few times from the road, to see if I wanted a ride onwards to Cardiff. But I chose to not reply, and went on to find the castle he’d mentioned.

I paid a small sum to the old man at the gate, and there was virtually no one around when I entered. I walked around the modest granite structure, which had no great towers, cannons, or anything fancy, just crumbled stonewalls, and the King Arthur countryside spreading out in all directions.

I settled in a comfortable window ledge, and stared out over an exquisite landscape from the precipice. It was at least 150 feet to the ground below, where a beautiful little stream sparkled in the sun as it flowed through a vivid green meadow dotted with wildflowers. Sheep grazed, and you could hear them bleating every now and then in the quiet morning air. The sun rose higher, bees buzzed around flowers, melodic bird chirps sounded, and I could see the Black Mountains miles away in the distance. I just sat there enjoying the dreamy peace of my first visit to a castle. It was fortuitous I’d passed on continuing the ride with the traveling salesman, wonderful to be alone for hours in this extraordinary place.

When it was time to go, I walked out of the castle and down some winding country roads with my guitar and pack, and stopped beside a field, and played some music. I remember a beautiful young woman, probably from a farm nearby, passing by and giving me a big smile. Every so often, someone would appear, and they all greeted me, the Welsh are quite friendly.

Eventually I went to find a bus to Swansea in the nearby village, and I waited with several others at a bus stop. After buying a ticket and getting on board, it became completely unlike any bus trip I’ve ever taken. The bus driver constantly sang, told jokes and greeted everyone with a lively remark, a barrage of comments that the passengers laugh. We made our way down the narrow roads threaded through high granite walls that opened occasionally to views of green fields with sheep and cattle. We lurched back and forth on the steep roads, causing the people to clutch their belongings closer as the bus headed to Swansea.

The countryside really began changing from verdant green to a modern industrial landscape as the city approached. Swansea was built on shipping and coal mining, and many areas were heavily bombed by the Germans during World War II. No doubt many old buildings were lost, like other cities in Europe during the war.

After a bus change or two, I got out on Oystermouth Road, which faced the bay. I walked around and looked at small hotels and boarding houses until I found something cheap, a small room upstairs in a modest building.

That night I started calling all the Hams in the phone book in the hotel. Some of my calls just rang and rang, and in other cases, someone answered in a heavy Welsh accent, and we got nowhere. Finally a woman said to check John Ham Music down on Mansel Street, as that was Pete’s brother’s shop. So the next morning I got the number and called, and asked for John.

He answered, and was very friendly, and invited me to the store. I hurried down there, it was easy to find, and not that far from my hotel. It was a typical music store, fairly spacious, and I told myself: Pete’s been in here many times.

I found John and talked with him awhile, and he finally said: “Would you like to see Pete’s guitars?” I followed him up a set of stairs to the third floor, and there on a landing, were six dusty and road-worn guitar cases, three acoustics and three electrics. I opened one of the cases and brought out a brown Gibson SG, and I held it in my hands in wonder, playing a few chords. The strings were rusted from the damp sea air, and the finish was dusty and a little smudged, but it still had a beautiful rose color.

I then pulled out a couple of the acoustics, and there was a Martin and I think, a Gibson, among them. I tinkered a little bit on the corroded strings, and I should have snapped photos, but I restrained myself in general from too much touristy photo taking or note-taking while in Wales with the Badfinger folks. But frequently I wish I’d just bought ten times as much film and blazed away, particularly of these guitars, as he said the Beatles had given them to Pete. Just holding them in my hands on that day, crouched down in a plain concrete and steel stairwell, knowing that Badfinger had really used it, much less the Beatles, was a powerful moment.

I later found out the Gibson SG was sold by John Ham in 2004 for about $700,000 to an unidentified buyer. It was made in 1964, and authenticated by Christie’s auction house as having been acquired by George in 1966, and used by him on “Revolver” and “Abbey Road.” In addition, John Lennon played it on the “White Album.” I’d like to know all the songs it was used on, but that may not be possible. It was then given to Pete around 1970, and he played it exclusively on all of the Badfinger records, and he’s always seen playing it live.

