Free was a British band that formed in Battersea, London during April 1968. An imminent result of the British Blues boom of the late 60’s, and influenced by the many artists that collaborated with the movement’s birth, Free adopted a hard blues-rock musical style. After having played together in the R&B band “Black Cat Bones”, 17-year old guitarist Paul Kossoff and 18-year old drummer Simon Kirke wanted to move forward. Having had recruited bassist Andy Fraser, who at 15 years of age had already performed with high profile bands such as John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, the band was only missing a lead singer. Found not long after at a Brown Sugar concert in Finsbury Park’s ‘Fickle Pickle’, Paul Rogers was summoned by Kossoff to complete the final lineup of the band.
In November 1969 the group recorded their first studio album, ‘Tons of Sobs’ which wasn’t released until the following year along with their second, self-titled album. The debut of the band, however, was overlooked until the release of their third follow-up ‘Fire and Water’ in 1970, featuring the song “All Right Now”. An exceptionally acclaimed hit, the song placed #1 in UK’s rock and single charts and #2 in the U.S.A’s; also setting the band in excellent musical standings. Later, in 1990, it was recognized by the ASCAP for amassing over one million radio plays and awarded by the British Music Industry when the two million mark was reached. The release of a #1 song and a #2 album facilitated Free the opportunity to land a spot in 1970’s Isle of Wright Festival. A 600,000 people event, with shows from notorious blues-inspired groups such as The Who, The Doors, and guitarist Jimmi Hendrix; the festival provided the band with an even bigger public exposure. In addition, it allowed them to exploit one of their best abilities as a musical group and for which they’re still renowned for; their live performance.
During September of 1970, Free released their fourth disc ‘Highway’. Not selling well and under-placing on the charts, the album forced the band into retreat. Due to the inconsistency of sales and reputation, personal differences between Paul Rodgers and Andy Fraser, and the drug-abusing tendencies of Paul Kossoff the band broke up on April 1971. Despite their dissolution, the group still released their fifth, farewell album ‘Free Live!’, only to reform during early 1972 in an attempt to help Kossoff overcome his drug-addiction. In June of the same year they released their 6th album ‘Free at Last’, also lacking in popular recognition, at which point Andy Fraser left the band fed up at Kossoffs predictable unreliability.
In replacement of Fraser came in Japanese bassist Tetsu Yamauchi and an extra member, keyboardist John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick, was added. The new, short-lived lineup was called ‘Kossoff, Kirke, Tetsu and Rabbit’ and released Free’s final album ‘Heartbreaker’.
In early 1973 Free ultimately disbanded. With Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke forming Bad Company, Andy Fraser creating the Andy Fraser Band and Paul Kossoff going solo as the Back Street Crawler; this was finally the breaking point of the group.
Three years later, on March 19th of 1979 and at the age of 25, Paul Kossoff died of a drug-related heart condition on a flight from Los Angeles to New York. Roughly a month shy of the ‘reunion’ tour the former members had planned featuring the Backstreet Crawler headlining Bad Company; Kossoffs death marked the final chapter of the band.
A band of young members and fresh ideas, Free marked the post British blues boom period of the 70’s. Along with other bands and guitarists that emerged during and after the boom, Free experimented with and partly founded many of the various applications of a new genre that are still influencing musicians today.
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