Paul Kossoff

ARTICLE ABOUT Paul Kossoff (Free, Back Street Crawler) FROM New Musical Express, March 20, 1976

A quite sad article today, remembering one musician who died way too early. Kossoff died from a pulmonary embolism,  after a blood clot in his leg shifted to his lung. One thing is when a man like Lemmy dies in his 70th year, many people would say that even 70 is too early these days, but at least he was allowed to live a full life. That was not the case for Kossoff and so many other people, famous or not, who died way before their time. May they all rest in peace and let us hope there is some kind of heaven that they and the rest of us will go.

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Paul Kossoff: a tribute

By Steve Clarke

There wasn`t even an inkling of the tragedy to come when Paul Kossoff and the rest of his band, Back Street Crawler, boarded the night flight from Los Angeles to New York just 13 days ago.
They`d just completed a two-month American tour, a new album had been recorded, and for the first time in five years it seemed Paul was set to re-live the kind of fulfilment he had experienced with Free in the late `60s.
But it was not to be.
When the plane was about to start its descent on John F. Kennedy airport, attempts to rouse an apparently sleeping Kossoff were unsuccessful. Oxygen was administered and a general panic ensued. And on landing, his colleagues – including his manager of seven years, Johnny Glover – were forced to leave the plane with Paul still on board, unaware that he was in fact dead.
This tuesday, Koss – as he was affectionately called by close friends and fans alike – was buried, just 25 years old.
The results of an autopsy will not be known for a week or two, but it is well known that he suffered a serious physical breakdown involving a stay in hospital some 12 months ago, and also that his condition at that time was related to an earlier heavier involvement with drugs.
Paul Kossoff had not been a particularly healthy man since the demise of Free, one of the great English rock bands, but it wasn`t until last year that matters came to a head. He had to be kept alive artificially for half an hour after his heart, lungs and kidney had packed in. He spent his 25th birthday in hospital recovering from this almost fatal illness.

Koss`s drug problem can be linked directly to the break-up of Free in 1970. In two years the band, one of a galaxy of blues-based bands coming out of this country in the late `60s, had shot from being a club attraction to one of Britain`s major groups.
Prior to Free, Koss had played with a more orthodox blues band, Black Cat Bones. And his life seemed clearly focused around music.
At the peak of their admittedly short-lived success there wasn`t a member of Free who was over 20. And when Paul Rodgers and Andy Fraser (the group`s major composers) decided to split the band in 1970, Koss and Simon Kirke wanted none of it.
When I talked to him last February, he had this to say about the break-up of Free: “I didn`t start all that drug stuff when I was with Free – that came afterwards. I just came to a standstill and got swept up by something else.”
Glover agreed with the guitarist`s opinion, “Simon and Koss would have been happy to play in Free forever. The split hit Koss worst of all – it took his life away”.
Koss and Kirke did in fact continue working together outside of Free to cut one album, “Kossoff, Kirke, Tetsu and Rabbit”, but in terms of a working band nothing materialised from this union. When Free reformed in `72 the major reason for the re-union was the guitarist`s growing drug problem.
“I really didn`t want to do it,” Kossoff said last February. “Or rather I wanted to do it, but I couldn`t take it. There was a lot of pressure on me – Paul wanted to get me well and he believed that if he got me up and playing that would do it. And there was pressure from Island (Free`s record company). I didn`t stand a chance. I had to do it. They sort of dragged me out of my pit.”

