An Interview with Simon Kirke of Bad Company & Free

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Between his powerful backbeat, innate sense of groove, and simplistic approach, Simon Kirke was at the forefront of laying the foundation for a new era of rock ‘n’ roll drummers.

Before ascending to prominence as a member of Bad Company, the Lambeth, London native co-founded the groundbreaking, multifaceted blues-rock act Free in 1968. With Kirke behind the kit, vocalist Paul Rodgers, guitarist Paul Kossoff, and bassist Andy Fraser rounded out the immensely talented quartet. Despite its revered musicianship, however, it wasn’t until 1970’s Fire and Water that the band began to gain traction.

Though Free was predominately fueled by the iconic 1970 rock staple “All Right Now,” the band produced six albums over a four-year span before ultimately disbanding in 1973. Its flirtation with success may have been brief, but Free’s impact and legacy will forever live on in the annals of rock history.

On the heels of the demise, Kossoff released a solo album titled Back Street Crawler (1973) before forming a group of his own, Back Street Crawler. The band produced two albums, The Band Plays On (1975) and 2nd Street (1976). Fraser assembled a band called Sharks, while Kirke joined forces with Rodgers, guitarist Mick Ralphs, and bassist Boz Burrell to spawn the band Bad Company in 1973.

Predictably, Bad Company got off to a roaring start. The band’s self-titled debut, released on Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song Records label in 1974, reached the top of the US Billboard 200 and was powered by the mega-hits “Bad Company,” “Can’t Get Enough,” and “Ready for Love.” The illustrious title track was co-written by Rodgers and Kirke.

In the 47 years since its release, Bad Company has sold nearly 10 million copies.

The follow-up album, 1975’s Straight Shooter, soared to No. 3 on the US Billboard 200. The initial incarnation of Bad Company produced four more albums before disbanding in 1982. The original lineup would leave their mark in music history, however, as the first five albums all reached multi-platinum status.

Although each member embarked on various ventures, Kirke and Ralphs would later reform Bad Company with an altered lineup. The duo had a hand in all twelve of the band’s studio albums, the most recent being Stories Told & Untold (1996).

These days, Kirke continues to share his gift through his solo efforts, an endeavor which has produced three albums to date, including Seven Rays of Hope (2005), Filling the Void (2011), and All Because of You (2017).

I recently sat down with the renowned rock icon to discuss his journey in a career-spanning interview.

Andrew:
It’s a great honor to speak with you, Simon. I appreciate you taking the time. I’d like to start by asking you about your earliest introduction to music and what the scene was like growing up on the outskirts of Wales.

Simon:
When I was in Wales, I was there from 1957, when I was eight years old, to 1967. So, at the beginning of that ten-year period, there was really nothing in England. Nothing really kicked into gear until The Beatles arrived in England. They took off about a year before they happened over here, so that would be 1963. So, before that, we had the bubblegum parade. We had Cliff Richard, who was pretty good; he was a pretty good up-and-coming rock singer. And The Shadows; they were a good instrumental group. But we had a lot of stuff that we listened to on this radio station called Radio Luxembourg. And Luxembourg is this tiny, little country sandwiched between Belgium and Holland. For some reason, it had this amazing radio station called Radio Luxembourg, and they would play a lot of American music. They’d broadcast it on AM; there was no FM back then. It managed to reach England, which is only a couple hundred miles away. We would listen to a lot of Motown; a lot of American music before it really exploded. So, I would listen to that, as the English music scene really wasn’t that good. They played a lot of novelty records; a lot of Glenn Miller, big-band stuff; a lot of Petula Clark. Very sort of bubblegummy; nothing you could really hang your hat on.

So, anyway, around late 1962, we started hearing this band The Beatles, and “Love Me Do” was the very first song. It was okay; it wasn’t great. But then, “She Loves You” came in in 1963, and that really woke me up. I was fourteen, and I was instantly taken by everything they did. I’d never heard harmonies like that before; I’d never heard drumming like that before. And that really got my attention.

Where I was brought up, it was a very rural part of England. It was right on the border of Wales. So, it wasn’t quite in Wales, but right on the border. And we had local dances every Friday or Saturday, and there was a band there called The Four Aces and they were great. They were from the big city of Shrewsbury. So, we country folk would flock to see them. They were pretty damn good, I have to say. I mean, if I saw them now, they probably wouldn’t cut the mustard; but, back then, as a fourteen-year-old kid looking at real, live drums for the first time, Four Aces were pretty cool. But that really was the only live band that we saw until I decided to start my own band in high school.

My big break, my first break that I ever got, was when I played drums alongside two records; 45’s. I guess it was the first forerunner to disco, because my school bus driver, believe it or not, approached me one day. I got a little band together in high school, we played a couple of shows, and he’d heard about me. He said, “I hear you play drums, Simon.” And I said, “Well, yeah. I’m just learning.” He said, “Well, how would you like to play with me and my 45’s?”“You set up your drums alongside the turntables and play along to the records.” And I thought, “Wow. I don’t think it’s ever been done before.” I didn’t have a very big kit, so it wasn’t like it was gonna overwhelm the amplifier that the records were being played through. I did that for two-and-a-half years, and we went all over the Tri-State area. And I became this sort of junior drumming phenom. I say that in inverted commas because that was what the local paper called me one day. And it was during one of those little shows in a village hall, that this guy approached me and asked if I would like to play drums in a real band. That was a band called The Maniacs, and that really was my official, first band. I’ve still got a photograph of me at fifteen playing with them. They were pretty damn good. And that was the start of my group career, if you will.

I did enjoy playing with them; they were slightly older than me. They were country boys, and remember, I was a transplanted city boy, so I felt a little out of place in this community. But rock ‘n’ roll was our common ground, as it were. We got pretty good; we played for about a year, eighteen months together. I was still doing shows with my bus driving friend, much to my parent’s dismay. But they could see that I really liked it and I was getting pretty good. And of course, Andrew, this was gonna be my ticket out of this very rural area. It really wasn’t me; I wanted to try my hand at being a professional.

I wanted to leave school at sixteen, and my parents were really against that. They weren’t very strict parents, but I see the wisdom in them putting their foot down. I had decent grades but nothing great, and if you stayed on another two years in England, you get what’s called advanced grades. And that would ensure you a decent university place. So, they said, “Look, stay another two years, finish school, and get your advanced grades. Then you can have two years to make a go of it.” And that’s what I did. I was a bit disappointed I couldn’t leave school at 16, but looking back on it now, it was a wise choice.

So, at the age of 18, I went down to London to have a go at joining a professional band. That was a 24-month period. For 23 months, I answered auditions; I did menial jobs and manual jobs; washing cars; construction; demolition. I did all sorts of things, and nothing was happening. And literally, in the last month of my 24 months, I was fully resigned to going back home and going back to university. Starting a little late, but at least I would have given it a shot. Then there was an ad in the paper for this band called the Black Cat Bones…

Andrew:
That’s exactly where I was going. What prompted you to take the plunge and join Black Cat Bones? Additionally, do you have any recollection of your initial meeting with Paul Kossoff?

