The members of Bad Company were stars before their first concert in March 1974. Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke had been members of Free, Mick Ralphs had been Ian Hunter's main sidekick in Mott the Hoople, and Boz Burrell had played with King Crimson. Their self-titled debut album, recorded in only 10 days with a minimum of overdubs in Ronnie Lane's mobile studio, eclipsed all that by going Number One worldwide with the single "Can't Get Enough." The album from which it came also hit Number 1 and to date has sold more than 5 million copies.
Playing sparse, elemental hard rock dominated by Rodgers' husky vocals and Ralphs' power chords, the original Bad Company sold more than 12 million records worldwide. Its 1975 release, Straight Shooter, yielded the Top 10 single "Feel Like Makin' Love" (Number 10, 1975) while Run With the Pack was the group's third consecutive album to go platinum.
On Desolation Angels (which included the Rodgers-penned hit "Rock and Roll Fantasy," Number 13, 1979), Bad Company added synthesizers and strings. Indicative of its increasingly sporadic activities, three years elapsed between Angels and Rough Diamonds, which seemed an anachronism upon its 1982 release. The group disbanded that year, with Rodgers releasing a solo LP in 1983, then forming yet another supergroup, the Firm, with Jimmy Page, bassist/keyboardist Tony Franklin, and drummer Chris Slade.
The Firm never came close to matching the level of success its two principals had enjoyed with their previous groups. After two LPs, the quartet broke up in 1986, just as Ralphs and Kirke were putting Bad Company back together. Former Ted Nugent vocalist Brian Howe stood in for Rodgers. The group stuck closely to the original lineup's riffy blues-rock formula, but its first album, Fame and Fortune, disappeared from the chart after just nine weeks. However, Dangerous Age eventually went gold, while Holy Water went platinum and produced a Top 20 power ballad, "If You Needed Somebody." Here Comes Trouble also sold in excess of 1 million copies and gave the group two more Top 40 hits. In 1993 Bad Company expanded into a quintet, adding journeyman bassist Rick Wills (Frampton's Camel, Roxy Music, Foreigner) and rhythm guitarist Dave Colwell, and celebrated its 20th anniversary with a live greatest-hits album. Rodgers, meanwhile, struggled to find musical direction. The Law, a hard-rock duo with drummer Kenney Jones, couldn't get arrested, and the singer returned to a solo career, first releasing two curious tribute albums, one interpreting the music of Muddy Waters, the other a live set of Jimi Hendrix tunes featuring Neal Schon on guitar.
In the fall of 1998 Rodgers and Burrell joined Ralphs and Kirke for a reunion of the original lineup. The group contributed four new songs, including the single "Hey, Hey," to the 2-CD set The "Original" Bad Co. Anthology, then embarked on a farewell tour in 1999. Rodgers has announced that he would resume his solo career afterward, when he is not playing as part of the original Bad Company. Rodgers would go on to take over Freddie Mercury's role in Queen, and the newly-christened Queen + Paul Rodgers released The Cosmos Rocks in October 2008.
Portions of this biography appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001).
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