Recently, I saw a picture of it in a book of Beatle photographs displayed with the other Beatles guitars backstage at a concert in Japan. Also during my research, I found a description of the studio logs of “Something,” and it said that George used it on that classic.

Today, it’s on loan to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by the owner. Interesting note, as soon as Pete got an SG, Joey Molland of Badfinger got one also, and you can see them both playing the same type of guitar on the various videos from the time. I recently saw photographs of The Doors by Linda McCartney, and guitarist Robby Kreiger is pictured once with a brown SG, and another time I saw a picture of him with a white SG.

After this, we went back downstairs, and John Ham mentioned that Mike Gibbins, drummer for Badfinger, came in the store from time to time. Would I like to meet him? Of course, was my response, and he said he’d make arrangements.

I told him where I was staying down on Oystermouth Road, and he insisted on calling his friend Martin Ace to see if I could stay with them around the corner, knowing I had very little money. A bass player and singer, Martin was a founding member of the Man Band, of which I’d never heard, and John then gave me his address. I owe a debt of gratitude to John, besides viewing the guitars, and introducing me to Mike Gibbins and Martin Ace, I’d been able to store my huge pack and guitar at the music store for a couple of days.

I left the store, walking around the area looking for the place. It did not take long to find, and I rang the doorbell. A slender man with brown hair about 30 answered the door and welcomed me in, introducing me to his wife, and their 4-year old daughter. I put down my guitar, and we had tea.

I stayed in their living room for the next few days. It was great, they told me stories of the Man Band, and the Welsh scene in general. Each day, I’d be woken up in the morning by their adorable daughter, who would come running in laughing, and jump on the sofa where I slept, delighted at the world, and a new person around. She would play with her friend “Mouse,” drawing and coloring. Martin told me about traveling to San Francisco to record with John Cippilina, the world famous guitarist of Quicksilver Messenger Service.

Once I asked him what vocal part he sang, and he answered, “what ever someone else isn’t.” That stuck in my mind, I’d not thought of it like that.

I noticed how little they had in the way of possessions, a couple dozen records (mostly by Man, as the band recorded at least ten albums), a stereo, and furniture. That was about it in the small apartment, but there was family and music and love, those important things that can transcend modest accommodations.

Man was one of the best known bands from Wales, and toured Europe a lot, but were virtually unknown in the States. They made a fantastic album cover once with a huge poster of Wales inside. It would fold out automatically to be twice as large as you opened the album, an exquisitely drawn fantasy map, and very humorous.

I had gotten the address to where Pete’s ashes were scattered, and told Martin I wanted to take some flowers there. He explained where it was in North Swansea, and I went by bus to Swansea Crematorium after buying a bouquet of flowers.

On the way, I passed by the familiar mixture of unremarkable new buildings built since the air raids, and many older ones that still stood, churches, old stone houses, and hulking soot-stained Victorian-styled structures that seemed to be offices or apartments. Of course all the older buildings were slate-roofed, as Wales is one only three places on earth to get the high quality stone. Indeed, most of the older roofs of London and Britain are made of Welsh slate. Coincidentally, Virginia has excellent slate mines, along with somewhere in China.

I finally got off at the nearest stop to the crematorium, and as I started to walk down the street, I saw what seemed to be a knife sharpener with a bulky cart, and several young boys beside him across the street. I took a picture in black and white, and it remains one of my favorites to this day, a scene straight out of Charles Dickens.

Rain was spattering down as I entered the large building and walked down a dark hallway. I called out, and an old man finally emerged from a back room, and stood behind a lectern with a huge book on it, and I told him why I was there.

At first he thought I was talking about the member of another band that had died in the early seventies, a musician in Stone The Crows. I believe this band was signed by Peter Grant of Led Zeppelin to a record deal.

So I gave him the name again, and he opened up the giant book, and thumbed through the thick pages to Pete’s name, and I saw the listing, Ham, Peter William, and date he died. He pointed out to the garden, saying there was no gravestone, but that was the area his ashes were scattered.