Glover put it stronger. “I conned him into coming back into the band. It was done almost to get Paul out of the drug thing. If we worked all the time we thought we would get him out of it.”
The reformation was only a partial success and differences between Fraser and Rodgers couldn`t be patched up and it wasn`t long before Fraser quit the band, to be replaced by Tetsu and Rabbit; it was Kossoff who later turned The Faces on to Tetsu.
A British tour was cancelled after Koss fell over and broke his foot during a sound-check at Newcastle City Hall. And when Free undertook a Japanese tour, they had to leave Koss at home because he was in such a bad state. For Free`s last ever gigs (supporting Traffic in America at the beginning of `73) a replacement guitarist was brought into the line-up and Kossoff doesn`t appear on all of the band`s last album, “Heartbreaker”, released around this time. One of Rodgers` songs, the hit single, “Wishing Well,” was in fact inspired by Kossoff`s problem:
Thrown down your guns, you might shoot yourself / Or is that what you`re trying to do / Put up a fight you believe to be right / And someday the sun will shine through / You`ve always been a good friend of mine / But you’re always saying farewell / The only time when you`re satisfied / Is with your feet in the wishing well.
Kossoff`s career as a guitarist stagnated between `72 and early `75 – when he returned to the stage, jamming with acoustic guitarist John Martyn – apart from his making a solo album, “Back Street Crawler”, released in `73 and recorded over the previous two years.
Despite its hotch-potch nature, anybody interested in Kossoff`s musical vision should have this album in their collection.

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In these “lost years” there were constant stories of Paul being admitted to various clinics to be straightened out, and while it`s difficult to sort out fact from fiction, there was probably a lot of truth in them.
Over a three-year period I`ve interviewed Koss three times. The first time was when he released “Back Street Crawler”, and then he was in extremely poor physical condition, his speech slurred and his manner distant. The second occasion was last February and the change in the man was radical. While it`s untrue to say that Paul was fresh-faced, his physical condition and mental attitude seemed much improved.
I remember him telling me during the first interview that he was sick of waking up and looking at “A sack of shit in the mirror”. Eighteen or so months later and he`d certainly come a long way beyond that miserable condition.
Moreover he was interested in playing again. No, that`s an understatement – he was just itching to play again and I remember him telling me what a buzz he got from appearing before an audience, and how he`d missed it. “Because I`ve started playing again I`m happy. I just feel happy. It seems that possibilities are opening up again in front of me and I`m looking forward instead of back.”
Koss was true to his word and months later he`d formed Back Street Crawler with a bunch of Texas musicians introduced to him by Rabbit.
When the band played in Newcastle last summer the reception which greeted the once-again dumpy little Koss was genuinely staggering. He obviously loved the adoration, and played up to it continually, coming on fierce and strong.
But again events overtook him and by August he was again in hospital, for the second time in just over a year.

Later, when we met him on the first (or was it the second?) day after he`d been discharged from a nursing home, he wasn`t in altogether bad shape. He told me that he hadn`t been doing an awful lot of dope prior to the illness, just the odd bit of this and that. There was no reason for him to lie since months earlier he`d confessed the sordid details of his Mandrax fits to me, and how for a short period he`d shot up heroin.
What did bother me at that meeting was that certain people seemed to be encouraging him to drink – and this was after doctors had warned him not to. I`m not saying that alcohol was being poured down his throat, but his wine glass was frequently filled. And this was a guy who`d just come out of hospital and had narrowly escaped death.
Considering what had gone down, Koss was soon back on the road, playing British dates in the autumn. A two-month American tour opened in the New Year, and it was from this series of gigs that Paul was returning when he died.
During his ten-week stay in the States, a second Back Street Crawler album was recorded. Called “Second Street” it`s out on Atlantic within the next few weeks.
When I asked Kossoff`s loyal manager, Glover, whether perhaps it had been early for him to be gigging again, he pointed out that the American tour was a relatively easy work-load with no more than three or four consecutive gigs. He also pointed out that Paul`s only interest in life was playing.
So what sort of shape had he been in recently? Fairly good, according to Glover, although he did say there`d been a fair amount of drink in Kossoff`s life recently, particularly before gigs.
“He was a very sensitive guy and he gets very nervous before playing.”

