Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
UK blues-rock group named after '72 western movie. Formed '73 by ex-Free members Paul Rodgers (piano, songwriting and vocals) and drummer Simon Kirke; recruited Mick Ralphs on guitar and piano from Mott The Hoople, Boz Burrell (b '46, Lancs) on bass from King Crimson to form 'supergroup'. They played everything except sax and some backing vocals on own LPs; even had the luxury of lead- singer-turned-bassist Burrell singing harmony. Eponymous first LP was manifesto for straight-ahead macho-rock swagger; titles like 'Can't Get Enough' (single no. 5 USA, no. 15 UK), 'Ready For Love' epitomized approach, no. 1 in USA. Steady rather than spectacular success with shrewd management of Led Zeppelin supremo Peter Grant, on whose label Swan Song they came out in USA (on Island in UK). Next two LPs Straight Shooter '75 and Run With The Pack '76 were transatlantic top five albums; 'Feel Like Makin' Love' from Shooter second and last UK top 20 single, but there was more singles success in USA. Progressively more predictable, with none of Free's rough edges, but good value on stage; three-year gap to Rough Diamonds suggests they felt played out.
The appearance of Rodgers's solo album Cut Loose '84 on Atlantic confirmed split; he teamed with Led Zep guitarist Jimmy Page in another supergroup the Firm; later formed the Law with drummer Kenny Jones for one album. Kirke played in little-known Wildlife; Burrell sessioned, notably with ex- Family man Roger Chapman; Ralphs went back to the bars with his own band: Ralphs's solo Take This '85 was followed by Bad Company hits compilation Ten From Six '86; he re-formed the group with ex-Ted Nugent Brian Howe replacing Rodgers for Fame And Fortune '86, Dangerous Age '88. Rodgers said of Kirke that he could drum like a hurricane, but also slow down 'almost to nothing. A drummer in another of my bands couldn't. He'd just stop.' Kirke was still part of a Bad Company touring USA '97. Tony Blair, then leader of UK's Labour Party, Prime Minister (1997), told radio's Desert Island Discs that if he had been able to sing like Paul Rodgers he would not have ended up Prime Minister-in-waiting, while UK band Reef chose their name as an anagram of Free; Rodgers still has to sing Free and Bad Company songs on tour; his further solo albums incl. Muddy Waters Blues '93 on Victory, a tribute with a different lead guitar on each track incl. Jeff Beck, Steve Miller, David Gilmour, Gary Moore, Brian May etc; The Hendrix Set on Victory and Now '97 on SPV Recordings.