Simon Kirke - Free & Bad Company
Simon Kirke is best known as the drummer for two of the 1970s most brilliant and influential rock bands, and was still a teenager when his first band, Free, tasted massive success with the hit ‘All Right Now’. All the band were ridiculously young – tragic and talented guitarist Paul Kossoff was still just 25 when he died in 1976. After Free disbanded in 1973, frontman Paul Rodgers and Kirke went on to form Bad Company. Under the guidance of Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant, Badco enjoyed massive worldwide success and a string of hits such as 'Feel Like Makin’ Love’, ‘Bad Company’ and more.
Free - Fire And Water (1970)
The band had formed in 1968 and were on their third album by the time ‘All Right Now' made them household names. Says Kirke, “I didn’t have an epiphany till Fire And Water, where something clicked – a combination of listening to Al Jackson and Russ Kunkel on [James Taylor’s] ‘Fire And Rain’. The way he hit those toms, with those brushes, it really resonated. It was what you didn’t play, leaving those gaps for others to fill.”
The blues influence was clear on the band’s music, and tracks such as ‘Fire And Water’ and ‘Remember’ have a maturity and bombast that Kirke’s rock-solid approach to the drumming served the tunes perfectly.
Key track: ‘All Right Now’
Free - Highway (1970)
Written and recorded quickly in the aftermath of ‘All Right Now’’s success, the songwriting on Highway was largely a collaboration between Rodgers and bass player Andy Fraser, and took a much more laid-back approach.
‘On My Way’ features an irrestible, military snare roll feel from Kirke to complement The Band-style Southern country-rock groove. 'The Highway Song’ has a barrel-house rock feel in the verses, ‘Bodie’’s country twang showcased Rodgers’ evolving songwriting, all of which required a different approach from the rock drummer, as Simon explained to Rhythm: “Highway was less bombastic. There was a kind of country feel, requiring a more delicate touch on ‘Bodie’, ‘Highway Song’ and ‘Be My Friend’. We’d just discovered The Band and found that there were other things Paul and Andy had up their sleeves. I had to be a musical chameleon.”
Key track: ‘On My Way’
Bad Company - Bad Company (1974)
When Free finally disintegrated, with Paul Kossoff’s increasing drug problems making him an unreliable collaborator, Andy Fraser left the band and was replaced by King Crimson’s Boz Burrell, while the band recruited Mick Ralphs from Mott The Hoople.
“A bunch of songs written at various times prior to our getting together,” Simon told Rhythm. “Mick [Ralphs] had put forward ‘Can’t Get Enough’ to Mott the Hoople, and Ian [Hunter] said, ‘I don’t like that,’ – and that was the beginning of the end for those two! Of course it became huge.”
Recorded at Headley Grange with the Stones’ mobile recording unit – like Led Zep IV had been – the album also boasts the balladic Western-themed classic ‘Bad Company’.
Key track: ‘Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love’
Bad Company - Straight Shooter (1975)
Badco’s second album revealed a band on top of the world, as they toured the world in Zeppelin’s jet and racked up the hits with the classic ‘Feel Like Making Love’, with its crash-punctuated chorus, and ‘Good Lovin’ Gone Bad’ – the latter kicking off with Kirke’s choice tom hits, and featuring some great fills throughout.
Throughout, Kirke is on the money and on the beat, providing solid ‘2’s and ‘4’s with enough bombast and assurance to power one of rock’s greatest ever bands, and laying the groundwork for AC/DC and others to follow. One of the band’s career highlights, ‘Shooting Star’, was inspired by the early deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison.
Says Kirke, “This was when we really gelled. ‘Feel Like Making Love’ came out of two songs. Paul had the heavy riff and Mick had this country song. They married the two and it won a Grammy. ‘Shooting Star’ was the best song Paul ever wrote, and I have to mention my own two – ‘Anna’ and ‘Weep No More’. Played with a full orchestra, it was a proud moment, seeing 40 guys playing on my song.”
Key track: ‘Feel Like Making Love’
Bad Company - Run With The Pack (1976)
Says Kirke of the band’s third album, “We were at our peak, really, for this album. ‘Live For The Music’ and ‘Do Right By Your Woman’ were recorded around a camp fire on the Rolling Stones’ mobile studio. I just loved playing. I never rested on my laurels because there was always Bonzo in the background, tongue in his cheek. But he always said he loved my drumming.”
Alongside a cover of ]Young Blood’, originally by 1950s R&B vocal group The Coasters, was the ballad ‘Silver, Blue And Gold’ and the Mick Ralphs-penned hard rocker ‘Live For The Music’, with Kirke providing a stomping backbeat.