Posts Tagged ‘Free’

IGGY POP – ” Sonali “

Posted: November 27, 2019 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Iggy Pop has released a brand new music video from his latest album “Free”. The bizarre visual for “Sonali” was directed by Mac DeMarco, and stars a familiar face: The Lizard Man. The well-dressed reptile steers his fur-covered convertible through rush hour traffic en route to his lizard girlfriend (played by DeMarco’s real-life human girlfriend Kiera McNally). Watch it all go down below.

“Sonali” was written by Ruby Sylvain and Leron Thomas. The reptilian cast is a throwback to DeMarco’s “Nobody” visual from Here Comes the Cowboy, in which Mac played a lizard man. (“Sonali”’s reptile protagonist is played by Tommy Midnight.)

“Sonali” written by R.Sylvain/L. Thomas Iggy Pop – Vocal Kenny Ruby – Bass, Piano, Synthesizer Leron Thomas – Trumpet Tibo Brandalise – Drums

IGGY POP – ” Loves Missing “

Posted: October 1, 2019 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Iggy Pop has shared the official video for his new single ‘Loves Missing’ – Taken from his new record ‘Free”.

The song features on the iconic musician’s new album, ‘Free‘, which was released last month. Following on from 2016’s ‘Post Pop Depression’, the record also contains the songs ‘James Bond‘ and ‘Sonali’.

Over the weekend (September 29), Iggy Pop unveiled the minimal visuals for his latest offering. Focusing on the singer as he performs in front of a black backdrop, the clip – directed by Simon Taylor – includes footage of a woman browsing through records at Miami’s Sweat Records shop.

“Loves Missing”  Iggy Pop – Vocal Aaron Nevezie – Guitar, Bass Leron Thomas – Trumpet, Keys Chris Berry – Drums

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Iggy Pop is releasing a new album, “Free”, on September 6th via Loma Vista. he shared its first single, short title track “Free.” This week he shared the album’s second single, “James Bond,” which seems to be about a woman who wants to be a superspy. The song features additional vocals from Faith Vern of the British band PINS and a notable trumpet solo played by Leron Thomas.

Iggy Pop had this to say about the song in a press release: “I don’t know what she’s up to exactly, but the tables seem to be turning, and she’s taking over. Well, why not? I’ll try anything once.”

Pop adds: “I’ve never had more fun singing a lyric. Faith’s reading is so loaded, and Leron’s production and trumpet along with the band swings like crazy.”

Freeis the follow-up to 2016’s Post Pop Depression, which was produced by Josh Homme of Eagles of Death Metal and Queens of the Stone Age, who also co-wrote the album with Pop and played on it. In 2018 Pop also teamed up with the iconic British dance duo Underworld (Karl Hyde and Rick Smith) for the collaborative four-song EP, Teatime Dub Encounters. Free was made with help of Leron Thomas and Noveller. A previous press release called the album a “uniquely somber and contemplative entry in the Iggy Pop canon.”

Pop had this to say about the album in the previous press release: “This is an album in which other artists speak for me, but I lend my voice… “By the end of the tours following Post Pop Depression, I felt sure that I had rid myself of the problem of chronic insecurity that had dogged my life and career for too long.

“But I also felt drained. And I felt like I wanted to put on shades, turn my back, and walk away. I wanted to be free. I know that’s an illusion, and that freedom is only something you feel, but I have lived my life thus far in the belief that that feeling is all that is worth pursuing; all that you need – not happiness or love necessarily, but the feeling of being free.

“So this album just kind of happened to me, and I let it happen.”

This is first new Iggy Pop album since 2016’s Post Pop Depression, will be released September 6th on Caroline International/Loma Vista.

Paul Rodgers, "Free Spirit"

Paul Rodgers is returning to where it all began, The legendary rocker, known for his work with Free and then later Bad Company, is celebrating the golden anniversary of Free with a new release, Free Spirit: Celebrating The Music of Free, which was recorded at the historic Royal Albert Hall in London.

Being back at a venue that he has played many times was special to Rodgers. “It was wonderful and received so well. There’s a lot of love for the music, and I was very touched by the response.” In addition to CD/DVD and Blu-ray, and album will be released on a medium that was fashionable when he first recorded with Free some five decades ago – vinyl.

“I have a lot of analog. I think a lot of people do. There are a lot of people that are re-discovering it. I still have a lot of my old records from back in the day. It’s a joy to play things like Junior Wells’ ‘Hoodoo Man Blues,’ and John Mayall & The Blues Breakers “Beano” album with Eric Clapton. There’s a warmth that you can still feel. I do think that the ear detects this on some level.”

The song “All Right Now,” which became the band’s signature tune in 1970, Rodgers says it’s a song that has aged well – but one he actually went for years without playing. “When I left Free back in 1972, I didn’t play ‘All Right Now’ until about 1996, when I was touring with Jason Bonham, and we were supporting the tribute record we had done to Muddy Waters. We got calls from the audience to do the song, and I hadn’t done it in so long. Then, the band started calling for it. So, people were calling for it in front of and behind me. I said ‘Okay. Let’s do it.’ It was so refreshing to play, and it has wound up staying in the set. I am amazed at the song and its longevity.”

Between that iconic song, as well as Bad Company hits like “Feel Like Makin’ Love,”, Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Free, captured in front of a sold out crowd during the Free Spirit “Celebrating the Music of Free” Tour at London’s Royal Albert Hall, Paul Rodgers and band perform Free’s greatest hit “All Right Now”.

Rodgers says that playing the songs of Free on the collection was as refreshing as it ever was – with one of the reasons being some of the songs the band never played in concert before. “A lot of the songs we recorded, we’d put the basic track down, then I’d go write the lyrics in the control room, and I’d put the vocal on it, and walk away. That was it. We never performed it live. There were so many tracks like that – ‘Love You So,’ ‘Catch The Train’ – a lot of these songs we were focused on recording, but we didn’t play any of them live. It’s amazing to play them live now and re-discover them now.”

In a career that has seen many highlights, what are some of the moments that stand out for Rodgers? He doesn’t hesitate.

“When I played with Jimmy Page, he would take a solo, and lift the roof off of the building. You would just pinch yourself that you were witnessing it. There were moments with Queen where I would be surrounded by sixty thousand people, and people would be singing along, and you’d think ‘Wow. Am I really here?’ Then, doing the album at Albert Hall, I stood about ten feet back from the mic because the dynamics of the band were so focused. They could play – and you could hear a pin drop. They had the attention of the audience. I was standing back, and singing ‘Be My Friend,’ and it was also a pinch me moment. To promote the release, Rodgers is taking the music to the people. “We’re getting ready to go on tour with Free Spirit, and Jeff Beck is also going to be on the bill.

While his resume includes stints with some of rock’s greatest groups, there was one band that was interested in his services – but couldn’t find him.

“I didn’t know it at the time, but I did a show with a reformed version of The Doors. They came up to me, and said ‘You might not know this, but when Jim Morrison died, we flew over to England, and were looking for you to join us. But, we couldn’t find you.’ I was gobsmacked. I told them that I was in the country hiding away writing with Mick Ralphs writing songs for Bad Company. That was really amazing.

