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Obituary: Mike Gibbins, Badfinger

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Mike Gibbins [Promotional picture]

I and my blog sadly note the passing of Badfinger drummer Mike Gibbins, 56, who passed away in his sleep at his Florida home on Tuesday, Oct. 4 2005.

The hard-luck Badfinger, once protoges of the Beatles at Apple records, had already suffered the suicide deaths of singer/guitarists Pete Ham (in 1975), and Tom Evans (in 1983). Singer/guitarist Joey Molland is the lone survivor of the band’s classic 1970-1974 lineup, which scored four top-20 hits in America (“Come and Get It” (written by Paul McCartney), “No Matter What”, “Day After Day”, and “Baby Blue”). The band also left its mark with “Without You”, a Ham/Evans number that was covered by Harry Nilsson and Mariah Carey, both of whom reached #1 with it.

Gibbins joined a very early version of the band in 1965 at the invitation of bassist Ron Griffiths; the band was still called the Iveys, a name they’d stick with for their first album release in 1969. He, Pete Ham, and Evans (who joined in 1968), along with Griffiths, were on the Iveys’ Maybe Tomorrow album; Griffiths was replaced by Molland at the end of the Magic Christian Music sessions in 1969.


Although most singing and songwriting chores fell to Ham/Evans and Molland, Gibbins wrote and sang several good Badfinger songs as well, including “Cowboy” from Ass (1973), and “Your So Fine” (sic) from Wish You Were Here (1974).

The original Badfinger disbanded following Pete Ham’s death in 1975, but in 1978, Evans and Molland formed a new Badfinger and released the album Airwaves in 1979; Gibbins was invited to join, but was dismissed after a tryout. He was not present on Badfinger’s final album, Say No More, in 1981. In the late 80’s, he played some dates with Joey Molland as Badfinger, but that version of the group never recorded. In the 90’s he and Molland were on opposite sides of the table in court during a royalty dispute over the release of a 1974 concert on CD.

Gibbins’ drumming style was very much in the no-frills, steadily paced, Ringo Starr mold, and he landed the occasional sessionwork gig, most notably in 1978, when he played drums on the Bonnie Tyler hit, “It’s a Heartache”, which reached #1.

Known as affable and quick-witted, Gibbins was also known for his sense of humor, and a worldwise candor when discussing the band’s famous financial woes; much of Gibbins’ band earnings were lost when the band’s money disappeared from escrow, leaving them broke. In later years, a Badfinger rediscovery among younger listeners helped restore their legacy and earn the members some coin. Badfinger is now acknowledged as one of the hallowed three power pop forebears, along with Big Star and the Raspberries (to whom Badfinger was considerably superior) In later years, Gibbins released some solo material, including the pretty good 1998 album A Place In Time.

Badfinger has always been a personal favorite of mine going back to my earliest music consuming days. Their story is quite sad, their music is quite good. Gibbins will be missed. More on Badfinger here. BBC obituary here. Official Mike Gibbins website here.

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About uao

  • Vern Halen

    It’s sad how Badfinger, like so many others, lost their money to the music bizness parasites that leech off of musicians and their talents. Badfinger should’ve been the heirs to the Beatles’ throne as British pop/rock icons – they had only a fewe hits, but their albums had very little in the way of filler or klinkers – top drawer material all the way.

  • I remember the excitement I felt with every Badfinger album – even the sadly underpromoted Warner’s ones. They lost some direction and confidence after leaving Apple but the faithful always found magic tracks to cherish. What a shame McCartney never felt compelled to give any of these lads a crack at playing on any of his solo records, he would have gained from it. Let all fans of ’70s pop honor this marvelous, unpretentious band.

  • Thanks for the remembrance and background on Gibbins and the band. (I was trying to recall the name of the Iveys member that left the band, but couldn’t come up with it!) Their Apple Greatest Hits CD (at least) should be in the collection of anyone who calls himself a power pop fan.

  • uao

    Always glad to hear from other Badfinger fans. Wish it were a happier occasion.

    I’ll second Barry Stoller’s recommendation of their Warners albums, Wish You Were Here in particular, which Chris Thomas (Pretenders) produced: on it, the band escapes the Beatles’ shadow at last and comes up with a fully realized identity their Apple albums only hinted at.

    Alas for the band, the album was pulled from distribution after only 2 weeks (and some excellent reviews), because of the lawsuits about their missing money. That pretty much finished them off.

    Great record though, and it’s easily available now.

