Simon Kirke Of Bad Company: 10 Albums That Changed My Life

Simone Kirke Of Bad Company: 10 Albums That Changed My Life

Feature Photo courtesy of Simon Kirke

Looking back across the last 60-odd years of rock music, you’d be hard-pressed to find a harder-hitting and groovier drummer than Simon Kirke. Born in Lambeth, London, England, but deeply influenced by American R&B, Motown soul, and British Invasion ’60s rock, Kirke upended the drum paradigm with his band Free (think “All Right Now” and “Fire and Water”) in an era when rock music, save for the likes of Carmine Appice and John Bonham, featured either spastic types or soft-hitting, jazzier players.

But don’t get it twisted—there’s nothing wrong with jazz fills or frenetic flourishes ala Mitch Mitchell, Giner Baker, and Keith Moon. Still, there’s something bewitching about the backbeat via blues rock that Kirke laid forth with Free and, later, the titanous Bad Company (think “Bad Company,” and “Shooting Star”), who became one of the premier ’70s rock acts en route to monster FM radio success.

These days, Kirke is still at it, though Bad Company has been dormant for the last few years. But don’t take that to mean Kirke is complacent—quite the contrary. He’s ready to go at a moment’s notice, knowing that time waits for no one and that it could be the last time if Bad Company does saddle up again.

Here’s to hoping we get one last ride out of Bad Company, as it is a trend with older rockers these days. But in the meantime, Simon Kirke beamed in with ClassicRockHistory.com to recount the ten albums that changed his life. Can you spot any of your personal favorites?

# 10 – Blue –  Joni Mitchell (1971)

The lady was not only possessed of beautiful looks but also had an exquisite voice. She experimented with different tunings and instruments and crafted a dozen songs here that still amaze and seduce 50-odd years later.

# 9 – Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul by Otis Redding (1965)

One of the all-time great singers, Otis Redding, greatly influenced Paul Rodgers. I love the simplicity and stripped-down sound of Booker T. & the M.G.’s. It also featured my number one drumming influence, Al Jackson Jr. Check out “Shake” and “Down in the Valley,” with the latter being quite simply the funkiest track ever recorded.

# 8 – Rubber Soul – The Beatles (1965)

This album and Revolver launched The Beatles into the firmament as bona fide musical innovators and visionaries. It’s hard to single out any one song on Rubber Soul as they are all good, but what really struck me then and still does today was their incredible harmonies; “Nowhere Man,” “The Word,” “If I Needed Someone,” all have glorious close harmonies, no autotune, and all done on four tracks. I use ten tracks on my drum kit when I record!

# 7 – Revolver by The Beatles (1966)

And Revolver came a short time later with the sublime “Eleanor Rigby,” “Taxman,” “And Your Bird Can Sing,” and more. I often group this with Rubber Soul, as they’re both great, and it’s hard to separate them. Some 60 years on these two (for one) albums still stand head and shoulders above many albums today.

# 6 – Axis: Bold as Love – Jimi Hendrix Experience (1967)

Rumor has it that upon seeing Jimi at his debut at a London Club, Eric Clapton phoned [The Who’s] Pete Townsend (or maybe the other way around) and said, “We’re in trouble.” Jimi turned the pop world upside down with his onstage antics and wild persona.

And those antics, and that persona was a vehicle to showcase his amazing guitar playing. His chord work on “Castles Made of Sand” and “Wait Until Tomorrow” just defies belief. And a tip of the hat to Mitch Mitchell, who was a wonderful drummer.

# 5 – Live – James Taylor (1993)

I’ve always loved James Taylor. His guitar playing, his pitch-perfect singing, and the superb musicians that he always surrounded himself with. This is one of the great live albums, beautifully recorded and performed.

# 4 – Let It Roll – Little Feat (1988)

Little Feat is one of the great American bands. When they lost Lowell George to a heroin overdose, they languished for a while without their frontman but bounced back in 1988 with this incredible album. There’s not a bad song here; “Willing,” “Let it Roll,” and ” One Clear Moment” are examples. All these musicians deserve a place in musical halls of fame—especially Richie Hayward on drums, Billy Payne on keyboards, and Paul Barrere on guitar.

# 3 – Live at the Apollo –  James Brown (1962)

James Brown was at the height of his powers here when he came to Harlem’s Apollo with his band, which featured two drummers who worked tirelessly. That rhythm section was as tight as paint on a board, and the man himself defied all vocal expectations.

# 2 – Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton –  John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers (1966)

I heard this album the same week I heard Live at the Apollo. I was 17 then and just getting ready to come to London and try to be a musician. And when I listened to this album, and particularly Eric Clapton’s playing, I nearly didn’t go.

Eric’s playing was incredible, and I believe he was 22, which floored me. In particular, songs like “Stepping Out” and “Hideaway” were memorable. At the time, I had never heard a guitar played like that. It was spine-tingling.

# 1 – Aretha’s Gold –  Aretha Franklin (1969)

The mid to late ’60s were a great musical awakening for me. The Beatles and soul music were the two musical forces that galvanized me, and Aretha Franklin’s power, pitching, and phrasing set the bar for countless female vocalists.

This album also featured the Muscle Shoals band with the core members of Roger Hawkins on drums, David Hood on bass, Barry Beckett on keyboards, Jimmy Johnson on guitar, and Spooner Oldham on Wurlitzer, proving that white men could, indeed, play soul along with one of the finest female vocalists ever.

Simon Kirke Of Bad Company: 10 Albums That Changed My Life article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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