The Free Way Or The ‘Highway’

The summer of 1970 was a magic time for Free. They announced themselves to a wider audience as one of the most soulful rock bands of the new decade with an all-pervading tune called ‘All Right Now.’

Not only did the song reach No. 2 and help the parent album Fire and Water to the same runner-up spot in the UK, but ‘All Right Now’ became a top 15 hit twice more in just eight years, and charted four times in total in 12 years. Then came time for the follow-up album Highway, which made its UK chart debut on 23rd January, 1971.

This album was recorded very quickly after the band’s triumphant performance at the Isle Of Wight Festival. However, the band were now in a very relaxed frame of mind. They’d gained the big breakthrough in their career and could now capitalise on it.

Again Rodgers and Fraser wrote the bulk of the material, seven of the tracks. And there was an ease here that comes across in the way that all four members perform. However, it was Kossoff, despite his infamous problems at the time, who sounds best of all. It’s as if he’d found a new level. The disappointment is that the band broke up after this, and later regrouped under stressful circumstances.

There are those who decry ‘Highway’, regarding it as being a lesser work than ‘Fire And Water’, but when you look at the track listing, how many of those songs instantly bring to mind the melody involved. These were songs of a high calibre and stature.

But, given the enormous success of what had gone before, nobody should be surprised that ‘Highway’ wasn’t a big a success, only getting to number 41 in the UK and 190 in the US. But don’t undervalue what’s here musically.

Free had confirmed their place in the top division at the Isle of Wight Festival at the end of August. Appearing on the closing Sunday bill, they performed that big hit among other originals, ending with a version of Robert Johnson’s ‘Crossroads. That Isle of Wight set also saw Free confidently introducing several songs that not only weren’t out, but hadn’t even been recorded yet.

‘The Stealer,’ ‘Be My Friend’ and ‘Ride On A Pony’ were all about to be laid down in the September sessions at Island Studios that produced the Highway album. Seven of the nine songs were collaborations between lead singer Paul Rodgers and bassist Andy Fraser, with guitar hero Paul Kossoff joining them on the credit for ‘The Stealer.’ Drummer Simon Kirke co-wrote ‘Love You So’ with Rodgers.


Highway is an album of gentle pleasures, more low-key and less rocky than much of Free’s trademark material. ‘Sunny Day,’ ‘Love You So’ and ‘Bodie’ all exemplify the more thoughtful approach. But for whatever reason — the lack of a hit single doubtless a key factor — the stars weren’t aligned this time. Highway enjoyed much less of an endorsement than its predecessor, both from the media and the public. In the UK, it reached a mere No. 41 and was off the chart in two weeks, as it was in America, with a No. 190 peak.

The band fell into disharmony, their continuation together prolonged almost by chance, when they recorded ‘My Brother Jake’ early in 1971 before going their separate ways…and promptly saw it reach the UK top five, with which they resolved to work together again, happily for fans who snapped up both Free At Last and Heartbreaker.

In 1971, Island Records released a double sampler album called El Pea. This compilation cost the princely sum of £1.99 and featured many fledging artists who would go on to become household names,this album was a revelation, and changed my attitude to music forever.

Island Records started out with a catalogue of Jamaican music but the charismatic founder, Chris Blackwell, soon diversified into an eclectic stable of contemporary acts. Some didn’t make it, some did, but all of them appeared on one or other of the samplers Island Records released in the early 1970s.

The appeal of the samplers was clear. Punters got a chance to hear some of the best new music at a heavily discounted price, whilst the record company got to promote music that did not readily lend itself to radio or TV airplay. Some of the compilations were classic recordings in their own right, and Island Records probably came out with the classiest.

El Pea was released in the UK in 1971, but it has an enduring appeal. This was probably the folkiest of the Island samplers, with the inevitable influence of Joe Boyd. However it had its heavier moments, a touch of prog and a little reggae to make for a heady brew. The album cover was hardly arresting and probably played too much on the pun in its name – a long-playing double LP called… El Pea,  However the slapdash artwork disguises a classic album. They couldn’t even get the track listing right – you might be pleased to see Nick Drake on the album but the track listed as “One Of These Things First”, is actually the even better, astonishing, “Northern Sky”. Another track worth the purchase price is by McDonald and Giles, previously of King Crimson fame, and the album from which the track comes is one of those forgotten gems you won’t regret checking out.

You can’t get El Pea on CD, but all of the tracks are available on subsequently released CDs. Additionally a number of compilation CDs have come out over the years to reprise the glorious days of the Island sampler.

With selections ranging from much-anticipated new albums by superstars Traffic, Free, and Cat Stevens; cult demigods Mott the Hoople and Quintessence; and a handful of names that might well have been new to the average browser: Mike Heron, slipping out of the Incredible String Band with his Smiling Men With Bad Reputations debut; Nick Drake, still laboring away in absolute obscurity; and so on.

There was also a spotlight shone on Emerson, Lake & Palmer, the so-called supergroup whose own eponymous debut was still awaited with baited breath, and the choice of the virtuoso “Knife Edge” over any of the album’s more accessible tracks further confirms El Pea’s validity. Any other label would have gone for “Lucky Man,” knowing that no one could resist its plaintive charms. “Knife Edge” let the ingenue know precisely what to expect from Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

And so it goes on — from Jethro Tull to Blodwyn Pig, from Fairport Convention to Sandy Denny, 21 tracks spread across four sides of vinyl serve up one of the most generous and alluring label samplers you will ever lay your hands on

Side A

A 1 – Traffic – Empty Pages
A2 – Sandy Denny – Late November
A3 – Alan Bown – Thru The Night
A4 – John And Beverley Martyn – Auntie Aviator
A5 – Fairport Convention – Lord Marlborough

Side B
B1 – Jethro Tull – Mother Goose
B2 – Quintessence – Dive Deep
B3 – Amazing Blondel – Spring Season
B4 – McDonald & Giles – Extract From Tomorrow’s People – The Children Of Today
B5 – Tir Na Nog – Our Love Will Not Decay
B6 – Mountain – Don’t Look Around

Side C
C1 – Free – Highway Song
C2 – Incredible String Band – Waiting For You
C3 – Cat Stevens – Wild World
C4 – Bronco – Sudden Street
C5 – Mike Heron – Feast Of Stephen

Side D
D1 – Emerson Lake & Palmer – Knife Edge
D2 – Nick Drake – Northern Sky
D3 – Mott The Hoople – Original Mixed-Up Kid
D4 – Jimmy Cliff – Can’t Stop Worrying, Can’t Stop Loving
D5 – Mick Abrahams – Greyhound Bus

bumpers up front

“Bumpers” was a double sampler album from Island Records, released in Europe and Australasia in 1970; there were minor variations in track listings within Europe but the Australian release was fundamentally different. The title refers to the training shoes which can be seen on the front of the album cover but there may also be a less obvious reference to the meaning “unusually large, abundant or excellent”.

The album is left to present itself; there are no sleeve notes, the gatefold interior consists of a photograph showing publicity shots of the featured acts attached to the bole of a tree, without any identification. This image is flanked by the track listings, but even there, the information given is unreliable. Unlike its predecessors You Can All Join In and Nice Enough To Eat, there are no credits for cover art (the cover art was by Tony Wright, his first sleeve for Island), photography or design. The impression is left that the album’s production was rushed, presumably to leave enough lead-time to promote the albums featured. The English version of the album came out in two pressings, one with the pink label and “i” logo, the other with the label displaying a palm motif on a white background and a pink rim, each version with some minor variations in the production of individual tracks.