Simon:
Well, I loved the name. It really leapt out of the music paper. And they weren’t auditioning; it was just that they were playing. The blues boom was in full swing in late 1967. The only trouble was, I was in a part of London that was a long, long way from where this band was playing. And I had a lot of letters to write and things to do and it was a long subway ride across town. But I thought, “Fuck it,” and I tossed a coin; either I stay at home, or I go and see this band. And it came down on the back of my wrist “heads,” and that was it; it was fate.

So, I got on the subway, and I got there at this pub called the Nag’s Head in Battersea, which is the Southeast part of London. They were already playing, and they were okay; they were nothing special. But this little guitarist was amazing, and I was absolutely floored as I leaned against the bar with my pint of beer and watched them. Then during the break, they had a little break after an hour or so and they all came off the stage and went to see their girlfriend or family who was in the pub, and Paul came over to the bar. I said, “Hey, man. You play so well.” And he said, “Oh, thank you very much.” I said, “But I don’t think your drummer is very good.” He said, with a grin, “Well, it’s funny you should say that because tonight is his last night. And we’re holding auditions for drummers tomorrow here, at this same pub, if you wanna come.” Because I told him I was looking for a band. We kind of hit it off, but I was not looking forward to going back 45 minutes on the subway and then coming back again in the morning. But you know what? I think it was fate. I did come back. There was only one other guy in the pub, another drummer; he didn’t get the job and I did. That was my first meeting with Paul Kossoff.

Andrew:
You and Paul Kossoff split from Black Cat Bones and subsequently forge a connection with Paul Rodgers to form Free. Take me through the origins of the band’s formation.

Simon:
Well, after about six months of playing with the Black Cat Bones, I got very friendly with Paul Kossoff. We became like brothers. He said to me one day, “Look, don’t tell the others, but I’ve been jamming with this singer in a band called Brown Sugar across town. His name is Paul Rodgers. He’s an amazing singer, and I wanna form a band with him. Would you like to play drums?” I was kind of on the fence because I’d just joined the band and suddenly this particular rug was being pulled away. But he persuaded me to go and meet Paul. Paul Kossoff drove; he was a great driver. He was only a year younger than me, but he had his own car. We drove across town to this house in North London. This guy opened the door and said, “Oh, hey Paul,” and looked at me kind of like, “Who are you?” I found out later that it was his house, and he was a drummer that Paul Rodgers had befriended and wanted to join the band with Paul Kossoff. I only found this out afterward; that’s why he looked at me like, “Who’s this guy?”

But anyway, he showed us into the big living room where Paul [Rodgers] was. And they had a little setup; a little drum kit and a couple of amps. Paul Rodgers is there, and he was just waiting for us. Koss plugged in; Paul got on the mic and started singing. I was just blown away; it was like listening to an old bluesman, but it was this 18-year-old guy. So, we did a little fast shuffle and then a slow Blues. Then this guy came out, Andy Borenius, it was his house. Then, all the pennies dropped … “Oh, God. I think this guy is auditioning as well!” So, I kind of went out to the kitchen and let him do his thing. I could tell straight away that he wasn’t as solid as me; he was a Jazz player. In Blues, you need a good backbeat and a good rhythm; a good feel. And this chap was so busy. I knew straight away that, “No, no. This might be his house and it might be his kit, but I don’t think this job is gonna go to him.” We left after a little chit-chat, and Koss called me the next day and said, “Paul really liked you and your drumming. Would you like to form a band with us?” So, I thought, “Screw it. Yes, I will.

That was great; we had three pretty good players, but we needed a bass player. That came a lot quicker than I thought it would, by virtue of this guy named Alexis Korner. And [Alexis] was a big figure in the British Blues scene. He had a band called Blues Incorporated, which was like a finishing school for a lot of Blues musicians; Jack Bruce had been through it; Mick Jagger had been through; Charlie Watts had played with him.  A lot of up-and-coming Blues players had gone through the ranks. And Alexis knew Paul Kossoff, who was the boyfriend to his daughter. Koss called Alexis and said, “You know, I’ve got this great drummer, great singer, but we need a bass player.” He said, “I’ve got the very guy for you. His name is Andy Fraser, and he’s just been sacked from John Mayall.” And John Mayall was a leader of a wonderful Blues band called The Bluesbreakers, which was really the best blues band in England at the time. Eric Clapton had played with him; and Peter Green. So, for anyone to have played with John Mayall – whether they’d gotten sacked or not – showed how good they were. Koss was very excited; he said, “Okay, great!” He got his phone number, and Alexis said, “Ah, there’s one thing – he’s only fifteen.” We said, “What?”“Yeah, he’s only fifteen years old.” Well, we were only a couple of years older; it wasn’t a big deal. But fifteen, that meant a lot of legal issues; he couldn’t sign a contract; I don’t think he could travel abroad without his parent’s permission.

Anyway, we went to see him; he was playing in a club in London. Me, Koss, and Paul squeezed into this little club, and there he was; he was an absolutely amazing player. After the gig, we went into the dressing room and we talked to him and said, “Look, we’ve got a band together. We need a bass player.” And I think he liked us from the get-go because – I’m a little bigger than the others, but I’m not a big guy — and Andy was a diminutive player; Koss was diminutive; Paul, not quite so, but he wasn’t tall. So, we were kind of alike in stature, and our musical tastes were pretty much the same. So, Andy said, “Yeah, I’ll have a jam with you guys and see where it leads.” I guess within half an hour of all of us playing together at the same pub where I first met Koss, we knew we had a band. And that was the beginning of Free, in, I think March of 1968.

Andrew:
Do you have any recollection of the first gig you guys did together?

Simon:
Oh, good question! No one has ever asked me that before. We did a lot of rehearsing, and Alexis Korner came down to see us the very first night. I think he wanted to see how his suggestion for a bass player had panned out. So, he came down about an hour, maybe two hours after we first set up. Koss had told him that we were planning to get together, and I think he invited him down. So, Alexis walked in, and he was very impressed. He said, “Wow.” We had a little break, came down to shake his hand and say hello. He said, “You guys sound like you’ve been together years. Now you have to come up with a name.” And had no idea what to call the band. And Alexis said, “Look, I had a band with Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, and Dick Heckstall-Smith called Free At Last.”“Eh, okay.” “Well, why don’t you call it Free?” And we sat there and sort of mulled it over and thought, “Yeah, okay.” Now you gotta remember, in the late 60s, bands had names like Taste, Clouds, and Spooky Tooth. Kind of off-the-wall names. And Free was kind of a shining name; it just kind of rose above everything. So, yeah, we became Free. And just before he left, Alexis said, “Look, I’m doing a series of gigs around the country, and I need a band. Why don’t you come with me, you play a half-an-hour, and I’ll come out and play solo a half-an-hour. And then we’ll finish the show together.” That’s a good question, Andrew. Thinking back on it, that really was the start. Alexis was very much an engineer in getting us started. So, our first gig was in Chester, which is in the Northwest part of England.