I walked outside and raindrops began to fall again from piles of murky clouds scudding over the horizon, and there were tombstones stretching as far I could see, the graveyard was huge. I sat there a while on the bench in a circular space about twenty feet in diameter, and threw my flowers down on the ground, where others were scattered. There was not even a marker, I guess I was expecting a gravestone at least. Not one person was there on that gloomy day.

While sitting there, I reflected on the loss to the world Pete Ham’s death represented, both to music fans, and his surviving family and friends. Mike Gibbins told me that Pete’s mother never really recovered from the shock and loss.

I finally left and returned to my hotel. The next day I called John and he said he’d been in touch with Mike, and gave me his number. I called him and he gave me his address, and the nearest bus stop. Eventually I made my way to his apartment, which was in a row of nondescript townhouses, probably built after the war.

I went in, and he introduced me to his wife, Gaynor, and his son. We then sat inside a small bedroom, and he picked up his guitar, a Martin with a hole the size of a golf ball in the side, I believe it was a D-28. He lit one of many cigarettes he smoked that day, and I do remember tea being made, and we started talking music.

He pulled out his latest album purchase and enthusiastically talked up Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder, cranking it on an ancient stereo.

Mike then played a few songs he’d been writing on his guitar, and said George Harrison had given it to him, it’d somehow gotten the hole punched in it, and George did not want it any more. Naturally I asked to play it, who knows what songs were done on this guitar? “Here Comes The Sun?” I’ll never know, but I did strum a few chords on it.

He also played some songs on a Revox ¼ tape recorder he’d been taping lately, but I confess I don’t remember much about them.

After a while, he wanted to go out and get some cigarettes, so we walked down to a small grocery store, and I got him to pose for a few pictures, including one where he flexes his muscles while putting one foot on a toy tricycle. We had a good time, he was lively and cheerful, and we talked about various things, not particularly music.

I asked Mike about the uplifting and always beautiful mood of Pete’s voice and songs, though they usually had a tinge of melancholy. He explained the Welsh word “hiraeth,” which meant a longing for something that you don’t have for one reason or another, and not likely to get. Finally, I said goodbye, we arranged to meet again down on Oystermouth Road near where I had stayed when I first got there.

The next day we met at a pub, and we talked, but it was hard to understand what he was saying due to the volume in the place, and his Welsh accent. I asked him about “Midnight Caller,” what it was about. The lyrics stated “beneath the midnight caller, she thinks of paper green,” and he said she was a prostitute. He did talk a bit about seeing the Beatles around Abbey Road, and just music business in general.

In the few days I was there, I once played at a pub, and Mike came to hear me, and stayed a while, that was very cool. I did not sound that great next to all these fabulous singers he was used to, but he said something complimentary.

Once he told me he had a gig that night, and I asked him where he was playing, and he did not really want to tell me, so I did not press it. I think it was probably some terrible cover band in a hotel, a far cry from world tours and the Beatles, and he was embarrassed.

An odd thing I remember is Mike and another guy inviting me to go into another room for another party or something, and I missed the cues and did not make it that room. I’d have gladly gone anywhere he asked, but I probably had too many beers at that time, and missed the invitation.

On one of my next visits he gave me an extraordinary gift: a ¼ inch 7 ½ IPS reel-to-reel halftrack Ampex tape of their last album, to be called “Head First,” that had ten songs on it. Joey had left the band before this was recorded, and a Britain named Bob Jackson had joined, and someone else. After this was recorded, it was left in the vault, and when their Warner Brothers contract was cancelled, Apple lawsuits began to affect Badfinger.

Mike wrote down the names of the members of Badfinger that sang the various songs, and gave it to me. It had “Record Plant” printed on it, though it was actually recorded at the basement studio Apple built at 3 Savile Row in London.

To this day, the music is hard to find, and only part of “Head First” was released in the year 2000, 23 years later. It’s really only out there as a bootleg, never released in total to be available to the public, at least to my knowledge.

