Rock’s Classics :: Bad Company – Bad Company

Rock’s Classics returns after a short hiatus with an embodiment of what it meant to make rock music in the 1970s


Bad Company

Bad Company © John Rockwood

Taking a trip back to arguably one of rock’s heyday years of 1974, Rock’s Classics takes a gander at the hard rock classic “Bad Company” by Bad Company. Often considered by many to be a band that could and perhaps should have delivered more, Bad Company seemed to tap into a mentality and way of life that perfectly epitomised the early 70s rock scene. With their screaming lyrics and heavily amped guitars, Bad Company stood at the very edge of making a bloody charge at immortality, “Bad Company” was one of their war cries.


Formed in 1973 as the result of the remaining members of Free, vocalist Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke. Mott the Hoople’s Mick Ralphs on guitar and Boz Burrell formerly of King Crimson, it seemed that this band of plucky young rockers who had cut their teeth in what are considered some of the best seminal rock bands of their age, could do no wrong. The initial result of their meeting and cutting of their first album, Bad Company was a record deal with the newly formed Swan Song, a lucrative if not chaotic side project of Led Zeppelin. This deal also secured the services of Zep’s manager, one Peter Grant, the towersome former wrestler who is considered to be the pioneer of the rock band’s management system we know of today.

Thus in 1974, the band released their eponymous debut album much to the critics and fans of the member’s previous band’s enjoyment and pleasure. literally ladened with what are considered classic rock staples and anthems, “Can’t Get Enough,” and “Movin’ On” could probably justify a Rock’s Classics article to themselves, it was the self styled album and band leading song “Bad Company” that would secure itself as being the definitive sound for the band itself and the perfect calling card for the artists and their work.

Written by Kirke and Rodgers, the main basis for the song’s inspiration is taken from the Jeff Bridges western movie released a few years previously. Designed as an anthem for any rebelling soul and individual thinker, the lyrics deal with the somewhat regretful and remorseful narrator who acknowledges his rebellious and free way of life, ultimately not repenting but admitting it what he or she ultimately wants. This, accompanied by Ralphs guitar work in which he lumbers through the whole song with a heavy fisted dread, perfectly countering the flamboyant and wistful vocals from Rodgers. The percussion section and echoing piano/keyboard, also from Ralphs, paint the perfect picture of an Old West wilderness, the place in which the narrator has either decided or accepted will be the place of his final fight, a life spent on the wrong side of the tracks ending in the same way.

The solo, one of Mick Ralph’s best and a tribute to a rock guitarist often left off of most popular and talented lists, comes thundering out of this musical wilderness like a stampeding stallion. Erupting much like the protagonists frustration and temperamental nature, the solo works its way up and down the fret board in a controlled chaos, the voices of a thousand generations of rogues and renegades uniting as one distorted, amplified Marshall voice.

In all, “Bad Company” is not a song that is overlooked, nor is it a song that is underappreciated or unheralded by critics and fans of the hard and classic rock movements. It is a song that is a perfect embodiment of a band, era and genre that was perfectly master crafted and delivered to the mass public, of which they ate it up. Although Bad Company would go on to produce a total of twelve studio albums, the line up changed on an almost yearly basis at one point during the 80s and 90s, the band’s spirit was never truly captured again than in this album and thus within it this track. A great pity as many rock bands before and after Bad Company would attempt to come close to encapsulating all that they stood for but in the end, none were as close as Bad Company were, all of the time.

Jonathan Whitelaw


The band are still going strong so check out their official website: http://www.badcompany.com

Rock’s Classics :: Ozzy Osbourne – Hellraiser

Rock’s Classics takes a step over to the darker side of music as the self ordained Prince of Darkness graces us with his presence.


Ozzy Osbourne & Zakk Wylde

Ozzy Osbourne & Zakk Wylde © Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment

Taking a distinctly metal fringe on this installment of Rock’s Classics, the 1991 hit “Hellraiser” by music’s godfather of carry on, Ozzy Osbourne. Taken from his sixth studio album No More Tears, “Hellraiser” has gone on to enjoy phenomenal success since its initial release, nineteen years ago and remains one of Ozzy’s most popular tracks.


Debuting in early autumn of 1991, Ozzy’s album No More Tears was intended to continue his long associated success now that he had fully established himself as a credible solo recording artist. The album spawned five singles, most notably “No More Tears” and “Mama I’m Coming Home” but interestingly did not include “Hellraiser”, an odd decision that baffles fandom and music listeners to this day considering the huge popularity that the song has gone on to accumulate. No More Tears also holds the distinction of being one of Ozzy’s most successful albums in terms of sales, the other being the 1981 solo debut Blizzard of Oz.

