If you had asked me at any time during the last 37 years, to name a handful of the most memorable gigs that I’ve had the pleasure of attending in all that time; then one of those on that select list would surely have been Bad Company at London’s Empire Pool Wembley, (now called Wembley Arena) on Saturday 10th March 1979.
This memorable show was part of the band’s highly successful Desolation Angels Tour, and they played three nights at Wembley: 9th, 10th and 11th March ’79. There was no support band. You weren’t allowed to take photos at gigs back then (on pain of being thrown out or having your camera confiscated); and I didn’t need or want to make notes (at the age of 19 all I was interested in was birds, bikes, beer and Blues-Rock – in no particular order!); but I wish I had, as only a few snippets of recollection remain in my mind. I remember that they inevitably played ‘Feel Like Makin’ Love’; ‘Can’t Get Enough’; ‘Rock’n’Roll Fantasy’ (off their new Desolation Angels album); and, I’m glad to say, my particular favourite ‘Honey Child’; but apart from that, the show has faded into the mists of time – other than to say that I recall it as a superb night. But I can still see Paul Rodgers in my mind’s eye – the ultimate Rock front-man; the epitome of cool – swinging that mic stand around, and sometimes playing a Strat – and that voice! I remember too, Micky Ralphs casually pacing the stage, playing with an ease and confidence that was spell-binding – and only surpassed in impressiveness, by the sounds he was getting out of his Strat. Wonderful.
I went with a couple of other blokes: my main gig-mate Gary (whatever happened to him, I wonder?), and another geezer whose name I don’t recall; and we had seats reasonably near the front. It seems ridiculous now, but at £4.50 for a ticket, it was a bit pricey compared to £3.50 to see Whitesnake (at Hammersmith Odeon); £3.00 for Rush (ditto); and a mere £2.80 to see Van Halen (at the old Rainbow Theatre) at around the same ’78-’79 period. At the time, I worked for British Electric Traction (BET) which was a holding company – ie, they didn’t do or make anything, they just owned other companies who did. One of the other companies that they had their greedy mitts on, was the Wembley Complex (Stadium; Arena and Conference Centre); and I sometimes managed to get discounted tickets – and yes it was worth getting a quid or so off for my mates and myself, because I was only on about £40 a week before tax in those days! I also managed to see Blackmore’s Rainbow and Status Quo at the same venue at around the same time. (That Rainbow gig was infamous; but that’s a story for another time!)
So imagine my delight then, when recently I heard that Bad Co’s record label Swan Song were to release a double live album featuring recordings made at one of those nights back in March ’79 (the 9th – sadly not the 10th that I went to. Still; its near enough!)
The album is a two CD set that comes in a deluxe four-gate-fold sleeve; plus a booklet tucked into one side that contains lots of info and photos from both of the gigs covered in the collection. Disc One is a recording of the Bad Co gig at The Summit, Houston, Texas, USA, on 23rd May 1977. Disc Two is the Wembley show, recorded on the ‘…Rolling Stones Truck-thing just outside’ (to quote another famous ’70s Rock band!) Presumably some tracks have been omitted from both sessions to avoid too much duplication; although two songs appear on both discs (‘Shooting Star’ and ‘Feel Like Makin’ Love’).
An oddity is the inclusion of a superb and rare Bad Co cover of Hendrix’s ‘Hey Joe’ amongst the songs on the Wembley disc. It is a recording made at The Capitol Centre, Washington DC in June ’79; so it would arguably have been better placed at the end of the first disc; but certainly shouldn’t be in the midst of the Wembley show. Its bloody good though!
The tightness; quality musicianship; and professionalism of Bad Co’s legendary live performances comes through well on these recordings. And the recordings themselves are very well done indeed. There is perhaps a little disappointment in the mixing of Ralphs’ rhythm guitar work on some of the tracks on the Wembley disc, but its not too much of a problem.
If you are in any way, shape, or form a Bad Co fan, then I’d say that you need to own this excellent double album. PTMQ