March 26, 1974 (Tuesday)
The Bayou Club
Washington D.C., U.S.A.
Tuesday, March 26, 1974, Badfinger appeared at The Bayou Club,
a small hall at the fringe of Washington's trendy Georgetown area. At the time, that
block was a run-down wharf area consisting of warehouses and industrial buildings.
The hall was small and bare: usually, only local groups and lesser known acts played
there. It was such a hole-in-the-wall place. It was like watching someone in a dank
basement. It was so rundown, it had me thinking, "Wait a minute? They don't
The Bayou Club was only a mile from the Kennedy Center, the location of what I consider to be the best of Badfinger's shows that I saw, in July 1972. While close in distance, the two halls were worlds far apart. The Kennedy Center was classy and had good acoustics, and represented quality. The Bayou looked like an unfinished basement. The band deserved much more than that. There was no backstage, just an unfinished room with a few chairs. We had to go out and sit in stiff chairs at two small tables at the edge of the small stage.
We ended up sitting with Kathie [Joey's wife], Toni [at the time, Bill Collins' wife], and Bill, at the front of the stage. The poor sound system malfunctioned during Pete's Timeless solo. It was a ghastly sound, an electric roar and hiss. I was close enough to see the frustration on his face, even in the darkness of the club, and heard him curse softly, under his breath. Fergie came to the rescue quickly, fixed the problem, and the performance ended a short while later. There was no second show, as I recall. We spent a little time with them later in Georgetown, and then went home: after all, it was a weeknight, and daily routines had to be maintained. If I'd known what would later happen, I would have skipped classes that day at my nearby campus.
Leo Sayer was in town that same night at The Cellar Door, a nearby club that was in a better-looking block. Kathie said they were going to see that show later and she said, 'We're going. Do you want to go?' My friend Char and I crowded with them into a station wagon for the short ride. This ride gave me the opportunity for my only conversation with Tom, who was next to me and he was like, 'Hi. What's you name?' I had a good little talk with him. He asked about me. It wasn't music-oriented. He was very pleasant and kind.
Two months later, I was in the United Kingdom on my first (and so far, only) visit. I stopped by the house in Golders Green a few times, originally hoping to hang out with Kathie, as she had encouraged us in our conversations with her at Painter's Mill Music Theater, outside Baltimore. Once I tell somebody I'm going to do something, I do it. So I was serious in saying that I was going to come over. Kathie sounded to be serious, so when she wasn't there, I was disappointed.
But when I got to London and settled in a youth hostel in the city's Paddington district, I called the house and talked to Toni, Bill's wife, who remembered me. She told me that Joey and Kathie were vacationing in California, but told me, "Come on over." When I arrived that Sunday afternoon, I first only saw Anne, who I knew was Fergie's wife, and Toni. A short while later, Bill showed up, and for a time we sat in the backyard while he used cutting shears to cut high grass edges along the fence and walkway. Pete showed up a little later. He said hello, but seemed kind of muted.
I toured extensively, plenty of stuff to do for more than half of my two-week visit. I went back to the house another time and hung more with Toni. We went to the Bull and Bush, where she introduced me to "shandies", the drink that was a mix of beer and lime. She was my hostess. We went back to the house, where she made a lot of coffee for us. We sat and smoked a while, later joined by Anne in the kitchen. Pete was around, but stayed at a distance.
The day of my return to the U.S., I made one last call to the house, to tell Toni goodbye. I was at a pay telephone in Gatwick Airport. To my surprise, Pete answered the telephone. The connection was bad - a lot of static in the line, but he recognized my voice. Toni was still asleep, he said, so I said my goodbye to him. More than once he told me, "Take care! See you next tour!" He ended with something else he'd told me more than once in my visits to their gigs, "It's always good to see you at our shows!"
He closed with "Ta."
When the album, "Wish You Were Here," came out a few months later, I ran to the record store to buy it. I was looking forward to the next tour. "Wish You Were Here" revealed yet another level of artistry and musical accomplishment for Badfinger. In December 1974, during Christmas break (I was then a journalism student at George Washington University), I went to the New York offices of Five Arts, the group's management company. Just completing a course on feature writing, I was eager to write a story for a regional arts paper about Badfinger, and figured that I would get some information to prepare. The secretary said that there were no dates set for another tour, but that the group was planning to do one. She offered my friend and me copies of the album, which were standing in a corner. I didn't know about the management problems or that the albums were being pulled off store shelves because of legal hassles, or that the albums were about to be, or had been seized, due to contract disputes. I declined to take one, since I already had my own copy, and didn't want to feel that I was taking something from the band... something they had not given me.
Spring of 1975 came and I'd just finished my sophomore year at school and my friend, who happened to be named Debbie, called me up one Saturday and said, "Hey. Pete Ham's dead." I said, "What?" "Yeah, he hanged himself." I said, "WHAT!" And then she read me the rest of the story from Melody Maker, a U.K. music industry newspaper. It didn't make sense to me. I didn't believe her. It was not real to me until I went over to her house and held the issue in my hands. She gave it to me. I was shocked, stunned, hurt. It felt like someone had hit me in the stomach and knocked all the wind out of me. I couldn't breathe.
By that time, I had been out of touch with Badfinger for nearly a year, and didn't know how to contact anyone, or where they would be. Would they even remember me? I waited for a comprehensive news story to report the details, but it never came. I could not hold back the changes that come with life (graduation, starting a newspaper career, moving to new jobs, marriage, parenthood). Years passed. By 1988, I was shocked again to hear that Tom had died as well, in 1983. I was stunned, because several years had passed before I read that doubly tragic news.
The year 2002, I was pleasantly surprised to rediscover Badfinger, through Web research, something that I now do for a living. I have caught up on my informational void by reading Dan Matovina's book, "Without You: The Tragic Story of Badfinger." The loss still hurts, but the hurt is tempered by the realization that there is a new generation of Badfinger fans. The music still lives, still moves, and still has meaning. Writing this story strengthened and reawakened my memories of good times with some good people. It took me 30 years to write this story, but some moments seem like only yesterday. Yet I remember those days and Badfinger's members fondly, with a great deal of love and respect: they were real.
Debbie Randolph Harrison
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