Both at loose ends, Rodgers and Jimmy Page casually started recording together. This first of two albums released as The Firm is heavy on ’80s production but light on memorable songs.
I didn’t think Jimmy and I had any plans to do anything together. We were just socialising. Jimmy would come round, we’d listen to stuff. The first song we wrote together was “Midnight Moonlight Lady”. One day he brought round a cassette and said, “Would you like to write some lyrics to this?” It was 19 minutes long, it was absolutely fantastic! I said, “I don’t know that I can, can we shorten it?” So we got it down to nine minutes, and he was happy with the results. I said to him, “It’s funny, the chorus seems to have an extra bar in it.” And he goes, “Well it does. It’s in 9/4.” That’s the kind of thing he threw in with Led Zeppelin. It was great, actually. Later Jimmy said, “Name one song in the world that you’d like to record.” I said, “You know, I’ve always loved the Righteous Brothers’ ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’, and I’ve always wondered if I could sing it,” because it took two singers to manage the octaves on it. It was a completely off the wall cover for us, and that went on the record. Maybe there is a tendency to sing a little like Robert [Plant], if you’re singing with Jimmy. There may be some intonations with The Firm that I leaned on from Robert’s era. We agreed between us that we would do two albums over two years and stop, and that’s exactly what we did.
MUDDY WATERS BLUES: A TRIBUTE TO MUDDY WATERS
Rodgers’ solo career gained new impetus with this classy all-star album, with guests including Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy, Steve Miller, Slash, Gary Moore, Brian Setzer and David Gilmour.
I was given the opportunity to do anything I wanted as far as a blues album was concerned. That was just what I needed at that time in my life. I chose Muddy Waters because when I was living in London when I was 17, before I was in Free, before I was anything, I went to the Marquee to see him, and I held him in such high esteem, I wouldn’t have minded if he’d just been totally cold, and sat and played like the records. But he wasn’t. He was like a father-figure, and included everybody in the crowd in the warmth and the beauty of his music, and I felt, “I love you, man!” It was so good to feel that, I’ll never forget it. For this album we had Jason Bonham on drums and Pino Palladino on bass, what a great rhythm section. We just had a blast. We did two versions of “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl”. Before we started, I mentioned to Jason, “We could do it like this,” [croons slowly] “Good mor-ning little schoolgirl”. We didn’t even know the engineer pressed the button. With the guests, for some tracks we had to duplicate the masters in LA, and send them to, say, David Gilmour in London. It was like Christmas, opening it – “What did he play?” But I was almost wetting my pants, to be honest, when I sat in a studio playing a song that I had written about Muddy Waters with Buddy Guy. He had a smile a mile wide the whole time. Those were wonderful sessions.
QUEEN + PAUL RODGERS
THE COSMOS ROCKS
After successful joint tours with Brian May and Roger Taylor, playing each other’s hits, the three collaborated on a one-off studio album.
I can’t say I bought Queen records, but whenever I heard, [sings] “I Want To Break Free”, I thought, ‘Wow!’ There was a lot about Queen I loved, from a distance. So we played together, and I thought, ‘We have a connection here, we do rock.’ And then we finally found ourselves in the studio. So now was the testing time, to make an album of new material. We went in with no bass player, which sort of surprised me. But I didn’t feel I could say anything about it. Politically, Brian and Roger were calling the shots. They have their style and I have mine, and we tried very hard to come together, and this is the best we could do. One of the things that was interesting was how they got their harmonies. Brian would say, “OK, everybody, we’ll all sing this note”, then another, and we layered and layered, and the faders went up and I was, “Whoah! It sounds like Queen.” When I played the song “Voodoo” for them, Brian kept saying to me, “Oh, I can’t play blues” – “Yes you can, just play!” And he’d do it, and when he’d put a harmony on it he’d be very happy. We did some amazing shows. We played Latvia, and the President came up and played drums on “All Right Now”! I thought, ‘Wait’ll I tell the folks back home.’ I honestly don’t think we were quite ready to go into the studio. We could have done it better.
THE ROYAL SESSIONS
429 RECORDS, 2014
Rodgers reconnects with his roots for his first solo album in 14 years, recorded live in Memphis’ vintage Royal Studio with veteran Southern soul musicians.
The studio is in a depressed, derelict area – kids hanging around, almost ghetto-like. But we had such a great welcome. The studio was originally a smallish cinema, and it has a great atmosphere. It’s so dead and soundproofed, like being wrapped in a blanket, and Albert King and all kinds of my heroes recorded there. This music is the authentic root of everything I am musically. I’d be in Middlesbrough in my little room upstairs aged 13, listening to what these guys were creating then. They had deliberately not been told who I was when I arrived. I told them, “I’m a little bit nervous here.” I decided to start with “That’s How Strong My Love Is”, and they gave me the nod: “OK, you’ll do.” At the Royal, everything is the way it was. The stuffing is coming out of the soundproofing. It’s funky, very real. I’ve been running on gas, on the energy of my earlier years of listening to all this soul. That energy has driven me so far. And to step back into the real power of its source has re-energised me. I’ve bought a record player, and in Memphis I went down to Beale Street and bought loads of Booker T & The MG’s on vinyl, and soaking that up is revitalising me. I’m getting back to the pure, real deal of where I started.