20th Century Guitar Magazine's
Published in 20th Century Guitar Magazine
March 1999 Issue
Contrary to the way guitarist Mick Ralphs tells it, Bad Company was one of the best
hyped bands of the early seventies, having the full force of Atlantic Records, Led
Zeppelin and their own Swan Song label and the promotional aptitude of manager Peter Grant
behind them. Massive kick-off parties here in the States on both coasts, at considerable
expense, and great press - from the early days of rumors about the band to the release of
the first record - almost assured that they would be big. Only one thing remained to be
seen: would they be any good?
Culled from members of Free, King Crimson and Mott The Hoople, with the right material,
the band couldn't miss. And they didn't. Out of the gate, Bad Company produced a string of
hits that to this day remain staples on classic rock radio stations around the world. Lead
by the scorching vocals of Paul Rodgers and the stinging, bluesy guitar of Mick Ralphs,
this band most likely didn't need all of the hype and money, they would have made it any
Probably a good thing, too, for Mick Ralphs, who left Mott The Hoople at the height of
their popularity. With the now legendary save of Mott by David Bowie and the hit "All
The Young Dudes," Mott was putting together a string of top albums that would
continue even after Ralphs departure (with Luther Grosvenor on guitar, see Spooky Tooth
elsewhere in this issue). But something about Mott had changed and Ralphs was no longer
happy with the direction the band was taking.
Twenty six years later, Bad Company has come full circle. The release this month of the
two-disc Bad Company Anthology on Elektra Records, finds all four original members -
Rodgers, Ralphs, drummer Simon Kirke and bassist Boz Burrell - ready to do it again. The
anthology includes four new tracks by the band and the group is preparing to go out on the
We spoke with Mick Ralphs from his home in England about the band, guitars, and the
future of Bad Company.
TCG: First, welcome back as the original band. How is that working out?
MR: Well. we haven't done much really. This has been going on for about two or
three years. We got together to sort out some business affairs because our old manager,
Peter Grant, had passed away. That brought it all together, in an unfortunate way. I had
been working with Simon but I hadn't seen Paul or Boz for a long time. When we all got
together, the chemistry was sort of there, the four of us as just people. I said wouldn't
it be nice if we could all get together at some time but Paul didn't seem to be interested
because he was off doing his own thing. But over the period of the last couple of years we
have seen more of each other. The plan was to put out this box set which involved looking
through tapes. It wasn't a planned thing, it just came about through chance. Then the
record company asked us if we would do some dates to back it up and I said why not? Then I
was suggested that we record some new songs instead of just putting the old things on
which I thought was a good idea. In a way, it was sort of like when the group first
started. It wasn't really planned but was a series of events that came to this point. The
only real work we have done together as a band is this recording. We were only together
actually, the four of us in the same spot, for about four days. Paul came in from Canada,
Simon came in from New York, Boz came in from doing his jazz and I was here at home. We
had a run through and it was like we didn't stop. I think we could have done with a bit
more time actually. I don't know if you've heard it yet.
TCG: It sounds great. It sounds just like you guys.
MR: It sounds alright, doesn't it? A little rough around the edges but it was
done real quick. It was encouraging because I thought we could still play together and we
still obviously seem to jell. It was the only thing we've really done together except for
some photographs and we all went our separate ways again. We've been communicating with
the old fax and phone lines trying to line up dates.
TCG: So, you are still planning on going out?
MR: Oh, yeah. It's just that Paul has been
doing dates all the time as a solo act, it's just hard to get it pinned down. We are
planning to do some dates in May and June in the States. I'm really looking forward to it.
I'm just sorry it has taken so long. If everybody had just sat down for five minutes, this
could have been done two years ago.
TCG: Is there any talk of now doing a full studio album?
MR: That would be a good thing to do. I think the idea of doing some new songs
was for the record company to see what the potential was and I think they would prefer
that more than anything else. I think Paul's the one that wants to do his own thing but I
think the people in America are still rooting for us and it would be only fair to give
them a good shot of what we do together. I think once we start doing some stuff in the
States, it will all lock in. I think it is a great opportunity for a band from the
seventies with all of the original members still relatively in tack. TOG: That is
something that is getting more rare.
MR: Yeah, as we get older. As I say, Paul is being a bit cautious, but once we
start getting some feedback, that will inspire us to do more. I'm very open-minded about
it. I would like to go on and do some more things.
TCG: It was a very successful venture the first time around.
MR: Yes it was. I think when you are in charge of your own career it is
different than working with a bunch of guys and you have to make compromises. I'm used to
that but I think Paul been his own boss for a long time and it might take some getting
TCG: To back up a little bit, was there ever any talk of the original Mott
getting back together?
MR: Yes, there has been talk of that but I think that is going back a bit too
far. I went to a thing in London quite recently when All The Young Dudes box set and the
Mott book came out at the same time and I went to a signing of that. People were there
from all over the world. I was amazed! Ian came in for that and Verdon Allen was there. It
was just the three of us. The interest was incredible. It's like there is this whole
interest in Mott. It's funny because I had three years of quiet, not doing much and then
all of a sudden I'm doing this Mott thing and the Bad Company thing and they just
re-released my solo album that I did in 1982. Which interview am I doing today? Is this
Mott, Bad Company or the solo thing?