I was stunned and grateful, I promised to keep it safe and asked if I could make copies to share it with my friends, and he said that was great, because it would be a long time before it came out, if ever. It is yellowed and stained a bit, but still here to this day, the most treasure musical item I have.

He also gave me several black and white photographs of the original band with Joey Molland, possibly taken at George Martin’s A.I.R. Studios in London while they were finishing “Wish You Were Here.” Or it could have been 3 Savile Row.

The photos are probably the last ones taken of the original lineup of Badfinger, as Joey quit shortly after that. The pictures are clear, but very small, as they are “positives,” or photos the size of 35 mm negatives made for pre-viewing. It seems that Dan Matovina, author of “Without You,” the definitive Badfinger biography, will publish a few of them in his new revised edition. The photographer is unknown.

We’d walk around Swansea and talk about music in general, and hang out at various pubs. I met a musician named Clive John (who put out an album called “You Always Know Where You Stand With a Buzzard).” He was a very nice guy with a great sense of humor, and I also met a blind man, who could shoot darts with amazing ability, even bull’s-eyes. They would set him on the line exactly the right distance from the board, and somehow he would pull it off.

I finally decided to go back to London, and after saying good-bye to everyone in Swansea, I took a train back to London to reconnect with the friends at the squat in North London.

During this time, British music other than Badfinger or the Beatles started making more sense to me, I really started to understand Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” and the Who’s “Quadrophenia,” albums I’d not paid much attention to before. One day when sitting in the back yard of the house, with “Breathe” playing through the stereo out of the window on a perfect summer day, I certainly did get it what Pink Floyd was after. And “Quadrophenia,” with its symphonic crashing waves and extraordinary lyrical images of London and Brighton of the 60’s, sure made a big impression. Nothing could be so exquisitely British as that album.

I bought a copy of “Never Mind The Bollocks,” the Sex Pistols classic, and sent it back to Les Gowen in Lynchburg. I hope his parents forgive me, he played it night and day at a loud volumes

The weather was extraordinary, as London was going through a massive heat wave. Day after day it was clear and very hot, and we just sat in the backyard among piles of junk, and listened to music, as some days it was too hot to do very much. I spent hours walking around the area I was staying, going to Hampstead Heath, with its glorious view of London to the south, and Highgate Cemetery. That was an amazing place, Karl Marx was buried there, and many other notables, it’s one of the most interesting and historic cemeteries in the world.

Once I was walking through there on a blazing hot August day and I saw a couple standing in what apparently was a grave, from about 25 feet away through bushes and low hanging trees. It seemed very clear they had no clothes on from the waist up. Just normal looking people, not deranged or dirty, just standing there in the sunshine in an open grave, so I kept moving. Whatever they were up to was none of my business, and later it seemed as if I hallucinated it, but I really did see something strange.

With that incident in mind, I always marveled at the sense of wonder in Britain that infused me, and the frequent dash of Alice in Wonderland in Britain, as odd scenes would unfold sometimes when you turned a corner and looked around. There was detail and history there that often gave a sense of deja vu, or explained something you might have wondered, and now you knew where it came from. So many of our American traditions and knowledge come from Britain and the incredible literature created there.

The routine during the day was to go over to our favorite pub and play pool all morning, drinking a couple of pints, and smoking roll-up cigarettes. It was very enjoyable, the sun beaming into the ancient place, full of leather and old wood, with the quiet voices of others coming and going, and the hours drifted by. Afterwards, we’d go back to the apartment and often nap, or sit around playing guitars.

Once I went to the top floor of the apartment building I’d been staying in, it was much different than the party-time ground floor space, cleaner, more spacious, and lots more sun. Best of all, they had Radio Caroline playing, which broadcasted from a ship in the Irish Sea in international waters to avoid arrest. They were broadcasting the latest punk and new wave, and lots of other music, magical songs to me, and a great radio station, legendary. But I was leaving soon unfortunately, and I wish I’d somehow explored the building more or gotten to know the guys upstairs sooner.