In the late sixties British record labels started to release a selection of their artists’ material on records known as samplers. These were not intended as anthologies or compilations – the purpose was to allow listeners the opportunity to sample a range of acts at a reduced price, showcasing in particular those for whom there was not a conventional singles market and hence little opportunity for radio airplay in the UK. Columbia’s ‘The Rock Machine Turns You On’ and Liberty Records ‘Gutbucket’ .   Island Records produced a series of gems from ‘Nice Enough to Eat’ and ‘You Can All Join In’ in 1969, to ‘Bumpers’ in 1970 and ‘El Pea’ in 1971. ‘Bumpers’ was, as it’s name would suggest, the pick of the crop, with an eclectic yet cohesive collection of music across two 33rpm vinyl discs. Priced at actually 29/11 cover price . The album came out in two pressings, one with the pink label and “i” logo, the other with the label displaying a palm motif on a white background and a pink rim.

Side One

  1. “Every Mother’s Son”  – Traffic (from John Barleycorn Must Die (ILPS 9116)) (7:06)
  2. “Love”  – Bronco (from Bronco (ILPS 9134))  (4:42)
  3. “I Am the Walrus”  – Spooky Tooth (from The Last Puff (ILPS 9117)) (6:20)
  4. “Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Gauranga”  – Quintessence (Live version of track, not released elsewhere at the time, but available as ‘bonus’ track on CD version of album Quintessence (REPUK 1016) (5:15)

Side Two

  1. “Thunderbuck Ram” – Mott the Hoople (from Mad Shadows (ILPS 9119) (4:50)
  2. “Nothing To Say”  – Jethro Tull (from Benefit (ILPS 9123)) (5:10)
  3. “Going Back West”  – Jimmy Cliff (from Jimmy Cliff (ILPS 9133)) (5:32)
  4. “Send Your Son To Die” – Blodwyn Pig (from Getting To This (ILPS 9122)) (4:35)
  5. “Little Woman”  – Dave Mason (no source listed)  (2:30)

Side Three

  1. “Go Out And Get It”  – John & Beverley Martyn (from Stormbringer! (ILPS 9113)) (3:15)
  2. “Cadence & Cascade” – King Crimson (from In the Wake of Poseidon (ILPS 9127)) (4:30)
  3. “Reaching Out On All Sides”  – If (from If (ILPS 9129)) (5:35)
  4. “Oh I Wept”  – Free (from Fire and Water (ILSP 9120)) (4:25)
  5. “Hazey Jane” – Nick Drake (from his album to be released Autumn ’70) (4:28)

Side Four

  1. “Walk Awhile”  – Fairport Convention (from Full House (ILPS 9130)) (4:00)
  2. “Maybe You’re Right”  – Cat Stevens (from Mona Bone Jakon (ILPS 9118)) (3:00)
  3. “Island”  – Renaissance (from Renaissance (ILPS 9114)) (5:57)
  4. “The Sea”  – Fotheringay (from Fotheringay (ILPS 9125)) (5:25)
  5. “Take Me To Your Leader”  –Clouds (intended to be on their Chrysalis album to be released Autumn ’70) (2:55)



Image result for nice enough to eat

“Nice Enough to Eat” is a budget priced sampler album released by Island Records in 1969. Continuing the policy set by its predecessor You Can All Join In, the album presented tracks from the latest albums by their then established artists including Free, Traffic, and Jethro Tull, and introduced tasters from newer signings to the label, notably Nick Drake and King Crimson. The inclusion of the Nick Drake track, “Time Has Told Me”, has been credited with providing the first opportunity for many record buyers to hear Drake’s music.

It was priced as low as 14 shillings and 6 pence (£0.72), less than half of the standard album price at the time. The album is described as a “somewhat incoherent sampler of folk-rock, prog rock, and prog-tinged hard rock”, but with a “stellar artist lineup”

It was combined with You Can All Join In for a CD Re-release in August 1992 entitled “Nice Enough To Join In”

The cover was designed by Mike Sida, who had already provided the cover for Spooky Two, and went on to produce several further classic Island album covers including Free’s Fire and Water and Traffic’s “John Barleycorn Must Die”. The front cover’s simple motif of names of featured bands spelt out in alphabet sweets (in a combination of blue/biscuit colours alone) is subverted on the rear cover, where most of the letters have been dispersed and replaced by what seem to be brightly coloured tablets. The presence of (at least parts of) medicine capsules might make a suspicious observer suspect a reference to drugs.

Side one

  1. “Cajun Woman”  Fairport Convention – (from Unhalfbricking (ILPS 9102)) – 2:41
  2. “At the Crossroads”  Mott the Hoople – (from Mott the Hoople (ILPS 9108)) – 5:28
  3. “Better By You, Better Than Me” Spooky Tooth – (from Spooky Two (ILPS 9098)) – 3:29
  4. “We Used To Know”  Jethro Tull – (from Stand Up (ILPS 9103)) – 3:58
  5. “Woman”  Free – (from Free (ILPS 9104)) – 3:45
  6. “I Keep Singing That Same Old Song”  Heavy Jelly – Island 7″ (b/w “Blue”) (WIP 6049) – 8:19

Side two

  1. “Sing Me A Song That I Know” Blodwyn Pig – (from Ahead Rings Out (ILPS 9101))- 3:04
  2. “(Roamin’ Thro’ The Gloamin’ With) Forty Thousand Headmen” Traffic – (from Best of Traffic)[ (ILPS 9112)) – 3:12
  3. “Time Has Told Me”  Nick Drake – (from Five Leaves Left (ILPS 9105)) – 4:23
  4. “21st Century Schizoid Man”  King Crimson – (from In the Court of the Crimson King  (ILPS 9111)) – 7:20
  5. “Gungamai”  Quintessence – (from In Blissful Company (ILPS 9110Q)) – 4:17
  6. “Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal” (Pawle) – Dr. Strangely Strange – (from Kip of the Serenes (ILPS 9106)) – 4:26

“You Can All Join In” was a budget priced sampler album, released in the UK by Island Records in 1968. It was priced at 14 shillings and 6 pence (£0.72), and reached no. 18 on the UK Albums Chart that year

It was arguably instrumental in breaking world-class bands such as Free, Jethro Tull and Traffic to a wider audience. It represented one of the most unexpected marketing triumphs of the age — an (admittedly budget-priced) gathering of underground unknowns riding the label’s own reputation for keeping its finger on the pulse, and out-performing many of the era’s bona fide superstars. Wynder K. Frog, Art, Tramline, Clouds these were not names one normally expected to find hogging the number 18 slot on the chart.

