Bad Company’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy” has, somewhat surprisingly, been reactivated.
Founding members of the group, formed as an all-star collection of British musicians in 1974, got back together for one show last August in Florida — the first time they’d played together in nine years. The reunion was out of necessity, done in order to protect their claim on the Bad Company trademark, but it rekindled enough interest to bring them back together for a 10-show early summer run this year.
“It was a really good show — both the band and the fans were on fire,” recalls singer Paul Rodgers, who had to break away from rehearsals with Queen + Paul Rodgers, who he was working with at the time, to do that date. “It was very authentic playing with the (Bad Company) guys, very much the real deal, I guess.”
The group, Rodgers adds, is also “very proud” of “Hard Rock Live,” the DVD it filmed that night. So, he says, “the idea of releasing the DVD was a reality, and supporting it is also a reality, and I think we really need to go out and do some dates in support of it. But I wanted to keep it to a minimum and keep it somewhat exclusive, too.”
Drummer Simon Kirke, however, is happy Bad Company is playing together again regardless of the reason.
“One show really wasn’t enough,” he says. “It only showed us that we need to do more. I mean, this is the only real Bad Company. We went through other incarnations with varying degrees of success, but you can’t beat the original. This is the real deal.”
This year’s reunion brings back one of the most successful rock bands of the ’70s, a group that was big news from the first word of its formation and benefited from an association with Led Zeppelin — resulting in 12 albums and enduring hits such as “Can’t Get Enough,” “Bad Company,” “Feel Like Makin’ Love” (covered by Kid Rock in 2003), “Young Blood” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy.”
All four of the original band members made names for themselves in other bands — Rodgers and Kirke with Free, guitarist Mick Ralphs with Mott the Hoople and bassist Boz Burrell, who passed away in 2006, with King Crimson. Free had broken up and Rodgers was touring with a new band, Peace, which was opening for Mott the Hoople in 1973.
“Mick and I started noodling around in the band room and we discovered we had a lot in common, which led to us writing together, which led to (Bad Company),” Rodgers, 59, recalls, noting that Ralphs was already considering leaving Mott before the tour.
Enlisting Kirke and Burrell, the new group began working on songs for its first album and also batting around ideas for its name. “We went through all these silly names,” Rodgers says. “Mick and I would phone each other and say some name, whatever silly name we had at the time, then laugh and hang up.
“I’d started to write this song called ‘Bad Company,’ and I phoned him up on day and I said ‘Bad Company’ — and there was no sound on the other end of the line. ‘Hello? Hello?!,’ and he said, ‘Yes! That’s it!’ He had dropped the phone, he was so excited.”
Bad Company’s next move was to find a manager, which Rodgers felt was a crucial decision. “I was thinking big,” he explains. “I said, ‘Who’s the biggest band in the world?’ It was without a doubt Led Zeppelin. Then it was, ‘Well, who’s managing them? Peter Grant.’ So I called Peter Grant.”
The group wound up signing with Grant — on a handshake deal, without a formal contract for the first six months. Grant hooked Bad Company up with Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song Records label, and the first “Bad Company” album was recorded in two weeks with a mobile studio at the Hedley Grange estate in England after Grant shoehorned the group in because Led Zeppelin would be starting its next album later than expected.
Kirke, 59, says that “it was a lot of fun” being part of the Led Zep universe — and, he acknowledges, no small part of Bad Company’s success.
“They were a great bunch of guys,” he says. “And they really took us under their wing. They were the biggest band in the world at the time, and we were the first band signed to their label, so they looked after us — not that we need much guidance because we were pretty seasoned veterans, anyway.
“But we needed to come up with the goods. It wasn’t just the fact we were signed to the biggest band in the world’s label. We had to be a good back to back it up.”
“Bad Company” did just that in 1974. The album hit No. 1 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart and has sold more than 5 million copies. “Can’t Get Enough” and “Movin’ On” were Top 20 hits; other tracks, including “Bad Company” and a remake of Mott’s “Ready For Love,” sung by Rodgers instead of Ralphs, endure as rock radio favorites.
“It was very exciting,” Rodgers remembers. “We were at the right point, really, with a giant machine behind us. The music scene was ready for what we had at that time.”
