Bad Company

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HEAVY LEGENDS: BAD COMPANY / SIMON KIRKE

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Listen to BAD COMPANY while you read.

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Simon Kirke is an icon in drumming circles having made his name in not just one but two legendary British rock bands. Following his UK tour with Bad Company, I was privileged to get the chance to have a conversation with Simon as he looked forward to the promotion of his new solo album and subsequent live dates. I began by addressing the immediate question regarding the health issue which had affected the band’s bassist Mick Ralph’s following the completion of those UK dates. Mick, unfortunately, had suffered a stroke, and despite featuring in the obvious subsequent media coverage, here had been no recent developments or news on the subject.

 

 

 

Simon was able to update me on Mick’s condition in that he is coherent and has some paralysis on his left side which is typical of suffering a stroke but his condition remains a day-day process and is treated as such. Bad Company have one date scheduled for February and for that Howard Leese will be doing guitar duties but he did not inform me who would be stepping in on bass guitar duties.

 

Simon is quite the workaholic but still surprised me when he informed me that although he is currently promoting his next solo album ‘All Because Of You'(out in February)he is actually also writing songs for its follow up. He explained that Bad Company as a band did not have a particularly structured next few months. The nature of the band itself is an on-off one which allowed the band members to pursue and follow other musical projects. They choose not to tour in the winter months which personally frees him up time-wise to concentrate on his solo stuff. Simon told me that his album due next month was recorded in October 2016. It was an album also that he was personally very proud of and that it would feature him doing all the singing in addition to drumming. This would be his third solo album release. For the first two, they were more homegrown quite literally speaking being recorded at his own house. The debut solo release saw Simon playing everything. However, on the second album, he had several New York session musicians contributing but he did this latest album using a band called The Empty Pockets from Chicago who he had played some infrequent live shows with. They are managed by the same manager as Simon and it was recorded in their own studio in Chicago.

 

As outlined in my introduction Simon Kirke’s musical pedigree includes two British bands of legendary status-first with Free and then with Bad Company. It is easy to recognise from an outsiders point of view the artistic and musical merits of both bands. What perception of a bands status do the actual musicians involved with them have? Are they aware or indeed immune to quite how significant their bands contribution to musical history actually are? Was Simon aware of something special from the outset in the bands formation or perhaps he was only fully aware of their status in later years. He stated to me that bands were generally founded on some very basic dreams”When you start in a band you just want to play some good music, pull some birds and have a couple of pints. ”You never really think that it is going to blossom into something.” Founded on simple goals both bands certainly went on to achieve considerably more. Simon felt with Free the special feeling was apparent from the outset-indeed as early as the bands first rehearsal.”

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They wrote half a dozen songs that first night,so the chemistry was there. However it wasn’t until actually at the end of the first year after they had been touring small clubs that they realised that “this band was going to be something special”He wouldn’t agree with my label of them being iconic but did admit that “it was a hell of a band”Moving on to Bad Company he stated that all the musicians had served their apprenticeship by that time and were actually seasoned veterans. Simon said that all their respective bands had some baggage and they were delighted to have the opportunity to do something different musically. Bad Company allowed them the chance to do that and they also had a great manager .Like Free with the third or fourth Bad Company show it was clear “we knew this was going to be a cracking band.”

 