Yet, place familiarity (or the lack thereof) aside, and You Can All Join In is one of those seamless compilations that simply cannot be improved upon. A dozen tracks highlight the best — and that is the best — of Island Record’s recent and forthcoming output, from much-anticipated debut albums by Jethro Tull, Free, and Spooky Tooth to the sophomore effort by Fairport Convention. There’s also a healthy taste of the label’s most-successful-so-far signing, Traffic, as a leaf from Steve Winwood’s back pages — the Spencer Davis Group’s “Somebody Helps Me” joins Tramline’s cover of “Pearly Queen” and Traffic’s own “You Can All Join In” (yes, indeed, this collection’s title track). one of those seamless compilations that simply cannot be improved upon. A dozen tracks highlight the best – and that is the best – of Island’s recent and forthcoming output, from much-anticipated debut albums .

The early ’70s were the golden age of British record-label samplers, with Island themselves following through with three, Vertigo weighing in with the legendary “Suck It and See”, and CBS’ redoubtable Fill Your Head With Rock ranking among a myriad others. None, however, echoed either the success or the resonance of You Can All Join In. 

The Cover Designed by Hipgnosis and although not as imaginative as some of their later work, the front cover photograph was taken in Hyde Park and is said to feature “every single one of the Island artistes … bleary eyed after a party. The rear cover consists merely of a track listing and monochrome images of the covers of eight of the sampled albums .

  1. Clive Bunker, 2 Neil Hubbard, 3 Gary Wright 4 Glenn Cornick 5 Bruce Rowland 6 Martin Barre 7 Mick Weaver 8 Ian Anderson 9 Patrick Campbell-Lyons 10 Ashley Hutchings  11 Alex Spyropoulos 12 Chris Wood 13 Richard Thompson 14 Ian Matthews 15 Steve Winwood 16 Ian A. Anderson 17 Jim Capaldi 18 Mike Harrison 19 Martin Lamble 20 Simon Nicol  21  Harry Hughes 22 Rebop Kwaku Baah 23 Chris Mercer 24 Simon Kirke 25 Paul Rodgers 26 Billy Ritchie  27 Andy Fraser 28 Ian Ellis 29 Sandy Denny

It was combined with the follow-up, Nice Enough To Eat for a CD Re-release in August 1992 entitled Nice Enough To Join In (Island Records IMCD 150).

Side One

  1. “A Song For Jeffrey”  Jethro Tull – (Alternative mix, original version from This Was) (ILPS 9085)
  2. “Sunshine Help Me”  Spooky Tooth – (from It’s All About Spooky Tooth) (ILPS 9080)
  3. “I’m a Mover” Free – (from Tons of Sobs) (ILPS 9089)
  4. “What’s That Sound” Art – (from Supernatural Fairy Tales) (ILP 967)
  5. “Pearly Queen” Tramline – (from Moves of Vegetable Centuries) (ILPS 9095)
  6. “You Can All Join In”  Traffic – (from Traffic) (ILPS 9081T)

Side Two

  1. “Meet on the Ledge”Fairport Convention – (from What We Did on Our Holidays) (ILPS 9092)
  2. “Rainbow Chaser”  Nirvana – (from All of Us) (ILPS 9087)
  3. “Dusty”  John Martyn – (from The Tumbler) (ILPS 9091)
  4. “I’ll Go Girl”  Clouds – (from Scrapbook) (ILPS 9100)
  5. “Somebody Help Me”  Spencer Davis Group – (from The Best of the Spencer Davis Group) (ILPS 9070)
  6. “Gasoline Alley”  Wynder K. Frog – (from Out of the Frying Pan) (ILPS 9082)


The story of Paul Francis Kossoff is a Shakespearean tragedy, with the guitarist as its gifted, damaged hero. Fame, money, drugs and the inner torment all played a part in his downfall. Sadly, all the praise in the world couldn’t keep Paul Kossoff alive.

It was the air stewardess’ scream that told them something was very wrong. The ‘red-eye’ from Los Angeles to New York had just landed at JFK Airport. Until a few minutes ago, the blues-rock group Back Street Crawler and their crew had been asleep, scattered throughout the half-empty plane. Roused from a collective torpor, they blinked and stared as the stewardess ran down the aisle. “I looked at where Paul Kossoff had been sitting and the seat was empty,” says former tour manager John Taylor. “But the flight was only 30 per cent sold out, we’d all moved around, so I didn’t think anything of it.”

Before long, a group of NYPD officers had trooped on to the aircraft. By then, everybody knew the awful truth. The lifeless body of ex-Free, now Back Street Crawler guitarist Paul Kossoff had been discovered slumped in the bathroom. At some point during the flight, Kossoff had visited the toilet – and never come back. It was March 19th 1976, and one of rock’s greatest guitar players was dead. He was just 25 years old.

Forty years after his death, Kossoff’s music remains frozen in time. Albums such as Free’s Fire And Water and the hits Wishing Well and All Right Now have arguably grown better with age. From AC/DC to The Black Crowes, from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Rival Sons, each generation brings another group beholden to Free’s bare-boned approach.

At the heart of their appeal is Paul Rodgers’ voice and Paul Kossoff’s spare, soulful guitar playing. Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Brian May and Joe Bonamassa are just some of those who’ve paid homage to Kossoff and his sound.

Paul was born on September 14th, 1950 in Hampstead, north London, to parents David and Jennie. David Kossoff was the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants and a radio, film and TV actor.

Growing up, their second son Paul showed a wit and precocity beyond his years. But he also had a taste for what his father called “dangerous pursuits… the risky rather than the peaceful”.

Paul struggled academically, but his strong, squat fingers made light work of forming shapes and chords. Before long, he was playing in a school group and upsetting the neighbours by rehearsing in the Kossoff’s garage.

Paul’s sometimes disruptive behaviour and poor academic record meant he was expelled from school, and gave up his education for good aged 15. Instead, he went on the road, as a trainee stage manager on one of his father’s touring productions. Then came the night in December 1965 when he saw Eric Clapton with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in concert. Kossoff was soon hooked on Clapton, Peter Green and ‘the three Kings’ – Albert, Freddie and BB – and working in Selmer’s music shop on London’s Charing Cross Road. Here he served the then-unknown Jimi Hendrix and watched spellbound as Hendrix flipped a guitar upside down and played it left-handed. “I loved him to death,” he said, in a statement more prescient than anyone could have imagined.

Within a year, Kossoff had joined the north London blues group Black Cat Bones and impressed them with a confidence and stagecraft that belied his 5ft 3in stature. And in the meantime, 17-year-old Simon Kirke was a drummer in search of a gig. Kirke had grown up in Shropshire, but moved to London in 1965. He saw Black Cat Bones backing New Orleans pianist Champion Jack Dupree at a pub in south London, and joined them soon after.

Kirke wasn’t sure about the band, but loved the guitarist: “He was a little bloke with a mane of long hair.” What impressed him most was that Kossoff wasn’t trying to compete with lightning-fingered players such as Clapton. It was almost as much about the notes he didn’t play as the ones he did.

Shortly afterwards, another aspiring group, The Wildflowers, moved from their native Teeside and into a house near the Kossoffs in Golders Green. Their singer was Middlesbrough docker’s son Paul Rodgers. “Kossoff came round to the house,” recalls Rodgers now. “We jammed and I liked his style – both in his playing, his look and his humour.”

