Bad Company is an English rock supergroup founded in 1973 by two former Free band members — singer Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke — as well as Mott the Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs and King Crimson bassist Boz Burrell. Peter Grant, who managed British rock band Led Zeppelin, agreed to manage the band (he managed Bad Company until 1982, when Swan Song Records folded). Bad Company enjoyed great success throughout the 1970s. Many of their singles, such as "Bad Company", "Can't Get Enough", "Good Lovin' Gone Bad", and "Feel Like Makin' Love", remain popular with rockers of both the past and present, and their hits remain staples of classic rock radio.
Original Paul Rodgers era (1973–1982)
There was a rumor that singer Paul Rodgers was so enamored with the Jeff Bridges film Bad Company that he chose to name his band after it, but Rodgers, in an interview with Spinner.com, explained that the idea came from a book of Victorian morals that showed a picture of an innocent kid looking up at an unsavory character leaning against a lamppost. The caption read "beware of bad company."
Bad Company consisted of four seasoned musicians: two former members of Free, singer Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke; former Mott the Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs; and ex-King Crimson bassist Boz Burrell. The band signed to Swan Song Records/Atlantic Records in North America, and with Island Records in other countries. (Island Records had until that time been the U.K. home to both Free and King Crimson, as well as to Mott the Hoople for their first four albums; Atlantic, in turn, released King Crimson's and Mott's early albums in the U.S. through a licensing agreement with Island.) Atlantic/Warner Music would later acquire the non-North American rights to the band's catalogue.
The 1974 debut album Bad Company was an international hit, eventually going Platinum. The album peaked at No. 1 on Billboard's Pop Albums chart (North America) and included two singles that reached the top 20 charts, "Can't Get Enough" at No. 5 in 1974 and "Movin' On" at No. 19 in early 1975.
In 1975, their second album, Straight Shooter, reached No. 3 on Billboard's Pop Albums chart and also went platinum. The album also spawned two hit singles, "Good Lovin' Gone Bad" at No. 36 and the slower "Feel Like Makin' Love" at No. 10.
Run With the Pack was Bad Company's third Platinum-certified album, reaching No. 5 on the Billboard chart and featured the cover song "Young Blood," which peaked at No. 20 on the Pop charts. Bad Company scheduled a British tour with the band of former Free member Paul Kossoff, Back Street Crawler to support Bad Company's 1976 album Run With the Pack as well as a new album by Back Street Crawler. This double headline tour was scheduled to commence on 25 April 1976, but was halted due to Kossoff's death on 19 March 1976.
1977's Burnin' Sky fared the poorest of the first four that charted: the album's title song, "Burnin' Sky", only reached No. 78 on the Pop charts.
1979's Desolation Angels fared better than its predecessor, giving the band their latest Top 5 Platinum-selling album. Desolation Angels also embellished the group's sound with synthesisers and strings. The album reached No. 3 on the Billboard charts and again had two charting singles: "Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy" at No. 13 and "Gone Gone Gone" at No. 56.
By the end of the 1970s, however, the band grew increasingly disenchanted with playing large stadiums. In addition, Peter Grant lost interest in the group, and in management in general, after Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham died on 25 September 1980. In the words of Simon Kirke, "Peter was definitely the glue which held us all together and in his absence we came apart".
A three-year hiatus from the studio ended with the release of Rough Diamonds in 1982. This would be the sixth and final LP in the group's original incarnation until four new songs were recorded in 1998. The album was the worst selling Bad Company album of those that had Paul Rodgers as the front man. The album peaked at No. 26 and featured "Electricland" (#74), that reached No. 2 on the newly created Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.
After the release of Rough Diamonds, they disbanded. Mick Ralphs said, "Paul wanted a break and truthfully we all needed to stop. Bad Company had become bigger than us all and to continue would have destroyed someone or something. From a business standpoint, it was the wrong thing to do, but Paul's instinct was absolutely right".
