The True Story Behind Badfinger’s “Baby Blue”

I stopped watching Breaking Bad two years ago, but by reading the subtle signs of the cultural landscape, I managed to figure out with reasonable certainty that the song “Baby Blue” played a prominent part in the show’s finale tonight.

And what a ballad it is. “Day After Day” usually gets credited as Badfinger’s signature tune, and with good reason. But I always secretly liked “Baby Blue” just as much, if not more.

Pete Ham

Pete Ham

While most acts associated with early ’70s rock and roll were singing about snorting lines off of ceiling mirrors, loving the ladies, and then hopping in the tour bus and blowing out of town, Pete Ham wore his heart on his guitar strap and rendered the heartbreak of leaving into chart-topping lyrics. Not only did he write “Day After Day” and “Baby Blue,” but Ham also penned the verses to “Without You,” a song taken to number one by Harry Nilsson.

Consider these songs and their opening lyrics:

  • The first verses to “Without You” are “No, I can’t forget this evening or your face as you were leaving, but I guess that’s just the way the story goes…” and “Well, I can’t forget tomorrow, when I think of all my sorrow, I had you there but then I let you go…”
  • The first verse to the Badfinger hit, “Day After Day” is I remember finding out about you. Everyday my mind is all around you. Looking out of my lonely gloom, day after day. Bring it home baby make it soon, I give my love to you.”
  • The first lyric to “Baby Blue” is “Guess I got what I deserve. Kept you waiting there too long my love…”

Do you see a pattern there? Each one of them reads like a love-letter with Pete Ham confessing his regrets and sorrows to a woman he pines for but is no longer there; each time he implores her directly with “you”.

From the outside looking in, being in Badfinger must have seemed like a pretty sweet gig. The band was basically groomed by the Beatles’ Apple Records label to be their heirs after the Beatles broke up, and Badfinger did achieve almost instantaneous global success after their first album release.

But that level of initial success and heightened expectation can create pressure, and Badfinger didn’t help their cause by going into business with Stan Polley, a shady business manager who contributed to the band going broke (despite their many recent hits), the collapse of their musical career, and according to the note he left, Pete Ham’s suicide at the age of 27 in 1975.

I don’t know the details of Pete Ham’s story as well as some people do. But from what I can tell, even when it was going good for Pete Ham it was still going bad. While Badfinger was touring the U.S. in 1971 at the height of their popularity and before the setbacks began, Ham met a girl from the South named Dixie Armstrong.

The road being what it is, their relationship barely had time to get going before it was time to move on, and Ham was heartbroken enough to pen yet another beautiful ballad to another woman about a missed opportunity for true love. “Baby Blue” was supposedly Pete Ham’s nickname for Dixie Armstrong, and she is mentioned by name twice in the song. Listen closely and you’ll hear Ham address first “Dixie” and then “Dixie, dear.”

peteham&babyblue

Photo of “Baby Blue” with Pete Ham.

 

Here are the “Baby Blue” lyrics:

Guess I got what I deserve
Kept you waiting there, too long my love
All that time, without a word
Didn’t know you’d think, that I’d forget, or I’d regret

The special love I have for you
My Baby Blue

All the days became so long
Did you really think I’d do you wrong
Dixie, when I let you go
Thought you’d realize, I would know, I would show

The special love I have for you
My Baby Blue

What can I do, what can I say?
Except that I want you by my side
How can I show you? Show me a way
Don’t you know, the times I tried

Guess that’s all I have to say
Except the feeling just gets stronger everyday
Just one thing, before I go
Take good care, baby let me know, let it show

The special love you have for me
My Dixie dear

≤≥≤≥≤≥

I don’t know if I’m gonna wake up tomorrow after tonight’s Breaking Bad and find that “Baby Blue” is enjoying a popular resurgence as Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” did after the Sopranos’ finale. But I’ll tell you one thing. While “Don’t Stop Believin'” is a fine rock anthem, its singer Steve Perry is said to be a bit of a douchebag, the polar opposite of someone sensitive and retreating like Pete Ham.

Tom Evans and Pete Ham

Tom Evans and Pete Ham

Speaking of sensitive artists and douchebags, after an argument over song royalties Pete Ham’s band mate and writing partner in Badfinger, Tom Evans, committed suicide in 1983 by hanging, the same method Ham used. Stan Polley went on to swindle other people before dying in 2009 at the age of 87.

