By Ken Sharp
Bad Company testimonials from rock ‘n’ roll’s elite:
Joe Perry: When I first heard Bad Company, it was the song “Can’t Get Enough.” You didn’t hear really good rock songs on the radio in the Top 10, but that was one of the exceptions. In the manner that Bad Company put their songs together, with that element of R&B and soul, they distilled the best of what rock ‘n’ roll is about. For me, the simplest stuff hits you the hardest and Bad Company had that simplicity that really worked for them. That kind of music sounds great in a club or a stadium because it’s reduced to its essence. As a guitar player, Mick Ralphs was an inspiration to me. He had that sense of melody in his playing that’s really important. His playing is just right for a band like Bad Company. It’s not about being fast or the notes you play, a lot of it’s about the notes you don’t play. Mick’s solos are part of the hooks of the songs as much as Paul’s singing. Bad Company’s stuff sticks to your ribs; you hum along to not just the song but the solos in the way that you don’t do with a lot of guitar players. The band all had one vision and it worked together. When I was thinking about a singer for the Joe Perry Project, I picked Ralph Morman because of the similarities with his voice and Paul Rodgers. I’ve always said my favorite singer besides Steven (Tyler) was Paul Rodgers. Paul has a way of singing that it’s so intimate; almost like’s he’s talking to you. One of my favorite Bad Company records is “Burnin’ Sky,” that one’s really atmospheric; I love that one and “Master of Ceremony.” To me it sounds like something they just laid down and it just kind of poured out. Bad Company was great in the ‘70s and they still are. I got to tour with them a few years ago in England, and it was a dream come true to hear those songs every night. There’s nothing better than playing with one of your favorite bands on the road. I saw them a couple of times in the ‘70s and their sound filled the hall because of the way the songs were written and performed. That’s hard to do.
Brian May (Queen): Bad Company — a bolt from the blue! We — boys of Queen— grew up on Free, of course, led by the wonderful soulful vocals of Paul Rodgers. The “Fire and Water” album was one of our Bibles. When Free broke up, we felt a sense of loss. But it’s clear as day in my memory — while Queen were on tour in the States, we heard rumors of Paul and magnificent drummer Simon Kirke forming a new band with Mott veteran/creative guitarist Mick Ralphs. It already had to be great! We then heard Led Zep’s Peter Grant had signed them up — and then suddenly the Bad Co. album appeared at No. 1 in the U.S. charts, and “Can’t Get Enough” was all over rock radio. We felt joy and pride. The album was great, of course, and is still well up in the playlist. Years later I had the privilege of touring with Paul as our singer and one of my greatest joys was performing some of those wonderful songs from the Free/Bad Co. catalogue with “The Man.” Amazing. Gems of rock!
Gary Rossington (Lynyrd Skynyrd): To me, Bad Company is one of the best bands ever. Back in the days when Skynyrd was just getting started and playing local clubs, we saw Free in Jacksonville, Florida, and they inspired us to no end. We really got serious after we saw them. Paul Rodgers was always one of my favorite singers — we all just loved him to death. He’s one of the best singers ever. As for what makes Bad Company so special, it comes down to the whole energy within the band. They were just so good and they have so many classic songs, from “Can’t Get Enough” to “Shooting Star” to “Seagull.” The members of Skynyrd — me, Ronnie (Van Zant) and Allen Collins – visited the studio when Bad Company was recording “Shooting Star” and it made us cry. They explained that the lyrics were kind of about the late Paul Kossoff who was the lead guitarist in Free. It was a really touching song. We were there when Mick Ralphs played the guitar solo on that song and we were cheering him on. Then afterwards, we went outside to Paul’s car and there were a bunch of original Ray Charles albums in his trunk. We spoke about how Ray Charles was such a big influence on both him and Ronnie (Van Zant). We liked the band so much that we named a boat that Ronnie and I owned “Bad Company” because that was a cool name for people fishing for bass, plus it was a nod to a great band that we loved. In fact, we played a few shows with Bad Company in the ‘70s. At the time, we were having a lot of fun together after the shows, too. Those were crazy times. We were fans of each other and cheered each other on.
Lou Gramm: From the first time I heard “All Right Now,” “Fire & Water” and “Mr. Big” I became an immediate Free and a Paul Rodgers fan. Paul was the vocalist that most influenced me as a young singer. The definitive rock voice with flexibility and conviction always has been and always will be Paul Rodgers.
Joe Elliott (Def Leppard): Bad Company was just a phenomenal outfit. They were tight. They were succinct. There wasn’t much fat on them. Bad Company was blues influenced but they weren’t a blues band in the sense of B.B. King or Joe Bonamassa. They were playing classic rock music with their feet firmly planted in the blues. As a kid growing up, when you get over the initial hurt of two of your favorite bands splitting up — Free and Mott the Hoople — but elements of those two bands join forces and create a new group called Bad Company, then you’ve got the best of both worlds. There was this Zeppelin connection to them so you knew this was something special. Their first album is genius — “Can’t Get Enough” became a huge hit and helped them crack the States. But for me, my favorite Bad Company album by a country mile is “Run with the Pack.” It was the first album by Bad Company that I bought. Mick Ralphs is such an understated guitarist. Back in the ‘70s, the licks he played on “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad” and so many others was incredible. Simon Kirke is the drummer who proves the point that you only need four drums. His drumming on things like “Run with the Pack,” “Silver, Blue & Gold” and “Sweet Lil’ Sister” is just superb. And no doubt about it, Paul Rodgers is the best white rock blues singer of all time. There’s nobody that can touch him. You can hear Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding, all that classic R&B, soul and Stax in Paul’s singing. Even though I don’t sound like Paul Rodgers, he’s one of the reasons I became a singer. I have massive admiration for him and I’m in awe of the way he’s kept his voice; the guy still sounds like he did when he was 18!
Paul Stanley (KISS): The qualities that make for an exceptional singer may seem obvious but one key ingredient is actually elusive in the equation. Pitch and the ability to maneuver through a melody are a given. What makes for greatness is the ability to connect with a lyric and communicate the sentiment and emotion to the listener. That’s what sets Paul Rodgers apart from the multitude of tune carriers. A great singer must be a great storyteller. From the first notes of his entrance on “All Right Now” I was drawn in and wanted to hear what he had to say. With his work in Free and Bad Company, his voice is the perfect blend of velvet and whiskey, and he remains a voice that most singers not only respect but emulate in one form or another. Paul Rodgers is the goods.
Joe Walsh (Eagles): I’ve known Paul and Simon for years and as a matter of fact, we’ve been thrown out of some of the finest hotels in the world! I respect them both as musicians and consider them dear friends.
Slash: Bad Company is one of those bands that I was listening to way before I picked up the guitar, mostly because Bad Company was just cool sounding. They had a great, soulful rock ‘n’ roll sound; great tones, great songs and, of course, Paul Rodgers, who is one of the all time great rock ‘n’ roll/blues singers. So I’ve always loved Bad Company. But when I started playing guitar and actually learning how to play some of their songs, then they had a big influence on me – the way that Mick Ralphs played guitar, and a lot of their riffs. I learned a lot about dynamics and song arrangement from Bad Company. I’ve gotten a chance to work with Paul Rodgers since then, and he is genuinely one of the most brilliant singers that I have ever heard. It was an honor to actually work toe-to-toe with him. Without a doubt, Bad Company was an important band in the history of great rock ‘n’ roll.