Despite being famous for their live shows packing the largest stadiums for almost a decade, Bad Company did not release an official live album of performances from this time period until the 2006 album Live in Albuquerque 1976. The recordings were made by Mick Ralphs, who regularly taped the group's shows and utilized the tapes to critique the band's performances. Bootlegs of Bad Company's live performances from this period were also available, including "Boblingen Live" (1974), "Live in Japan" (1975) and "Shooting Star Live at the L.A. Forum" (1975).
Brian Howe era (1986–1994)
In 1985 Mick Ralphs and Simon Kirke decided to reteam for a new project. However, the following year, their label, Atlantic Records, insisted they resume the Bad Company name. But Paul Rodgers was already engaged with a new supergroup called The Firm. So the remaining two members hired ex-Ted Nugent vocalist Brian Howe as the new lead singer, Steve Price as the new bass player and Greg Dechert (ex-Uriah Heep) on keyboards. Howe's vocal style brought more of a pop-rock sound to the band, as opposed to Rodgers' more bluesier sound. The band hired Foreigner producer Keith Olsen to produce the new lineup's initial album Fame and Fortune (October 1986). Reflecting more of the rock style of the mid-80s, the album was laden with keyboards, unlike previous Bad Company albums, and was only modestly commercially successful, failing to break the Top 100. The single "This Love" managed to reach No. 85 on the Singles charts, but was not the success the band hoped for.
Burrell agreed to rejoin the band and was name checked on Fame and Fortune, even though he did not play on it. But just before the supporting tour, he left once again. Price then returned. In 1987 Dechert was dropped from the lineup as the group decided not to play up the keyboards in their sound as much. They toured that year supporting Deep Purple.
For the next Howe-era album, Dangerous Age (August 1988), the band replaced Olsen with producer Terry Thomas, who got rid of most of the keyboards and returned the band to a guitar-driven sound. Thomas also added small amounts of keyboards as well as rhythm guitars and backing vocals and wrote most of the songs with the band. Dangerous Age fared better than its predecessor, spawning several MTV videos and the AOR hits "No Smoke Without A Fire" (#4), "One Night" (#9) and "Shake It Up" (#9, also No. 89 on the Hot 100 Singles charts). The album went gold and hit the Top 60. For the Dangerous Age tour, the band was augmented by Larry Oakes (keyboards, guitar), who had also played with Foreigner. Price and Oakes left at the conclusion of the tour.
The band's next album, Holy Water, written mostly by Brian Howe and Terry Thomas, released in June 1990 and also produced by Thomas, was enormously successful both critically and commercially, attaining Top 40 and platinum status by selling more than one million copies. Holy Water was the band's first album on the Atlantic subsidiary Atco Records. The album spun off the singles: "If You Needed Somebody" (#16), the title track "Holy Water" (#89) and "Walk Through Fire" (#28). "Holy Water" also hit No. 1 for 2 weeks on the AOR charts with "If You Needed Somebody" reaching No. 2. The album received significant radio airplay (five songs made the AOR charts in all) and spawned several video hits. Felix Krish played bass on the CD while Paul Cullen was recruited for live shows. Mick Ralphs, who was taking care of personal and family matters, sat out for most of the Holy Water tour, although he did perform on the album. Ralphs was replaced on the road and in the videos by ex-Crawler guitarist Geoff Whitehorn. Ralphs returned later on during the tour and Whitehorn joined Procol Harum where he still plays to this day. Also joining at this time was ex-ASAP guitarist Dave "Bucket" Colwell as second guitarist. Heralded as one of the top 5 grossing tours of 1991, and supported by Damn Yankees, that year was one in which saw many other rock acts facing a downturn in concert attendance brought on by rising ticket prices and economic recession.
It was widely rumoured all summer that Howe and other members of the band, which he helped revive 3 years earlier, had been bickering over financial matters. Howe was rumoured to be leaving the band and ex-Kansas singer Steve Walsh was to take over for the remainder of the tour but Atlantic Records did not agree given the success of Holy Water and Howe was asked to stay on.