  • Ohhhh poor Mike. This leaves Joey as the last survivor of Badfinger, doesn’t it? It’s sad, I must say…I always loved “Cowboy” but never knew Mike wrote it.

    I’ll listen to some Badfinger albums in his honor tonight.

  • P.S. I don’t know if it’s still in print, but I think my recommendation goes to the posthumous Head First album. It’s got the post-Apple Badfinger identity that you alluded to, uao, but it also has some of the plain-and-simple-pop feeling that the early albums did so well.

  • uao

    Head First should be pretty easy to find; Amazon has it.

    I like that one too, but it’s not truly representative of them. Molland isn’t on it, and the songs, like “Hey Mr. Manager” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Contract” (original version) are explicitly about their money/management troubles. They recorded it to keep up their end of the contract, even though they knew Warner’s wasn’t going to release it (and they didn’t).

    You’re right about the ‘plain and simple’ though; in a sense, the album is barely produced, which actually makes it a good, raw listen.

    I would recommend it highly to any Badfinger fans who haven’t heard it.
    Newbies might want to try Best of Badfinger, although the deluxe Straight Up might be a better place to begin.

    Wish You Were Here is their most ambitious and varied.

    I actually met Mike and Joey once in 1987, they were playing as Badfinger in a bar in NYC and between sets they drank at the bar with the customers. Mike was a riot; he had a big laugh that could fill the room, he was generous with his comments, and he enjoyed telling stories.

  • uao

    Some other good Badfinger stuff:

    That DVD “Badfinger” has complete versions of a bunch of their songs, both live (on Midnight Special) and promo videos. In it, both Gibbins and Molland narrate the story of Badfinger and are interviewed.

    Badfinger Live on the BBC CD; I think this is a grey-area release, but it’s easily found. On the BBC they play live, and they show themselves to be a rough and tough boogie band, covering Dave Mason and jamming out. Plus good, rocking versions of stuff from their Apple albums.

    The book “Without You” is an engaging read, full of good photos and insights into the band, although factions of superdiehard fans fight bitterly over it due to biases on the part of the writer (see comments in the ‘More on Badfinger here’ link). I take no sides in all that, but found the anecdotes of the band’s tours and final days to be pretty interesting.

    There are two Pete Ham demo collections. Manager Bill Collins was a taskmaster who instilled a ‘write a song a day’ ethic into the band, which Ham took to heart. It’s mostly just Ham alone, and presents a rather touching portrait of a tough-to-figure guy. A number of the songs would make great Badfinger songs; some starving power pop band (which means pretty much all of them) ought to cover a couple.

    One thing I’ve always noticed about Badfinger fans, is that they’re an intelligent bunch. And many of them relate to their music on profoundly personal levels. It’s funny that a band critics in the day accused of being lightweight would ultimately have such heavy resonance among some people.

    Gibbins probably would’ve thought that peculiar, and a burden he and the band never signed up for. I admired his honesty and candor in the DVD, where he’s discussing a lot of horrible things that rock stars usually never have to talk about.

    At least Gibbins lived long enough to see Badfinger’s rediscovery. That’s a good thing. And Badfinger is going to have staying power, at least among a small segment of the population, longer than most of us will be around.

  • Tim

    Badfinger was an amazing band. They had one of the greatest line ups of all times. Pete Ham, Tom Evans, Mike Gibbins and Joey Molland were all very talented. We also can’t forget about Bob Jackson who played keyboards on the Head First album. He too, was a great musician.

  • John Simmons

    Always have been a BIG Badfinger fan! The Band was truly original. All the guys were great! Along with the great music they left us, they leave us a lesson
    to learn about life. May their families always be blessed, and their children carry on their tradition
    of great music, and may Christ shine His Light into their Eternal Spirits! These fellas were truly great, in their music, and the beauty of their souls
    shines out of their legacy. God Bless

  • Dan

    The music of Badfinger brings back so many fond memories as it has been years since reliving those days.

    I recently listened to some Badfinger songs, Baby Blue, Without You and Day after Day and have come to realize how truly good musicians and song writters they really were.

    Though three lads are gone long before their time, there music will live in our hearts for ever.

  • mark whobrey

    I always loved Badfinger I actually heard No Dice after Straight Up.Superior jamming rock and roll no flash pure talent.No Dice and Straight Up are my favorites..I bought Airwaves when it came out but I read Tom and joey did not want to realease it under the Badfinger name..I hadn’t realized until I was well into my 40’s that Pete and Tom died..Broke my heart..This about Mike is terrible..awesome drummer just listen to Straight Up he was awesome !! He’ll be missed