Posts Tagged ‘Paul Kossoff’

Rock N Roll Fantasy

Celebrating over 50 years since the release of ‘All Right Now’, and Free’s classic album “Fire and Water”, this official book features hundreds of contributions from fans, musicians and, of course, Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke.

In their careers beyond Free, Rock ‘n Roll Fantasy follows the band members’ journeys via an oral history of eyewitness accounts and memories, incorporating Bad Company, The Firm, The Law, Queen and other projects. Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy features previously unseen photos and rare, collectable memorabilia from the late-sixties British blues boom to the present day.

Passion, excitement, and emotion are the words that keep cropping up in the pages of this book. The music that Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke have created, solo, as part of Free, Bad Company, Queen and other outfits has deeply touched and affected the lives of so many people. Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy is an outpouring of the stories and eyewitness accounts of concerts and precious moments experienced by fans and musicians who literally can’t get enough of their music.

And the love and respect for Paul and Simon in these pages is also directed at Paul Kossoff, Andy Fraser, Mick Ralphs, Boz Burrell and many more musicians. They have all contributed to the unique-sounding blues rock that the various bands have performed and recorded so brilliantly over more than half a century. From Paul Rodgers’ Road Runners in the early 60s to his most recent Bad Company and the Free Spirit Tours tours, the quality of the music has remained undiminished. Paul Rodgers is the epitome of the rock god but, as the stories in this book will attest, the most approachable and generous of rock stars. It is no surprise to discover that the loyalty of the fans contributing to this book is so unwavering.

Free Highway

From the Nag’s Head in Battersea to Madison Square in New York City, this is the journey made by Free, Bad Company and the rest and described by the people who were there…

David Roberts is the author of music locations guidebooks Rock Atlas UK and USA and the biography of Stephen Stills: Change Partners. Farther back in time, 

“I am really enjoying it so very much. The anecdotes, stories and memories from fans and the bands are real gems.” Steve Scott

“Beyond excited. Fantastic job!!! I love the layout and all the stories.” Paula Terry

“I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was to open the package and take this beautiful book out and begin reading and looking at pictures. You did an absolutely sensational job on this and I’m sure Paul and Simon are thrilled with the outcome.” Tony Scott

“What a beautiful book this is! Congratulations! It is indeed an honour to be included in the book, and I simply can’t wait to read it!” Jan Ramsey

“I have the special edition. The book is fantastic. It has been written, and put together brilliantly. I love reading the memories of the fans, other bands and music writers. The photos are great too. Thank you so much for a great walk down memory lane.” Christine Killen

Rock N Roll Fantasy

“Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy – The Musical Journey of Free and Bad Company” has been nominated for the 2021 Association for Recorded Sound Collections Awards for Excellence in Historical Recorded
Sound Research.

“Without a doubt, this could well be one of the finest books of 2020!”  Strutter Magazine

Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy is, much like the artist it writes about, brilliant.” New Sounds Magazine

Both books come with a handwritten foreword  by both Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke.

The Special Edition is limited to 500 copies only and are individually numbered.

Slip Case Edition comes complete with bonus items including:

  • Replica concert tickets
  • Island Records letter
  • Six previously unpublished photographs
  • Two exclusive artwork prints
  • Queen + Paul Rodgers set list
  •  A numbered certificate of authenticity

Special Edition

Paul Kossoff Les Paul

Despite passing away at the age of just 25 in 1976, the influence that Paul Kossoff continues to have on guitar players the world over cannot be overstated. His inventive take on blues-rock and that legendary vibrato have inspired countless guitarists to strap on a Les Paul and hit the stage. Though he played several Lesters during his all-too-brief career, one of the most instantly recognisable is the ’59 that suffered a broken neck the night before Free split in 1973.

The guitar was repaired and later ended up in the hands of Arthur Ramm – who had been playing on the bill the night Koss snapped the neck – after being swapped for the ’68 Goldtop that Ramm had been playing that night. In the intervening years however, that Burst would take on an almost spiritual significance to fans of Kossoff and of 1959 Les Pauls in general. Fast forward to 2012, and Gibson Custom announced plans to pay tribute to Kossoff and his iconic guitar by creating a limited edition run of 100 meticulously hand-aged replicas of the Burst, giving fans the chance to get as close as they were likely to get to Koss’s original.

