It very rarely happens that a “supergroup” succeeds at the level that Bad Company did. Coming from their former bands of Free (Rodgers and Kirke), Mott The Hoople (Mick Ralphs) and King Crimson (Boz Burrell).
In my opinion their two first albums were their strongest and I recommend everyone who isn`t familiar with Bad Company to listen to them. Great music from great musicians! Enjoy.
B Company on the march
They`re autographing LP`s for the kids, and the businessmen are gibbering with glee. Yep, it looks like this could be the start of something big…
By Lisa Robinson
The red, mimeographed sheet sent to 100s of radio stations across the country reads: “BAD COMPANY: `Can`t Get Enough`. Rockin` smash. Huge album. Will be a monster single. New 30-13`q, kliv, werc, 25-WAYS, KTLK, 24-WDGY, WBBQ, KZOK, Debuts: 40-WBSR: 28-WVLK (`big LP`); 25-Q105; 26-WSGN; 23-WPGC: 30-WFLB; 40-KILT. 14-10-WIXY; 14-12 KJRB; 25-20-WSAI (`should do well`); 26-KJR. On WMAK, WHHY, WKIX.”
What does it mean? It means that Bad Company are perhaps the biggest group to break out in this country this year, something I was told again and again during the week I spent with the band in Los Angeles.
Honest, straightforward, funky, gutsy, straight ahead, no gimmicks, right on, teenage, powerful, lusty, heterosexual, hard on, down to earth, rock and roll.
All this and more has been said about Bad Company. So I`ll attempt to describe what happened with them without resorting to one of those adjectives…
MONDAY. I arrive in L.A. after a nightmare flight where one engine blew out and we had to return to JFK to refuel. And because my L.A. home, the Beverly Hills Hotel, was overbooked that night I had to spend an evening in the alien Beverly Wilshire – where Ringo, Ron Wood, Rod Stewart, David Bowie, Tony de Fries and Mick Jagger all stay while in town.
None of them were there that night, and Bad Company were at the Hyatt House.
TUESDAY: Mick Ralphs` room at the Hyatt is the neatest hotel room of any rockstar I`ve ever seen. (Paul Rodger`s comes a close second, although he`s got a few clothes dripping out of opened trunks and stuff.)
Simon Kirke, down the hall, has the distinction of being the only rockstar I`ve ever seen who has BOOKS neatly lined up on what David Johansen would use for a make-up shelf. They`re mostly science fiction, porno and John Steinbeck.
Mick Ralphs seems quietly confident about the band`s success here.
“You know,” he smiled, “one reads so much in the British Press about how this band or that band comes to America and is STORMING the place. But when you actually get here you realise that most people haven`t even heard of them…well, it all gets to be a bit of a hype, doesn`t it?”
This obviously is not the case with Bad Co. however. Their album was Number 6 on the charts that week and the single rapidly climbing.
“Well, we were very confident when we put the band together,” Mick continued, “we sort of had a good feeling about it. But it was really a case of whether or not everyone else would do their thing. Like the record company is really behind the band which is very important; you just can`t make it doing good gigs.
“And we are reaching a lot of people with this tour. I`ve never been in this position before – on tour with a successful album. It`s always been that you`re on tour and you have an album out but the two aren`t really connected.
“It`s all really come together for us. That`s the really great thing about having Peter as a manager. We`re lucky to have him with us.”
“Also we`re really a completely new band, and we`re opening the shows we`re on, so we have to go out there and make a good impression wherever we go.
“We weren`t scared at all really – we were excited to come here. I was used to headlining. So was Paul. But being the opening act gave us a chance to try and blow other people off the stage!
“There`s been a sort of friendly competition on stage; Dave Mason and Jo Jo Gunne – we`d watch them try that much harder after we`d gone off and the show as a whole would be that much better for it.
“The drawbacks, of course, are that when you do open the show the PA system and lights and all aren`t your own. You don`t have time for a proper sound check – all those little technical things that audiences don`t and shouldn`t know about, but would give us more control over it all.
“I`d like to think that the next time we come over here we`d be able to headline. I know we could pull it off in terms of the act. We certainly could play an hour and a half or two hours, and here we`re reduced to forty-five minutes.”
Paul Rodgers walks into the room draped only in a towel, fresh from the shower, looking for his shoes.
Mick Ralphs says, he likes touring America.
“What gets me is the bigness of it all, the wealth here – you know? Especially coming from England because it`s such a poor country now.”
What about all those rich British popstars? “I don`t know, right now I haven`t got much money. But for the first time in my life I`m in a position where I can buy a house, and it`s sort of incredible to me. Because by the British standard, this is the sort of thing you go for – the goal.
“When you`re young you have your ambitions and this is always one of them, to own your own house. I sort of forgot about that while I was with Mott and everything. It was a struggle just to keep our heads above water, let alone think about things like that.”
Down the hall Swan Song Vice-President Danny Goldberg is talking relentlessly on the telephone. “It`s Number six with a bullet on the Billboard charts this week, and we know it`ll definitely go to Number Five – it`ll be top five and we fully expect it will be Number One.