Andrew:
Did many of the early gigs feature cover songs, or did the band begin writing originals right away?

Simon:
Pretty much right away. And I have to tip my hat to Paul Rodgers, who, from the get-go, had a couple of ideas; “Walk In My Shadow;” “Over the Green Hills;” “Long Dusty Road” was another one. But we did sprinkle in the occasional cover; “Rock Me Baby,” which is a standard R&B; “Crossroads.” I would say our set was maybe 50-50 covers and originals because we knew, having been in other cover bands, that anyone can play a cover. It’s just varying degrees of good or bad. But until you have your own original material, that’s what separates you from other bands. We started writing our own stuff pretty much from the get-go. And the majority of it was written by Paul Rodgers, Andy, and me, and Koss contributed now and again.

Andrew:
“All Right Now” remains a classic rock staple and features what I believe to be one of the greatest guitar solos ever recorded. What are your memories of the recording process?

Simon:
Well, it’s pretty much embedded in my memory because it was such a special session. Because, apart from anything else, it was really the first up-tempo song that Free ever recorded. You know, we had songs that were sort of medium-paced and slow-paced, but we wanted something, quite honestly, that people could dance to. The famous story about how it was conceived as it was born from a bad gig where we were not very well received. I think the audience, quite frankly, were bored. And we came into the dressing room and said, “You know what? We really need something.” And it was written there and then in the dressing room.

But the session itself, we did about 20 takes, quite honestly, with false starts and breakdowns. The measure of how good the song was, is the fact that it just didn’t get tiring to play; it was just a pleasure to play. And obviously, I was only 21; I had much more energy than I had later in life. Then Koss went out to do his solo, and I think he did, maybe a couple of takes. We stitched together two or three of his takes to make what I consider one of the greatest guitar solos in rock history. We were shouting for him and cheering him on. I still get a little emotional talking about it now because we wouldn’t see that standard of playing from Koss ever again.

A year later, Free broke up for the first time, and [Koss] had that downward spiral of drug addiction, which ultimately caused his demise. But for that time, when we recorded “All Right Now” and Fire and Water, that was really a special couple of weeks.

Andrew:
In 1970, Free played the Isle of Wight Festival alongside the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, The Who, and Chicago. Evidently, the attendance trumped that of Woodstock and was rumored to have had 600,000 people in attendance. What are your memories from that moment in music history?

Simon:
It’s kind of a famous story now and part of Free’s tapestry, if you will. As a sidebar, we’d played the smaller Isle of Wight the year before. I don’t remember much about it, quite honestly, but apparently, we played for about 20 minutes. But the one in 1970 was on the heels of Woodstock; it was the British version of Woodstock. And they put together this amazing three-day bill.

In the summer of ’70, we had “All Right Now” climbing to the top of the charts. So, we were invited on the best night, which was Saturday. The marquee night, as it were. You know, it was Sly and the Family Stone, Ten Years After. I mean, the bands were amazing. We did get there a little early in the afternoon; I believe we were gonna go on around seven or eight o’clock. We waited and waited, and it was chaos; people had broken down the barriers. Many, many thousands of people had broken in and were not paying. So, it was really a very chaotic scene. And as such, our spot kept getting pushed back. Half an hour, then another half an hour, and so on and so forth. So, really, by about 10:30, which is over three-and-a-half hours that we were due to go on, we were a little bit tired. We had been having a little sip of beer; a little smoke of something. I certainly wasn’t in the condition, and we peaked, as it were. You get all geared up to go on at a certain time and you’re ready to go, and suddenly that gets pushed back, and again gets pushed back, and so on. And we were a little bit frayed around the edges and nervous. [Manager] Chris Blackwell, to his credit, said, “You’re not gonna go on tonight, fuck this. I’m gonna speak to the promoter. You’re gonna go on tomorrow morning when everyone is fresh, the crowd will be fresh, and the weather is gonna be good.” It was a very smart move because we came back around 11:30 or 12:00 the next day; it was a beautiful, sunny morning on a Sunday. We hit the stage and it was really an amazing set that we did. I’ll never forget it. And 600,000, anything above 400,000, you’re just really guessing. But the parameters were between 400,000 and 600,000. It was just a complete sea of people. An ocean of people.

By the way, we had no monitors in those days. There were no monitors; they just didn’t exist. So, you can imagine doing a show of that magnitude without monitors. I’ve been to small clubs with 50 people in them, and there are three monitors on the stage. But back then, no, we didn’t have them.

Andrew:
What led to the initial disbandment and subsequent reformation of Free?

Simon:
Well, what led to the disbandment was the workload. “All Right Now” became this massive hit worldwide; No. 1 in a lot of countries. Instead of us doing a different town every night or every other night, we started doing different countries every other night. So, we had to go to Holland one day and then to Germany the next day; and then France; and then Belgium; Sweden; Finland; Austria. And we were still contracted to do another album. So, mix in that pressure to do another album – come up with a follow-up to “All Right Now” – add on the extra pressure of doing shows, and suddenly you had this workload that became almost impossible to fulfill. I still, begrudgingly, blame the management because we became very friendly with our manager Chris Blackwell. But we were mismanaged, I think. No one could see the signs that we were getting overworked.

And what happened, Andrew, was that we made a follow-up album called Highway – the follow-up to Fire and Water – and both didn’t chart. They were critically well-received, but they just didn’t sell. And that really was enough for Paul Rodgers, who was at the forefront of saying, “Look, I’ve had enough. I need a break.” Instead of saying, “Look, let’s just take six months off,” [Paul] and Andy decided to quit the band and basically break the band up. It was during the recording session, me and Koss arrived, and there was this dreadful silence in the control room. Andy and Paul sent the engineer out, and said, “Look, guys, I know we’re gonna do Japan and Australia next week. But the last show in Australia will be the last show that we do.” And me and Koss looked at them like, “What?” And that was it. So, we went to Japan and Australia knowing that within a couple of weeks, the band would be over. It was a horrible thing to bear, and tensions were so torqued between the four of us. Really, there were two camps; there was Paul Rodgers and Andy Fraser, and me and Koss. The ones who didn’t want to break the band up and the others who did.

As we’re leaving the stage on our final gig in Sydney, Australia, a guy is shouting up, “Hey guys!” It was an English accent, so we were kind of drawn to it as we were despondently trudging down the ramp … “Hey guys! Please, please. Let me have a quick word.” He had been at our very first show in Chester with Alexis Korner. And since then, he had immigrated to Sydney. So, he saw our first show and our last show. That was the weirdest thing.