But for one fan, this wasn’t nearly close enough. Kris Blakely is a man who knows a thing or two about buying beautiful guitars. The man known on Instagram and the Les Paul Forum as ‘Fried Okra’ has a wonderful collection of vintage instruments, which featured on back in 2018. Among a stunning array of vintage electrics and even acoustic guitars that saw action in WWII, one guitar stands out – the aforementioned ’59 Les Paul, once owned by none other than Paul Kossoff himself.

“In 2016 David Plues [co-author of the Burst Believers series and fellow Les Paul Forumite – Ed] emailed me and asked if I was interested in the Kossoff Burst. I first thought, yeah right. Me? I’m not worthy of Kossoff’s Burst!” Blakely recalls. But, despite his initial reservations, the Mississippi native found himself thinning his herd of guitars and arriving in Newcastle, England ready to become the proud owner of Paul Kossoff’s broke-neck Les Paul.

“Upon arrival at the station we met David and Arthur Ramm, from where they drove us to Arthur’s home. Arthur said, ‘Well, let’s see what you travelled all this way for.’ Those are the words I will remember for the rest of my life.” Taking possession of an iconic instrument – particularly one that you’ve venerated your entire life – is surely exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure. The temptation must surely be to keep this irreplaceable guitar under lock and key, maybe tucking it away a glass coffin, much like Mickey Mouse on the cover of Free’s debut album, Tons of Sobs. Kris, however, had other ideas.

After becoming the caretaker of one of the most important guitars in the development of British blues-rock, he took it upon himself to reunite the instrument with its former bandmates,Paul Rodgersand Simon Kirke, most recently in May 2019. When we speak to Rodgers about the reunion, he immediately begins to reminisce, the Les Paul acting as an emotional trigger for his memories of his long-lost friend.

“I have a lot of memories of dear Koss. When we first met back in what would have been about ’67, at the famous Fickle Pickle in Finsbury Park, he came up with a Les Paul to the front of the stage between sets and simply said, ‘I’d like to come up and jam,’” Rodgers enthuses. “I said ‘Absolutely, have you got a guitar?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, I’ve got a Les Paul, it’s in the car.’ I said, ‘It’s Finsbury Park, you better bring it in anyway, sharpish!’

Free Interview

“I wish I knew which guitar it was [when we met] because he had at least two. I don’t know whether he had the ’58 or the ’59 that night we met. But the night that it broke I didn’t see that, it happened behind me. There was an audible gasp from the audience, and Koss was gone!”

Meanwhile, Kirke’s reaction to being reunited with the instrument threw up a range of emotions. “I had mixed feelings really, anything connected with Paul Kossoff invokes different types of feelings,” he admits. “He took me under his wing when I came down to London from the countryside back in ‘68. He was a good friend to me and of course I witnessed his descent into drug addiction over the next five years, which was very painful. But the first couple of years were really wonderful playing with him.”

Indeed, Kossoff’s mesmerising ability to convey such emotion in his playing was a direct result of his passionate personality. His devotion to the blues was deep rooted, as Rodgers remembers.

“I visited him in his house, he sat and played acoustic guitar and played classical. I said, ‘That’s fantastic. I had no idea you could play classical guitar.’ But he said, ‘No, it’s crap all that. It’s not blues.’” .

Kossoff possessed a vibrato technique that is as distinctive and musical as anyone in the history of the electric guitar. The way he attacked a note with both intensity and elegance could turn the head of even the most conservative of listeners. It was this lead playing ability that really stood out for Kirke.

“He had such passion and feel, and an amazing vibrato. His rhythm playing was quite economical and one of the reasons Free had such a sparse sound on stage. By his own admission he was not a great rhythm player, – like Keith Richards or Lennon – of course he made up for it with his lead playing.”

Rodgers agrees, but also thinks that in some cases the identity of the guitar and player are interwoven. “The spirit of Koss and the spirit of a ’59, they sort of merge. And together, they go on this incredible journey. I think that that he rode it like one might drive a Maserati or something. He kind of flew with it. “It was an amazing guitar, kind of hummed with power. I played it and I could hear Koss. It was almost eerie. One did wonder how much is it the player and how much is it the guitar? There’s definitely a spirit in those guitars.”