Bad Company have had several breaks over the years during one of these Simon was in a band called Wildfire. A great melodic rock band that I personally felt should have achieved a higher level of commercial success. They were signed to Led Zeppelins record label Swan Song,and had Mick Ralph’s produce their album. Simon felt that it was one of the drawbacks of being in a successful band that outside of it whether through a solo album or another musical project extra curricular that it doesn’t really get the shot or chance that the artist would like. People only want to hear the band that the artist is associated with primarily. The label had helped a little but Simon had felt their heart and commitment wasn’t really in the project. He was upfront and honest about the experience. Bad Company reunited a short time later and he moved on. Wildfire had featured a great British singer Steve Overland who went on to have an extensive career with British melodic rockers FM.I wondered if Simon had retained contact with him over the years. Simon informed me that he had attended the Bad Company show in London but unfortunately they didn’t manage to meet up. I was then able to keep Simon up to date with Steve’s band FM which living in New York he hadn’t been fully aware of..My research had thrown up an interesting fact that Simon had actually played saxophone on that debut album. I was curious to find out if that was something that Simon still played. He confessed that playing on that Wildfire was a solitary episode. Despite being a fan of the instrument he admitted that his level of ability was limited and he certainly had no plans to play it “I will leave it to the pros but I don’t play it any more.”

 

 

 

Bad Company had reunited over the years several times with different vocalists when Paul Rogers wasn’t fronting the band. I wondered with hindsight how Simon viewed those albums and periods of the bands history.”In any long career there is going to be ups and downs,when we reformed with Brian Howe the other singer it was not a good move. ”Simon does have regrets about that time and is honest in saying so. Atlantic Records had been pushing for Bad Company to continue,Paul was doing his own stuff so the remaining members decided to give it a go. It did herald a change in the bands musical style towards a more melodic rock formula and a departure from the blues based rock identity that was associated with them until that point. They did actually have some level of success especially with the ‘Holy Water’ album which was a good album but was not however the Bad Company that the fans knew and loved. Simon did however feel that the albums success was attributed to the 5/6 albums by Bad Company that had preceded it.”I don’t think that we added much to the legacy quite honestly.”

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Returning to the forthcoming solo album I was curious to find out what they offered to an artist like Simon that playing in Bad Company did not.Simon said that they offered the opportunity of giving him a wider scope.It surprised me that he had actually been playing the guitar as long as he had been playing drums.Solo albums give him the opportunity to speak another language so to speak.”Basically I am a musician that plays different instruments although I am mainly known for being a drummer”Doing his solo album is no longer just a hobby ,and he is actually very enthused about the forthcoming shows to promote it in America and England later in the year.He told me that he wanted people to take him on his own merits as a solo artist.However he does recognise that it will take some time.American dates are confirmed and he was currently working on English shows.

 

Simon Kirke has worked with a lot of other artists over the years and he indicated to me that despite many of his bucketlist artists having been ticked of-some he would like to work with in the future included Aretha Franklin, more colaberation with Eric Clapton and Ronnie Wood.

 

Outside of music he enjoys golf albeit “a labour of futility” riding his Harley Davidson when the weather is good and does a lot of reading.He has several positions and charities that he assists with including one that is personally dear to his heart.Road Recovery is an organisation which assists teens suffering from addictions.Simon informed me that he is currently involved in writing a song for their forthcoming annual benefit concert.

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Reflecting on his life, Simon informed me that some regrets included the Bad Company lineup with the other singer Brian Howe, which was a mistake. He also referred to his personal story of being an addict in recovery off and on for thirty years. He regretted that which although it took away a lot of things from him also gave him a lot back.He now helps others who are struggling with it. Unfulfilled ambitions included Simon wanting to do a movie soundtrack. He is also currently writing a book based on the bands that he has been involved with. He has had a decent offer but will do it when he feels that the time is right. Simon also stated that he would like to play his guitar before audiences in weird countries around the world. Favourite songs that he wrote from ‘All because of You ‘his new solo album were ‘Maria’ and ‘Into the Light’ The most inspirational musicians that he had worked with during his career were Wilson Pickett, Keith Richards-Ronnie Wood.I concluded by asking Simon how he kept enjoying playing the old songs and how he managed to retain the same passion and enjoyment. He replied”Its funny that you should say that, on the last tour in Britain I rediscovered playing the drums again and I fell back in love with playing the drums again. ”Thank goodness for that because that is what I am known for, and that’s what I do pretty well.”

 

Written by Mark Dean

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