Bad Company Goes Public
When he heard his first Beatles song, Paul Rodgers was a teenager playing for The Roadrunners, a local band in Middlesbrough, England. The band members at the time included Micky Moody (Whitesnake) and Bruce Thomas (Elvis Costello and The Attractions). They performed assorted cover songs at halls and clubs in the area. In 1967 they had played out the local music scene so they changed the band name to The Wildflowers and moved to London. After some minor success, they began touring, however, relationships within the band deteriorated and they soon disbanded without making any recordings.
At the early age of 19, Rodgers became the lead vocalist in the brand-new British blues band Free, joining bassist Andy Fraser (15), lead guitarist Paul Kossoff (17), and drummer Simon Kirke (18). The young friends recorded and released their initial album, Tons of Sobs, in March of 1968. The record failed to chart in the United Kingdom, but it broke into the U.S. Top 200 at spot 197. In October of 1969, the band offered a second release, Free, that barely made a whimper. The album sold poorly, only reaching number 22 in the U.K. and failing to even appear on the U.S. side of the charts.
The summer of the following year the third studio album, Fire and Water, hit record stores, and it was a huge success. A single from the release, “All Right Now”, rose to the top of the U.K. rock music charts, was number 2 on the U.K. singles chart, and got as high as number 4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 list. The album itself landed at the second spot on U.K. Albums Chart and number 17 on the U.S. charts. The single was celebrated for surpassing 1,000,000 plus radio plays in the United States in late 1989, and in 2000 “All Right Now” exceeded 2,000,000 radio plays in the U.K.
In 1971, with mounting conflicts between Rodgers and bassist Andy Fraser, and faced with the drug problems of guitarist Paul Kossoff and their inconsistent record sales, the band broke up. They released prior live recordings on the album Free Live in the fall of that year, then reformed and put out another album, Free At Last, in June of 1972.
After Andy Fraser threw in the towel and left the group late in 1972, Free was finally laid to rest in 1973 following the final album, Heartbreaker. Rodgers and drummer Kirke then joined up with guitarist Mick Ralphs (Mott the Hoople) and Boz Burrell (King Crimson) on bass to form Bad Company. The band was the first to sign a record deal with the new Led Zeppelin label Swan Song, and they released Bad Company in June of 1974.
The album soared to the top spot on the Billboard 200 and spent 25 weeks on the U.K. Albums Chart, reaching number 3 in the second week. Classic rock standards from the record include “Can’t Get Enough” and “Movin’ On”, both Top Twenty hits, as well as “Rock Steady”, “Bad Company” and “Ready for Love”.
The debut release made ‘Bad Company’ the name of a band, an album, and a song. It went on to become a Platinum Album five times over and was in the Top 50 best-selling albums of the 1970’s. The disc is featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
“With a number one album to their credit in America, Bad Company returned to London triumphant. “The end of our first tour, the four of us were summoned to Peter Grant’s suite,” remembers Kirke. “We thought we had done something wrong. We all went up to his room, coming in like toe-scuffing schoolboys. Peter said, ‘Now listen guys, it’s been a long tour and you’ve worked your asses off.’ Then he paused for dramatic effect and we thought, what the fuck have we done. He pulled back this sheet that had been on the ground and said, 1 hope there will be a lot more of these in the future.’ Our gold albums for Bad Company were there.” – BadCompany.com
From the album review by Rolling Stone dated August 29, 1974: “This is an uncompromising album, reflecting the wills as much as the talents of the participants, and it’s all the more impressive in light of the fact that it was recorded immediately after the group’s formation. The stylistic rigidness of Bad Co. may prevent the band from becoming a supergroup right off the bat, but the album’s raw strengths will surely draw diehard rock & roll listeners. With upgraded material — perhaps including non-originals — more stylistic daring of the sort displayed on “Don’t Let Me Down” and the maturation of the already rewarding relationship between Rodgers and Ralphs, Bad Company could become a tremendous band.”
In the years since the review, the band has gone on to offer five platinum and three gold albums. They have been at it since 1973, and Bad Company is still in business. They have released a dozen studio albums, six live performances (CD/DVD), and four compilation albums. In August of 2008, the remaining members of Bad Company appeared for a one-time-only performance at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Rodgers said they did the gig in order to “protect the legacy they have built and cement the rights to the trademark Bad Company for touring.” The live performance includes seventeen Bad Company hits, and Rodgers dedicated “Gone, Gone, Gone” to original bassist Boz Burrell, who died in 2006. Additionally, Free bassist Andy Fraser passed away in 2015, and a farewell article covering his talented life is available via The Guardian.
In November of 2016, guitarist Mick Ralphs fell victim to a stroke. More information with regard to his current status is on his web homepage. You can also check in with singer Paul Rodgers and discover his latest work via the InterNet/Web hook-up here. Drummer Simon Cook is out here as well and has a browser destination for more stuff. Find out the latest band status at the Bad Company Official Website at Bad Company HQ.
Considering the demise of Boz Burrell and Andy Fraser, and the struggles faced by Mick Ralphs, you could end up in Sad Company. But the guys would likely point to their audio archive and tell us to keep movin’…