After that, we sort of shook everyone’s hand. I was very sad. We went our four separate ways. And Koss got really into drugs to dull the pain, and never really recovered, quite honestly. About,18 months later, maybe two years, we reformed to try to get him out of this slump; this dreadful drug situation that he got himself in. But he never really recovered.

Andrew:
There was quite a bit of turmoil surrounding the band during the Heartbreaker recordings. Due to the turbulence, did you ever sense that the demise of the band was imminent?

Simon:
No. It’s not really as simple as that, Andrew, because when we broke up for the first time, I really thought that was it. Because I know Paul Rodgers, and when he puts his mind to something, that really is it. We all got our own separate bands. Me and Koss formed a band called Kossoff/Kirke/Tetsu/Rabbit, and we did an album together with the hope of going on the road with it. Andy Fraser formed his own band called Toby; Paul had just formed his own band called Peace. After a while, none of these ventures came close to the popularity that Free had. There’s a lot of affection for Free in England. Basically, our solo efforts were not really doing much at all.

So, when Koss got really strung out, obviously, word got back to Paul and Andy. And I think the desire to see their little mate smile again and get back into the swing of things, coupled with the fact that, “Come on. Our individual projects are not really doing that much,” it conspired to the four of us getting back together again; to great joy amongst the English public. I mean, there were banner headlines … “Free reforms.” It was wonderful.

So, we got back together. But unfortunately, that form of gathering around your sick friend doesn’t really do anything. He should have gone to rehab; he should have cleaned up. Back in those days, drug addiction was not treated like it is nowadays. But maybe 50 years ago, that just wasn’t the case. I have to say, prior to Heartbreaker, there had been Free At Last, which we just managed to get through because Koss was so bad. We did a tour of America that was canceled after three shows because Koss never showed up. So, he was really in a terrible state. Nowadays, he would have been in rehab before he could blink. So, it did nothing to help him. In fact, it fueled his drug-taking; he just couldn’t take the pressure of doing these shows and he did more and more drugs. The results were just dreadful. Heartbreaker, we sacked [Koss]. Basically, we didn’t ask him to come in to finish the album. We got “Snuffy” Walden to come in and finish the guitar. That really was the end of Free, in 1973.

Andrew:
Koss is not credited for playing on the hit “Wishing Well.” Was that one of the tracks that Snuffy Walden played on?

Simon:
No. In fact, if you look at the authors, everyone in the lineup got a credit; Rodgers, Kossoff, Kirke, Yamauchi, and Bundrick. I’m amazed that Koss does not get a mention in the credits. No, categorically, [Walden] did not play on “Wishing Well.” Koss actually managed to pull out his best solos on “Wishing Well”. He had it together that day.

I know Koss played on “Wishing Well;” “Come Together in the Morning;” “Travellin’ In Style;” “Heartbreaker.” Not quite sure if he played on “Muddy Water;’ I think not. “Common Mortal Man,” I think he played on. I only have to listen for ten seconds and I’ll tell you…yeah, Koss played on “Common Mortal Man;” I can tell straight away. So, I’m not quite sure which tracks Snuffy played on, quite honestly. Everything was a little topsy-turvy. I think “Muddy Water.” I’m kind of at a loss, Andrew, quite honestly. But I know that Koss played on just about everything except “Muddy Water.” There were also a couple of other tracks that never made it to the album, and I think that Snuffy might have been on some of those. [Snuffy] didn’t come in for very long; I do remember that.

Andrew:
I can hear the fondness for Koss in your voice. You had known him since the days of the Black Cat Bones and had a special connection. Do you have a favorite Koss memory that you care to share?

Simon:
He was a cheeky little bugger. I had a lot of affection for him. Even though he was younger than me, he was very worldly wise. He was a city boy and I was a country boy, so I wasn’t very worldly wise. He had a girlfriend who was five years older than him. She had her own apartment, her own car. He drove. I mean, he was a real Jack the Lad. He used to do all the driving, he was the only one who could drive, so he used to do these mammoth drives across England after a show, and it would be our job to take turns keeping him awake and talk to him. He was an amazing driver of the car. And yet within three years, he became this wreck of a human.

One of the lasting images of Paul Kossoff was when he came in from the studio into the control room having done that solo on “All Right Now.” We were just floored. I listen to him now, and I think, “Wow.” And I just didn’t appreciate how damn good he was back then. So, him being mobbed, well, if you call four people mobbing him – the engineer, me, Andy, and Paul Rodgers – crowding around him and slapping him on the back.

And also, this is an enduring image. We played with Blind Faith, which was Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Steve Winwood, and Ric Grech; we toured with them in America. On the last show, which I believe was somewhere in Phoenix, as we were packing up — we’d done our 20 shows – Eric Clapton walked into the dressing room. He actually knocked on the door first. He says, “Do you mind if I come in?” And we all said, “Yeah, yeah. Of course!” So, he said, “Thank you, guys. You’re a wonderful band.” He walked over to Koss, and he said, “Before I go, Paul, could you show me how you do that tremolo with your left hand?” Koss looked at him, literally with a tear in his eye, and said, “You gotta be fucking kidding me. You’re asking me to show you how to do a tremolo?” And [Eric] said, “Yeah, ‘cause it’s so bloody good.” I’ll never forget the smile, the beam of light that shone from Koss’ face when Eric asked him that.

Andrew:
So, after the disbanding of Free, you and Paul then form Bad Company. Take me through the genesis of the band, if you could.

Simon:
It actually wasn’t me and Paul; it was Paul and Mick Ralphs. Paul had this band Peace, and his band had been opening up for Mott the Hoople, this very well-known band in England. During the course of the tour, Paul and Mick struck up this friendship. Mick was a very easy-going, gregarious guy; very funny; very good guitar player. But he was getting tired of Mott the Hoople, and Paul and Mick kind of jammed every time that they were in the same venue together. Just over the course of those few weeks together, they forged this friendship. And Mick had this song that he played to Paul – he had a little reel-to-reel tape recorder – and he played it one day to Paul backstage, and it was “Can’t Get Enough.” Paul said, “This is fantastic. This is a hit.” And Mick said, “Well, I’m so glad you said that because Ian [Hunter] didn’t want to do it.” [Ian] was the other main member in the band for Mott the Hoople. He didn’t want to do it, and Mick was getting very disenchanted with the band, and he wanted to leave Mott the Hoople. So, when Paul had this enthusiasm for this great song, and it turned out to be one of the all-time great Rock ‘N’ Roll songs, I guess the talk turned to, “Do you want to get a band together?” And they were sort of kindred spirits, really.

So, anyway, cut to the spring of ’73; I had been in Brazil for several months. I came back, really, as a loose end. I didn’t know what I was gonna do. And just out of the blue, I called Paul, and he said, “Hey, I’m joining forces with this guy Mick.” And we knew Mick Ralphs a little because Mott the Hoople had been on Island Records; the same record label as Free. So, we kind of knew him. Paul said, “Look, would you like to be in the band?” I said, “I’d love to,” because I’ve always loved Paul’s singing and we always got on pretty well. So, I went down to Paul’s cottage, and there was Mick, and the three of us just jammed. We got on so well, that we started looking for a bass player. It took a few months, but we eventually found Boz Burrell, who had been playing with King Crimson. And there we were; we were a four-piece. That was Bad Company.

