Artist: Bad Company
Album: Official Authorized 40th Anniversary Documentary (DVD)
Label: MVD Visual/FilmRise
Release Date: 2.24.2020
Mick Ralphs was looking to leave Mott The Hoople. The guitarist, a founding member of the British glam-rock champions, felt marginalized in the group dynamic, that he and his preference for an earthier, more grounded brand of rock ‘n roll were being pushed aside. A warmer embrace awaited him in a supergroup that was still just a gleam in Paul Rodgers’ eye.
In 1973, Ralphs got in on the ground floor of Bad Company, linking up with former Free refugees in Rodgers and Simon Kirke. It was a natural fit from the very start. Finding a bassist was a more difficult task. That story, along with Ralphs’ easy transition, and so many more are recounted in “Bad Company – 40th Anniversary Documentary,” authorized by the band itself. Refreshingly candid without being overly dramatic or gossipy, the film relies on the testimony of the three living members—bassist Boz Burrell, formerly of King Crimson, died in 2006—to weave a tale of early success, ruinous excess and an inevitable split and a disastrous reunion.
With a sense of nostalgia, they happily reminisce about those blissful first two years, when Bad Company could do no wrong. Dealt a winning hand initially, they were managed by the fearsome, artist-friendly giant Peter Grant, who signed them to Swan Song, the vanity label owned by Led Zeppelin. The business side of their meteoric rise is explored in revelatory detail, as are the almost-magical origins of hit singles like “Bad Company,” “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy,” “Shooting Star” and “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” among others. The relatively easy births of LPs Bad Company (1974) and Straight Shooter (1975) are also vividly remembered.
Truthful to a fault, they also go through the past, darkly, with apologies to the Rolling Stones. Because the movie unfolds chronologically, the disintegration of Free and its commercial disappointments, following the triumph of “All Right Now,” are addressed with wistful honesty. The sadness of Paul Kossoff’s decline and eventual death is palpable. Later, there’s an examination of Rodgers’ creative differences with Burrell, as well as a post-mortem of the troubled 1999 reunion tour and the fractured relationships that never quite healed properly.
Like the band itself, the no-frills “Bad Company—40th Anniversary Documentary” – now out on Blu-ray, with crisper, sharper imagery—is a meat-and-potatoes biography, with luminaries like Queen’s Brian May, soul legend Sam Moore, Def Leppard’s Joe Elliot and drummer Jason Bonham singing Bad Company’s praises and providing insightful observations. Director Jon Brewer keeps the narrative moving at a brisk pace, deftly editing the material, which includes rare archival and behind-the-scenes footage, to let it flow freely and not make the ride any bumpier than necessary. All in all, in spite of the absence of extras, it sums up the Bad Company experience in a neat and tidy fashion, making it come alive in a compelling yarn that does the enduring classic-rock heroes justice.