As fate would have it, Koss jammed with his old Free colleagues while in LA recently. And Glover says it`s Bad Company`s Simon Kirke who`ll be most cut up about Paul`s death. In the days, when Bad Company were being formed, there was actually talk of Paul joining Mick Ralphs on guitar within the band, but owing to his health, it just wasn`t on.
As a guitarist, Kossoff was a very special player indeed – as a listen to any of the Free albums will show. His licks were always charged with a vivid intensity, immediately recognisable, and he had the ability to build a solo from something relatively low-key to a raging torrent of sound.
Check out his solo on “Going Down Slow” from the first Free album, “Tons Of Sobs” and you`ll see what I mean.
Clapton once asked Koss how he achieved his unique tremelo sound, and while Koss doesn`t rank in the same peer group, he`s not all that far beyond – if only he`d been able to direct his talent in a better way.
Moreover, he had genuine stage presence, a lion`s mane of hair falling half way down the back of his stocky frame, his right arm crashing down mercilessly on a helpless Les Paul, mouth agape and energy pouring from his speaker stack.
So what went wrong with his personal life?
The answer Glover gives is the Free break-up. Kossoff himself though, put it like this: “I`ve been asking myself a long while, why? I think it`s something to do with my make-up as a person for a start-off… Escapism… to heighten things… masochism even – certainly main-lining is that.
“Once into drugs you get fairly morbid trains of thought – morbid interest in death and dead people. It`s quite horrific at times. I got into all that with Hendrix. Also the feeling of being in slight danger was like a romance. It`s very strange… I started to identify with Hendrix for instance.
“See, it was an escape from playing as well, `cause that`s a big responsibility in itself…”
Whatever, Koss is dead. He gave a lot of people many a buzz. Next time someone glamorises hard drugs, remember him.

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I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!

This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Bonnie Raitt, Kevin Ayers, Eddie and the Hot Rods, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Gary Glitter, Rod Stewart, Donald Byrd, Shel Talmy, Neil Young, Man.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be 15 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.

 

 

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ARTICLE ABOUT Paul Kossoff (Free) FROM NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, February 15, 1975

One of the great musical talents who died too young were Paul Kossoff. He died from heroin-related heart problems and it is quite eerie to read this interview with him, in print a year before his untimely death. He was cremated and interred at the Golders Green Crematorium. His epitaph reads “All Right Now”.

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No, Paul Kossoff didn`t win any of our 1975 pollawards, though he must have taken more than a passing interest in the fortunes of his former associates in Bad Company. In fact, about all he`s done in the past two years is lie low, struggling with a drug habit of terrifying proportions. Here he tells Steve Clarke how he climbed…

OUT OF THE WISHING WELL

Throw down your guns, you might shoot yourself
Or is that what you`re trying to do
Put up a fight you believe to be right
And someday the sun will shine through

You`ve always been a good friend of mine
But you`re always saying farewell
And the only time when you`re satisfied
Is with your feet in the wishing well

Paul Rodgers wrote these lyrics some time in 1972 with Paul Kossoff in mind, the guitarist with whom he`d spent the last four years of his professional life in Free. “Wishing Well” gave Free their last singles hit and pinpointed one of the reasons why Free had fallen apart – Kossoff`s drug problem.
Koss, as he`s affectionately known by those close to him, had had it in him to join the ranks of Great English Rock Guitarists (hopefully he still has). Hadn`t Clapton himself sought Kossoff`s advice on just how he achieved his unique tremelo sound, when as part of Blind Faith, who were topping the bill over Free on the latter`s first American tour in 1969, he`d seen Koss play in a New York club?
“They (Blind Faith) came to see us and we were dead nervous, what with them sitting twenty yards away. Afterwards Clapton came round and said, `How do you do that tremolo?` I looked at him and said, `You must be joking` cause that`s exactly how I felt – I thought he was taking the piss, but he wasn`t,” is the incident as Kossoff remembers it.

