So strongly is Badfinger associated with the Beatles’ Apple Records that casual fans often overlook the fact that the band released two superb albums for Warner Brothers in 1974. This Tuesday (September 18), the reissue label Collector’s Choice is seeking to remedy that situation by reissuing both those albums. 

Hopes were high for Badfinger in 1974 when the band signed a three-year, six-album deal with Warner Brothers for a purported $3 million. From the start, however, the relationship went awry. Despite a wealth of strong material, the band’s self-titled Warner Brothers debut peaked at just No. 161 on the charts, and for its follow-up the group was pressured to write material that was more “singles-oriented.” Badfinger did just that with Wish You Were Here (the title pre-dated Pink Floyd’ same-titled opus), an album that inspired at least one notable scribe to gush that Badfinger was still “one of the best singles bands in the business.” 

Fans seemed to agree, as Wish You Were Here came out of the chute selling a brisk 25,000 copies per week. Amazingly, however, Warner Brothers pulled the album from distribution in early 1975. Citing questionable accounting—it was alleged, erroneously, that a substantial sum of money was missing from Badfinger’s escrow account—the label effectively killed the album. Understandably, the ordeal weighed deeply on the band, which soon began to unravel. Despondent over the group’s legal and financial troubles, co-founder Pete Ham, in a harrowing tragedy, hanged himself in April 1975. 

Wish You Were Here thus became the final album to feature Badfinger’s most vital lineup. Both Badfinger and Wish You Were Here have been spottily available through the years, but Collectors Choice feels the neglected releases are ripe for re-discovery. “We’re kind of in shock that [Warner Brothers] let them go out of print,” says a label representative, “and also that they let us license them. But that’s what we’re here for.” —Russell Hall