WITHOUT YOU – The Sad Story Of A Sad Hit

Dan Matovina has made it his mission in life to spread awareness of Badfinger, principal songwriters Pete Ham and Tom Evans in particular, and to do his best to prevent others from taking credit for, or benefit from, their work. 

        In the mid-nineties Dan approached me as editor at Omnibus Press to publish his book Without You: The Tragic Story Of Badfinger but I declined, believing it had insufficient commercial potential. This was probably a mistake but I gave Dan some editorial guidance and agreed that if he self-published the book Omnibus would distribute it in the UK on his behalf. This he did in 1997 and not only did it attract a slew of positive reviews, both in the UK and US, but it sold out its original print run.

Dan produced a revised version in 2000, and a few copies of this can occasionally be found on Amazon for prices in excess of £400. More recently he has authorised a kindle version which is easily obtainable. He has plans to produce a third edition that will include all the information he has gleaned in the meantime, and bring the story up to date with the death of drummer Mike Gibbons in 2005 and attempts by guitarist Joey Molland, who in 1969 took over from original member Ron Griffiths, to recreate Badfinger around himself. 

        I wrote quite a bit about Badfinger for Melody Maker. In 1971 I visited them at their large communal house on Park Avenue, a leafy road between Hampstead and Golders Green, where I also met their UK manager, a slightly creepy figure called Bill Collins who, born in 1913, seemed a bit too old for the job to me. I even saw them perform at Carnegie Hall in New York where I encountered Stan Polley, who looked after their US affairs and in the fullness of time would be exposed as an unrepentant fraudster. 

        Pete Ham, Tom Evans, Mike Gibbon and Joey Molland were nice, friendly guys with a bit of a chip on their shoulders about how the media relentlessly compared them with The Beatles, to whose Apple label they were signed. In fairness, the assessment was to some extent valid from a musical standpoint but it probably didn’t help that their first hit, ‘Come And Get It’ (1969), was written by Paul McCartney. Never intended for The Beatles, Paul’s demo of the song can, however, be heard on their third Anthology set.  

        Badfinger went on to record dozens of great power pop songs across six albums with stunning vocal harmonies but diminishing returns. They had two more big hits, ‘No Matter What’ and ‘Day After Day’, but are probably best known nowadays for ‘Baby Blue’, which in 2012 was used on the soundtrack to the hit TV series Breaking Bad, and – even more so – the timeless ‘Without You’, a massive hit for Harry Nilsson in 1972, and again for Mariah Carey in 1994. 

        Even after the success of Nilsson’s ‘Without You’ something intangible seemed to be holding Badfinger back, and it wasn’t until tragedy struck in the form of Ham and Evans’ suicides – in 1975 and 1983 respectively – that the enigma was solved: they’d been swindled out of millions, and the creeping realisation of this, coupled with dire financial circumstances, had crippled them irrevocably. Had they been managed honourably, the royalties from ‘Without You’ alone would have kept both Ham and Evans in comfort for the remainder of their lives.  

        Dan Matovina and I have remained friends and in his Badfinger mission Dan is now facilitating the release of CDs of demos by Pete Ham and The Iveys on behalf of the estates of Ham and Evans, and also former Iveys member Ron Griffiths. Knowing my ongoing interest in Badfinger, about two months ago Dan sent me his two most recent CDs, a Pete Ham Demos Variety Pack, with 23 tracks, opening with Ham’s original demo for ‘Baby Blue’, and what he calls The Iveys Golden Delicious Demos 1966-69, with 20 tracks, some of which became Badfinger recordings. 

        Of particular interest to anyone who finds the Badfinger story as fascinating as it is tragic, is the closing track on The Iveys’ disc, which Dan has called ‘Without You (Early Demos Evolution Edit)’. It’s five different early attempts by Ham and Evans at their most famous song, strung together to form an intriguing demonstration of how ‘Without You’ grew from an idea into reality. 

        The first attempt finds Pete Ham vamping piano chords as he croons the song’s first two verses, the melody intact, but with ‘party’ instead of ‘story’ on the third line. The chorus, however, with its famous line ‘I can’t live if living is without you’, is unrealised and, instead, Ham sings ‘If it’s love that you need’ to a different tune, then breaks off to de-dum-de-dum the next few unwritten words. It breaks off at 1.29. 

        The second attempt, if it can be called that, finds Tom Evans alone singing a song he’s composed called ‘I Can’t Live’ which at this stage is yet to be married to Ham’s earlier song, and was, indeed, entirely unrelated to it. Evans’ song hovers around a similar (but certainly not identical) melody with the words, ‘And now it’s gone I can’t seem to find happiness and good times that I left them all behind, Or is it just another way to let me know that in this life you only reap after you sow.’ After stretching for a high note on ‘sow’, he leaps confidently into the refrain that will become the chorus to ‘Without You’ with its familiar ‘I can’t live…’ opening. This breaks off at 2.22. 