Guitarist Pete Bullick had the responsibility of replicating Kossoff’s style on Rodgers’ Free Spirit tour, with the singer adamant that Bullick’s approach to guitar playing almost mirrors Koss – especially when he had that special guitar in his hands.

“I know that Koss and I took a lot from Eric Clapton and Peter Green’s performances. You would go to the Marquee and see Peter Green and time did stand still,” Rodgers recalls. “He could take it down to where you could hear a pin drop. When we played at the Albert Hall, Pete Bullick took it right down so that you could literally hear breathing.

“I think Pete did a fantastic job with Free Spirit. The audience was just so amazing, because you could feel the love for the music. He comes very close to Koss’s feel. He was the only guy I would have done that tour with.”

The genius of Kossoff’s guitar playing is of course evident across the gamut of Free’s back catalogue, but it’s “All Right Now” that remains the band and Kossoff’s most famous and beloved song. That said, the question of which guitar was used for that iconic recording has long been a matter of some debate.

“As to the truth that it might’ve been used on All Right Now? It’s possible. Certainly not out of the question,” says Kirke. “I believe he only owned two or three Les Pauls and it certainly wasn’t the black one that he traded with Eric Clapton, which leaves two left. So, it’s a 50/50 chance!”

Rodgers only adds fuel to the fire: “Probably. He owned it through that time, but it’s hard to say really. It was one or the other. Definitely.”

Whether it was used on the studio version of All Right Now or not, this 1959 Burst remains a truly iconic instrument and a piece of bona fide rock history. And as we’re sure Kris Blakely will agree, it’s a worthy centrepiece to anyone’s collection…

Free Interview


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.

Free Firing On All Cylinders

June 1970 was a breakthrough month for the band Free. After two years of critical success, and building their name as a live attraction, they were finally getting a commercial foothold. ‘All Right Now’ marked their first time on the UK charts on June 6th, and was already a top ten hit by the time the band’s third studio release ‘Fire and Water’ was released on June 26th, leading to their first UK album chart appearance in early July.

Free posterThe British quartet were now deservedly winning much more widespread recognition as one of the best blues and soul-influenced rock bands of that, or any, era. Free produced ‘Fire and Water’ themselves after daring to tell Island’s Chris Blackwell that they thought his production of their previous self-titled 1969 album was “too clean.”

The engineer on the sessions was a then-unknown Roy Thomas Baker, later to find fame via his work with Queen. The Free album that he contributed to culminated in ‘All Right Now,’ which thus started its journey to the anthemic status it enjoys today. “It stood out because it was happy,” said Simon Kirke.

That single was preceded by a solid half-hour showcasing the vocal presence of Paul Rodgers, the strident lead guitar solos of Paul Kossoff and the terrific rhythm section of Andy Fraser’s bass and Simon Kirke’s drums. Also listen for Fraser’s great piano playing on ‘Heavy Load,’ and his bass runs underpinning Kossoff’s guitar on ‘Mr. Big.’

The band had started recording the third album in January, and Rodgers later explained that he and Fraser had the great soul man Wilson Pickett in mind when they wrote the title track. They were spot on, because he recorded ‘Fire and Water’ himself the following year.

Free All Right Now

‘All Right Now’ stayed on the UK singles chart well into September, the perfect advertisement for an album that duly went into the chart at No. 8. It spent three of the next four weeks at No. 2 and was still in the top 40 at the end of October. By then, the album was in the US top 20, with Free’s reputation now further enhanced by their performance in late August at the Isle of Wight Festival.

45 Years Ago, Free Felt All Right

“There she stood, in the street,” sang Paul Rodgers with that inimitable swagger in his voice. “Smiling from her head to her feet.” Little did he know that he was introducing the Free song that would go on to be one of the most durable British rock anthems of all time.

To this day, 45 years later, you can’t listen to rock radio in the UK for long without hearing the strains of this irresistible number, written by Rodgers and Free’s late, lamented bassist Andy Fraser. The song was included on the band’s third studio release ‘Fire and Water,’ which came out in late June 1970. But ‘All Right Now’ was already a top ten hit by then, after making its UK chart debut on this very date, June 6th.