But instead of establishing himself as the kind of guitarist who everyone would want on their session, he became further and further embroiled with heavy drugs after the initial Free split in 1970, so that Paul Kossoff became, as one person involved with Island Records at the time said, something of a bad joke.
Kossoff`s performance on Free`s debut “Tons Of Sobs” album had made it clear that here was one of England`s most promising blues-based guitarists. THat was in 1968 and Kossoff was a mere 18. As Free developed it became apparent that Kossoff had a style all his own; intense screaming lead phrases, coupled with menacing power chords.
He looked pretty startling too, with a lion`s mane of hair falling half way down the back of his small stocky frame, while Kossoff`s stance was the kind rock dreams are made of; his right arm crashing mercilessly down on a helpless black Les Paul, his face a mess of contortions (“I don`t contort my face deliberately when I play, it would probably be hard not to do it”) as the notes howled their way out of the Marshall stacks.
Kossoff had an unlikely background for a rock musician being the son of actor David Kossoff, a man whose public life has always been spiced with a certain religious ambience. And when Koss landed up in court in autumn 1973 to face a charge for driving under the influence of drugs or drink, his father was there to speak up for his wayward son.

Koss remembers the bust, “They found various things on me – some tyranol (a sleeping tablet), and what I thought was a phial of cocaine, though it turned out to be something else that wasn`t a restricted drug, so I wasn`t charged for possession.”
Instead the guitarist was fined £200 on a driving charge, on condition that he took hospital treatment for his problem. If he`d refused it`s likely that a prison sentence would have been effected.
Koss spent three weeks in hospital, and by March 1974 he was “straight” again. His good health lasted some three months, then once more his life became dominated by dope.
“I didn`t start all the drug stuff when I was with Free – that came afterwards. I just came to a standstill and got swept up by something else. I went through just about everything in the last couple of years, and ended up mainlining for a short period which I stopped because that was it, the end,” Koss told me last week.

A few days earlier the guitarist had been gigging with another of Island`s musicians, John Martyn, at Bristol University and at London`s Victoria Palace where the gig was attended by Kossoff`s family. So glad was his father to see Paul on stage again that he`d sent his son a telegram.
Although only contributing to a couple of Martyn`s numbers, his decision to play once more in front of an audience is hopefully a turning point in Kossoff`s career, and he`ll continue gigging with Martyn for the remainder of the tour.
This time Koss has been straight a month, and although it`s simply not on to describe the guitarist, now 24, as freshfaced, he does look healthy, and bears little resemblance to the person I interviewed in 1973. Then Kossoff`s speech was little more than a whisper, his appearance tatty and his manner one that is most conveniently referred to as distant. Last week his eyes were bright, his conversation eloquent and punctuated by mischievous laughter. He`d just had his hair cut, and maybe it was just chance that his visit to the hair-dressers coincided with his first meeting with a journalist and photographer for a long time, but…

As he quickly points out, he`s been “straight” before, but goes on to say that it feels different this time, “Because I`ve started playing again. I`m happy, you know? I just feel happy. It seems that possibilities are opening up again in front of me, and I`m looking forward instead of back.”
Johnny Glover, the ex-Spencer Davies roadie who managed Free throughout their entire career, and who still manages Koss, agrees, “He`s got things he wants to do this time. Also he`s moving from his house off Portobello Road. People would just pour in there with dope, and basically he`s a weak character when it comes to dope.” Kossoff is spending his time between moving at Glover`s house.
Although Koss got into a few pills in his Golder`s Green mod days, it wasn`t until the first Free split that drugs began to play a major part in his life. Says Glover, “Simon and Koss didn`t want to break the band up, they would have been happy to play in Free forever. The split hit Paul worst of all – it took his life away.”
Kirke and Kossoff did in fact stay together to cut the “Kossoff, Kirke, Tetsu and Rabbit” album while Rodgers and Fraser had their own shortlived bands, Peace and Toby respectively.

