David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 294: Bad Company (Bad Company)

October 26, 2023

What kind of company does Paul Rodgers want to keep? When you have a voice like he has, you'd like to think any company that you want. However, Rodgers seems a restless sort, a pity for all of us in bad company.

Early in his career he didn't want the company of the Free. He and drummer, Simon Kirke, seemed to be seeking refuge from band members who were Free, but not disciplined enough to be free. We're looking at you, Paul Kossoff. The result was Kirke and Rodgers picking up a couple more "I need a new place to dwell" musicians, Mott The Hoople's Mick Ralphs, and King Crimson's Boz Burrell, to form a new band.

Rodgers must have looked around his new band and thought, "now this is some bad company. And all we need is a theme song." Rumor has it that Rodgers actually wanted to write a song "Bad Company" because a band theme song had never been done before.

Never been done before? We hear you, Mickey Dolenz! The Monkees even had the audacity to call their theme song "(Theme From) The Monkees." Maybe Rodgers was purposefully snubbing The Monkees (who didn't there for awhile), maybe he considered the song the theme to a television show and not to a group, or maybe he lived in a cocoon and had never heard of The Monkees.

Surely he had heard of Black Sabbath, which a few years before Bad Company, had opened their debut album with "Black Sabbath," certainly no "hey, hey, we're black sabbath," but instead a song about personified death. If not Sabbath, Rodgers had to have been raised on Bo Diddley singing "Bo Diddley." You're sounding a little disingenuous, Paul, in saying a theme song for a rock band had never been done before. Sure, the company might be small in 1974, but it would get much bigger over the years. Band themes seemed to be a trend among alternative acts: "They Might Be Giants," "General Public," "Talk Talk," "Icehouse," "Porno For Pyros."

Note that I refuse to count song titles that were a little more expansive than the band name. Yea, Big Country, "In A Big Country" is a fantastic song, but you are either Big Country or in a big country, but you can't be both. Similar problem with Heart's "Heartless:" You either have heart, Nancy and Ann, or you don't. On the other end of the spectrum are the bands that seemed overly fixated by their names, trying to squeeze it in where-ever they could. Queen, wasn't it bad enough that we had the "White Queen," then the "March of The Black Queen" before you finally nailed it right with "Killer Queen"? As for The Clash, is your clash noun or adjective? You understand our confusion, don't you, with "Radio City Clash" versus "Clash City Rockers?"

However, I have asked you to accompany me on an aside way too long, and need to get back to Paul Rodgers and his passionate pursuit of bad company. As a result, and apparently because of a phrase he had seen in a Victorian book on morality, he and Kirke created the moody "Bad Company" as the opening for Side Two of the debut album, Bad Company. Typical early 1970s Englishmen, Bad Company sought the company of Americans, affixing their theme song to the already worn-out American West metaphor. One can only ask, "how did they push Bernie Taupin and Elton John out of the way?"

From the opening fantastic slow developing piano chords, the song appears to be a slow crawl to a gunfight at the OK Corral. The band marches along while guitars and drums provide (gun)bursts of drama. Rodgers vocals seem just off the side, as if he's lurking in the shadowy background, perhaps brushed by tumbling tumbleweeds blowing by. When the chorus kicks in, it's high noon, the sun beats heavily down upon the cocky gunfighter ready to make his "final stand," the "bad company I can't deny."

In the end, if you're going for a theme song, "Baaaaaaaaaaaaaad company 'til I die" is a pretty good crowd-pleaser, rocking harder and baring the souls much more passionately than "people saying we're monkeying around/but we're too busy singing to put anybody down." Davy and company, meet Paul and company. They'll not only put you down, they'll shoot you down.

Ultimately, Rodgers seemed to tire of his bad company, leaving the band after six pretty stellar rock albums. He resurfaced as part of The Firm, just going to show that even the baddest of all bad company eventually goes corporate. As if being the head of a Firm wasn't enough, Rodgers then moved into The Law, making him the man in every worst way, the infamous "good guy with a gun."

Later in his career, Rodgers became the first substitute for Freddie Mercury in the post-Mercury years (with Queen + Paul Rodgers). Not only did that have him out there singing "Good Company," it brought him into the orbit of universally loved rock and roll good guy, Brian May. That didn't even last that long and whatever company he's been keeping since pales in the light of his rock and roll journey for company, bad, good and in between.

I suppose that's what happens when you have a great voice. Any company would love to have you.

Bad Company. "Bad Company." Bad Company. Elektra, 1974. Link here.

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Day 295: Michael Been "Worried"

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