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Music

The Beatles song that gave Badfinger their name

@TylerGolsen

When Apple Records was first established in 1968, The Beatles originally sought to use the freedom to release their individual albums and creative pursuits outside the group. But quickly, for practical and business reasons, the group decided that it made more sense to sign other acts to the label as well. It was no surprise that plenty of artists were eager to sign to The Beatles’ own record label, and Apple quickly acquired a solid roster of artists including Billy Preston, Mary Hopkins, and James Taylor.

Another signee was The Iveys, a rock group with strong vocals and a slight psychedelic bent. They had made their bones performing all around the UK, even incorporating Beatles songs into their repertoire, but it took years of gigs and missed opportunities for the band to finally land their break. Beatles road manager Mal Evans saw the group perform at the Marquee Club and pestered all four Beatles into listening to The Iveys’ demo tape before eventually getting approval to sign them. Evans wound up producing some of the band’s early singles, including the hit ‘No Matter What’.

But after a few floundering singles under their then-current name, The Iveys found the moniker to be slightly twee. Since they were signed to Apple, it was John Lennon who wound up being the inspiration behind the name Badfinger, which was proposed by Apple head Neil Aspinall. The name dated back to early 1967, when Lennon and Paul McCartney had an assignment: write a song for Ringo Starr.

The Beatles were working on the material for what would eventually become Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and as with most of their albums, Starr required a lead vocal. Written with a limited range in mind, ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ was the result. Only it wasn’t known under that title originally. The working title for the song, when it just had a melody and chords, was ‘Bad Finger Boogie’.

That’s because Lennon had hurt his pointer finger when composing the song’s central melody. While sitting at a piano, Lennon used his middle finger to plonk out the notes that would eventually be sung by Starr. In a way, it was an apt use of minimalism: Starr wasn’t comfortable with wide intervals in his songs, and apart from the final soaring vocal note at the end of the song, most of ‘With a Little Help From My Friends is in a small, comfortable range. That tight cluster of notes were all hanging around Lennon’s bad finger, hence the working title.

The goofy and slightly off-colour phrase hung around The Beatles’ world long enough for it to be picked up by those around the band, including Aspinall. Badfinger was the perfect mix of strange imagery, slightly perverse edge, and memorability to work as a band name. From that day on, The Iveys were dead. Now and forever, the group would be known as Badfinger.

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