I really like this article. A great read, even if you`re not a fan of the band. So enjoy…
Members of Bad Company…
What`s your favourite hobby?
Who`s your favourite philosopher?
How do you like it so far?
Story: Roy Carr
New York is a city of excess. It`s a metropolis where everyone goes over the top almost every night of the week, yet still manages to surface the next morning fit and well and primed to repeat the exercise at the drop of an expense account.
It is a city that occasionally nods out but never sleeps. And despite the fact that it`s currently on the verge of bankruptcy, no one is deterred from having the time of their lives. On the contrary, they`re encouraged. However, what constitutes a Good Time is open to wild conjecture.
For where else but in New York (New York) can you jam with Johnny Winter before dinner, shanghai Gary Glitter away from hosting his own cocktail party, watch pyromaniacs taking polaroids of one another while firemen fight towering infernos in the background, check-out a sniper in Brooklyn, keep at the bar at Ashley`s – The Big Apple`s favourite oasis – open until breakfast and be invited to kiss both bride and bridegroom at a reception being held by the cigarette machine!
In keeping with tradition, the bride wore white and the groom chose black. The fact that the groom was not only female but prettier than her bride was quite irrelevant. They were married and they wanted the whole world – or at least anybody buying cigarettes – to know.
Originally, the newly-weds had intended to marry later in the month and spend their honeymoon at all six Rolling Stones shows scheduled for Madison Square Garden. But, love being what it is and Bad Company fan fervour at a premium, the happy couple had first promised to love, honour and obey before dashing off to clasp the four Swan Songsters to their collective bosom(s) at the Garden that very evening.
So please zip back to 4.15 that same day. The temperature outside Madison Square Garden has reached the arm-pit humidity of 89 degrees (and still rising), the street stinks of stale cheeseburgers and the rain feels like luke-warm tea as it splashes against the greasy skin of those hapless types trying to locate a spare ticket.
Inside the cool, cavernous auditorium, last minute preparations are being made for the evening soiree.
“How`s it look?” enquiries a pensive Paul Rodgers, as he straps on his guitar and proceeds to slash out the riff of “Can`t Get enough” – the object of his undivided attention being a bandaged left hand.
“Django Reinhardt managed alright,” mumbles Boz Burrell as he cradles his bass guitar and gives Rodgers an evil grin. Bad Company are running through a soundcheck hours before achieving the unprecedented distinction of being the only other rock act ever to top the bill at New York`s 20,000 seater Madison Square Garden halfway through a second American tour in summer.
The band plays on, undeterred by this vast responsibility.
They don`t award the Purple Heart to rock musicians injured in the line of duty. If they did, Paul Rodgers would have a chestful. Seemingly, every time he hits the road, the road hits back with a vengeance.
On the last tour, an unfortunate altercation with a plate glass door transformed Rodgers` swagger into a painful limp. This time round, a door of much stronger material fractured a couple of bones in his left hand when the band breezed into Chicago, a few days ago.
“I`ll kill that bloody doctor,” snarls Rodgers as the large plaster begins to peel away, like cheap wallpaper, from his damaged flipper.
As Showco`s posse of Texas cowboys scurry around the empty arena making last minute adjustments to the tons of electronic hardware, Rodgers` handicap is made worse when his amp begins to crackle violently.
“`Ere, what`s that hum?” asks Simon Kirke.
“Special effects,” Rodgers replies sarcastically. “It costs a bloody fortune to get the equipment to do that.”
“Fancy,” mutters Mick Ralphs.
Suddenly, Rodgers` amp utters a static bark of defiance. The singer scowls. A roadie looks towards heaven and mumbles “Sheeut!” The amp is instantly replaced.
Bad Company thunder through a version of the song of the same name with all the vitality and dynamics usually reserved for a live rendition, lay down their arms and split. It may be just a soundcheck but everytime these brigands pick up their weapons they mean business.
“We know our assets,” Simon Kirke reveals later as the limo navigates the rush hour traffic. “And, more important, we know our limitations and so we never step beyond them. Only in that way can we stay on top of what we`re doing.” But of course.
Having followed Bad Company`s progress with much more than a passing interest, I`ve become aware that, following first night nerves, this little band flexes a lot of muscle. On their own turf, there are few bands (if any) who can give them a hard time.
But it`s easy to comprehend why Bad Company have cracked America on their first attempt. Despite the fact that they have the best management and about the best record distribution around, they are one of the few road bands with the ability to deliver.
And though I`m favourably disposed towards the band`s recorded output. I have to admit that they`re even better – much better – on stage.
Mick Ralphs agrees wholeheartedly with my sentiments. “We are essentially a live band,” he concedes. “If people like our records then they`re not going to be disappointed when they come along to our gigs. A lot of bands can`t deliver before an audience. We can. It doesn`t matter what goes on behind the scenes or whether your latest record is on the charts, when we walk out onto a stage, it`s all down to us. If we blow it, then we`ve only got ourselves to blame and nobody else.”
