Ten Years After

If you worked in a Midwestern factory in the mid-70s, the first Bad Company album burst on the scene with the force of Meet the Beatles or Stevie Wonder’s Music of My Mind. It was all over the radio, the singles like “Can’t Get Enough” dominated jukebox play in the bars, and if you still didn’t hear it, your friends would bring it over, pounding on the front door screaming, “Hey, you’ve got to hear this!”

 

Part of the phenomenon was the music--good songs fleshed out by Simon Kirke’s drumming, jack-hammer hard but still sloppily swinging; Mick Ralphs’ rhythmic guitar, some of the most purposeful ever found in hard rock grooves; and, above all, the voice of Paul Rodgers, the most soulful white rock & roll shouter ever.

 

Bad Company’s other attraction was that their songs perfectly captured the contradictions we were living. We were working 20 or 30 hours a week overtime and we had more money than we could spend. We still had chips on our shoulders from the war or growing up in broken homes or from high school football rivalries. We liked the money we made but not what we had to go through to get it nor the growing realization that this might be all we’d ever do. We kept our hair long enough to be different while we began to buy houses and raise families like everyone else.

 

Bad Company’s music pumped us up, it’s false bravado kept from wilting by the power of rock & roll and steady work. “Movin’ On” gave hope to someone who knew he wouldn’t be. “Bad Company” (“rebel souls, deserters, we are called”) made us feel like outlaws while we made triple house payments. “Run with the Pack” gave voice to our half-formed notions of community. And with all our material needs taken care of, we never had problems more serious than “Can’t Get Enough,” goals more lofty than to “Live for the Music.”

 

Now I and most of my friends have lost our high-paying jobs in the plants and mills, victims of a one-sided technological explosion that has made industry infinitely more productive while it discards workers like candy wrappers. Technical progress also changed the music and Bad Company didn’t adjust very well, which is why there’s only one song from their last two albums on the just-released 10 from 6: Best of Bad Company. The music still sounds great, but instead of being a soundtrack for the good times it serves only as a temporary relief from the bad times.

 

Listening to 10 from 6, it’s clear that last year’s formation of The Firm by Jimmy Page and Paul Rodgers was doomed not just by the weak playing and weaker songs. (Indeed, Rodgers’ voice sounded better than ever.) The Firm’s record and tour were artistic and commercial failures because at bottom they were an attempt to recreate Bad Company, and that band is an idea whose time has come and gone.

 

 

Rock & Rap Confidential / 1986