Kossoff himself doesn`t think his reasons for getting further and further into hard drugs are quite that simple: “I`ve been asking myself a long time, Why? I think it`s something to do with my make-up as a person for a start-off. Suddenly I wasn`t travelling about. Suddenly I wasn`t playing. All the natural highs that I was used to had somehow disappeared, and I was almost led by hand into it.”
Elaborating on the possible reasons he says, “Escapism…to heighten things…masochism even – certainly main-lining is that. I don`t think I was attracted in the first place anyway – obviously I was given some and it snowballed.
“Once into drugs you get into fairly morbid trains of thought – morbid interest in death and dead people, stuff like that. It`s quite horrific at times. I got into all that with Hendrix. Also the feeling of being in slight danger was like a romance. It`s very strange…I started to identify with Hendrix for instance. I spent more time listening and dreaming than playing.
“See, it was an escape from playing as well, cause that`s a big responsibility in itself. You have to prove yourself. I didn`t want to pick up a guitar. I felt wrong with it for a long time. It was very heavy on the head. I got it well out of proportion.”

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Musically, Koss didn`t do a lot between the original Free split in 1970, and their reformation in `72, with the exception of the “Kossoff, Kirke, Tetsu and Rabbit” album, and attempts to get his own solo album together (when “Back Street Crawler” eventually came out in `73 the work on it had been scattered over a couple of years), plus the odd session like those in Atlanta for Jim Capaldi`s first solo record “Oh How We Danced”.
After working on the sessions, Kossoff flew to Los Angeles for a holiday, and according to somebody who was around the guitarist at this time, was stopped nightly by cops on Sunset Boulevard for his somewhat erratic driving. The fifth or sixth night that this happened, the police arrested him. After spending the night in a Los Angeles jail, the charges of drunken driving were dropped on the condition that Kossoff would take the next flight from Atlanta back home.
Kossoff is reported to have been doing a lot of cocaine at the time, and it`s said that he got through a thousand dollars in just one day on nothing in particular.

But, as he acknowledges himself, his biggest problem was mandies, “I used to wake up in the morning and take three, and carry  on through the day,” he says, forcing the words out of his mouth very quickly, as though he`d rather not talk so explicitly about the problem.
“I remember falling on my stereo or something and cracking my head open. I was taking so many mandies that when I stopped taking them about five days later I`d have what was very similar to an epileptic fit, though it wasn`t. It was like a withdrawal, only suddenly, like that…” He snaps his fingers to demonstrate the suddeness of these attacks.
“I`d be on the floor – smash, smash, smash – terrible. That`s were I got that scar from,” he says pointing to his forehead. “I knocked two teeth out, and there`s another scar here,” he points to somewhere above his hair-line.
“It was ridiculous.”
When Free re-formed to record “Free at Last” in 1972, it was partly to rescue Kossoff who, in his own words, was still very shakey.
“I really didn`t want to do it. Or rather, I wanted to do it, but I really couldn`t take it. It was very unpleasant. There was a lot of pressure on me – Paul wanted to get me well and I believe he figured that if he got me up and playing that would do it. And there was pressure from Island. I didn`t stand a chance. I had to do it. They sort of dragged me out of my pit.”

Glover goes as far to say that “I conned him into coming back into the band, it was done almost to get Paul out of the drug thing. If we worked all the time we thought it would get it out of him.”
In terms of the actual quality of gigs the reformation was only a partial success. After several months Fraser quit, and Tetsu and Rabbit were brought into the band (it was Kossoff who later put The Faces onto Tetsu). The majority of a British tour had to be cancelled after Kossoff fell over and broke his foot during a sound-check at Newcastle City Hall, and at a gig at The Albert Hall, Koss broke a string and couldn`t retune his guitar. As Glover diplomatically puts it, “The playing wasn`t too great then.”
Of that period in Free, Kossoff says himself, “I got out of it a few times on stage, and I`ve fallen over and not been able to do gigs. I feel really crap about all that.”
Eventually it got to the stage where Free had to undertake a Japanese tour with Rodgers playing guitar himself, while Kossoff stayed at home. And for Free`s last ever gigs, supporting Traffic in early `73, Free took former Osibisa guitarist Wendell Richardson along to America.