“Everyone has been working really hard on it, I mean we`re all working really hard on it, but listen – you know, the group are really good, they`ve been doing it themselves.”
“You know what`s so good about Paul,” Mick continued, “is that after the Free thing he could have played with anybody because he is so well-respected in the business. He could have put together a band of amazing musicians, and he had offers to do LPs in Muscle Shoals and places like that, but he wanted to be part of a unit, and that`s great.
“We`re both slightly old-fashioned – but we do believe in the idea of a group…we all dig people like the Stones who can put over a total image rather than a solo artist like Bowie or something.”
People keep calling Paul Rodgers, and from the sound of the phone conversations, it seems as though the majority of them want tickets to the various gigs in the L.A. area.
Between the calls, we talk about his band.
“I`m having a great time,” Rodgers says, “because it wasn`t really happening for any of us with our bands before and this tour has been a joy to do. I really see it as a band, and I`m the singer, but it`s a band and I`m part of it. We all see it that way, and we all do our little movements and things, but we do it together.
“I play piano onstage during a few numbers now, and I`d like to do some more piano and some more guitar. But I am a bit limited at the moment because I have so little experience.
“When I do play it`s really a set piece, and I`d like to be able to ad lib freely. At the moment I have to work out everything that I do. I used to play bass – a long time ago, when I was about 13. And I wasn`t very good, so they said `well – why don`t you sing?` So I sang.
I sang `Long Tall Sally` and it was pretty good. I surprised myself really.”
I asked him if he thought the band would get so big – like Zeppelin or such – that they`d do more tours here than in Britain.
“Well, I don`t know…we`ll never give up on England – no way.”
Talking about how he got together with Peter Grant, Rodgers said, “I just phoned him up, because there wasn`t any action coming out of Island at the time. And I didn`t want any more flash in the pan situations. You know – where the band sort of folds after six months. I wanted it to be solid. So I thought, well – who`s the best manager in the business” – he smiled – “and this was before we knew anything about the Swan Song label.
“Peter was just great. I said, `I`m getting this group together and would you like to come hear it with a view toward managing it`, and he said sure. He came down to hear us and we didn`t even have Boz at the time. But he saw the potential and got behind us.”
Peter Grant, Bad Company`s manager, has just arrived in L.A., and since he got to the Hyatt too late to take the bus to San Bernadino with the band, we`re travelling in the Mercedes limo made especially for Elvis – with fur on the floor, reclining back seat, tv.
Grant had been picked up earlier at the airport by a gold Lincoln Continental.
It`s a two-hour ride to San Bernadino where the band will open for Edgar Winter at The Swing – supposedly the first place the Stones played in America. (San Bernadino is also the home of the Hell`s Angels, although I`m not implying anything.)
The Swing looks like an airplane hanger, Grant warns us. He`s been there before.
We talk of other tours, of other halls – halls and arenas that Zeppelin never played in this country because Peter Grant never felt right about them, and then he says, “You know, it`s been nice being with Bad Company on this tour, especially at the beginning when we were staying in all those Holiday Inns.
“You tend to lose your perspective sometimes when it`s all private planes and big hotel suites. It`s nice to get back to a simpler thing once in a while – it reminds you of where you`re coming from.”
The band are overjoyed to see Peter. They hug him. There`s a lot of obvious closeness in the dressing room.
Boz, however, is lying down. He doesn`t feel well. Mick is deciding which shirt he should wear onstage. Simon and Paul and Peter talk, then disappear into the bathroom and then return; Paul fools around with “Midnight Hour” on the guitar, and soon it`s time to go on.
The first thing I`m struck by is that Bad Company have perhaps one of the few rhythm sections one can actually write about. You know how it is with bass and drum players…often all you read about them is that they kept up a good, steady, solid beat – often that`s all there is to say.
But Simon Kirke and Boz Burrell are really like a Memphis rhythm section. There`s a lot of Al Jackson and Duck Dunn influences there.
(When I mention that to Simon after the show he smiles and says, “Ah, Al Johnson – he`s the guv`nor.”)
They go into “Deal With The Preacher” – one of the songs not on the album, and Paul is up front, wearing a patterned white and beige shirt and white leather trousers bought just that day at North Beach Leather. (The pants were too long, and since there was not time to have them fixed, he bought higher shoes.)
Rodgers actually looks better onstage than photos suggest, if you know what I mean, and he certainly is in total command.
Mick moves around more than I was led to believe, but there isn`t any of that corny “lead guitarist” bullshit.
Boz, despite his not feeling well, plays well. (“You have to,” he said later, looking decidedly grim.)
Simon Kirke must be the most physically expressive drummer in rock. He thrashes about – even more so than Bonzo or Moon, and the faces he makes are terrifying. He sweats a lot too. It`s a good show.
“Rock Steady”, “Ready For Love”, “Little Misfortune”, “Bad Company”, “Easy On My Soul”…and the audience is properly receptive. But it`s on the final number (the rapidly-climbing single, “Can`t Get Enough”) that Paul really wants to get the audience with him.