The track is one of great interest and love from heavy metal and rock fans the world over. Despite having a distinctly hackneyed and clichéd title, the song deals with the irreverent truth and almost sacrificial love that the narrator, in this case it should be believed to be Ozzy himself, has for the world of rock and roll music. Indeed the opening line “Heading out on an endless road/ Around the world for rock and roll,” aptly starts the drum fuelled, blistering guitar odyssey of mythical landscaping and grotty real life gigging.

Musically the song can be considered a borderline metal masterpiece, certainly much more credible than the album filling, seventh placed song on the track listings that it was treated to by producers. Zakk Wylde’s screaming Les Paul smashes through the speakers and earphones like a stampeding elephant, his riff writing and execution acting like a sharp bolt of lightning tearing through the night and down the listener’s spine. Couple this with Ozzy’s signature wailing and the song takes on a distinctly Gothic feel, continuing a wonderfully healthy obsession with such topics and trends that were popular in the early to mid nineties where it seemed nothing would be considered credible had it not been given the Mary Shelly treatment. See Meatloaf’s “I’d do anything for love” and Alien 3 for further examples. Osbourne’s vocal work should also be commended considering he probably hadn’t been home or even to bed since the late seventies.

“Hellraiser” has a strong legacy in many different formats and avenues. The song was covered by Motorhead, frontman Lemmy having contributed to writing and production on No More Tears, the song appearing on the soundtrack to the motion picture “Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth”. The song would also go on to appear in the video game GTA: San Andreas, continuing Osbourne’s now lengthy affiliation to the ultra-violent video game franchise. It is therefore with no real great surprise that “Hellraiser” for all of its semi biographical and almost demonic repenting nature that it has become a mainstay of Ozzy’s live set lists. With a popularity that grows with every generation that hears it for the first time, “Hellraiser” is certainly considered one of the textbook tracks for new and old metal and rock fans to listen to, another example of Ozzy Osbourne’s seemingly immortal talent and freedom of expression.

Jonathan Whitelaw


The song is available for download on iTunes and check out Ozzy’s official website for tours and band information: http://www.ozzy.com/

Rock’s Classics :: Cream – Badge

Wiping the dust off of one of rock’s most underplayed classics from the late 1960s


Cream

Cream © Forbes magazine

Rolling on with the irreverent look and tribute to rock music’s greats and giants, the clock is rolled back rapidly as we are hurtled through time to 1969 with Cream’s “Badge”. Considered by many to be the height of Cream’s short lived but hugely important and influential reign as Britain’s premier rock music group in the late sixties. Included on their final album, appropriately titled Goodbye, “Badge” has the backing of Eric Clapton and George Harrison’s writing talents coupled with influences from Ringo Starr, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, the last two the remaining members of the band along with Clapton. This, almost unbelievable, grouping of some of the best talents of the era come together to create an underrated and vastly uncelebrated classic of rock and roll.


The music industry and scene was changing in 1969, a turbulent and whirlwind change to cap off a decade that was dominated by the rise and rise of popular music, alternative and underground scenes and the emergence of so many different genres of new music. It is therefore no surprise that a band like Cream had achieved stellar success, not least, making a superstar out of Eric Clapton and assuring his place as one of the greatest guitarists all the way through until today. Thus when the band decided they were to progress their own separate ways, their final aptly titled album Goodbye was decided that each member would individually write a song, coupled with their normal writing collaborations with each other.

The outcome for Clapton was “Badge” in which the sultan of guitarists consulted his close friend and contemporary George “heartbeat of The Beatles” Harrison. During a late night jamming session, the two were able to complete the basic lyrics and chord layouts of the track. Beatles drummer Ringo Starr then inadvertently stumbled into the session, his intoxicated ramblings apparently responsible for the very 60s line “I told you ‘bout the swans, that live in the park”. The title of the song remains somewhat cryptic, with plenty of theories having been spawned over the years. One common theory is that the title is an anagram of the standard tuning of the guitars used during the production, those being EADGBE.

The truth in reality, however, is much simpler. Apparently, according to the late Harrison during an interview conducted previously, he stated that it was in fact a simple handwriting mistake. Having written bridge between sections of the chords and lyrics, Clapton and Starr, who could perhaps be forgiven for having had one too many cherrys, read the line as badge. Hence the song was titled and a legend was born, albeit through intoxicated means but hey, its rock and roll!