Andrew:
Where was the name Bad Company derived from?

Simon:
Well, now you’ve got two schools of thought, Andrew, because I had one school of thought and Paul Rodgers had another. But between the two of them, my version is – I remember Paul coming back to the cottage one day; he had been in town in Gilford, a town just outside of London. And he had been walking down the street, and there was a billboard advertising this western movie with Jeff Bridges called Bad Company. He said, “I’ve just seen this great billboard and I think it would be a really good name for the name.” I said, “Yeah,” because we were going under the working title of Rubber Nickers, which really wasn’t going to fly very well. So, we were really looking for a name. And that’s how I understood the origin of the name.

Paul actually amended his story many years later, that he had been flipping through a Victorian book; a book of Victoriana back in the late 1800s, where there was this desperate group of youths hanging around the street corner. And it was something like, “Do you wanna be keeping bad company?” And something clicked in his brain and said, “Oh, what a great name for a band.” So, between those two stories, you will have the definitive origin of the name Bad Company.

Andrew:
I recently spoke to AC/DC co-founder Dave Evans about the band’s drumming situation in the early days. I’m not sure if you know this Simon, but the band went through three drummers before finding Phil Rudd. Dave said “we wanted a drummer to play like Simon Kirke from Free and Bad Company.”

Simon:
That’s lovely. Wow; I take that as a compliment. Thank you for that.

Andrew:
I figured I would share that with you. With that said, Bad Company was such a cohesive unit. What was it about your drumming style that complemented the surrounding talent so well?

Simon:
That’s a good question. Free was only together, really, for about four years before it splintered and sort of spun off on its own orbit. And the first half of those four years, I was still struggling to find my own style. You have to remember, I was pretty young; I was only 19 and 20; the band broke up when I was 24. So, halfway through those four, four-plus years — when we were recording Fire and Water — I had been listening to this song “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor. And this wonderful drummer, Russ Kunkel, did these beautiful Tom Tom fills just using brushes; and I didn’t realize until later that he was using brushes. And it’s such an eloquent feel to this simplistic way of drumming and it really did a number on my head. I’d also been listening avidly to Al Jackson from Booker T. & the M.G.’s, who is still my No. 1 influence, by the way. So, my style was coming out of this sort of tumbleweed of different styles and getting more and more simple and solid. So, by the time I came to the end of Free, my style was pretty much locked in. And quite honestly, it hasn’t really changed in all those years. It’s still simple and solid and, I hope, very tasteful.

So, fast-forward a little bit to Bad Company. When we were sort of rehearsing together as a four-piece for the first time, I purposefully didn’t overplay. I know, doing some of those shows now and sometimes singing out front, I realize what a great thing it is to have a simple, solid drummer behind me. That’s something that I’ve always instinctively known. So, I was never busy in Bad Company because I wanted Paul to feel that he had a bedrock that he could sing from. And same with Mick Ralphs and Boz. So, that’s always been my goal, to play simply, solidly, and tastefully.

Photo Credit: Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis

Andrew:
The debut album was recorded at Headley Grange, a former workhouse which has been occupied by prestigious acts such as Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, and Genesis, to name a few. What is your recollection of recording the first album?

Simon:
It’s ingrained in my brain because this was kind of an all-or-nothing moment. We left our respected bands; Free was a much-loved band even though the last year had been a nightmare. Mick had left Mott the Hoople at the height of their fame; Boz had only been in King Crimson a couple of months. And by the way, [Boz] let us know he’d only been playing bass about a year. We had no idea, because King Crimson was sort of a Jazz/Progressive Rock band, and we assumed any musician who played in King Crimson had to be bloody good. But he just kind of let it slip and said, “Well, I’m kind of learning. I’ve only been playing about a year.” And we went, “Fuck me.” He was really good.

Anyway, my point is, when we got together at Headley Grange, this was do or die because we’d invested a lot of time, energy, and hope that this band would really take off. We were kind of comforted by the fact that we had Led Zeppelin’s label; we had Led Zeppelin’s big brothers looking after us and Peter Grant, one of the all-time great managers, looking after our best interest. So, there was a very good safety net, if you wish. But it was still down to us to produce a good album.

We arrive at this spooky mansion in the heart of the English countryside. Zeppelin’s gear was still there because they were having a break. They had ten days off, so we jumped in to use the time. I believe the first song we ever played was “Can’t Get Enough,” and you can hear me counting in because we were spread all over the house. I was in the basement with the drums; Boz was in the laundry room with his bass; upstairs, Mick and Paul were there with the guitars. And Paul would wind up doing the vocals on the lawn. So, it was really sort of a grassroots album. But as the first day became the second, became the third, became the fourth, we realized that was gonna be something special. We had no idea how special, but we were so pleased that we did the whole thing in seven days.

Andrew:
“Bad Company,” one of the most recognized songs in Rock ‘N’ Roll history, was co-written by yourself and Paul Rodgers. What are your memories of the legendary collaboration?

Simon:
Well, I remember coming down to see Paul; he had this cottage just outside London. I was either early or Mick Ralphs was late, but it was just Paul in his little cottage, and he had this large, Yamaha grand piano; brand new. [Paul] said, “Listen, I’ve got this idea.” The thing about Paul is, as all of us, none of us could read or write music. He had that little riff; it’s an E-flat minor; it’s all the black notes on a keyboard. And it was so magnetic. I loved it; it was so haunting. He had these lyrics, “A company always on the run/A destiny, oh it’s a rising sun.” And I thought, “Wow,” and we conjured up this image of riders going across the desert with tumbleweed and outlaws. I came up with the line, “Bad company until the day I die,” and “Six-gun sound is our claim to fame.” Basically, it was a real 50/50 co-write. And the more we played it, the better it got. I think we did it in about 20 minutes; it was the most amazing thing. Little knowing that it would become our theme song, the title of the album, and the name of the band. I mean, it’s a three-in-one whammy, if you like. I play it in my solo shows; I must have played it a thousand times. I never get tired of playing it; it’s a wonderful song.

Andrew:
Ron Nevison, who later became a decorated record producer, engineered and mixed the self-titled debut. It was one of the earliest credits of his storied career, so what was it like working with Ron?