When The Wildflowers broke up, Rodgers remained in London and joined another group, Brown Sugar. Kossoff jammed with them at a blues club in Finsbury Park. “We did Stormy Monday Blues, Three O’Clock In The Morning by BB King – brought the place down,” said Rodgers. Kossoff asked Rodgers to join Black Cat Bones. But the singer refused: “I knew I wanted to start a new group instead.”

In 1968, every musician in Britain knew Alexis Korner. Earlier in the decade, Korner’s ensemble Blues Incorporated had been a valuable training ground for several future Rolling Stones. In March ’68, chief Bluesbreaker John Mayall told Korner he was looking for a new bass player to join the band. Korner suggested his daughter Sappho’s boyfriend, a 15-year-old, part-English, Barbadian and Guyanese musician named Andy Fraser.

Fraser lasted six weeks with Mayall before getting fired. But when Paul Kossoff told Korner he was looking for a bass guitarist, Korner knew just the boy. The band that would soon become Free jammed together for the first time on April 19th 1968 at the Nag’s Head in Battersea. Andy Fraser’s first impression of Kossoff was that he looked like a “little lion cub.”

The chemistry between the four was instantaneous. But within that was the rapport between Kossoff and Rodgers. “My playing was still very primitive at this time, but it had something in common with the way he sang,” said Kossoff.

“There was an instant spark,” concurred Rodgers. “He was as intense and emotional about the music as I was.”

Three days later, Black Cat Bones joined Champion Jack Dupree at CBS studios to play on his album, When You Feel The Feeling You Was Feeling. Paul Rodgers watched from the sidelines. Black Cat Bones knew what was coming. Their drummer and guitarist were moving on.

Soon after the Nag’s Head jam session, the new band were backing Alexis Korner in blues clubs around London and the Home Counties. Their name, ‘Free’, reflected the foursome’s stripped- down approach in the post-Sgt. Pepper era they found themselves in. “You must remember, in those days, it was all sort of arty-farty in Britain,” said Simon Kirke. “We were a blues band, so we decided on Free, which we thought was something a bit more nebulous.”

Korner recommended Free to Island Records’ boss Chris Blackwell. Island’s diverse roster included underground rock heroes Traffic and Spooky Tooth, and reggae acts Jimmy Cliff and Millie Small. In June, Blackwell saw Free opening for Albert King at the Marquee and was impressed. Shortly after, he sent Island’s management team to watch them showcase in a club in London’s Leicester Square.

“It was in a room not much bigger than my lounge,” says Free’s ex-manager John Glover now. “Paul Rodgers was about three feet from my face. It was very full-on and I found it a bit aggressive.”

Glover told Blackwell he wasn’t convinced. The following day he was called into Blackwell’s office. “And there were the four of Free sat on the sofa. Chris said, ‘This is John. He didn’t like what he saw yesterday, but he is going to be the guy looking after you.’ It was not the best start.”

Although he’d just turned 16, Andy Fraser had appointed himself Free’s leader at their first meeting. “Andy made all the decisions,” confirms Glover. “But Paul Rodgers also wanted to make decisions. Those two pretty much ran the band.” In contrast, Simon Kirke “didn’t say a lot unless he was upset about something”, and Paul Kossoff was “very, very gentle”.

In Glover’s opinion, “music was Koss’ life.” The rest of it – the business and the band politics – was an unwelcome distraction. And he certainly wasn’t a drug casualty. As the only one with a licence, Kossoff drove the band’s Transit, clocking up hundreds of miles week after week. “You have to be together to do that,” insists Rodgers. “Paul was a very together guy, a soulful, intelligent guy.” Off stage, he was quick-witted, a sharp mimic and, many believe, could have been a good actor.

He was also, already, an in-demand guitarist. Earlier that summer, blues producer Mike Vernon asked Kossoff to play on New York singer Martha Veléz’s debut album, Fiends And Angels. Kossoff’s understated solo on the song Swamp Man trailered the sound of Free’s debut album that was recorded soon afterwards.

Tons Of Sobs was recorded and produced by Island’s in-house ‘mad professor’ Guy Stevens in a week. Walk In My Shadow and a swaggering take on Booker T And The MGs’ The Hunter bottled the aggression John Glover witnessed at the showcase. Alternatively, the Rodgers/Kossoff co-write Moonshine was a bleak, spectral blues. What united these songs was a rawness, and a guitarist whom, to quote Alexis Korner, knew not to play too many notes and knew how “to use silence”.

In January 1969, two months before its release, promoter Geoff Docherty booked Free to play Sunderland’s Bay Hotel. Docherty had heard about “this new group with a brilliant guitarist” but quickly realised their name was misleading when punters turned up expecting to get in for free.

Despite the sparse audience, Free played a dynamic set. “They had this energy, as if they wanted to prove themselves,” says Docherty. Kossoff, the pint-sized superstar with the lion’s mane hair-do, made an immediate impression: “He walked on, plugged in and just unleashed those solos. But backstage there was a modesty about him. I’d dealt with plenty of musicians who fancied themselves, before and since. Paul Kossoff wasn’t one of them.”

Tons Of Sobs arrived in the March. It failed to chart, but Melody Maker described Free as “a group to watch in the 70s”. There was no time to pause or reflect. When they weren’t out and about playing one-night stands and negotiating Britain’s primitive motorway system, Free were in the studio.

A second album, simply called Free, emerged in October. Rodgers and Fraser wrote every song, except the group-credited Trouble On Double Time. The two had become a songwriting partnership under awkward circumstances. Rodgers had caught gonorrhoea and moved into Fraser’s mother’s house in Roehampton to recuperate. The album cover offered an ant’s-eye view of a woman, sprinkled in stardust and silhouetted against the sky. Mouthful Of Grass, I’ll Be Creeping and Lying In The Sunshine were a celebration of peace, love, Mother Nature and sex… lots of sex.

Chris Blackwell had produced the finished album. But as John Glover observes, “It was Free against the world. They didn’t let anyone else in.”

Another relationship was also suffering. Kossoff was not a prolific writer and had begun to feel excluded from the Rodgers/Fraser clique. Free’s new songs also needed a more rhythmic approach – not Koss’ strong point. Free’s engineer Andy Johns recalled Kossoff “getting embarrassed and uptight” when Fraser had to ‘teach’ him his parts.

One afternoon, he slipped away to audition for The Rolling Stones. But the job of replacing Brian Jones went to Mick Taylor instead. Koss crept back to Free before anyone noticed. It was years before the rest of the group found out.

Chris Blackwell was desperate for Free to have a hit, but he’d have to wait a little longer. Nevertheless, everywhere Kossoff turned, there was another musician ready to shower him with praise. In July, Free joined Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood’s new group Blind Faith on a US tour. One night Clapton approached Kossoff in the dressing room and asked, “‘How the hell do you do that?’ talking about my vibrato,” recalled Kossoff. “And I said, ‘You must be joking!’”

When it came to recording their third album, Fire And Water, Free went straight from the gig to the studio, with little time to draw breath. Mr Big and Fire And Water’s title track were masterclasses in economy and space. “I hate to play just solos,” said Kossoff. “I prefer to hear [Rodgers’] voice and back it up or push it – without covering it up.” But the song that most impressed Chris Blackwell was All Right Now, with its bullish riff and terrace- chant chorus.

