The story of The Firm begins with Paul Rodgers happy to be off the road and away from the chaos of the music industry.
“I think music changed about that point,” he says. “Music shifted into New Wave and hair metal in the early- to mid-’80s. I try to follow my instincts, and, at that time, my instincts were telling me that it was good to leave Bad Company and come off the road. I built a studio in my house. I didn’t intend to make a solo album when I set up the studio, but I ended up writing the songs, playing all of the instruments and producing the album. Rather than imagining what the drums would do, I decided to just play them. I then played the bass and built the songs up from there.”
The album, titled Cut Loose, re-released last year as a limited-edition 25th anniversary edition, charted but did not make much of an impact. It would not be long, however, before Rodgers would be back in the spotlight.
“I planned to be off the road a lot longer than I was. I had given up touring at that point,” Rodgers laughs. “One day, Jimmy Page popped around to the studio with a wonderful piece of music and asked me to write lyrics for it. It was very dark and atmospheric; the chorus was in a very unique timing that seemed to have an extra beat that was quite challenging to work with. That song became ‘Midnight Moonlight Lady,’ which was the first song we wrote and recorded together.”
It didn’t take long for word to spread that two rock icons were writing songs together. Eric Clapton’s management contacted Rodgers and Page about playing on the ARMS Tour, a benefit for The Faces bass player Ronnie Lane and multiple sclerosis that happened to be the world’s first rock benefit concert or tour.
“They said they heard we were in the studio working together, and they wanted to know if we could come and play for the charity,” recalls Rodgers. “We told them that we didn’t have a band or anything because we were just noodling around. Jimmy was very keen to play live, and I was very less keen. We ended up putting a set together and supporting the cause. It was a great experience. It sort of formalized in our mind that we could form a band if we chose to.”
Rodgers, strange at it may seem, actually had second thoughts about putting the band together. Finally, Page convinced Rodgers to commit to recording two albums and supporting each album with a tour. The biggest hit from the debut album was “Radioactive.”
Rodgers had written the tune for his solo album but left it off; he thought there was something missing. The song needed a signature hook, a grand musical statement. When Rodgers revisited the song, everything fell into place.
“When I was reworking the song for The Firm, I knew I wanted something robotic and weird,” says Rodgers. “I came up with a finger exercise that is like nothing you have ever heard before. It was taught to me by Alexis Corner, a jazz musician in England. You go all the way up the neck and all the way across the neck. I put the solo on forwards, and then I recorded it backwards; I recorded them across each other. It was certainly a unique effect.”
One of the bravest songs on the album was a remake of the classic Righteous Brothers tune “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.” Rodgers tells how it came to be included on the record.
“Jimmy asked me, ‘What song have you always wanted to do that you have never had the opportunity to do?’ I said, ‘You wouldn’t like it. It is not your cup of tea.’ He said, ‘Try me.’ I told him the song, and he said, ‘Let’s give it a shot.&rsqu