Head First was the seventh album recorded by rock band Badfinger, and the last album to feature the original "Iveys" core of Pete Ham, Tom Evans and Mike Gibbins. It was recorded in December of 1974 at The Beatles' Apple Studios in London and remained unreleased for 25 years. Originally intended to be Badfinger's third album under its six-album contract with Warner Bros. Records, the recordings were shelved when legal difficulties erupted between the band and WB that year, and the version that was finally released (as Badfinger's eleventh album, including two live albums) was a rough mix of the album made by Phil McDonald, one of the engineers at Apple.
Shortly before the group entered the studio, long-time member Joey Molland quit Badfinger, due in part to band disagreements regarding management. Because Badfinger's longtime producer Chris Thomas felt that the band had had too little time to recover after making Wish You Were Here, Badfinger's management replaced him as producer with Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise, who had just become successful by producing Kiss.
The remaining members and recently-added keyboardist/guitarist Bob Jackson recorded the album in two weeks. The difficult circumstances that surrounded Badfinger at this time contribute to the album's tone and provide the theme for two of its songs.
An investigation by WB's publishing division discovered that approximately $100,000 was missing from a Badfinger escrow account. Inquiries made by WB as to the whereabouts of the money were reportedly met with silence by Badfinger's manager, American Stan Polley. Suspicions were aroused, and, fed up with what it claimed was a lack of cooperation, WB launched a breach of contract suit against Polley and Badfinger almost simultaneous to the Head First recordings.
Although the tapes of Head First were delivered to and accepted by WB's recording division in Los Angeles, the publishing arm there refused to accept them. With a lack of publishing protection, the record division shelved the tapes and the album was not released.
Unaware of the lawsuit at the time, the group had long argued amongst themselves regarding Polley's honesty and his handling of their money. These sentiments came to the surface in the lyrics for two Head First tracks, "Rock & Roll Contract" and "Mr. Manager", which are indictments by bassist Tom Evans of Polley.
Badfinger became aware of the lawsuit in early 1975, simultaneous to a discontinuation of the group's salary checks from Polley. As financial turmoil mounted for the band and its future became more uncertain, group leader Pete Ham committed suicide only four months after the album was completed. Also due to financial difficulties, Evans followed suit in 1983.
It appeared for many years that Head First would never be released, as the master tapes had been misplaced and the recording quality of copies was so poor as to be unusable. The master tapes were eventually located at WB in the late 1980s (and were used in the preparation of Rhino's The Best of Badfinger, Vol. 2 in 1990, which included remixed versions of "Lay Me Down", "Passed Fast", "Keep Believing" and "Moonshine" from this album), but WB refused to permit their remix or use for this album because of the possibility of new lawsuits with regard to them.
After several months of negotiations with WB, Bob Jackson was given permission to release the album using a rough mix of the tapes that had been made in 1974 by Apple engineer Phil McDonald for the "wrap party" at the end of the recording sessions. The CD was then released on the Snapper label in 2000.