Free clashed with Blackwell when he insisted they edit it down for a single release. But, for once, they did as he asked. All Right Now was released in May 1970. Free were on tour when they were told the single had jumped from No.30 to No.4 and they were due on Top Of The Pops the next day. Few groups in the history of the show would look as uncomfortable as Free did half-miming to All Right Now. But the song changed them overnight, and Fire And Water became the first Free album to crack the Top 20, reaching No.2. Melody Maker called it ‘Freemania!’ But the group faced a dilemma. “We were always a rock/blues band,” says Rodgers. “But a rift in our direction did start to become obvious – between the authentic and the obviously commercial.”

In August, Free played to 600,000 at the Isle Of Wight Festival alongside The Who and Koss’ idol, Jimi Hendrix. Footage from the show captured them at the height of their powers; Kossoff wincing and gurning as if every note played was having a physical effect on his being. But as Simon Kirke glumly admitted: “The huge irony is that was the beginning of the end.”

Just five months after the release of Fire And Water came Highway. It was an album that epitomised Free’s creative tug of war. Kossoff considered its soulful slow blues Be My Friend “the best thing we’ve ever done”. But it wasn’t All Right Now. When Free’s next single The Stealer tanked and Highway stalled outside the Top 40, the rows began.

Island blamed the band, the band blamed Island; everyone blamed Highway’s insipid cover. Worse still, Andy Fraser and Paul Rodgers were clashing: Rodgers resented the bass player’s self-appointed leadership; Fraser thought the band’s singer looked down on him. “When those two fell out, it all fell apart,” says Glover. Free played a ‘final’ show at Sydney’s Randwick Racecourse on May 9th 1971, and then flew home – separately.

The posthumous Free Live! album arrived six months later. Fraser quickly put together a new group, Toby, and Rodgers formed a trio, Peace. Kirke found the break-up hard, but Kossoff was devastated. It kicked the stuffing out of him,” says Glover. “It was the same for Simon. But Simon got over it. Free was Kossoff’s life.”

Paul Rodgers’ description of Paul Kossoff’s “intense, emotional” relationship with music is reinforced by his reaction to Jimi Hendrix’s death. Kossoff had to be dissuaded from abandoning the Highway sessions and taking the next plane to Seattle for the funeral. “I went through a big Hendrix thing, where I was infatuated by him, his music and his death,” he admitted.

Following the break-up, Kossoff moved into a house in Golborne Mews, off London’s Portobello Road, and turned it into a drug den/shrine to Jimi. “Every time I walked into that house, Koss was listening to Hendrix,” says keyboard player John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick now. “I used to wonder why, but Koss wasn’t copying Hendrix’s licks, he was tapping into his soul.”

Texas-born Bundrick had seen Free play the Houston Coliseum: “And I had this intuition I would play with them one day.” Rabbit worked with Johnny Nash and Island’s new signing Bob Marley before arriving in London in 1971. Soon afterwards, he’d joined Kirke, Kossoff and Japanese bassist Tetsu Yamauchi in the studio, and the Kossoff, Kirke, Tetsu & Rabbit album was underway. KKTR’s rootsy blues and funk rock lacked Free’s bite and, most importantly, Paul Rodgers’s voice. But it was Island’s way of getting the guitarist working again.

“I’d spent four, maybe five years, being one fourth of a whole personality which was Free,” Kossoff told music paper Sounds. “And when the band broke up, I was on my own. I didn’t know what to do.”

The absence of Free left a hole in Kossoff’s life, which he was now filling with drugs. It happened quickly and took everybody by surprise. Everyone smoked dope – sometimes too much dope – but Kossoff had acquired a taste for the powerful sedative Mandrax. He’d spend days and nights slumped on the sofa in Golborne Mews, Hendrix playing, as dealers and hangers-on drifted in and out. Koss’ girlfriend, Sandie Chard, tried to reason with him – “She stuck around. She was good,” says Glover – but it was no use.

“Koss was a mild-mannered and generous kinda guy,” explains Rabbit, “and that made him an easy target.”

“Friends gave him pills, thinking they were doing him a favour,” adds John Glover. “Then there was this dreadful doctor in Harley Street, who’d write him a prescription for whatever he wanted.” Before long, Koss was swallowing as many as 20 Mandrax a day.

Kossoff’s parents tried to intervene. But his addiction meant he resented their help. That winter, Andy Fraser was so concerned that he and a roadie broke into the mews house, clambered over the bodies passed out on the floor and ‘kidnapped’ Koss. The guitarist stayed with Fraser for 10 days in Sussex. But he was scoring again as soon as he was back in London.

As Christmas ’71 came around, John Glover realised neither Peace or Toby would ever replace Free. “They were… okay,” he says diplomatically. “But they weren’t Free. So I started having conversations with Paul and Andy individually, because I couldn’t get them in a room together. I said, ‘Look, Koss has gone off the rails. How about we help him and put the band back together, just for a tour?’”

Free reunited in January 1972. “They sort of dragged me out of my pit,” admitted Kossoff. It was what he wanted, but not enough for him to curb his drug use. On tour, Koss could be perfectly lucid one minute, but when the Mandrax kicked in, he’d struggle to find the switch on his amp.

At a gig at Newcastle City Hall, he collapsed after playing just two numbers.

Despite Kossoff’s unpredictability, nobody wanted to give up, and Free were soon back in the studio. Richard Digby-Smith co-engineered their next album, Free At Last. “There was a lot of recreational drink and drug activity going on,” he says now. “And Paul would go off into a dream- like state more than the rest of us.”

Frustratingly, when Kossoff was straight he could still play beautifully. “That guitar and him were as one,” says Digby-Smith, who watched, amused, as another unnamed guitarist picked up Koss’ Les Paul, switched on his Marshall amp and struggled to play a note. “It started howling and feeding back. But the fact is nobody but Kossy could play that guitar through that amp.”

Free At Last arrived in June ’72, and gave the group a Top 20 hit with Little Bit Of Love. But getting Kossoff to recreate what he did in the studio on tour was hard. Once again, it all fell apart in Newcastle, where he had a seizure backstage at The Mayfair. His body had gone into shock from Mandrax withdrawal.

“The doctors told me if he carried on like this, he would die,” says Geoff Docherty. Geoff had promoted enough Free shows to know they were on the skids: “Paul’s playing had gone downhill, and you could see the frustration in Paul Rodgers’ face at the end of every song.”

Andy Fraser was the first to walk, quitting on the eve of a Japanese tour: “I couldn’t bear to see what Koss was doing to himself.” But when Kossoff went for a course of neuroelectric therapy – the ‘black box’ treatment that helped cure Clapton’s addictions – Free went to Japan without him. Tetsu and Rabbit Bundrick were drafted in, and Paul Rodgers played guitar.

Come October, a clearly un-cured Kossoff joined the ‘new’ Free of Rodgers, Kirke, Tetsu and Rabbit to start work on a new album. Its appropriate title was Heartbreaker.

Rodgers’ song, Come Together In The Morning, was written indirectly about Kossoff. ‘It makes me sad to think of you/Because I understand the things you do/There is no one else can take your place’ he sang. “Kossoff’s solo in that very song rips my heart out,” says Rodgers now. But Kossoff was in no state to play every solo on the album, not least when he was discovered fast asleep and snoring between takes.