As to his own contribution to the band, Ralphs states his position. “I`m often accused of not playing enough and just because of the nature of our line-up criticised for not getting involved in that guitar hero syndrome. But I personally feel that what I contribute is sufficient within the context on this particular band.
“We`re not into that whole flash virtuoso trip. That`s not what Bad Company is all about. Basically, we`re a funky song band. Take the Stones. They`re all good musicians but they don`t have great soloists who play one solo for hours on end. They don`t need it.
“And neither do we.”
Having once worked in what he describes as being “less than a democratic musical environment”. Ralphs echoes the sentiments of his colleagues by insisting that one of the prime factors that has motivated the Company`s acceptance is that there`s absolutely no conflict of musical persuasions within their chosen format.
“We`re all pulling as hard as we possibly can in the same direction to make the best of our good fortune.”
Anyway, it`s been said that nothing succeeds like success. By the same token, success when it has been as instant as that bestowed upon Bad Company has been known to destroy equally as quickly. To their credit, Ralphs, Rodgers, Box and Kirke have been in the game long enough to appreciate when they`ve got a Good Thing Going.
As a founder member of Mott The Hoople, Mick Ralphs is acutely aware that, having spent years striving for the Big Break, it`s so easy for a band to fall apart at the seams at a vital moment. “You only get one real chance to prove yourself and say your piece.”
He wasn`t afforded that luxury within Hoopleville. “If you don`t use that opportunity wisely and to your own advantage, then not only are you screwing up your own life but maybe the lives of others who depend on you to fulfil your obligations.
“Though it`s not always possible, a band can`t really afford to become blase, complacent and treat everything like a big laugh. Sure, you should enjoy every minute of it – but on the other hand, you should take it seriously,” he adds. “But not to the extent that you don`t enjoy it.
“People often think that all the looning on the road is superficial and a complete waste of time. It`s not. It helps you to relax and unwind. If you don`t, then the gigs will suffer.
“Being a relatively new band we`ve still got a lot to explore, but in this game you can never tell what tomorrow may bring. Once you`ve been fortunate to make a reputation for yourself, there`s a lot that you`ve got to live up to – especially as this band went to No. 1 with both first album and single. That`s all very well and good but when we troop out on stage tonight at Madison Square Garden…if we play a bum gig we can never go back there again.”
It`s Ralphs` candid opinion that not too many bands fully realise the importance of headlining a tour on the strength of chart recognition. “Though it`s only one gig, a show at the Garden not only consolidates the dozen or so gigs you`ve already done but it can dictate the success of the remainder of the tour. If you bomb out in New York or L.A. then you can forget it. You might as well pack up and go home – barring a miracle, it`s all over.”
Boz Burrell is the antithesis bass player. Once the wine begins to flow, he may come across as an old roue, but when it comes down to business Boz knows Where he would like to be At. “Things may have happened very quickly for all four of us,” he begins, “but we know how to handle the pressures. Not only have we chosen to keep a low profile, we`ve also built up an anti-reaction which personally I find to be extremely healthy in that it enables all of us to get off on each other.”
He blows the suds out of his nose and explains Bad Company`s street -corner philosophy. “When it boils down to it, Bad Company is just a raunchy little club band that knows how to adapt themselves to performing in large venues.
“Sure, you always question yourself as to whether or not you`re doing the right thing, but the reason why we all got together in the very first place was simply because we all wanted to be in the same band and we`re making sure that we enjoy it.
“With some bands just being there suffices. Now this is one thing that I`ve got against the Rolling Stones – in that just being up there on stage is enough. Well it ain`t. With Bad Company, we`ve got to try and play as best as we can every night and try and improve as we go along.”
Boz points out that he`s encountered many bands who go through life totally oblivious to audience reactions. If a gig is a bummer they automatically blame it on the crowd – when in fact the audience may have been more together than the band. He`s also aware of the responsibilities any band has towards its fans. “I don`t enjoy going to most rock shows,” he admits. “I`ve been to a couple of Mott gigs and I`ve also watched Black Sabbath perform once or twice. And, in both instances I haven`t liked the way in which they handled the crowd.
“Both have gone well over the top, whipped the kids up into a violent frenzy and then have been unable to control their mood. I mean, who wants to be bombarded with bottles? We don`t. This is something that Bad Company steer well away from. Sure, we may wind the audience up and get them excited but we don`t make them turn nasty. We underplay that particular aspect and when things get too tight we just mellow them out.
“The reason why we can do this whenever we want to is all down to Simon`s brand of timekeeping. I just love playing with Rodgers and Ralphs, but playing alongside of Si is the ultimate. I love that man. He`s like all of us, he doesn`t know shit about anything. He just plays good…he can`t help it.”
Simon Kirke wasn`t available for comment at this time. However, earlier in the day he did state that playing drums for Bad Company wasn`t the worst job that he`d ever had.
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 New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Can, Phil Spector, Elton John, Greenslade, Beach Boys, Elvin Jones, Alan Stivell, Uriah Heep, Jackie Wilson, Fairport Convention.
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