Kossoff began to find it difficult to get other musicians to work with him. Glover; “He got himself a bad reputation and people didn`t want to play with him.”
Jess Roden, who sang and co-wrote one of the cuts on “Back Street Crawler” with Koss, agrees; “He has been a difficult person to know through the years. When we did the things for his album he was standing up and coherent, but he was still into a lot of naughty things. People haven`t been able to rely on him. I`ve always believed he was a magical guitar player but if he came in the studio falling down there`s not much you could do. I think if he jams around he`ll be able to settle down again. We`d like him to jam with us. I asked him to come down last night, but he didn`t have any transport.”
Kossoff himself is aware of his reputation as unreliable; “It`s another one of the things you want to escape from – the guilt -because I feel I`ve let all sorts of people down all over the place for a long period. It`s something that`s hard to get over as well.”

According to Glover, Kossoff and his father have been very close recently, and the latter has taken an active interest in his son`s problems, although, again according to Glover, David Kossoff wasn`t always aware of Paul`s problem.
There has been considerable financial help from father to son, as Koss had got to the stage where he`d sold eleven of his guitars to pay for dope, and was running out of money fast.
“Obviously he was getting very concerned about the whole situation,” says Kossoff of his father`s attitude to his involvement with dope. “He was getting desperate. He didn`t do what you think a lot of parents might do in the circumstances, he didn`t shut me out of his life. A lot of parents would close the doors on you. My parents didn`t do that. They were always willing to help in any way they could.”
A former employee of Island Records goes so far as to say that Paul wouldn`t be alive today if it wasn`t for his father, saying, “He`s lucky he had his old man around. His Dad came up and rescued the kid.”
During the past two years Kossoff`s performances have been limited to say the least, amounting to a couple of slightly bizarre gigs with the late Graham Bond, and one rehearsal with the abortive Frankie Miller/Andy Fraser band, which at the time also included drummer Mike Kelly.

He misses working in front of an audience a great deal, something which his recent work with John Martyn has really brought home to him. “There`s such a lot of difference between playing off-stage and on, because I always play to the people, always have. I`ve just realised that when I get up there they open me up, and in turn I try and open them up.”
After the John Martyn tour, Kossoff plans to work with an eight piece outfit calling themselves The Basing Street Band who are getting themselves together for a one-off university tour, and after that his own band.
“I`ve been known to say this a number of times,” he says, as though already envisaging the wave of cynicism that greets his periodic announcements that a new Kossoff band is imminent.
His feelings towards the whole Bad Company success story seem devoid of envy or bitterness; if he`s missed the boat then it`s his own fault, is his way of thinking on that situation. He does, however, think that Free were a much better band than Bad Company.

“They somehow have more appeal than Free ever had. Maybe it`s because they`re better handled. It comes across that way. It doesn`t bother me that Paul and Simon have had such a lot of success recently, I just hope they`re happy. I`d like to be playing with them and I will do again. I know that. We`re just that close.”
Does he see a lot of them then?
“No. But whenever we do meet there`s always sparks of some sort flying.”
Kossoff did in fact see Bad Company at The Rainbow before Christmas, which must have been quite a poignant moment for him. Was he impressed with what he saw?
“Yeah I was. I enjoyed it for what it was, though Mick Ralphs doesn`t knock me out.”
Why?
“I don`t know. He seems to…I don`t know how frank you want me to be.”
Very frank.
A long pause before…”Mick Ralphs has got all the notes and the technique. He doesn`t have much drive though. Mind you I`m very fussy. He`s taken a lot of things I used to play in fact, and made them sound a bit watery. That`s my opinion. It`s not big-headedness or anything like that.”
I know what he means. I hope he gets up and proves it though.

Queen on the rise to superstardom.

Queen on the rise to superstardom.

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: Led Zeppelin, Pete Kleinow, Caravan, Montrose, Peter Hammill, Blue Öyster Cult, Alice Cooper, Lenny Bruce, Eric Clapton, Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, Millie Jackson, Richard Digance, Bev Bevan (ELO), Gene Vincent, Charley Pride.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail, if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be around or upwards of 20 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.