Forty years is a long time and there aren’t many bands who can justifiably celebrate that amount of time as a going concern with pretty much all of their credibility intact, but one look at Jon Brewer‘s documentary film about legendary British rockers Bad Company is enough to convince you that this was more than just a supergroup put together to heal wounds left by the members’ previous outfits and a real statement of intent by four talented musicians looking to become something more.
Much like live albums, documentaries about bands are a difficult sell to anybody not already invested in the band and, likewise, if you’re already a fan then you’re likely to pick it up regardless, but what this film does is give you a sense of time and place when discussing the early years of each band member and the beginnings of Bad Company, and as we all know, the late-’60s/early-’70s was a fertile hotbed of young musicians looking to go louder, heavier and funkier than their predecessors. There is plenty of footage of singer Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke in their previous band Free, a band not entirely unknown by most rock fans, and there is much emphasis on the fact that Free were still in their teens when they got their break. Something to bear in mind when you see the footage of Paul Rodgers gazing out over the gathered masses at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 – only twenty years old but already a seasoned veteran of the road.
Guitarist Mick Ralphs played in Mott the Hoople before joining Rodgers and Kirke in Bad Company and his career is given a decent contextual setting with contributions from Mott singer Ian Hunter helping to set the scene. Sadly, bassist Boz Burrell died in 2006 but his contribution is eulogised by the three surviving members plus other notable musicians who were touched by Burrell‘s off-kilter way of playing.
The documentary covers all of the band’s activities up to present day, touching on their original split in the early 1980s, Paul Rodgers‘ stints with Jimmy Page in The Firm and his tour with members of Queen and their relationship with Peter Grant, their fearsome manager who also guided the career of Led Zeppelin. There are obviously plenty of stories to tell and, as you can probably tell from the words ‘Official’ and ‘Authorised’ in the title, you get the sense that the band members may be holding back a little bit with some of their anecdotes; not that what they have to say isn’t interesting, especially Simon Kirke who is very open and honest about some of the band’s leisure activities and other tales like asking Peter Grant about his alleged underworld connections straight to his face, but maybe an unauthorised account would be a little more sensational.
The Classic Rock Fan Pack edition contains the DVD, a set of art prints and a 132-page magazine featuring extensive interviews with the band, a loving tribute to Boz Burrell, a run-down of their discography and some exclusive photos. There is also a lengthy interview with director Jon Brewer, who reveals that the hardest part of making the film was trying to find decent archive footage of the band, and this is very evident whilst watching the DVD. The footage that is shown generally has people talking over it which, whilst being informative, is quite distracting and you never really get to see or hear the band in full flight without being told what you’re looking at. It’s not a massive problem as there are full concert DVD’s available elsewhere but hearing a whole song – or at least a verse and a chorus – without somebody speaking over it would have been nice.
Nevertheless, “Bad Company: The Official Authorised 40th Anniversary Documentary” (they could have come up with a snappier title) is still a fascinating account of one of Britain’s best hard rock bands. They may not have been as huge as Led Zeppelin or as influential as Black Sabbath but Bad Company do have a solid catalogue of top-drawer tunes, many of which still get regular airplay on the radio today, and hearing the band talking so passionately about what they all describe as the best years of their lives really is quite gratifying. Some uninterrupted music would have bulked things up a bit and fleshed out what was being said but otherwise this is a documentary that fans are going to enjoy.