Instead, Rabbit Bundrick’s Texas pal, Stray Dog guitarist Snuffy Walden, was brought in to play where necessary. “The one time we actually sat down and talked,” said Walden, “Koss was a real gentleman. He knew he was blowing it and he knew I wasn’t after his job.” Walden apparently played on three tracks on the final album and on various versions of Wishing Well.

Heartbreaker, released in January ’73, showcased a new, bigger-sounding Free. Both the album and the single Wishing Well went Top 10. But when Free began a US tour with Traffic, Kossoff stayed behind. The press were told he was busy working on a solo album. In fact, he’d recently gone to Jamaica for a spell of rest and recuperation, only to discover Mandrax was available at every pharmacist on the island without prescription. Free toured with Osibisa guitarist Wendell Richardson instead. “God bless Wendell, but he wasn’t Koss, and this wasn’t Free,” says Rabbit Bundrick.

“I flew down to see them somewhere on that tour,” sighs John Glover, who remembers Rabbit smashing up a dressing room and various band members sporting black eyes and split lips. “Paul Rodgers said, ‘That’s it. At the end of this tour, I’m gone.’ And that was it. That was the end.”

Free played their real final show at Miami’s Hollywood Sportatorium on February 17th, 1973.

The phrase ‘the lost years’ is frequently used when discussing the careers of troubled rock stars. However, in Paul Kossoff’s case, parts of 1973 and ’74 were lost to his escalating drug use, which, for a time, also included heroin.

Kossoff’s solo album, Back Street Crawler, slipped out in November ’73. The cover showed a raddled-looking Koss next to a dustbin in Golborne Mews. Several Island musicians played on the record. But it wasn’t quite the collaborative effort it appeared to be. “There were always lots of jam sessions at Island,” says Digby Smith. “And we also had reels and reels of Paul playing on his own.” Molten Gold, with Paul Rodgers on vocals, and the John Martyn collaboration Time Away were exquisite reminders of just how good he could be.

In the meantime, though, his ex-bandmates were moving on. Fraser formed a new group, Sharks, and Rodgers and Kirke paired up in Bad Company. John Glover is certain Kossoff played in an early five-man line-up of Bad Company, and has the tape to prove it (“Rodgers won’t let me put it out.”). But he was too stoned, too unreliable, and the group continued without him. Within a year, Bad Company’s debut album was a US No.1 hit.

Instead, Kossoff meandered between jam sessions and occasional pub gigs. He played with Spooky Tooth’s Mike Kellie and Peter Green. But nothing long term came of these collaborations. He also cleaned up, sometimes for weeks at a time. Around autumn 1974, David Kossoff called John Glover and told him Paul was drug-free. Glover was impressed by Koss’ playing, and approached Chris Blackwell for a record deal. Blackwell wrote him a cheque for £20,000 on the spot. But when Kossoff went on another bender, Glover sheepishly returned the money.

Around this time, Geoff Docherty came back into Kossoff’s life. Docherty was now managing Beckett, a group with a fine blues/soul singer named Terry Slesser. Docherty had heard about Kossoff, thought he could help, and drove down from Sunderland to Golborne Mews. He was appalled by what he found.

Sandie was making cups of tea and trying to maintain an air of domesticity. “But Paul was unconscious,” says Docherty. “Then there was a knock at the door and a dealer outside. Sandie shook Paul awake, and then he crawled on all fours – like a dog – pulled a cheque book out of the drawer, signed this cheque and handed it to the dealer.”

Docherty phoned David Kossoff and told him he was taking Paul to Sunderland, right now: “If I don’t, he’ll die.” Kossoff was bundled into the van and didn’t utter a word for the entire journey.

Docherty moved Kossoff into his 12th-floor flat in a Wearside tower block, and began a cold turkey/boot camp regime. “I fed him grilled fish, spring cabbage and orange juice,” he recalls. “And I wouldn’t let him use the lift – I got him walking up them stairs, all 24 flights.” It wasn’t easy. Kossoff had been prescribed Mogadon to help with his withdrawal. Docherty hid the pills in his oven, and rationed them out, until Kossoff found them and tried to take a handful at once. When Geoff intervened, he threw a telephone at him, narrowly missing his face. Docherty, a former doorman, was not to be trifled with: “I warned him, ‘If you ever do that again…’”

After a few weeks, Kossoff was deemed well enough to visit Annabel’s nightclub on the tower block’s groundfloor. Docherty allowed him to drink alcohol, but the guitarist insisted on crème de menthe, not the most popular drink in Sunderland: “So I went round every pub in town, buying whatever they had left in the bottles.” At the end of the night, Koss would stagger up the 24 flights, with Docherty goading him on like a regimental sergeant major: “And it worked. He got well again and said he wanted to put a band together.

Docherty brought in Terry Slesser, a local bass player and drummer and hired a rehearsal space above a bowling alley. “Paul had been playing every day, and they sounded great. I thought, ‘I’m onto a winner here’.”

But it wasn’t to be. Kossoff eventually called John Glover and moved straight back to London. “It was difficult,” admits Glover. “Geoff was the top promoter in the north east, but I was the manager and this is what I do.”

In January ’75, to test Kossoff’s reliability, Glover put him on the road with John Martyn: “He played a few songs a night with John, and it was great – for a couple of weeks. Then he got hold of some pills and disappeared at Watford Gap service station. Gone, for two days.”

Once again, though, Kossoff cleaned up, and slowly assembled a new band: vocalist Terry Slesser and three Americans, keyboard player Mike Montgomery, bassist Terry Wilson and drummer Tony Braunagel. To help maintain Paul’s drug-free state, David Kossoff moved him into a house in Tilehurst, a suburb of Reading.

The band now calling themselves Back Street Crawler played several shows that made up for in energy what they lacked in finesse. “At which point,” says Glover. “Ahmet Ertegun came into the picture.” Ertegun, the Atlantic Records mogul who’d signed Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones, signed Back Street Crawler and publicly declared Paul Kossoff ‘the emperor of the blues’. The deal was reported as being worth a quarter of a million dollars. Glover insists it was $150,000. “There was no going back now,” he admits, “so we had to keep Koss in as good a nick as we could.”

John Taylor was hired as Back Street Crawler’s tour manager and Kossoff’s occasional minder. “Paul was a lovely person,” says Taylor now. “But too easy and too easily manipulated.“

Taylor quickly noticed Paul’s fractious relationship with his father. “David was trying to get him off the stuff, but Paul didn’t get on with his dad at all. David was a bugger for that Dymo tape, where you can print out words. I remember getting into Koss’ car and his dad had stuck these typed-out instructions on the dashboard: ‘Are you fit to drive?’, ‘Turn on headlights’…”

That said, after Back Street Crawler were photographed signing their contract at London’s Olympic Studios, Kossoff climbed out of the bathroom window, jumped into his car and proceeded to crash into several stationary vehicles. “And then he dumped his car and walked home,” recalls Glover, who witnessed the carnage.

In September, the band were due to play a festival in Belgium to launch their debut album. Taylor was tasked with driving Kossoff to the airport in the morning. He stayed the night at Tilehurst, only to be woken by Koss and an unexpected houseguest. “It was Lemmy,” he sighs. “God only knows how Lemmy ended up there, or what he and Koss had being doing.”