After two years of critical success, and building their name as a live attraction, this was the year of Free’s commercial breakthrough. ‘All Right Now’ marked their first time on the UK charts, although that entry position of No. 36 didn’t necessarily promise great things. But after a climb to No. 27, the single raced into the top ten and, frustratingly for the band, spent the whole of July at No. 2, five weeks in all in which it was held off the top by first Mungo Jerry’s ‘In The Summertime’ and then Elvis Presley’s ‘The Wonder Of You.’

As the Free single climbed the charts, Paul Rodgers told Melody Maker: “I am really surprised at the success of ‘All Right Now.’ I don’t see myself as a single singer, but it’s there, and people are going to be a lot more interested in buying the album because they will have heard of us.”

‘All Right Now’ has become the hit that keeps on giving, returning to the charts on numerous occasions. Reissued just three years later in 1973, it reached No. 15; in 1978, it was part of the ‘Free EP’ that went to No. 11. A 1985 re-release saw it nudge the bottom of the countdown at No. 96, and it then went all the way back to No. 8 in 1991.

This live album was recorded in Sunderland and Croydon, places where the band had a strong following, during January and September 1970. Although only two tracks, namely ‘The Hunter’ and ‘All Right Now’, could be used from the Sunderland show, producer Andy Johns did use a lot of the crowd noises from that gig between tracks, to create a virtually seamless live experience.

Interestingly, the final song on the album is actually a studio recording, and is one of four they did before splitting up; the other three surfaced on the ‘Highway’ album. One of the pleasures of this album is that the original recordings were clearly not altered in the studio. Everything is heard as it happened on stage. And what it proves overall is that Free were a masterful live band.

‘Free Live!’ is a fine representation of how good the four were when in this environment and the enthusiastic crowd response is utterly authentic and sets the atmosphere for the whole event.

Because that’s what this album  is…a true event. Capturing FREE at their peak.

In the pantheon of blues-rock there has never been a band that burned so brightly, was more commercially successful and made so much great music in so comparatively short a period of time as Free. They are probably best known for their 1970 signature song, ‘All Right Now’ but theirs is a rich deep catalogue, surprisingly so given their comparatively short career.

Free disbanded in 1973 and lead singer Paul Rodgers became the frontman of Bad Company along with Simon Kirke on drums. In 2004 Paul Rodgers worked with Queen offering a different take on Freddie Mercury’s vocals for the band. Bass player Andy Fraser formed Sharks and wrote ‘Every Kinda People’ that Robert Palmer covered, while the brilliant lead guitarist Paul Kossoff formed Back Street Crawler and then tragically died from a drug-induced heart failure at the age of 25 in 1976.

Paul Kossoff Left us on this day March. 19th in 1976: from heroin-related heart problems, Kossoff’s unhappiness with the end of Free and his drug addictions contributed to a drastic decline in the guitarist’s health. On a flight from Los Angeles to New York on the 19th March 1976, Paul Kossoff died from heroin-related heart problems. at the young age of 25, best remembered as the guitarist with Free, and Back Street Crawler & his solo releases; he formed the groundbreaking British blues-rock band Free in 1968 with Paul Rodgers, Andy Fraser & Simon Kirke; by 1970, they were touring the world on the success of their third album and the UK chart hit single & US number 4 single “All Right Now” which remains one of the defining songs of ‘Classic Rock’ radio era, Kossoff started playing the guitar in the mid-1960s, being taught by session guitarist Colin Falconer, and at age 15 helped to found the band Black Cat Bones. The band played with touring blues piano player Champion Jack Dupree, and did many supporting shows for the British blues band Fleetwood Mac and other gigs with Fleetwood Mac cofounder Peter Green. Kossoff  also jammed and spent hours discussing blues playing and players. Kossoff’s bandmate in Black Cat Bones was drummer Simon Kirke, and the two went on to play on Champion Jack Dupree’s April 1968 album When You Feel the Feeling You Was Feeling after their final dissolution in 1973,

In April 1968 Kossoff and Kirke teamed up with Paul Rodgers (vocals) and Andy Fraser (bass) to form Free. They did the Transit circuit for two years and recorded two albums: Tons of Sobs (1968) and Free (1969). Both albums showcased the band’s blues- and soul-influenced sound, a style which was in contrast to some of their progressive and heavier counterparts at the time.