The true beauty of “Badge” is not in the various stories and history that surrounds the song but more in the actual music of the song itself. Acting as an unassuming little track in the middle of the Goodbye album, “Badge” offers the listener an insight and encapsulation of the late 1960s sound as a whole. Clapton’s lead guitar is strummingly brilliant before switching to his electrically charged, hauntingly resonant lead that erupts into the fiery solo. Ginger Baker’s almost muffled and subdued drums give the song a depth that reassures the listener that despite this journey of heartfelt love and possible heartbreak, not all things are that bad and there is a safety net. Couple these effects with a distant, almost forgotten piano that seems to faintly reach out and merely dust the listener like a light stroke on the back of one’s neck and the atmosphere and world that “Badge” creates is complete.

The song and the album as a whole proved to be a fitting swan song for one of the most important bands that Britain ever produced, not just in the 1960s but well beyond. Although looking back on their discography now, it could arguably be seen as being ever so slightly dated, the majority of the songs being relatively raw and, dare it be said, watered down versions of what the indiviual artists would produce in the future. A case in point would be that “Badge” arguably the best that Cream produced, is often regarded in the shadow of Clapton’s other solo bursting, fret board flying classic “Layla” that would appear only a year later as part of Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominoes, his next venture.  With credits such as one of Rock’s greatest love song and Grammy’s coming out of its ears, it is with no real surprise that songs like “Badge” are often overlooked for the much wider “Layla”. This should not take away from “Badge” or its popularity amongst the music community, solidifying it as one of Rock’s classics and certainly one of its most under played and unappreciated.

Jonathan Whitelaw


For more information on Eric Clapton or Cream’s 2005 reunion, check out their official websites. The track is also available from iTunes: http://www.cream2005.com/ and http://www.ericclapton.com

Super Groups – Part 1 The Good, Better and Best

An insight into the weird and wonderful world of super groups, starting off a two part feature, firstly with the good side.


Travelling Wilburys

The Travelling Wilburys clockwise top left; Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, George Harrison

The world of Rock and Roll has been more than giving to loyal fans and casual listeners over the many beer and whiskey soaked decades that have gone before. Each band and artist within the sweaty scene has their own unique contribution to the glorious and sometimes infamous world that refuses to exist quietly. But what happens when members from numerous acts form together, combining their talents and trials for everybody’s entertainment. Ladies and gentlemen, the Super Group is born, wide eyed and desperate for a beer!

As the name says, a super group is, at least on basis of foundation, meant to be super. In a world as volatile as the music industry, and the rock scene more so, it is no mean feat when a number of artists, their baggage and creative styles and all, decide to group together and produce music. Although the idea sounds bad at first, potentially life threatening in some cases, it is remarkable to find that there are actually a few genuinely good super groups that were able to produce notable music that still rocks. These chosen few create a wonderful blend of styles and bring listeners a good dose of music meant more than simply an outlet for aging rockers to have one more stab at some fame. Of course, those exist also. Here in part one we’ll explore the best.

The concept is not a new one to music, the first recognized super groups date back as far as 1968 with Cream. This band of course featured Eric Clapton fresh from The Yardbirds, Jack Bruce of Manfred Man and Ginger Baker of Graham Bond. However, there is some speculation and mild controversy amongst fans of the band and rock music as to whether Cream should be considered a super group or not, their status now firmly placed within rock music lore as being a credible enough band to be considered stand alone, their four albums released over three years a testimony to this. Another super group, considered by many to be the first true band in the sense, are Crosby, Stills and Nash (CSN). Again, these artists are now more recognised for being within this band and achieving greater success than they did as either solo artists or members of previous groups. Cream and CSN, although some of the very first bands to be labelled with this title, skirt the borderline between super group and regular band. Their success however cannot be considered ambiguous as they both continue to tour and perform to this day.

One group, however, stands enormously large over the others like a rampaging giant across a Belgian countryside and, considering their personnel have every right to do so, were The Travelling Wilburys. Consisting of Jeff Lynne of ELO fame, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, George Harrison and Bob Dylan no less, this group is the archetypal example of what and how a super group should be created and performed. Each member a more than credible source of material and musical ability, The Travelling Wilburys to this day still exist as the best example of how potentially fantastic a super group can be for fans of the individual artists and the music they play. Primarily focussing on a more country/folk rock style of music, each of the five transatlantic members come together in a wonderful mixture of harmonics, playing ability and song writing ability. Their debut album, ‘Traveling Wilburys Vol.1’ remains the jewel of the small collection from this group, Handle with Care a fun, imaginative and feel good song that is a pleasure to listen to and enjoy.

The death of Roy Orbison in 1988 however spelled an unceremonious end to the Travelling Wilburys. Their tenure only lasted two full albums and a compilation album, and in many opinions this added to the mythos of the super group. Their short lived success is now consigned to the history books and has left fans and music lovers alike wondering what might have been had they been given a longer shot.