Simon:
He was a very experienced engineer, and the lines between engineers and producers are very blurred, or they were back then. He kind up came up against all guys who really knew what they wanted in this band. Granted, he was a very good engineer, and he got some fabulous drum sounds; his knowledge and experience really helped the sound of the band. But it’s when he wanted to be a producer. I’ve always, and me, Paul, Mick, and Boz have always been in agreement that, “Isn’t the band the one that produces the album?” Unless you’re totally out of your depth or have no idea what you’re doing. We’ve always known what we were going to do. So, we had to sit around the table, and Ron did say, “Well, you know, I think I deserve a production credit.” I believe we did; I don’t have the cover with me. I think we gave him a point with something. But it was a little begrudging, I’ll be honest because we had worked so hard on the eight or nine songs; one didn’t make the cut. We rehearsed and knew every aspect of the songs. But I’m not begrudging [Ron] at all; he was very experienced; he was very likable. We got on very well with him, and he certainly did help on that album. We got on to a degree, and then I think we parted ways around the second album. If there’s a producer’s Hall of Fame, he should certainly be in it, because he was a very knowledgeable guy when it came to mixing and the whole thing.

We saw him in the Record Plant, and one of his aids came up to me and said, “Look at this.” [Ron] wasn’t in his office, but just outside the door there was a sign that said, “Remind Ron to pop his ears.” Because he’s coming down from, like, Mulholland Drive or something in his Rolls. So, I kind of ribbed him about that when I saw him. I said, “Ron, are your ears popped all right?”“Oh, yeah. Thank you. They’re all right.” But that was Ron. He was cool.

Andrew:
Bad Company had its primary songwriters, but each band member had a hand in songs throughout the catalog. Can you expand on the band’s creative approach to songwriting?

Simon:
Well, as in Free, the majority of the songwriting was done by Paul and Mick Ralphs in Bad Company. Free was sort of a learning curve, and when we came to Bad Company, we were pretty much four well-defined characters.

For instance, “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” which is probably one of the biggest his that Bad Company ever had, was actually born from two songs. Mick and Paul would sometimes get together alone and just hash things out together. Mick had this little country ditty, which was really not going anywhere, and Paul had this great riff and nothing to go around it. I remember sitting in the middle of them while they were doing this. I said, “Why don’t you combine the two, so it’s like a big surprise?” It’s kind of a shock chorus. And that was “Feel Like Makin’ Love.”

Paul and Mick occasionally wrote together, but often than not, they had their own songs. I would say 60/40; 60 being songs that were finished by them individually against 40 percent that were done together. I mean, if you look at all the credits over the years, you’ll see that Mick had a lot of songs by himself; Paul had a lot of songs by himself; I had a couple with Paul; a couple by myself. And Boz had two or three by himself. Boz didn’t write much, but when he did, the songs were really different. There’s a song called “Gone, Gone, Gone,” and “Smokin’ 45,” which is on a compendium of Bad Company. Really good songs. He didn’t write much, but when he did, they were very good. A bit like George Harrison.

Andrew:
When you look back on the tour support of the first album, is there a specific memory that vividly comes to mind?

Simon:
We were unknown, but we had Zeppelin behind us. You spoke of Bad Company, every radio station said, “On Led Zeppelin’s…” Immediately people listened. You mention the word Led Zeppelin in 1974, even today, nearly 50 years on, your ears perk up. So, as soon as they said, “On Led Zeppelin’s new Swan Song label, here’s a new band, Bad Company,” the door was halfway open. But, Andrew, we still had to pay our dues. We still opened for every band that we were booked with. We opened for Edgar Winter; we opened for a variety of bands. We were the ones that went on when the arenas were just starting to fill up with people.

The first year was paying our dues. And the great thing was, this obviously was before the internet and cell phones, by the end of that tour some 4-5 months later, when we got to Boston — our final show — the album was No. 1. That was amazing.

I mentioned that the Zeppelin boys kind of took us under their wing. Jimmy [Page] was the main ambassador — I guess he was the most footloose of them all — and he would fly out and join us just to give us a pat on the back and say, “We’re looking out for you.” He was great. In fact, he came on twice. New York, Central Park, we were absolutely blown away; we had no idea he was coming. He just showed up in the dressing room and we went, “Oh, fuckin’ hell! Jimmy!” “Hello, boys. I’ve come to wish you well.” And of course, we said, “Could you get up and play with us?” And he said, “No, no. This is your show. I’ll just stand in the wind.” So, we did our show, it was only about 40 or 45 minutes because we were opening up for Foghat. And then Paul said, “By the way, ladies and gentleman, I’d like to a good friend of ours, Jimmy Page.” And the place just went crazy. Jimmy walked on and he had to plug in his amp near me! I said, “I thought you were fucking staying in the wind?” He said, “You were so good, I just had to join in.” I said, “Let’s get going.” I think we did “Crossroads;” the old Robert Johnson song.

The next year was the very first time we did an enormous festival, outside of Isle of Wight, of course. But this was in Texas Stadium in Dallas; ZZ Top’s Summer Jam; July the 4th, 1975. Totally packed; about 80,000 people in blazing Texas heat. And once again, I had no idea that Jimmy was there, but he’d flown out. I had no idea, but Paul did. He said, “Here’s a very good friend of ours here. Please welcome Jimmy Page.” I mean, New York, Central Park had about 5,000 people, and that roar was pretty amazing. When 80,000 Texans roar — I’ve never heard applause like that before or since [Jimmy] walked out on stage. It just went on, and on, and on for minute after minute after minute. And he just bowed.  And I’ve never heard applause ever before since when Jimmy walked on that stage.

Andrew:
At what point do you recall the band graduating from opener to headliner?

Simon:
The next tour in ’75. We were now a band that had a No. 1 album, and we weren’t going to be supporting anyone. Peter Grant took a leap of faith with us, and with Premier Talent, he said, “You’re gonna be headlining. You’re gonna be playing Madison Square Garden next year.” This was in 1974. He said, “In ‘75, I guarantee you’ll be playing The Forum in L.A., you’ll be playing The Spectrum in Philly. You’ll be playing the big places.” We said, “Ah, come on.” Well, blow me down, Andrew, he was good as his word. We started headlining, we were starting to sell the places out, and it was all coming true. We released the second album; I believe it went top-5; multi-platinum. All the dreams were coming true. I still say to this day, from 1974, for about four or five years, those were some of the happiest years of my life in terms of career and realizing dreams. They were wonderful years.

Andrew:
There appeared to be few ripples recording the first album, and the self-titled debut is followed up a year later with the multi-platinum Straight Shooter. The foundation had been established a year earlier which I’m sure simplified the process, but did the band encounter any hurdles throughout the recording sessions?

Simon:
We had a ball making it because we cut our teeth, we proved we could do it — but, here’s the big thing — we had to follow it up. You know, we had a perfect storm with four guys from three well-known bands, we had a wonderful organization, a world-famous group behind us; management. But now, the follow-up is really critical; you can’t just rest on the laurels of the first album. So, this really had to be a special album. And we recorded it at Clearwell Castle in Gloucestershire; we used Ronnie Lane’s mobile recording studio. It was in a castle on the border of Wales. There were some great songs. We had “Shooting Star;” We had “Feel Like Makin’ Love;” “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad.” Those are the three standouts; “Feel Like Makin’ Love” obviously became a big hit. I had a couple of songs on there for the first time; “Weep No More” was the first time I had a song of my own on a Bad Company record. It was so beautiful. And we indulged in a lot of drinking and smoking dope. We were still in our mid-20s; we could carouse and still play very well. We were on a high. It was a very, very good album; I loved the cover.