Success came in 1970 when their third album, Fire and Water (1970), spawned the big hit All Right Now“. The band played the Isle of Wight festival to both audience and critical acclaim. Sellout tours in the United Kingdom, Europe, and Japan followed, but after the release of the next album, Highway (1970), band pressures led to a split. The live album Free Live, recorded in 1970, was released in 1971 as a farewell record. While Rodgers and Fraser pursued unsuccessful solo projects, Kossoff and Kirke teamed up with Texan keyboard player John “Rabbit” Bundrick and Japanese bass player Tetsu Yamauchi to release the 1971 album Kossoff, Kirke, Tetsu and Rabbit.

Free reformed and released the album Free at Last (1972). Following its release Fraser decided he had had enough and quit to form Sharks. Free drafted Tetsu and Rabbit for Free’s 1973 album Heartbreaker (1973) after which the group disbanded.

Image result for photo of paul kossoff

Rodgers & Kirke went on to form Bad Company while Paul Kossoff released a  1973 solo album ‘Back Street Crawler’; he then backed John Martyn on a 1975 tour before forming the group Back Street Crawler & releasing albums ‘The Band Plays On’ (’75) & ‘2nd Street’ (1976); he also undertook considerable amount of session work; Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Paul No51 on its list of ‘The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time’; his father, actor David Kossoff, later established the Paul Kossoff Foundation, with a mission to present the realities of drug addiction to children…

A 16-track career retrospective, Koss, was issued in 1977

Free For A Final Time

The sixth and final studio album by Free provides a strange ending to the story of one of Britain’s finest blues-rock bands, but a very successful one. The record was ‘Heartbreaker,’ and it entered the UK chart 42 years ago, on February 3rd, 1973. It would see them bow out in some personal disarray, but ironically with a top ten LP and one more top ten hit single in the mighty ‘Wishing Well.’

After the relative failure of their fourth studio album ‘Highway,’ Free had decided to go their separate ways in 1971 — whereupon, perversely, the ‘Free Live!’ set released by Island Records that year went into the UK top ten. Partly for the sake of Paul Kossoff, a brilliant guitarist but a troubled soul who was fighting addiction, they came back together for 1972’s ‘Free At Last,’ which took them back into the UK top ten and contained another signature hit, ‘Little Bit Of Love.’

The success was sufficient, barely, to carry Free over into one final album. But the fragile harmony within the band had been undermined by the fraught tour to support ‘Free At Last,’ which brought personal issues to a head and showed all too painfully that Paul Kossoff was not up to the rigours of the road. Bassist Andy Fraser, still only 20 years old at that time left the band.

‘Heartbreaker’ was recorded late in 1972 at Island Studios with a new line-up in which Fraser was replaced by Japanese bass man Tetsu Yamauchi, later to join the Faces. They also added a fifth member in keyboard player John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick, also later to be closely associated with another British rock institution, The Who.

Andy Fraser had been the chief writing collaborator of Free with frontman Paul Rodgers, so now the lead singer contributed four songs on his own, Bundrick wrote two, and an ailing Kossoff was credited on a pair, including ‘Wishing Well.’ The album debuted in the UK, 42 years ago,  climbing to its peak of No. 9 in its second week, as ‘Wishing Well’ became a No. 7 success in the UK.

But the live dates to support the album proved to be a tour too far. Paul Kossoff, a bit part player on the record, was too ill to travel, and was replaced for the dates by Wendell Richardson of Osibisa. When the tour finished, so did Free, moving into other notable areas of rock history.

Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke co-formed Bad Company, and Andy Fraser had songwriting success, notably with the Robert Palmer hit ‘Every Kinda People.’ Kossoff, tragically, would pass away from a heart attack in 1976 after some success with the band Back Street Crawler. ‘Heartbreaker’ was a strange but memorable post script to Free’s time together.


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