        The third take finds Ham playing his song idea on acoustic guitar, chopping away at chords in the manner of the Everly Brothers, singing solo on the familiar verses one and two, Evans’ alternative lyrics from take two having evidently – and wisely – been jettisoned. “Around that time chronologically he asked Tom if he could try combining his song’s verses with Tom’s song he’d called ‘I Can’t Live’,” says Dan. “This made a new song, which was demoed by The Iveys and, later, Badfinger.”

        In Ham’s hands, the song has now come together, its plaintive melody ringing free on the rhythmic guitar chords. This peters out at 3.20 and lack the chorus…

        … which is stridently sung by Evans at the start of take four, the acoustic guitar having given way to electric with a hint of percussion deep in the mix. This is very brief, less than 30 seconds before there’s a reprise of take one, with Ham at the piano, singing the first verse again – it might be the same take as the opening – before he roams dreamily into a higher register, la-la-la-ing McCartneyesque, and resolves the now completed song on a final piano chord. The whole thing lasts 4.30.

        Unfortunately, the Ivey’s home demo of what became ‘Without You’ is unusable – “Almost erased,” says Dan – and while the Badfinger home demo is unavailable for release for copyright reasons, I’ve been able to hear it. Joey Molland appears on this, singing in the background and contributing a rather thin guitar solo towards the end. The title ‘Without You’ was suggested by producer Geoff Emerick when his studio recording was completed for its inclusion on Badfingers’ second LP No Dice in 1970. On the EMI tape boxes, it was still titled ‘I Can't Live’ until the very last minute. 

        Badfinger’s released version of the song opens with just lead guitar, bass and drums before Ham sings the opening verse over an acoustic guitar, similar to the third take of the demos, with Evans and Molland joining in on the chorus. Although the guitar solo is improved and there’s a much longer fade, next to Nilsson’s highly produced, highly orchestrated version, Badfinger’s final version of ‘Without You’ still sounds almost like a demo itself, not least because the magnificent Nilsson recording has become as well-known as any standard song you care to name. Mariah Carey, of course, turned it into a power ballad that blew the roofs off all nearby buildings, her extraordinary voice leaping into the stratosphere with all the bells and whistles she could command. 

        In his book Dan Matovina explains how after the deaths of Ham and Evans, others in the Badfinger story benefitted by suing for a share of the songwriting royalties generated by the song’s extraordinary and ongoing success. What Dan has done in arranging Pete Ham and Tom Evans’ demos for what became ‘Without You’ on this CD demonstrates without a shadow of a doubt that it was these two, and these two alone, who composed this song and that only these two, or their heirs, deserve to benefit from it. In a better world that would have been the case.  

        These Badfinger CDs can be obtained at Http://www.badfingerlibrary.com


ABBA AT 50 by Carl Magnus Palm

Illustrated Abba books have never been in short supply. Publishers long ago assumed that what their fans wanted was a large format book with plenty of photographs, preferably of Agnetha and Frida in clingy costumes that showed off their figures, and a minimum of text that skipped through their glorious career without much detail and certainly nothing negative. Slap it all together and you might have a decent seller on your hands, especially if publication happens to coincide with an anniversary or anything else that raises the Swedish group’s profile for a few months.

        Magnus Palm – he loses the Carl among friends – acknowledges this in a reference to the paucity of serious Abba books in the introduction to Bright Lights Dark Shadows, his definitive, text-led, 250,000+ word biography of Abba first published in 2001 and since fully revised. You could be forgiven, therefore, for assuming that Abba At 50 is a frothy confection just like all the rest. Indeed, it’s not even the only picture book published to celebrate their 50th anniversary, as a glimpse at Amazon’s Abba page reveals another called 50 Years of Abba: The Unofficial Illustrated Book For The Anniversary, and about half a dozen older books whose publishers no doubt hope will get a bounce this autumn.

        In stark terms, Abba At 50 is a summary of the 2014 edition of Bright Lights Dark Shadows, drastically but skilfully reduced to 13 concise chapters, with a new overview as an introduction and a 14th chapter, newly written to cover Abba’s 2021 Voyage album and the concurrent Abba avatars show, ongoing in its own arena at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park at Stratford in East London. The book’s 240 pages contain 168 photographs, mostly in colour, and a running LP discography, with track listings, personnel and incidental notes, that separates each chapter once Björn, Benny, Frida and Agnetha are up and running.

