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FREE FOREVER DVD Launch
The Paper/Cafe Royal, London
Thursday 7 September 2006
The launch of the digital film 'Free Forever' by Vista Vega proved to be a media love-in, with everyone from the scribes and attending band members Andy Fraser and Simon Kirke, to the paying customers displaying real emotion for a band that ceased to exist in 1973.
The film's director Barry Barnes briefly opened up proceedings before his doc of Free was played on a wide screen in stereo. The interviews with remaining band members are lucid, smartly edited and the live footage is given enough airing in between the talking heads.
Paul Rodgers unwittingly topped and tailed the proceedings as he opens the film talking about how he met Paul Kossoff and later in the question and answer session, on the end of a miked up mobile, he concluded that he had reservations about a Free swan song without the deceased Kossoff.
But back to the film, and as the band's history is unravelled the stories start to unfold. Simon remembers how promoters had a problem with the band's name, and in some cases resorted to calling them The Free, thus making it clear it would cost money to see them.
Paul for his part traces one of the causes of the band future problems following a disastrous US tour with Blind Faith. When the next US tour came around he demurred, pointing to same inadequate stage gear that had blighted their last tour.
On a more creative note Free were also apparently looking at the material of their contemporaries such as Jethro Tull, Cream, and Hendrix and started to develop their own songs. Paul also interestingly reflects on the fact the bands slipped away from their blues background, and when they belatedly tried to recapture their roots it proved unachievable. Material wise 'The Hunter' was the one song that the band always had to play up north. The Sunderland Locarno for one wouldn't let Abba off stage without playing it let alone Free.
By the time of 'All Right Now' Andy Fraser thought 'we were at the peak of our cohesion'. 'The Stealer', the excellent but unsuccessful follow up was - we are told - almost a one take deal, and quite the opposite to the imagined endless deliberation over a follow up single.
The film is full of interesting interviews including Paul Kossoff's brother Simon, and the snappy editing makes for a surprisingly dynamic film.
The following question and answer session was what everyone had been waiting for, and the guys were more than forthcoming.
'We had most of the original gear stolen by a temporary roadie' laughed Andy, 'although I think Paul's still got the drums in his garage', to which Simon promptly added 'Though with eBay waiting some of it might emerge again' (laughs).
Asked how they felt about the band now, Simon drew up a significant difference between here and the US; 'They like us in the US but over here the response has been amazing and actually very moving. I have a great feeling of having been in a great band, and I think a lot of other people have been got that same sort of feeling. I also think about the waste of Paul Kossoff. I'm the emotional one of the group. We didn't know how to deal with his problems'.
Andy saw Free as 'a band full of unity, camaraderie - a real band, almost a real family'. Paul Rodgers made a point of answering this question on his mobile, saying 'The thing I loved most about Free was playing with Paul Kossoff'. Paul also answered that his favourite other bands of the era were The Beatles, Hendrix, Otis Redding etc, while Simon thought his favourite Free song was 'Mr. Big' and 'Ride On Pony'. Significantly, Andy plumped for the mellower tracks, mirroring the fact that he was into The Band all those years ago.
Asked what Free might have been if they had stayed with the blues, Andy replied, 'I would liked to have explored our blues roots more but not necessarily in a 12 bar format. The Beatles seemed to do something like that, keeping their roots in their writing while exploring new music'
And finally the inevitable question, what about playing together again? First Simon. 'I'd love to do it but who would play the guitar?' Andy added, 'Since seeing the DVD again I'd love to play together again but I don't think Paul will'. And the man in question replied, 'I have deep reservations of doing this without Koss' though a wag shouted you play in Queen without Freddie! (much guffawing). As a postscript someone did ask about the special guest at his forthcoming Albert Hall show. 'It will be a guitarist', came the short reply.
So in the meantime it seems, the excellent film/DVD will have to suffice and as if speaking on behalf of all of us Paul Rodgers concluded with 'I'd like to thank the fans that have been forever free'.
Review by Pete Feenstra
Simon Kirke interview