The final studio album of the Howe era, Here Comes Trouble (September 1992), featured the Top 40 hit "How About That" (#38) and "This Could Be The One" (#87). The album went gold. Before touring in support of Here Comes Trouble, the band added ex-Foreigner, Roxy Music and Small Faces bassist Rick Wills and Colwell, a protégé of Ralphs, was now a full-time member. The band recorded a live album, What You Hear Is What You Get: The Best of Bad Company, on the Here Comes Trouble tour. The critically acclaimed album, released in November 1993, featured live versions of hits from both the Rodgers and Howe eras of the band.
Howe left the band in 1994 saying "Leaving Bad Company was not a difficult decision. It had got to the point where nobody was contributing anything to songwriting and quite frankly, the band was getting very very sloppy live. I quite simply, along with Terry Thomas, got tired of doing all the work and then getting nothing but resentment for it from Mick and Simon."
Robert Hart era (1995–1997)
After Howe's departure, the remaining foursome hired ex-Distance vocalist Robert Hart to take over lead vocal duties. Unlike Howe (who had a different style and a higher range), Hart was closer in voice and an imitator of Rodgers. The new lineup released Company of Strangers in June 1995 which came out on EastWest Records and peaked at No. 159 on the Album charts. It produced the AOR hit "Down And Dirty" (#17). Stories Told & Untold was released in October 1996 and bombed commercially. The album contains re-recordings of seven of Bad Company's biggest hits ("told" stories), and seven new songs ("untold" stories). Many of these were recorded in Nashville and featured guest appearances by country stars such as Vince Gill. For their 1996 tour the Bad Company lineup was: Kirke, Hart, Rick Wills and Dave "Bucket" Colwell. Ralphs sat out this tour due to health issues.
Second Paul Rodgers era (1998–2002)
On 4 December 1995 the four original members of Bad Company had come together for the first time in thirteen years to attend the funeral of their former manager, Peter Grant. This would be a precursor of things to come. In 1998 Rodgers and Kirke were discussing release of an extensive compilation album with a biography and pictures for the fans. Rodgers decided the album should include four new songs. He finally reunited with the other three original members in the studio to record these four new tracks. The reunion was short, but it produced a Top 20 AOR hit with "Hey Hey" (#15). The second new song "Hammer of Love" peaked at No. 23. The new tracks appeared on the compilation album called The Original Bad Company Anthology released in March 1999, which only charted at No. 189. Many fans were displeased with the track listing which left off many favourites, although a number of rare tracks did appear. The reunited original foursome toured in the summer of '99 for only 30 dates in the US. The shows drew well. The following year, Ralphs announced he was retiring from live performing and Burrell left again as well bringing the reunion to an end.
Paul Rodgers again rejoined Kirke in 2001 for a tour that kicked off in the US and included co-headlining dates with Styx and Billy Squier as special guest. Wills and Colwell took over for the departed Ralphs and Burrell. The tour did decent business then moved to the UK. The band secured some dates on the West Coast of the US to record a new live album and DVD Merchants of Cool, which featured the song "Joe Fabulous", which hit No. 1 on radio and the top 20 on Mainstream Rock Radio in the US in its debut week. The Merchants of Cool promotional tour in 2002 once again featured Kirke and Rodgers as the only original members left. Colwell again took lead guitar and Jaz Lochrie, who had played live and recorded with Paul Rodgers from 1995 on, was on bass. Guest performers at the shows included former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash and Neal Schon of Journey fame. After the 2002 tour, Bad Company went inactive once again as Rodgers returned to his solo career.
Recent events (2005–present)
In 2005 a DVD called Inside Bad Company 1974–1982 was released that reviews Bad Company on stage, on film and on record. It also interviews Simon Kirke and has some live recordings from the 1970s and 1980s. This was an unauthorized release.
In 2005 Paul Rodgers began touring and playing Bad Company songs with Queen. It was stated, including on Brian May's own website, "that Rodgers would be featured with Queen as: Queen + Paul Rodgers, not replacing the late Freddie Mercury". The CD and DVD of their collaboration was released in 2005 called Return of the Champions with songs by Queen, Bad Company and Free. On 28 April 2006 they released a live DVD from their show in Tokyo called Super Live in Japan. There are many bootlegs from nearly every show of the 2005 and 2006 tours in audio, as well as a few in video form.