        Magnus, of course, is now recognised as the world’s leading Abba historian, as Mark Lewisohn is to The Beatles and Dave Lewis to Led Zeppelin. His book isn’t authorised – it doesn’t have Abba’s official logo, with the first B inverted, on its cover – and he doesn’t thank the four members of the group in the brief acknowledgements at the back, aside from noting that Benny Andersson helped him write a book about the Hep Stars, Benny’s first group. He also notes, dryly, that he has ‘somehow ended up being my main source of information’. 

        He’s not exaggerating. By my reckoning, Abba At 50 is Magnus’ seventh Abba book with an eighth a work in progress* but what differentiates it from all the other illustrated Abba books on the market is the precise attention to detail and the certain knowledge that every scintilla of information he offers is 100% accurate. Almost all the photographs are captioned precisely, time, place and circumstance duly noted, which is more than can be said about most illustrated books on pop bands, but no less than I would expect from their most erudite and diligent biographer.  

        Similarly, while there can be no question that Magnus is on Abba’s side – he’s long been the group’s go-to man for sleeve notes on reissues – he is far from slavishly sycophantic. He covers the ups and the downs, the fall outs and periods when Abba’s star wasn’t shining quite as brightly as it does today. The inclusion of three damning review quotes from early in their career at the start of Chapter 2 epitomises his impartial approach, even if the foursome nowadays ruefully admit they weren’t far from the truth. The divorces, fall out with manager Stikkan ‘Stig’ Anderson and overindulgence in alcohol – Björn and Benny have both been obliged to become teetotal – aren’t glossed over either.

        With a £30 cover price (£24.17 on Amazon) Abba At 50 is not the cheapest illustrated Abba book on the market. However, although I haven’t read them all, I’ll put good money on it being the best.


*The others are: The Complete Recording Sessions (1994, 2017), Bright Lights Dark Shadows: The Real Story of Abba (2001, 2002, 2008, 2014), Benny’s Road To Abba (2004), The Complete Guide To The Music Of Abba (2005), From Abba To Mamma Mia (1999, 2000, 2010), Abba: The Backstage Stories (2014, co-author) & Abba On Record (scheduled for publication 2023). 



Back when Derek Taylor called it the industry of human happiness, the music business attracted into its bosom all sorts of functionaries whose precise role was unclear yet whose contributions were crucial to the oiling of its wheels. Duckers and divers par excellence, one day they’d be managing a band, the next promoting a show or doing a bit of PR for someone, the next working as someone’s road manager or general ‘fixer’, and the next hooking one musician up with another so that the sum of both talents was greater than as individuals. These people seemed to know everyone who was worth knowing and had a knack for being in the right place at the right time, and when I was in the midst of it all I met many of them, in both the UK and America, often unintentionally, and whenever I did they invariably welcomed me into their midst and turned out to be hugely entertaining company. 

        What they had in common was that they were smooth, well-travelled, well-tailored individuals who never lost their cool, and Emilio ‘Mim’ Scala fits the role perfectly. I didn’t actually get to know him until 1980, when he was operating out of an office building in Newman Passage which also housed a PR company called TNT, one of whose directors was my girlfriend, name of Jenny. She was in awe of him, and although neither of us were quite sure precisely what he did, somehow or other we found ourselves drawn into situations in which Mim was involved, the strangest of which was a visit to the UK by Mortimer Planno, a renowned Rastafarian elder, whose temporary lodgings in Notting Hill Jenny and I visited together. It was a bit smoky in there. Danny Simms, the Jamaican music entrepreneur who was among the first in this line of work to finance and promote Bob Marley, was another and I seem to recall meeting Rita Marley around the same time too, and helping Jenny write a press release about the purpose of her visit to the UK.

        Then Jenny and I parted company and Mim went off my radar until I was editing a book on Marianne Faithfull and there he was again, escorting her to New York to appear on Saturday Night Live, a hazardous assignment since Marianne was prone to lapses in judgement involving substance abuse that impacted on her ability to remain standing, let alone perform. Somehow or other, Mim rescued a tricky situation, and this episode is just one of the 57 short chapters that make up his roller-coaster ride of a life, all documented in Diary of a Teddy Boy: A Life Lived Well, first published in 2001 with a different subtitle but now updated and available again as a hardback. 

        The grandson of an Italian immigrant, Mim simply wasn’t cut out for the conventional life. Barely out of his teens, he found himself in a number of scrapes, one of which involved his exposure to rock’n’roll via Blackboard Jungle (1955) and a bust-up in the cinema, another a gambling den visited by the Kray Twins. Hanging out around Soho and the King’s Road, he became a movie extra – where he encountered future Led Zep manager Peter Grant as a Macedonian warrior, on the set of Cleopatra (1963) – then found a berth as a booking agent, representing both actors and musicians, many of whom would become household names. 