TCG: A little of each.
MR: It's nice after not doing anything for so long. It's nice that you people
are out there and still interested.
TCG: Why do you think that is? Is it that music today is not very exciting?
MR: I think it is because we were taken to heart in America when we came out.
Some thought we were an American band. We did more in America than anywhere else. I've
been to America several times since with Simon as Bad Company, not the real thing, and we
were on the radio all the time. The music hasn't lost its appeal. People like the songs
and they like the way we did them. Kind of natural, no pretense.
TCG: It seems to be something that is lacking now.
MR: It was lacking then, too. And it seems to be lacking again. I've got a
seventeen-year old daughter living in the States and she loves seventies music. I don't
know whether it is new and fresh to them but it is twenty years old to us. The dance music
is getting new play here as well. At the time we came out, bands seemed to be getting
somewhat pretentious and we came out as sort of a bar band, really. I've been writing here
at home and I try to keep things simple. Sometimes the demos get this big production and I
have to stop and back up a little.
TCG: Even, though, a song like "Ready For Love" was more
straight-ahead with Mott then the remake with Bad Company.
MR: It's funny because Paul really liked that song and I didn't know if we
should do it again as a Bad Company song. It's very different from the Mott version. It
was a nice feeling that people liked the song and that they could relate to it. It's hard
to judge a song for yourself. I'll write a song that I don't think is very good and people
like and then I'll write a song that I think is great and no one likes it at all!
TCG: You mentioned that when Bad Company came out you were really a bar band but
I remember, particularly reading in Melody Maker magazine, the "super group
that became Bad Company. Also, the huge unleashing of the band by Swan Song Records.
MR: It was amazing because all of that was an added business. We never thought
of ourselves as a super group or started out saying let's form a super group.
We just happened to be from other bands. It was something that we really didn't consider
but the people trying to promote us did. Again, having Peter Grant and Zeppelin help a lot
as well. I just wanted to play some straight-ahead blues-rock and have some fun. I never
thought we would have a hit single.
TCG: Did the super group thing put more pressure on you?
MR: Well, it was all kind of hit and miss, not a great scheme. We just got
together. By the time we had a bass player we had rehearsed quite a bit and were able to
do the album in about two weeks.
TCG: By the time you left Mott The Hoople, it was a very different band from
when it started.
MR: Yeah, that's kind of why I lost interest. After the hit with David Bowie,
which saved us from oblivion, Ian started writing more songs and there was no longer room
for me to come up with the guitar hooks like on "All The Young Dudes" and
"Roll Away The Stone." Like you said, it was a different band. The band was a
wild band and that's why I liked it. There again, it was an unplanned thing. The direction
the band took was the right thing to happen to save it from extinction, but it wasn't the
direction I wanted to go. It was more fun in the early days. Once it became successful, it
fit too well into the system. I just wanted to kick back and play some blues with Paul or
whoever and let it all be natural again.
TCG: There always seems to be "Mick Ralphs" guitars popping up at
various guitar shows around the country. You must have owned a lot of guitars through the
MR: They say they're mine but I don't know if I'd admit. I have had a few
guitars. I've sold a lot of them. In a way, the fun is finding them. I had a bunch of
guitars that were really cool but I wouldn't take them on the road because they were worth
too much money. It all became a bit silly. People were coming up to me and offering Les
Pauls for fifty thousand dollars! I would never pay that for a guitar. I remember in New
York in the seventies, Les Pauls for two thousand dollars. I wouldn't pay that much for
them then! I would look for obscure things. When I first went to the States with Mott we
played with Mountain and I loved the guitar Leslie West was playing. I found out it was a
Junior and I searched the pawn shops for them and picked them up for something like fifty
dollars. That was my kind of guitar. A great guitar for fifty bucks. Now you have to pay
something like three thousand dollars if you can find one. I've been buying things like
Japanese Strats and Epiphones. I have an Epi Junior and it plays and sounds great. I can
have just as much fun with these guitars. I played old Les Pauls in the Mott days but it
was because I liked them. They weren't that dear then. Now, I've been playing Strats like
mad. I think I went back to Fenders because everyone went back to Les Pauls. I didn't get
along with Strats for a long time but I started playing around with them and taking them
apart and I got the hang of them
TCG: Yeah, you don't take Gibsons apart but you can take Strats apart.
MR: Oh, yeah. They're like pickup trucks! Gibsons are like Cadillacs. I always
thought Strats had too many switches and things but having taken a few of them apart, I've
gotten the hang of it!
TCG: Are there any guitars that you wish you had back?
MR: Yeah, that just happened recently. There were a few guitars I had for sale
in London which included my '57 Esquire. A few months went by and a friend of mine had a
friend who wanted to buy a Fender. I went to the shop and got the guitars back to show my
friend and I thought, I can't sell this Esquire, it's great. What am I doing!
So I've been off- loading some cheap things to keep the Esquire. I had a couple of 335s
that I sold a couple of years ago. They were nice guitars.
TCG: What's next?
MR: Well, first we are doing a Pay-Per-View thing soon in the States. Once that
starts rolling, we will start putting dates together. We're gearing up to work again. I
guess I've had my time off, that's it. Back to work, buddy!