Bad Company

The Drums must be the only instrument its possible to learn without actually having the instrument in front of you. Its hard to imaging someone learning the French Horn for example by pouting and moving their fingers about in mid air. My effort with cushions and tapping feet however meant that I could actually play the drums before I ever sat at a drum kit. Quite clearly I was not that good, I was pretty bad and after a few minutes would struggle with aching limbs and cramp but my playing at least didn’t sound like a drunken man falling downstairs.

You have to be a bit of a narcissist to think anyone wants to listen to you as a drummer though, there’s something to be said for a brief solo at the right time but its unlikely that anyone goes away from a gig with that as the highlight. The drum solos are mainly a chance for the other members to go off for cigarette and it works better on the big stage rather than in the pub where we can see the rest of the band trying to huddle behind the bass amp while the drummer does his sweaty stuff.

The drums are really the most sociable of instruments, most drummers want to get out of their bedrooms and meet some other people to make a noise with. In order to reach that point I needed to put in the hours and that meant playing along with recorded tracks.

And the first song I can remember learning from the drum point of view was ‘Cant Get Enough of Your Love’ by Bad Company.

The group had hit the ground running partly because they were four seasoned musicians, a super group if you will,but also because they were managed by Led Zeppelin’s Peter Grant who was a heavyweight as managers could be.

The Band’s really big selling point was vocalist Paul Rogers who along with drummer Simon Kirke has been in Free, one of the most loved blues rock groups of the early 70’s, in fact along with Rory Gallagher they almost invented blues rock. At their prime Free were untouchable, ridiculously young and talented in equal measure but most of all great at playing together. The band struggled almost from the beginning. The bass player Andy Fraser was phenomenally talented but also mixed race and secretly gay. A good combination for any job with an inner city London Council in the 70’s but uncomfortable to say the least in a hard rocking blues band. Worst still was guitarist Paul Kossoff who’s increasing dependence on the nastiest of 70’s drugs, barbiturates, meant that he has increasingly unable to turn up or stand up for gigs.

Rogers frustration at working in a band that couldn’t form the basic functions of a band finally had him to call it a day with Free and form a band that wouldn’t make the same mistakes again. The new guitarist was Mick Ralphs from Mott the Hoople where according to vocalist Ian Hunter he played Neil Young to Hunter’s Dylan. Ralphs had once been the group leader slogging his gut out playing gigs all over Britain and Europe and could feel his role diminishing as the group at last hit the big time. ‘Cant Get Enough’ was his song but not one that Hunter was keen to perform..time for a move.

On bass we had Boz Burrell who I find quite an interesting character. For starters he was born in that most un rock and roll counties Lincolnshire His first significant band the un rock and roll named Tea Time 4 decided that Holbeach was not where the action was and moved to Norwich in search of the big time. Surprising this didn’t work out and Boz ended up in London where he led the Boz people which featured future (small) Faces Ian McLagan who left the band when the bands van broke down and Boz’s only response was to sit on the ground laughing his socks off leaving McLagan to find his own way back to London.

His first brush with fame as with King Crimson, at this point he was a vocalist who played a bit of guitar but prospective bass player Rick Kemp (he of Steeleye span) quit at the last moment to Robert Fripp taught Burrell to play bass rather than go through auditions again. This line up didn’t last long Burrell along with sax player Mel Collins and drummer Ian Wallace were all party animals, Fripp wasn’t. Apparently for encores the rest of the band would make a dash to the stage to start a 12 bar blues jam leaving Fripp well out of his comfort zone.

By the time he joined bad Company just a couple of years later Burrell was a fine bass player. Kirke was technically a better player than I realised at the time but as with Free he could lay down a groove that I was immediately attracted to. Of course I never owned a Bad Company record but due to the level of promotion they received from the very beginning they were all over Radio 1.I would have the radio on pretty much all day if I was home and when a Bad Company song came on I would launch myself at my kit and join in.

Bad Company were perfect for 1974, their lyrics made it very clear that they got their loving on the run and if that didn’t work out drinking with the boys would be a viable alternative. There was no ambiguity in their lyrics ‘I take whatever I want and baby I want you’. According to the lyrics of ‘Bad Company’ Rogers was actually born with ‘ a six gun in my hand’.You get the picture.

Their second record Straight Shooter was ,if anything, even better with the best song AC/DC never wrote ‘Good Lovin Gone Bad’ kicking the record off.There were signs of softening tough, a bit more keyboard and some strings. Rogers was actually a talented guitarist and keyboard player, Burrell liked Jazz-Rock it was likely that they couldn’t rewrite ‘Cant Get Enough’ for ever (although they had a good stab at it with ‘Feel Like Making Love’).

And for my fickle 16 year old self that was the end of my interest in Bad Company. Various things changed, a tour was planned with Kossoff’s new band Back Street Crawler but Kossoff died just prior to it starting. Peter Grant became increasing disinterested in managing after the death of Zep’s John Bonham in 1980 and the record became increasingly embellished with strings and synthesisers

.

In the UK however things were changing fast us youngsters did not want to hear 30 year old blokes pretending to be American and singing about their love lives anymore we wanted to hear about how pissed off we were! Punk had relatively little impact on the band, they simply spent more time in the states where the money was anyway.

The band slit up in 1982 after their worst selling album Rough Diamonds but as we know that’s unlikely to be the case long for any band with earning potential. Ralphs and Kirke were soon up for reformation and they brought in a guy called Brian Howe as singer as well as a new bass player and keyboard player.I have no idea who Howe is but he has my sympathy as one of the more hapless characters in rock. He was with the band for eight years when the band produced their least loved records and even Ralphs was having difficulty in giving a shit. Howe’s reward was to be virtually written out of the bands history.

Howe’s replacement sounded a lot more like Rogers but the main interest in the band was always going to be the original line up which happened when the four original members came together at the funeral of Peter Grant in 1995.

From 1998 the band has had Rogers back which make them a lot more credible although the line up changes continued, at one point even Ralphs was out of the band for a while and Burrell died of a heart attack in 2006 which meant the original line up would be no more.

And now whatever they do Bad Company will be an oldies band. Post hip op Ralphs look more likely to give you a quote for painting and decorating than offer you some good loving and Rogers has obtained some new hair from whoever supplied Robin Gibb. Kirke is now really healthy after battling a drink problem and they sound great together with a couple of extra players live.

And listening to Kirke now I realise how much he taught me. ‘Cant Get Enough’ has a little shuffle feel and Kirk does accents on his hi hat just like I do now,, he’s a great drummer to have learned off.

And of course what do they mainly play live, their first two albums of course. When a lot of our punk heroes who were going to overthrow these guys are happy to fill a room above a pub Bad Company are playing huge venues and actually sounding great. So here’s a full concert;; enjoy…

 

 

 

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