        Next Mim hit the hippy trail, hanging out in places where the weather enforced a minimal of clothing, squiring beauties, some of them from landed families, doing a bit of painting and recording ethnic music in Morocco, Spain and Sri Lanka. Returning to the UK, he worked for Island Records for a while, which explains the Jamaican connection, and went on to manage record producers, among them Chris Kimsey, who worked with the Stones, another act he’d befriended in the sixties, Brian and Keith – the least conventional ones, of course – in particular. Later in the eighties, he reformed The Animals, jammed with Jimmy Page and discovered that Marlon Brando loved faking loud farts in public. 

        If there is a theme to his book, it is that Mim was a lucky so-and-so, and that life was better when he was in his prime. Moving from the fifties to the sixties, Mim’s world changes from black and white to colour, and if you were in the right place, and had the nerve to stay there regardless of life’s ups and downs, the ride was unforgettable. Each of Mim’s 57 chapters details a different adventure, some of them wild, others hilarious, involving a cast of characters that make up a Who’s Who of the music and film world, weapons grade name-dropping on just about every page. And he isn’t kidding – when the first edition of this book was published there was a launch party I attended at which John Hurt gave a reading.

The author with Sir John Hurt

        Finally, it would be remiss of me not to point out that for all the fun and games it relates, the book is on the sloppy side as regards editorial precision. In a brief foreword, Mim explains that he is dyslexic and wrote the book “with as little help as possible from copy readers, ghost writers or editors”. He isn’t kidding there either, so be prepared to overlook some odd chronological lurches, slapdash editing and typesetting, and Townshend without an h.



To the D'Stassi Art Gallery in Hoxton to see my old pal Bob Gruen who has generously agreed that his pictures share wall space with a selection by Leee Black Childers, another old photographer pal of mine who sadly died in 2014. That’s not a typo: Leee really did spell his name with three e’s, though I think he was christened with two. 

        Leee was as camp as a Butlins holiday, a flamboyant gay man who died his hair blonde and didn’t need to came out because he was never in. He was drawn to Andy Warhol’s Factory crowd and the drag queens who assembled there, and he photographed them all. This led him to become involved with Warhol’s Pork, a sexually provocative play staged at London’s Roundhouse that enticed David Bowie. Before anyone knew it Leee found himself employed as a photographer-cum-tour manager at Mainman, the company formed by Tony DeFries to manage Bowie, where he was in his element.  

Lee with three e's

        Iggy and Mott The Hoople inevitably entered his orbit but, like everyone else among the colourful crew that manned Mainman, Leee was jettisoned when David realised how much this was all costing. Next, Leee found a natural habitat amongst the punk and new wave bands that followed, not least Jayne County, whom he managed, pre-Blondie Debbie Harry and the Sex Pistols. In mid-stream he befriended the Dolls, and many pictures of these acts, taken by Leee, can be found at D’Stassi. 

        As for Bob, a handful of his pictures – probably 0.0001% in reality – have been enlarged to what he described in an email to me as versions of “images I've printed on large scale canvas”. He’s not kidding, they’re huge and there’s three of them: John Lennon in his New York shirt (perhaps Bob’s best known – daughter Olivia sent me a PC from NY with this image not so long ago), Led Zeppelin (by their plane) and The Clash (live, looking like they mean business), all classic photos but they’re on the pricey side so you’ll need to start saving now if you want them to hang on your wall by Christmas. 

        One of Leee’s is pretty big too, a shot of Bowie, seen above, but I was more impressed by a series of Elvis, taken during his New York Press conference on June 9, 1972. This was a year and a bit before I became Melody Maker’s man in NY, but my colleague Roy Hollingworth was there to report on it. I was in London, green with envy. Here’s my favourite shot of Elvis by Leee.

        Last night Bob was on hand to sign copies of the catalogue and his own book Right Place Right Time, published last year, in which I make a cameo appearance. “I went to see The Stilettos, the band Debbie Harry was in before Blondie, with Chris Charlesworth, NY correspondent for the British weekly music magazine Melody Maker,” writes Bob. “Television as also on the bill that night, which means Chris was one of the first journalists to catch the new scene that was happening in New York City.” 

        I remember that night as if it was yesterday, but I’m a bit confused. We first saw Debbie in The Stilettos at the 82 Club in April, 1974, and she was a platinum blonde, her hair bouncy and covering her ears, but at this exhibition there’s a pic by Leee, dated that same year, that shows her with short dark hair. See below. 

        Maybe it was taken earlier in 1974, before blondeness became Debbie’s destiny. Next time I see Bob I’ll ask him about that. The exhibition ends on August 19.