This company called Hipgnosis, they’d done Zeppelin covers; they’d done Pink Floyd covers. And Free had suffered from bad artwork — with the exception of Free, the second album — which was one of the best covers I ever was involved in. But Hipgnisis was hired by Peter Grant. He said, “These guys are the best,” and they really were. Bad Company covers, for the most part, were very, very good. Just another feather in the cap of Peter Grant and his management. So, anyway, that was Straight Shooter. We shot the cover in a casino in London. It was just a fun album and I think it shows.

Andrew:
“Shooting Star” has been and will always be a special song to me. Do you have a memory of how the song originated?

Simon:
Well, I can remember it very well because I think it’s one of the best songs Paul ever wrote. He wrote every note; he wrote every word on it. I remember we were in Heathrow Airport, and [Paul] had his guitar with him. We were waiting to go on the plane, and he was strumming this song. And he said, “I’m just finishing this song. I’m just finishing this song.” You know, kind of “Leave me alone. I’m working on this song.” And we kind of overheard bits of it and it sounded great. Anyway, he finished it; I forget actually when he played it to us complete. He made a cassette, we all made cassettes of our various songs and we would bring them to a little group meeting, and this was a standout. Such a complete song. He said he wrote it about the pitfalls of the Rock music world. No one particular in mind, but of course, you couldn’t help but think of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin; the people who had passed away way before their time. So, it was sort of an amalgam of those people. It’s just one of the songs that will live, really, forever.

Andrew:
Following the disbanding of Bad Company, all four members respectively went their separate ways and embarked on various endeavors. You generated an album called Wildlife in 1983, but not much is otherwise known about the project. What can you tell us?

Simon:
Bad Company sort of ground to a halt. We were really overworked. I will speak for myself; I was doing a lot of substances and substance abuse and was not in good shape. And the band pretty much had fallen apart, temporarily, thank God. I forget what happened; a friend of The Kinks – strange connection — one of their management team got a letter to me at Swan Song. [They] said, “There’s a band who is just giving this a Hail Mary, but they’d love you to play drums on an album. Would you be prepared to meet them?” And I said, “What the fuck?” You know, I love playing; I don’t really care; I didn’t do it for the money because there really wasn’t much. And I listened to some of the tracks, and the singer was so good; the guitarist was so good; their harmonies were good. So, yeah, I got in touch with them. And oddly enough, fast-forward 45 years later, I’ve done two albums with a band called Lone Rider, and the singer is the singer in Wildlife. His name is Steve Overland, and he sounds just like he did in 1982. I got them signed for a one-album deal with Swan Song, but they eventually got released by Atlantic, so they weren’t actually on Swan Song. But I think Peter Grant, just to keep me happy, said, “Yeah, I’ll take them on.” He gave them over to Atlantic Records. We did a little tour, nothing great, and unfortunately it didn’t happen. Then after a couple of years of languishing around, me and Mick Ralphs got a call from Ahmet Ertegun – head of Atlantic – saying, “Look, why don’t you get another singer and put Bad Company back together?” Which is what we did.

I’ll just say this about [singer] Brian Howe; he was difficult to work with, but he was a hard worker. In his own style, he was a good singer. Although a lot of people might have looked sideways when we reformed with him, it kept the name alive, and we made some good music together. It wasn’t the Bad Company that the older fans liked, but there’s a lot of people out there who are a generation younger who grew up listening to Bad Company Part II, if you will.

Andrew:
While the 90s ultimately proved to be a notoriously volatile era of music, you were selected to join Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band in 1996. How did the opportunity arise?

Simon:
I’d just come out of rehab; the truth be known. And a lot of people know that Ringo is in recovery and has been for many, many years. I’d been involved in this Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp and the guy who ran the Rock ‘N’ Roll camps in L.A. was a guy called David Fishof, and he was promoting Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band. And apparently, he mentioned to Ringo about me. I got a call from Ringo himself one day, I was in New York, and he said, “Hey, this is Ringo.” I said, “Um, yeah. Pull the other leg.” He said, “No, no. This is Ringo. How do you fancy coming on the road with the All-Starr band?” And I was absolutely over the moon because Bad Company had become very tired and I wanted to forget the whole Bad Company scene for a while. Then Ringo played the ace card, he said, “Well, you’ll be playing with Peter Frampton, Jack Bruce, and Gary Brooker.” It was a chance to play with world-class musicians and not worry; I get a wage; I wouldn’t have to worry about percentages and “Do we have a full house tonight?” We were flown everywhere on a private plane; five-star hotels. It was wonderful. And Ringo said a great thing, he said, “I know you’ve just come out of rehab. Do you think you can do it?” And I was really honest; I said, “Ringo, I’ve never played sober. I haven’t played sober for a long, long time.” [Ringo] said, “Well, now’s your fucking chance!”

Our first show was in Seattle, somewhere in the summer of ’96, and [Ringo] called me up in my room about an hour after we got back to the hotel. He said, “So, I thought you played great.” We both got emotional because we just know what drinking and drugs had done to us. And the chance to play with such a world-class band, play sober, and be given a chance was a huge thing for me. I’ll always be grateful to him. I did, I believe, four tours with him.

Andrew:
Historically, you’ve managed to create a powerful drum sound with minimal amenities. What subtleties and nuances allow you to consistently deliver that wall-to-wall sound without an elaborate kit?

Simon:
Well, I don’t even have that now; I just have the hanging tom, a floor tom, a snare drum, and a bass drum.

I’ve tried a double-kit. I’ve tried two kicks drums. I’ve tried two hanging toms and four-floor tom-toms. I’ve tried 12 cymbals. I only end up hitting four of them anyway, so what’s the point? Bonzo, my soul brother in drums, John Bonham, had the same thing. I think he had a four-piece kit and he might have had two-floor tom-toms and he added a Timpani to be really flashy. But 99 percent of the time, he only played four drums. His son, Jason, is a wonderful drummer, and he plays four drums. That’s just the style. If you look at Neal Peart from Rush, I don’t think he could play four drums in Rush, because Rush was a Progressive Rock band and you needed however many drums Neal had; 12 or 14. That was just his style. Al Jackson, who was my number one influence, only played four drums. As did Ringo Starr.

