When Bad Company formed in the summer of 1973, they were always likely to be a huge success. Comprising half of the much loved and still missed Free, Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke got together with ex King Crimson bass player Boz Burrell and ex Mott the Hoople axeman, Mick Ralphs. These were seasoned pros who knew their way around the blues rock genre. They also had the massive boost of being signed to Led Zeppelin’s Swansong label.
They took their name from the 1972 Jeff Bridges movie and set out to conquer the world with Ralphs' simple bluesy riffs and Rodgers' achingly lovely honey-and-gravel blues voice.
From day one it worked. It worked big.
The lead single off the album was ‘Can’t Get Enough’ and it set the standard well. Bad Co. was a number 1 hit album in America and 3 in UK. It was easy music to get into. Ideal for driving with the top down, Rodgers infected even the most routine lyrics with soulfulness. High art it wasn’t, but it was an infectious mixture and essential listening.
April 1975 saw the release of the second record Straight Shooter. It was more of the same. Cracking little rockers like ‘Good Lovin’ Gone Bad’, and ‘Shooting Star’ drove the album to the top 3 again. ‘Feel like Makin’ Love’ was essential Friday night make out music in the mid 70’s. Bad Company suddenly was simply huge. However, 1976’s Run with the Pack sold by the truckload but contained no hit singles.
Perhaps there is only so far you can push a limited format. By the time of the release of 1977’s Burnin’ Sky, it was beginning to look like Bad Company had stretched their simple blues rock format as far as they could. However, against all the odds 1979’s Desolation Angels sold really well and went top three helped by the hit single ‘Rock n Roll Fantasy.’ Even 3 years later their final album with Rodgers, Rough Diamonds sold well enough to make top 20.
In 1986 Bad Company reformed with ex Ted Nugent man Brian Howe on vocals. This was run of the mill AOR stuff and not comparable in quality to the strutting classy rock of their first two albums. Even so, 1990’s Holy Water went platinum. They went on to release 4 albums worth of undistinguished rock but it was a testament to the enduring legacy of those early albums, that there was any life left in the Bad Co. animal at all.
In 1998 the original line up got back together for a few tracks on an anthology and went out on a 30 date US tour. Bad Company with Rodger and Ralphs is always an attractive gig, and of course it sold out.
Afterwards Burrell and Ralphs – always a terrible flyer (as anyone who has read Ian Hunter’s Diary of a Rock 'n' Roll Star would already know from his days in Mott the Hoople) retired from touring.
Rodgers and Kirke still carry on, and in the autumn of 2002 even performed for British Prime Minister Tony Blair, himself a big Paul Rodgers fan from his days in his own band ‘Ugly Rumours.’
Bad Company struck a chord with so many fans because they understood from day one that rock 'n' roll is about the groin as much as it is about the soul, which is doubtless the reason why Kid Rock is now cranking out his own version of ‘Feel like Makin’ Love' to a new generation of rock fans.