On the drive to Heathrow the next day, Kossoff was barely coherent. When a policeman spotted Taylor half-carrying him towards the terminal, he threatened to arrest them both unless they left the airport.

Back Street Crawler’s debut album, The Band Plays On, arrived in October ’75. It had its moments – the lolloping funk blues Train Song, for one – but was too run-of-the-mill to compete with Bad Company.

Sadly, Kossoff’s declining health had grabbed the headlines ahead of his new album. Kossoff was taken ill shortly before the band’s first UK tour. He was rushed to hospital, slipped into a coma, after which his heart stopped and he was ‘dead’ for 35 minutes, until doctors resuscitated him.

“I filled my body up with toxins and ended up that way,” he explained. “I think everyone has some sort of death wish,” before adding, “But I don’t want to die.”

John Taylor visited him in north London’s Northwick Park Hospital 10 days after his ‘death’, and was shocked by the transformation. Kossoff had burns on his chest from the defibrillator, but “his face was clean and pink and he’d detoxed completely. I’d never seen him look like that good before. And what happened? He went back on tour and didn’t have a hope of staying clean.”

Shortly after, Kossoff gave an interview to Bob Harris on the BBC’s The Old Grey Whistle Test. His speech was slurred as he declared his fellow guest, singer Leo Sayer, “better than Paul Rodgers.”

“Koss was with a girl that day – somebody’s wife in the business who was a well-known smackhead,” recalls Taylor.

The subsequent UK tour saw flashes of the old Kossoff, but far too many moments of high farce and terrible chaos. Koss often fell over on stage, forgot the chords or gave long, stoned, rambling speeches. “I recorded every show and gave him a cassette afterwards,” says Taylor. “Sometimes it was, ‘Hey, Koss, listen to this. Other times, ‘Hey, Koss, listen to that, you cunt!’”

Kossoff was delighted when old friend Rabbit Bundrick replaced Mike Montgomery. But as Back Street Crawler headed to the US for more dates and recording sessions, Rabbit realised his friend was in trouble. “The thing that kept messing up Koss was the outside world getting to him,” says Rabbit. On one occasion, bassist Terry Wilson kicked Koss’ door in and physically removed a dealer from his hotel suite.

A second Back Street Crawler album, 2nd Street, was pieced together in between dates, in studios around America. But disaster had struck early in the tour after Kossoff attacked John Glover with a whiskey bottle. Glover tried to defend himself. “And I broke two of his fingers,” he says, adding sarcastically, “Great, what a fantastic thing to do.” Once again, Snuffy Walden was hired to play, and Kossoff reduced to introducing his own band on stage and then watching the show like a regular punter.

Even now, though, he still had moments of great clarity. When the rest of the group couldn’t make it in time to a gig in Connecticut or New Jersey, Kossoff managed to calm the angry promoter. “He came out on stage and talked to the audience for an hour,” recalls Taylor. “It was a one-man stand-up show. He was a raconteur and an entertainer. It was great fun to see.” It was also something his father would have done.

Koss’ fingers finally healed and the tour ended on an unexpected high. In March, Back Street Crawler were due to play Los Angeles’ Starwood Club, on the same nights as Bad Company played The Forum. Kossoff was delighted when the band showed up at the Starwood, and Rodgers and Kirke jumped up on stage to jam with them. That night, Koss didn’t fall over and didn’t forget the chords. Instead, he played like the old Paul Kossoff.

“Backstage afterwards there was champagne flying everywhere, like the Grand Prix,” remembers John Taylor. “Koss was great, really together, really on it,” says Paul Rodgers, “and that was the last time I saw him.”

John Taylor remembers eating breakfast in Los Angeles’ Hyatt House the morning after the Starwood show, when Kossoff walked in and asked John Glover for money. “And everybody knew what he wanted it for.”

Taylor, Glover and the band, except for Rabbit and Terry Slesser, were due to fly to New York that night with the master tapes for 2nd Street. Taylor didn’t see Kossoff again until the evening.

“I remember walking down this long corridor at the airport and looking over at him and he was… sort of… I dunno, radiating,” he says, struggling to find the right words. “It was almost religious. I don’t know what he’d taken.”

Taylor sat with Kossoff after take-off. But the flight was undersold. “He saw the empty seats and said, ‘I’ll have that row there…’ That was the last thing he ever said to me.” The next thing Taylor remembers is being prodded awake by a stewardess as they approached JFK. She told him to put his seatbelt on and asked where “the guy sitting next to me” had gone.

Nobody else remembers Kossoff leaving his seat. He just wandered off at some point during the five-hour flight. Apparently, it took the crew some time to gain access to the bathroom, as his dead body was slumped against the door. “We were held on the plane for an hour, while the authorities argued over where Koss had died – LA or New York,” says Taylor.

Contrary to rumour, Kossoff hadn’t overdosed. The cause of death was given as ‘cerebral and pulmonary oedema’; a legacy of the previous year’s cardiac arrest.

Taylor had the unenviable job of arranging to transport the body to England, while John Glover told everyone the bad news. Simon Kirke was informed just before a Bad Company show in New Orleans, but decided not to tell Paul Rodgers until some days later, so as not to jeopardise the tour.

Five months before his death, Kossoff told a journalist, “There’s nothing outside music, I have no hobbies, I just want to play.” That was always part of the problem. Everyone who talks about Kossoff says that had they known then what they know now, his story might have had a happier ending. “We had no tools to help him,” says Paul Rodgers, “unlike today.”

In March 2016, on the 40th anniversary of Kossoff’s death, Rodgers is convinced that had he lived, the two of them would have “undoubtedly worked together again”. Two years ago, Rodgers met Kossoff’s son, Simon, for the first time. They’ve stayed in touch ever since. “It’s so tragic because he didn’t get a chance to know his father,” he says. “But looking into his eyes is like looking into Paul’s.

In the meantime Paul Kossoff’s legacy endures. Like their creator, those slow sustained notes, measured solos and moments of perfect silence never had the chance to grow old.

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The Fortnightly Playlist

Sharing music discoveries every 2 weeks

David James Young

Australian music/arts writer, EST. 2008

Records I Like

Wittering from an old indie kid whether it's c86, indiepop, jangle pop, post-punk, coldwave, shoegaze or dreampop!

Psych Insight Music

Notes on the weird, challenging, thoughtful, chaotic and nebulous.

Heartbreaking Bravery | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

Thirty Three And A Third

Vinyl Records stole my heart


The deXter Bentley Hello GoodBye Show on Resonance 104.4 FM

Bolan World

Marc Bolan: A Megastar Remembered

Aphoristic Album Reviews

Personal Album Review Website

Feel Me Flow

A better playlist experience.


Well, I'm dyslexic so writing about something I love: Music, might help but it's most likely just full of mistakes. That title is also lyrics from The Drones song called I Don't Want To Change. Oh, my name is William and thanks for having a look.

We Close Tonight

The Unreliable Unsigned and Independent Music Blog


Cover Art Appreciation & the Stories Behind the Recordings on Classic Vinyl Bootlegs

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