The original incarnation of Bad Company lasted for 10 years and six albums. Rodgers left in 1982. “There was too much excess in the band,” the singer says, “and I stepped back from that. That made me not part of the team, and it was time for me to move, anyway.” Rodgers moved on to The Firm with Led Zep guitarist Jimmy Page, while Ralphs and Kirke continued Bad Company with singers Brian Howe (from Ted Nugent’s band) and Robert Hart, with Burrell coming in and out of the lineup.
The founding Bad Company quartet reunited in 1998 to tour and record new tracks for “The Original Bad Company Anthology” and a live album, “Merchants of Cool.” But by 2002 Rodgers resumed his solo career, subsequently hooking up with Queen, and Bad Company was again on ice.
Rodgers is circumspect about the prospects for Bad Company to become a going concern again. He’s still tired from touring the world with Queen, and Ralphs, he notes, will be preparing for some Mott the Hoople reunion shows this fall.
“When I get back from (the Bad Company) tour, I’m just gonna get behind the piano and behind my guitar and just chill for a year and play and write material,” he says. “I’m sort of locked into that mode. I’m into that phase at the moment.”
Kirke, however, is hopeful this year’s 10 shows will lead to more group work in the future.
“There’s still a lot of valid music and highclass music amongst the three of us,” he notes. “Just because we’re hurtling through middle age doesn’t mean we can’t play. So, yeah, I think there’ll be more shows and maybe a studio album. That would be nice, ’cause we all have the songs and ... the desire to play is still there.”
Bad Company and the Doobie Brothers perform at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (July 2) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $49.50 and $35 pavilion, $25 lawn with a $75 lawn four-pack. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
...And It Feels So Good
Bad Company isn’t the only band that’s reunited in 2009. Here’s a quick look at others who have buried their hatchets and regrouped this year:
blink-182: After four years apart, the punk trio is heading out for a summer tour, plans to release a new song (“Up All Night”) and then finish its first album since 2003 for a 2010 release. (Aug. 22 at the DTE Energy Music Theatre)
Blur: Now that frontman Damon Albarn and guitarist Graham Coxon have patched things up, Oasis’ favorite rivals are together again for a series of summer shows, including a Hyde Park performance on July 3.
Creed: After an acrimonious split in 2005, Scott Stapp and company have made amends. The hard rocking quartet is finishing work on its first album since 2001, tentatively titled “Full Circle,” and hits the road in early August. (Aug. 25 at the DTE Energy Music Theatre).
The Dead: The former members of the Grateful Dead returned to active duty five years after their last post-Jerry Garcia trek (July 4 at the Rothbury Festival).
Faith No More: The “Epic” San Francisco troupe, one of the early raprock pioneers, is back after 11 years apart and has just started performing live in Europe. Look for more dates and a new album in the near future.
Limp Bizkit: Doing it all for the “Nookie” again after five years apart, the nu metalists have been playing in Europe and have one U.S. date — July 10 in Las Vegas — set so far.
Mott the Hoople: All the not-soyoung dudes will get together for a series of concerts — the first by the original lineup since 1972 — at the Hammersmith Apollo in London. A long-term reunion is not expect.
No Doubt: After two hit solo albums by singer Gwen Stefani, the ska-punkers turned pop sensations are on the road for the first time since 2004 and have started work on a new album slated for next year, (July 3 at the Palace of Auburn Hills).
Over The Rainbow: Ritchie Blackmore shut down Rainbow in 1997, but four of its alumni, including singer Joe Lynn Turner, brought in his son Jurgen “J.R.” Blackmore to play guitar in this new configuration of the band, (July 8 at the DTE Energy Music Theatre).
The Rationals: Scott Morgan will bring his Ann Arbor rock troupe back on stage on July 24 at the Magic Bag in Ferndale to celebrate the release of a new compilation, “Think Rational.”
Sunny Day Real Estate: The Seattle rock group’s original lineup, with current Foo Fighters bassist Nate Mendel, is ending a decade-plus break by reissuing two of its albums, “Diary” and “LP2,” on Sept. 15 and then hitting the road, (Sept. 25 at St. Andrews Hall).
We Are the Fallen: Three of Evanescence’s members on the megaplatinum “Fallen” album, including guitarist and co-writer Ben Moody, have enlisted “American Idol’s” Carly Smithson for their familiar-sounding goth rock. A new song, “Bury Me Alive,” is available for free at the group’s Web site, and a tour starts in September.
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