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There are not a lot of people in the music business that can boast about being in two truly well-known international acts. Simon Kirke is one of very few people in that category by being a member of both Free and Bad Company. When Free disbanded in 1973, they had sold more than 20 million albums worldwide. Simon Kirke have come a long way since his upbringing in a small village at the Welsh border – he now resides in Manhattan with his wife and four children.
All right now?…
Drummer SIMON KIRKE on the future of FREE
By Tony Norman
Midday in Berkshire and the traffic is rumbling along the busy main road near Reading. This part of the country appeals to the rock community. Roger Daltrey has a cottage here and Rod Stewart is not far away. Most of Traffic have settled here too and it`s easy to see why.
Simon Kirke is relaxing at his detached home which stands in about a third of an acre of land. It`s nothing elaborate by group standards, but very pleasant. Because of the road, Kirke doesn`t enjoy total peace, but he does have freedom and privacy, and that counts for a lot.
So the Free drummer is happy with life. He seems to have shrugged off his disastrous run of illness, and, of course, Free are back in action and trying to come up with the answers we all want to know. Where are they headed now?
It is too early for comparisons with the “old” band. But Free have definitely decided to hold on to that educated simplicity which was always their greatest strength.
In effect, the first band died a year ago. We are now left with a new bass player, Tetsu, and a gentleman named Rabbit on keyboards. Of the originals, Kirke, Rodgers and Kossoff remain.
“When we split the first band,” says Kirke, “we thought it was all over. The decision was final. But, when our individual things petered out, we realised we wanted to get together and play again. It was as simple as that. But we weren`t prepared for the audience reactions we`ve been getting. It`s been fantastic.”
Did he think the band`s followers might have forgotten them?
“Not so much forgotten as turned their minds to other things. There were other groups who`d gotten big while we`d been apart. People like Lindisfarne and the Faces.”
Nobody knows what will happen for the band in the future. But the guys have the experience to handle most things. To many, Free were born with “All Right Now”, but the story goes back much further.
“We`d been going two years when that record made the chart. In fact, most of the band`s work was done in those first two years. It`s rather ironic. After `All Right Now` we played to bigger crowds and travelled to different countries, but the gigs were more spaced out. Maybe only one a week. It was a different story before. We must have played every big club in England and Scotland at least five times.”
Kirke recalls an incident that shows the band have known hard times. “After we`d been going about a year, Andy (Frazer) and I sat down and wrote a hundred letters to various clubs. We told them we were a new group and wrote all our own material. We had to go chasing work, because we didn`t have a manager. We were doing everything on our own and sleeping in the van!”
Any luck with the letters? “Yes,” smiles Simon. “I think we got two gigs.”
If you can recall the headlines and hysteria that surrounded the success of “All Right Now”, you`ll know the band had a lot to handle.
“I think it affected us a great deal,” admits Kirke. “But because we`d been formed two years, we were strong within ourselves. So we handled it pretty well – but we could only do it for a certain length of time.
“There were things like follow-up singles and schedules for albums to think about. Everything was more pressurised; the whole scale just got incredibly big.
“We just want to play music, to play our songs. It`s once you start being asked to write a song for your follow-up – once the business side starts affecting your music – that you start worrying about what the public expects. Then you`re on the wrong track.
“We managed to stave it off by putting out `The Stealer` as our follow-up. We were just so knocked-out with it that we said, yeah, let`s release that. On reflection, it wasn`t such a good idea, but we loved the song. As you know, it flopped and we got a load of criticism.
“Suddenly we`re open to all that because we were up there. It`s only when you`re in that position that you realise there are lots of people longing to take a shot at you.”
Kirke spent most of his youth in a small village on the Welsh border. But even though he was isolated from the mainstream of the music industry, he had his dreams and ambitions. First on the list was the trip south as soon as he`d finished his schooling.
“My only link with London was the fact that I was born there. Occasionally I`d hitch down to see some bands at the Marquee and just drift around Soho, but I never stayed long.
“Still, the burning thing with me at the time was to leave home and move to London. I hoped to get in a band. That was what I was aiming for from the age of 15. The day after I left school, I hitched down to London. I stayed with my cousin for six months, until I could afford a flat of my own. I didn`t know anybody else in London at that time.
“I was totally unprepared for the city. I must admit that in the first couple of years I really had my eyes opened. The whole promiscuity bit and drugs were totally new to me. And…I revelled in it, for a bit.”
But Kirke admits he worries about the band and that right now he is slightly on edge.
“Things are a bit difficult at the moment. We have a new band, consisting of three members who used to be in a well-known group. But, although the name`s the same, we`d really like people to see that this is our new thing. Of course it`s gonna sound like Free. But it`s gonna be a new band.
“In the last year there has been too much confusion. I`ll be glad to see the back of that.”
This incredible chart was part of this number of the newspaper.
This number of the NME also contains articles/interviews with these people: The Byrds, Jeff Beck, David Cassidy, Gilbert O`Sullivan, Home, Slade, B.B. King, Alice Cooper, Linda Lewis, Moody Blues.
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