I boarded my plane and got back to Dulles, jet-lagged and burned out, returning in mid-August to a heat wave. It was even hotter in America, and as I trudged down the road from the airport to find a bus, a car honked and turned around, and then pulled up beside me. It was my mother and her friend, who were going to the airport to take a plane to Europe, quite a coincidence. She told me Elvis had just died, and I had not seen any papers yet.

In the several years after I met Mike in 1977, we exchanged letters about various things for a couple of years, but unfortunately, I lost them in a move. They may show up somewhere in my stuff, but I doubt it, at least I have all the pictures. Once I called him up and forgot the time difference, and woke him up, I think they might have thought it was serious music business from America, but nope, just me.

I met Mike the next time in Richmond in 1982 when he was touring with the remnants of Badfinger, including Tom Evans, Bob Jackson, Don Dacus, Reed Kailing, and Tony Kaye. I saw them play at a club in town called Crazy Horse out on West Broad Street. The first set was not good at all, and I don’t remember much of the set later, except it got better. If I’d been them at that stage, I’d probably phone it in too, playing to 70 or 80 people in some dinky club off the beaten path. I never saw Mike again after that, and he died of heart problems in 2007.

Later in Richmond around 1995, I went to see “Joey Molland’s Badfinger” a couple of times. The first was at the Classic Amphitheatre, they were appearing with a variety show featuring bands from the past, and they did 5 songs (Come and Get It, No Matter What, Baby Blue, Day after Day, and Without You). It was not that great, the boomy sound and lack of Pete’s voice did not add to the show, though the pick-up musicians played well while backing up Joey.

Before the show started, I’d sent notes back stage through a burly guard to Joey mentioning my friendship with Mike, and saying I’d like to meet him. Finally the third note worked, and the guard shuffled back reluctantly, with a message saying to meet at the Days Inn at the airport. After the show, we went to the room and knocked, they let us in. Otis Day was there, and a guy named Gary, who sang the hit sixties song “I Love You More Than Yesterday.” We hung out a while and drank beer, and then it was suggested we go down and play pool. I asked Joey a few things about guitar parts, like “Baby Blue” ending up almost in the key of C, but plainly was written in B. He said they just sped it up in the mix, and we chatted in general.

Later I saw “Joey Molland’s Badfinger” at the Boulders in about 2000, a concert venue here in Richmond, playing to a crowd of about 1,000. The show was okay in some respects, but not that special, kind of like a Holiday Inn band playing Badfinger, really. I did not even bother to try to talk to him, and he did not show much interest in coming out to sign autographs. That was the last time I saw with a member of Badfinger, and then later I heard Mike had died in Florida.

I finally read Dan Matovina’s great book about Badfinger called “Without You,” which came out in the 1990’s, and I talked to him recently about a new edition of it coming out soon. Matovina played a major role in the arduous process of retrieving royalties lost in the Apple meltdown, and negotiated with Neil Aspinall directly. Aspinall died recently, and it underlines the fact that the Beatles and the inner circle both are going away rapidly.

The Beatles roadie and all-around helper Mal Evans died in LA not long before, and he was one of the originators of the Badfinger name, which supposedly was triggered by John Lennon coming in with a bandaged finger and playing “A Little Help From My Friends” on the piano, and calling it “Bad Finger Boogie,” and Mal too it from there. Paul McCartney and Ringo are the only ones left that know the true story of what really went on in the Beatles days, including some of the Badfinger history, beyond stories from Joey. I was also sorry to hear about Joey’s wife dying in her sleep recently.

Here are some links about the Gibson SG, and its history.

http://www.stratcollector.com/newsdesk/archives/000302.html

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/tm_objectid=14990722&method=full&siteid=50082&headline=beatles-guitar-lands-at-auction-after-long-and-tragic-journey-name_page.html

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article402089.ece

Here are the videos the Beatles did with the SG guitar

http://beatlestweets.posterous.com/london-beatles-walking-tour-on-location-of-ra