I learned a lot about miking drums. And I also learned from Mr. Jimmy Page about the advantage of having ambient mics, where you mic the room. You don’t just mic the drums; you mic the room. I went to see Jimmy mixing, I believe the Coda album, the last album that Zeppelin did, and I was marveling at the drum sound. [Jimmy] said, “Let me show you something.” So, he isolated John Bonham’s tracks. John’s a big guy and hitting them really meatily; it was a pretty big sound. But then he brought in these two overheads, and they were Neumann 80s, I believe. They had the room miked, and the sound was the Led Zeppelin drum sound that you’re used to. So, he said, “Always use the room sound when you do mixing.” And I’ve used that ever since. So, I do hit the drums very hard. I’ve got beautiful drums; I love my DW kit. I just make sure they’re miked properly, and I use the room mics. And that’s why the sound is usually clean, crisp, bright, and strong.

Andrew:
Whether it has been Free, Bad Company, or Wildlife, you’ve spent nearly 40 years providing your signature backbeat to various bands until the release of Seven Rays of Hope, your solo debut in 2005. What inspired you to pursue a solo career?

Simon:
That’s a good question. I play drums, but I’ve also played guitar for as long as I’ve played drums. I’ve played piano since 1973. So, I guess I’m a musician who plays various instruments. Drums are what I’m known for, but I’ve always had a hankering to sing songs that I’ve written. And I saw Richie Havens a few years ago, just before he passed away, at a club in Long Island. I’ll tell you what, Andrew, in the 75 minutes that he played, he must have played maybe four songs and told a half-a-dozen stories. It was the most amazing 75 minutes; he had the crowd in the palm of his hand. I thought, “Fuck me. I would like to do that,” because I’ve got a ton of stories and I weave them into my solo shows. And I’ve got a lot of songs that I’ve written; I play some Bad Company songs and Free songs. But it’s just something that I’ve always loved doing. Going back to the Wildlife album, I don’t do it for the money, because I don’t really make any money at all. Any money that I make usually goes on expenses. I’m lucky enough to have royalties and investments that I’m comfortable with. I play these shows because I love playing.

The other reason is that I’m in recovery, and some of my songs have to do with recovery. If I can help people get sober, or stay sober, then I’ll do that. And I do that through two or three songs that I have in my set.

Andrew:
I still struggle to wrap my head around this, but Bad Company is still egregiously omitted from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What is your stance on the incredulous snubbing and the Rock Hall as a whole?

Simon:
Well, in for a penny, in for a pound, I think it sucks. I really do. I mean, if you take the criteria just for nomination, not for induction, a group has had to have had its first hit 25 years ago. It says a hit, it doesn’t say first record released because then you’d have thousands of bands. First, 25 years ago takes us back to 1996. Free has been around since 1968 and “All Right Now” is coming up on 51 years. So, I think it’s political. I think that maybe along the way, we made some enemies. But I know several people – once you’ve been inducted, you automatically become a voting member; so I’m led to believe. A couple of my mates who are now in the Hall of Fame say that it’s a two-step process; the nomination and the induction are months and months apart. And we haven’t even been nominated; Free and Bad Company have not even been nominated. I think Paul [Rodgers] should have been inducted years ago, just on his own merit, like Rod Stewart. Paul, I mean, fuck me; he should have been inducted years ago. It just rankles, quite honestly.

Also, it’s not the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame anymore; it’s the Music Hall of Fame. It spans Jay Z; it spans Elvis Costello; it’s verging onto Country music. Quite honestly, I think it’s down to money. The more acts that you have on the gala performance, the more people will watch, and therefore, they can ask for more money on the adverts. Look, if you really wanted it to be honest, they should have the R&B Hall of Fame or the Rap Hall of Fame and leave the Rock Hall of Fame to Rock.

Andrew:
Do you, in your heart of hearts, believe that Bad Company will one day be inducted?

Simon:
Yes, I do. I really do. My manager was on the committee for many years and said we’d always just miss it by a hair’s breadth. I mean, if you look at it, there is a lot of bands who have been around longer than us that have only just got nominated and inducted. The Zombies were around three years before Free, and they only just got inducted two years ago. But I still think someone out there doesn’t like us. Little Stevie Van Zandt is a good friend of mine, and he says every time he puts our name for it, he says, “Why the fuck is Bad Company not in the Hall of Fame?”“Oh, we’ll get around to them one day.” That’s the brush-off that we get. So, I think it will happen. I just hope it happens before I die.

Andrew:
Before we finish up, let’s talk about your latest endeavors. What’s next on your docket?

Simon:
Well, I’m still doing solo shows. I have this great band called Empty Pockets, out of Chicago; they were on my last album. We’ve done a couple of shows together. I wanna do some more with them because they’re just amazing musicians. They’re young, they’re all young enough to be my kids, but they’re so worldly wise and each one of them is a very good player. I want to get into film scoring. I scored a movie last year, an independent movie, not a big blockbuster, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. And I’ll be doing another solo album. Retirement is not in my vocabulary; I just wanna keep playing music until I can’t, and I don’t know when that will be. Whatever happens to Bad Company, we’ve had a bloody good run and I’ve enjoyed being associated with such a wonderful – certainly with Paul Rodgers. We’ve had our ups and downs, like any long-term relationship there’ve been bare patches, but I consider him a brother and I wish him nothing but the best. We’ll have to see, regarding the pandemic, what’s gonna happen next year with Bad Company. I hope we can continue, but it’s up to the Gods right now.

Andrew:
Simon, you’ve led a decorated career spanning over 50 years while weathering the ups and downs of the music business. When you look back on your journey, what are you most proud of?

Simon:
You know, I still get a kick when I go on my website or my wife, Maria, fields my Facebook page, and every now and again, you’ll get, “Your music helped pull me through a rough time,” or just “Thank you for the music.” My songs about sobriety were an inspiration to several people out there, and that really means a lot. More than any award or induction, but something from the heart. A lot of people got a lot of happiness from the music of the groups that I was involved in.

I’ll tell you who put it the best, Shakespeare: “Music is its own reward.” And I think that’s where I’ll leave it.

Image Credit: Iamnotjerry Live Music Photography

Interested in learning more about the stylings of Simon Kirke? Check out the link below:

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About Post Author

Andrew DiCecco

Predominantly known for his NFL coverage, Andrew DiCecco is a Pennsylvania-based journalist with a profound passion for Rock music and its illustrious history. What initially began as a childhood hobby collecting CDs eventually evolved into a full-blown absorption into the world of Rock and Roll. An aspiring rock historian, Andrew seeks out every autobiography and documentary on Rock artists imaginable to further his knowledge to go along with a growing collection of vintage albums and magazines. Andrew’s musical preferences include, but are not limited to, Def Leppard, Van Halen, AC/DC, Guns N Roses, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, Scorpions, Foreigner, and Journey. An innate appreciation for guitar heroes, Andrew cites Vito Bratta, Eddie Van Halen, John Sykes, George Lynch, Dave Meniketti, and Neal Schon as some of his personal favorite players. Andrew is also a regular listener to SiriusXM’s <i>Trunk Nation</i> with Eddie Trunk, his primary source of inspiration.
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