In fact he seems a bit hung-up on audience response – with all this “LEMMEHEARYASAYYEAH!” stuff. He screams out to the audience and they do as they`re told. Which is more than I can say for Slade`s early gigs here.
“PUTYERHANDSINTHEAIR-AND-LEMMEHEARYASAYYEAH!” and, well – they do it.
That`s all – and it`s not too hokey. The audience also sing along with him on “Can`t Get Enough Of Your Love”.
Of course there must be an encore, and they come back to do the old Free song “The Stealer”, and leave the place cheering. (This is for real – it`s not any of that “UK group storms America” stuff. It just happened that way.)
Back in the bus for the two-hour ride to the Hyatt House; in between beers and general horseplay, Paul says, “One interviewer asked me if I minded glitter, and I said, `no – not really. Well – actually, I bloody hate it!”
WEDNESDAY. The band visit a record store in West Los Angeles to autograph albums.
Boz still isn`t feeling well, so he`s back at the hotel. “I`d never have had the nerve to ask them to do it,” Peter the Gee mutters earlier. But they go, and are in quite good spirits.
I have a copy of NME which shows their album to be at no. 18.
“That means it`s going down,” groans Simon.
“Yes but it`s Number Six on the American charts.”
We arrive at the record store and there are a respectable number of actual Fans waiting to buy signed LPs. The Bad Co. LP (natch) is playing in the record store, and then the hippies behind the counter prove just how hip they are by playing old Mott and Free discs.
This evening the band are to tape Don Kirshner`s Rock Concert out at the Long Beach Auditorium. Also taping for several different airings are Curtis Mayfield, Edgar Winter, and the Natural Four. Bad Company are supposed to tape around 9.30 pm but it`s somewhat later by the time they do go on.
Danny Goldberg and Steve Paul and other industry insiders are in the room where the tv monitors are and they are talking about – you guessed it. “Well,” says Danny, “it`ll peak in a few weeks and then the single will start it all over again and keep the album in the top ten. It`s already top 25 on the top 40 station in Cleveland,” he continues. “They were treated like the Rolling Stones in Cleveland…”
I am amazed and confused by this kind of conversation. I wonder if anyone will remember the Billboard charts ten years from now, although I feel sure that the good music will remain. It`s extremely strange to hear grown men talking about the strategy surrounding pieces of plastic with intense love and/or enthusiasm.
Don Kirshner, now hosting his own show, takes a few of us into the control truck where we can see five monitors, and the directors choosing of what goes down on tape.
Rodgers looks terrific on TV, especially on close-ups when he`s singing solos. Boz is obviously feeling a bit better and moving around the stage more. Other than that, the band seem a bit uncomfortable in the bright lights and TV-studio-like atmosphere.
Afterwards Peter G. is not thrilled by the way some of the best shots of Paul and/or Mick were missed on the final tape.
Nonetheless, I`ve seen other shows and this has been done far more professionally than most.
On the way back to Sunset Strip the boys are weary. But Mick and I manage to sneak in some talk about Bowie, Main Man, et al.
“Yeah, one good thing about this tour,” Mick asserts, “there aren`t all those poseurs about. You know – all those manicurists and hairdressers and all. We got REAL KIDS coming to see us.”
We`re back in the Red Roulette Room of the Hyatt House and Lucky Young is singing, wearing what looks like a rug on his head and a white safari suit on his body. He`s singing “Drift Away” with Mick and Boz singing along.
BORING! shouts someone in our party…others are trying to make arrangements to go to a Joni Mitchell party in Laurel Canyon (never materialised), and Boz wants to go and see Chick Corea at the Troubador but can`t get anyone to make his arrangements for him.
THURSDAY is the big date – the L.A. Forum. Elton John has sent the band two bottles of Dom Perignon along with his regrets that he can`t come and see the show.
He`s just flown into L.A. for two days to do a session with Ringo.
Steve Weiss, legal whiz and charmer supreme is on hand for this concert, and the backstage area is decorated with some special people: “16s” Gloria Stavers with Lenny Bruce`s daughter Kitty, Rick Springfield, Shaun Cassidy, Steve Paul, Mickie Most and Liz Derringer.
The set is definitely the best of the week. Paul is strutting and prancing around more than ever.(“I don`t care what he says,” someone close to the group whispers, “he likes Jim Dandy…”), tossing and whirling with the mike, and his voice is fabulous.
Boz, apparently totally recovered from his earlier-in-the week illness, moves slowly, sexily towards the microphone – he and Mick join in on harmonies, the audience is extremely responsive.
Thank goodness there are no firecrackers in Los Angeles (Well, just a few at the end, but nothing like New York…) although there is a thunderous roar for an encore.
They`ve certainly “warmed” up this crowd for Edgar.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.
This number of the NME also contains articles/interviews with these people: Roger McGuinn, Black Oak Arkansas, Fleetwood Mac, Annette Peacock, Woodstock (the festival), Jimmy Cliff, Toots & The Maytals, Greenslade.
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