The drama and bedlam that is so often associated with super groups often contributes negatively to the press the band in turn receives. However, there are plenty of positives to take from the amalgamation of very different styles and approaches to rock and roll music. Other very good super groups worth noting that perhaps did not achieve as great success as their peers or previous incarnations would be The Firm, featuring Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. Audioslave with Chris “Bond theme” Cornell of Sound Garden and Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine. Finally Bad Company with Paul Rogers, who also fronted The Firm with Jimmy Page, of Free. A cheeky tip of the cap goes to Journey who, again are more famous for being a stand alone group, consisted of former Santana musicians but also because everybody seems to love them strangely. Look out for Part two when we examine the ugly side of Super Groups, and it’s not pretty!

Jonathan Whitelaw


Tracks and albums are available from Amazon or iTunes. Check out these websites for more band information: http://www.travellingwilburys.com, http://www.crsobystillsnash.com, http://www.ericclapton.com

Classic Rock – Who says its dead!

Classic rock and roll, an old dog with very sharp teeth!


 
Angus Young of AC/DC

Angus Young and AC/DC are still favourites. Photo www.ishootshows.com Copyright © 2009 Todd Owyoung

“Rock n roll aint noise pollution, rock n roll aint gonna die” The screeching voice of AC/DC’s Brian Johnson sings the signature lines to the 1980 hit from the Australian rockers. The line is from a song that bring ups the rear end of arguably the most famous classic rock album, and certainly the best selling, of all time, Back in Black. Regarded as little more than a traditionally blues based filler song, the band, or any of the listening fans, know that, after some thirty years after its initial release, the song would become a signature anthem and epitome of what classic rock music has become.

It is not an unknown fact in the current music industry that there is still a thriving market for aging rockers. Many accredit this to the saturated markets of pop and RnB for delivering their same act re-packaged, re-dressed and re-branded every few years. This has led to a boom in the indie scene, house and electro pop markets as listeners seek out new and more creative forms of music. But a side effect of this has seen a recurring theme of fans, of all ages, screaming for classic rock and roll music. But it would be unfair to lay the credit and responsibility for rock’s inclination at the glitter drenched feet of the pop industry. The truth is that classic rock is just a great way of having fun and is genuinely good to listen to.

For the most part, standard rock will compromise of three main topics, women, drinking and a jolly old knees up. The variants on these themes differ depending on the sentimentality or in some cases the degree of which drug induced bedlam has been declared norm, of the band but always remain true to the classic rock fundamentals. It is no wonder then that in a world suffering the biggest financial crisis and unemployment at their highest in decades that the seemingly utopian lifestyle of partying, girls and late night hotel shenanigans has become a predominant escapist fantasy of the modern world.

Leading the charge of assault on the heavily powdered, complacent fortress of popular dirge are a number of aging bands still pumping out loud static from their marshal stacks. AC/DC treated long time fans and new listeners to their 2008 offering, Black Ice, their first album since 2000. Although not perfect by any means and pallid in comparison to their heyday albums, the album resorted to a more straight edged, crowd pleasing format. The band’s previous two efforts had been more aimed at longer, more established fan bases. 2009 has also produced new material from the likes of Alice in Chains, Foreigner and KISS, who’s Sonic Boom album released in October was more than a blatant nod to their glory days of the late 1970s and 80s. As far back as 2007 with the remaining members of Led Zeppelin reforming as a tribute to the late Atlantic Records mogul Ahmet Ertgrun, millions of fans, old and new, clamoured for only a few thousand tickets. This style of frenzy has been replicated across the world as the aging bands have gone on tour to promote their new work, usually selling out within moments. This shows that there is still a lot of life left in the old shaggy dog.

The future is mixed for the classic rock industry. On one hand there is new material readily available for fans of any generation to enjoy from some of the best known and loved masters of the game. On the other hand, however, the men and women of this age of music are now nearing their 60s and beyond bringing into question who will take the beer stained guitar and amplifiers when they are retired. Regardless of the future, enough of our heroes have taught us not to think about it, the desire and willingness to pay for classic rock music is still very much alive. With new techniques of recording, production, indie and popular favourite Mark Ronson contributed to Foreigner’s latest album, and easier access to rock music continuing to change and simplify, the industry truly does look like it will never die.

By Jonathan Whitelaw


For more info on the bands in this article, check out their official websites: www.acdc.com, www.kissonline.com, www.foreigneronline.com and www.ledzeppelin.com. Also http://www.ishootshows.com