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A meeting between Paul Rodgers and Paul Kossoff in a blues club spawned one of Britain's greatest rock groups - the mighty Free! In 'All Right Now', this precocious group produced one of rock music's enduring classic songs, which was a massive hit in the UK and the US in 1970.
Free's rise had been meteoric. Their first gig had been in the Spring of 1968, and during the autumn of that year, their first album, 'Tons Of Sobs', was released. The band at the time of the album's release were all teenagers; lead singer Paul Rodgers was 18, lead guitarist Paul Kossoff was also 18, drummer Simon Kirke 19, and, bassist Andy Fraser - already a veteran of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers - was just 16.
It would take only eighteen months from that debut LP, for the group to really break through, with the single 'All Right Now', and their most acclaimed album, 'Fire And Water', capped off by playing the legendary and infamous 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival.
This success was, however, short lived, with Paul Kossoff's drug habit spiralling out of control, and disappointing sales for their next album, 'Highway'. There were other hit singles, in 'My Brother Jake', which really brought out the best in Paul Rodgers raw, bluesey voice. Plus, there was the great last hurrah with 'Wishing Well', a song written about Paul Kossoff - though he was oblivious of the fact, and was listed on the writing credits. Kossoff was a genuinely great guitarist, and an insecure young man, who nonetheless played with great feel and soul, and he was one of the youngest of rock's casualties, dying in 1976, aged just 25.
Free actually split up in the spring of 1971, but reformed again around a year later. But things were still not well in the Free camp. As the band began to fragment, Tetsu Yamauchi replaced Fraser on bass, and John "Rabbit" Bundrick was also brought in on keyboards.
Paul Rodgers has been the most successful of the Free family, notably with Bad Company, and then being given the unenviable task of taking over from Freddie Mercury as lead singer of Queen. He's also, allegedly, Tony Blair's favourite singer, which doesn't necessarily do him any favours... Rodgers has probably never been fully appreciated as a vocalist, but he's right up there with the Robert Plant's in having a great range, and he epitomised the tremendous power, verve, and soul of which Free embodied.
- Paul Rance/booksmusicfilmstv.com.
British Rock Band Free DVD available from booksmusicfilmstv.com - in association with Amazon.co.uk
British Rock Band Free CDs available from booksmusicfilmstv.com - in association with Amazon.co.uk
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