In 2006 a limited edition CD of 24 carat gold was released of the first Bad Company album (Bad Company). After taking over a year to find the original master tapes, the analog masters were put through a proprietary analog-to-digital converter that remastered the songs for the best possible sound.
Boz Burrell died of a heart attack on 21 September 2006, aged 60, at his home in Spain.
On 6 May 2007 Robert Hart, Dave "Bucket" Colwell and Jaz Lochrie performed in a small pub in Surbiton for The Macmillan Cancer Trust. Performing as Rock and Roll Fantasy, they offered a show of Bad Company songs for an audience of just a few hundred. They were joined by Mick Ralphs. Chris Grainger was the drummer.
In 2008 "Mick Ralphs' Bad Company" toured in the following formation: Robert Hart, Mick Ralphs, Dave "Bucket" Colwell, Jaz Lochrie, Gary "Harry" James.
On 2 July 2008 it was announced that the original remaining line-up of Bad Company would do a one-off gig at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida on 8 August 2008. For this show, the surviving three were joined by Howard Leese (guitar, formerly of Heart) and bassist Lynn Sorenson. According to Paul Rodgers, they did this gig in order to "protect the legacy they have built and cement the rights to the trademark Bad Company for touring." The live performance was released on Blu-ray, DVD, and CD on 9 February 2010 and the tracks include 17 Bad Company hits. Rodgers dedicated "Gone, Gone, Gone" to original bassist Boz Burrell, who died in 2006.
Paul Rodgers, Mick Ralphs and Simon Kirke (again joined by Leese and Sorenson) performed together again during the summer of 2009 playing 10 shows throughout the United States. The band then played shows in the UK during April 2010 before embarking on tours through North America and Japan that lasted from July to October. Mick Ralphs was forced to pull out of the Japan dates, as he was undergoing hip replacement surgery. Leese handled lead guitar for the Japanese tour.
After this, Rodgers had said that at the moment "there will be no further plans for Bad Company", explaining that he was working on solo material, however he hadn't ruled out more activities from the band. Speaking to The Times Record, he said: "We aren't saying never - we never want to say never. We aren't putting Bad Company to bed, as they say, but the band definitely is something that will be placed onto the back burner."
In March 2011 a budget live release Extended Versions was issued, taken from the band's UK tour in 2010. The CD debuted at No. 139 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums Chart and featured 10 selections, and climbed as high as No. 84 on the chart. This is the first Bad Company album to chart in 12 years.
In March 2012 it was announced that Bad Company would be performing a short run of European festival dates beginning 9 June at the Sweden Rock Festival in Solvesborg. This would mark the first time in 37 years the band had performed in the European continent, outside the U.K. However, it was announced in May that the German festival dates were cancelled but that the Sweden Rock Festival show was still on.
In March 2013 Bad Company and Lynyrd Skynyrd announced a joint 40th Anniversary Tour commemorating the 40th anniversary of Skynyrd's first album release and Bad Company's formation. Todd Ronning, from Rodgers' solo band, took over bass at this point, playing alongside second guitarist Howard Leese, who was celebrating his fifth year with the band.
On 10 June 2013 Bad Company appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, kicking off their commemorative tour to enthusiastic crowds from coast to coast throughout the United States and Canada.
The South Okanagan Event Centre in Penticton British Columbia Canada, hosted the opening performance of a Paul Rodgers fronted Bad Company show on September 14, 2013 to an enthusiastic crowd.
- Bad Company (1974)
- Straight Shooter (1975)
- Run with the Pack (1976)
- Burnin' Sky (1977)
- Desolation Angels (1979)
- Rough Diamonds (1982)
- Fame and Fortune (1986)
- Dangerous Age (1988)
- Holy Water (1990)
- Here Comes Trouble (1992)
- Company of Strangers (1995)
- Stories Told & Untold (1996)
- Official site
- Simon Kirke official website
- Official Paul Rodgers site
- Mick Ralphs official webpage
- Brian Howe official website
- Concert review
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Image from Discogs