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20 comments for “The True Story Behind Badfinger’s “Baby Blue”

  1. Girl
    October 1, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    That isn’t a photo of Stan Polley, that’s Tom Evans.

    • admin
      October 2, 2013 at 6:14 am

      Thank you very much, Girl. I removed the photo.

  2. Patti M.
    October 2, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    only the good die young-Stan Polley was a douchebag

    • admin
      October 2, 2013 at 8:28 pm

      Agree on both counts, Patti. The more I learn about the music business the more I see how the more sensitive souls, who are often the best performers/writers, suffer from the business’s cut-throat nature.

  3. Brian
    October 11, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    The unfortunate thing is that piece of shit Sam Polley lived to be 87 and died in 2009. I hope his death was painful and that his final days were tormented

    • February 20, 2016 at 4:41 am

      My Husband was great friends with Pete, after the Bangladeshi Concert. This past Christmas, he gave me 3 coffee mugs with Pete’s unique autograph on the bottoms of each. I cried with joy and it was the best gift I ever received. Feeling blessed!

    • February 20, 2016 at 4:46 am

      I was just recently blessed when my Husband gave me 3 coffee cups, with Pete’s unique Autographs on each bottom. They became good friends after the Bangladesh Concert. I just cried when I studied them,feeling blessed.

    • Ted Savas
      September 9, 2016 at 12:14 am

      His final days may or may not have been bad, but I imagine what he is experiencing now is a tormented Hell.

  4. mark engel
    December 31, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    I am 59 right now and back in those days music and songs had a way of touching your heart and filling your days with memories that last forever. let me see it happen with todays songs and I’ll put the radio back on instead of l my CD’s

    • David
      March 14, 2014 at 5:09 am

      Agree with you Mark. June 1954 for me…

  5. who
    December 5, 2014 at 5:32 am

    the suicides in this band sort of echo backwards through time and into the poignancy of this tune. well fraught for Walt and BB’s fade out. Good send up as always, SorefTV.

  6. Lisa Skalnik
    February 9, 2015 at 11:34 pm

    Does anyone know what became of Dixie Armstrong? That song as the finale song had to be rather shocking to her. Especially if it caused a sudden amount of attention and “celebrity” to her.

    • Paula
      June 28, 2015 at 8:55 pm

      I like to know what happened to her too.

  7. fuzzy
    December 18, 2015 at 3:04 am

    Dixie, tell us of your life Fuzzy

  8. Tom Elliot
    January 19, 2016 at 2:20 am

    Dixie became a pharmacist in Ohio.

    • Gary
      January 25, 2017 at 11:48 pm

      so was her married name Butz? I keep seeing Dixie Butz or Dixie Armstrong and a few Dixie Ar
      mstrong Butz

  9. Tehren L. Swaim
    July 14, 2016 at 1:54 am

    it is my understanding dixie armstrong passed a few months back, about the age of 68 or so….

  10. Dan Rowley
    November 5, 2016 at 8:33 am

    Dixie Armstrong & Pete Ham…Donna & Richie Valens. Too short their relationships. Oh, & the dirt bag who ripped them off… American. Nice, eh? P.S. For the Boomers…who, in ’72, did this group mistakenly pass for? It was thought that this band put together a shadow band…Pete & the boys who could sound (pass) for them when Badfinger toured & did promotions. Also, in this thinking what finger did Badfinger represent. The thinking, it was an ode to the music industry as a whole. Hint on the “real” band…think, The Knickerbockers from 1965 & their song Lies. Those two are 2 of many alot of people thought were someone (who?) else.

  11. David
    December 6, 2016 at 6:34 am

    I always wondered what happened to Badfinger and why they were not as popular as the Beatles. They certainly had the talent and many of Pete’s songs remind me of my one true love of my life. Even though she left me I still love her 20 years later to this day! Alot of the songs remind me of her most especially, Baby Blue!

  12. John Loeffler
    December 27, 2016 at 4:03 am

    I had the pleasure of meeting them May 9th `71, when my band opened for them in East Stroudsburg, PA.They were very nice, especially Pete, very polite and sincere. They sounded great, just like the records, harmonies spot on.I was really saddened when I heard Pete hanged himself, then Tommy. Joey is still touring, and he will be in BB Kings in January. I still have a program from that day, I`m going to see if I can get Joey to sign it.

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