Paul Kossoff

One of Britain’s finest blues guitarists came into the world on this day in 1950 – Paul Kossoff. Cruelly, he would spend only 25 years on it, during which time the band he provided with such soulful guitar playing – Free – achieved worldwide success following their third album, 1970’s Fire and Water (it boasted a massive Top Five single in ‘All Right Now’, a smash hit on both sides of the Atlantic and still a staple of classic rock stations everywhere) which was bolstered further by a memorable performance at the Isle of Wight festival that same year.

Here’s the song, you all know it, with footage from the Isle of Wight; but you might not have seen this tight performance – ‘Mr Big’.

Due to band differences, and in no small part to Kossoff’s increasingly fragile state of health following problems with drugs, Free split up in 1971, which served to further fuel his deterioration. With Free drummer Simon Kirke, Kossoff immediately released the album Kossoff, Kirke, Tetsu and Rabbit, a collaboration with bassist Tetsu Yamauchi and keyboardist John “Rabbit” Bundrick.

Free reformed the following year, but the union was short-lived and they split for good in ’73. Once more, Kossoff threw himself into work; there was a solo album before the year was out called Back Street Crawler, containing contributions from all the members of Free and previous collaborators, followed by a tour with John Martyn (who himself appears on Back Street Crawler – on the haunting, bluesy instrumental duet, ‘Time Away’). The album provided Kossoff’s new group with a name and Back Street Crawler swiftly released two albums: The Band Plays On and Second Street – in 1975 and 1976 respectively.

His former band mates (Simon Kirke, now playing behind lead singer Paul Rodgers), meanwhile, were finding success with their new band, Bad Company. A double-headline tour of the UK was scheduled for 1976 to support Back Street Crawler’s Second Street and Bad Company’s Run with the Pack albums.

However, Kossoff’s health was rapidly declining if his addiction was not. On a flight from Los Angeles to New York in March 1976, barely a month before the start of the tour, he suffered a fatal heart attack; another tragic casualty of rock and roll excess and insecurity, just like his hero Jimi Hendrix, whose death six years previously was said to have affected him so.

Do remember the talent that was Paul Kossoff today and please send in your personal recommendations from a sadly slight, but immense nonetheless, catalogue of work. My favourites will always be the well-known Free numbers (‘Wishing Well’, ‘My Brother Jake’, ‘The Stealer’), but for proof, if you need it, of why Paul Kossoff deserves all the accolades in death that couldn’t spare him in life, have a listen to ‘Moonshine’ from Free’s debut album Tons of Sobs. Beautiful.

This week’s chat, by the way, is on Thursday at 4pm (UK). Hope to see you there.

Author: FEd

Features Editor of David Gilmour's official blog, The Blog ('Features' previously being its rather naff title), affectionately - or lazily - shortened to 'FEd'.

57 thoughts on “Paul Kossoff”

  1. Brilliant guitarist!! All Right Now is one of those songs which is on every compilation Rock album since the 70s along with My Brother Jake, and rightly so! In our little pub band here in Ireland we always start our second half with All Right Now… it gets people’s attention!

    …a huge loss of talent… his Father still campaigns against drugs.

  2. What a pleasant surprise to visit today and find you talking about Paul Kossoff. I know his work with Free very well and saw them live a few times.

    I had one of the Back Street Crawler albums on vinyl back in the day; I must get it on CD. I’ll also look at the same time for “Kossoff, Kirke, Tetsu and Rabbit”, which I never heard of before.

    He was a talented guitar player. I will listen to Free and remember him this evening.

    Thanks.

  3. … Mr Big is one of my favorites. I last heard it on the way back from vacation along with the rest of the album. What’re could he have achieved if he had survived. Damn drugs…

    Nice to be back by the way. 🙂 We spent 2 weeks on island, but not *that* one. It was still thrilling to hear the song while driving along the coast of Thassos.

    Regards

    Taki

  4. So much great talent lost to the addiction of, or as result of dangerous drugs. It makes me sad. 🙁

  5. I remember playing All Right Now with my original band many moons ago, it’s funny you know. Just last week I thought about playing it again for nostalgia.

    Thanks for the trivia Fed. Keep it up! 😉

  6. Not familiar with Paul Kossoff (so I learnt a lot here today) but I know and do like ‘All Right Now’, that’s pure rock, simple and just perfect. It reminds me a little bit of AC/DC’s ‘Highway To Hell’.

    I also like this one by Free.

    PS: Isn’t that Mick Jagger at about 6:07 in your ‘Mr Big’ video?

    1. Michèle,

      Maybe it’s a Mick Jagger with breasts. It looks like a woman to me.

      By the way, isn’t it amazing when you see a video like this and the band is up there rocking and grinding but the audience is just sitting there bobbing their heads back and forth? Don’t you kinda want to run up to them and shake them and say, “this is rock and roll, you gotta move.”

      Incredible how youth used to be so reserved in their behaviour.

      Thanks.

      Andrew

    2. band is up there rocking and grinding but the audience is just sitting there bobbing their heads back and forth? Don’t you kinda want to run up to them and shake them and say, “this is rock and roll, you gotta move.”

      They were listening Andrew. Not singing along so loudly that no one could hear the band. 😕 Most were probably so stoned they’d have fallen over if they’d tried to move!

      I still wish people would keep quiet and listen then scream and shout and cheer after the song.

      ash

  7. FEd,

    You’re right, for I saw Free in 1970 and what a show. Paul went into some really cool solos while playing and I remember how everyone went crazy. Those were the great days and it’s sad to see them die so young. But right now I am going to dust my Free album off and give it a listen.

    By the way, Free did a great version of the Beatles song “I Am the Walrus”.

    Take Care,
    Thomas

    1. I would like to know where Free did a version of I Am The Walrus! Never heard that one! 8)

    2. My favourite from Paul is Tuesday morning. What a fantastic session that is. Lying In the Sunshine – Free is another track I love.

      I would love to buy a CD of the album simply called Koss. Truly a wonderful guitarist, such a sad shame he had to die so early.

  8. Koss was amazing without a doubt. Thanks for sharing the Mr. Big video, I had not seen that before.

    My personal favorites are “Remember” and “Mr. Big” (especially the BBC versions from the deluxe edition of Fire and water).

    “All Right Now” is one of the first songs I learned to play all the way through.

    He would be much more well known if he’d lived longer. A sad loss but his music lives on and he has been a huge inspiration to me.

  9. Thinking of you especially today,

    Rick Wright (1943-15 Sept. 2008)

    Also today – I longingly hope for more miracle reunions! The Wall goes up today in the USA. It’s the first time in 30 years!

    1. Indeed it did. Air Canada Center. I was in tears and looked to the top of the Wall during Comfortably Numb in hopes that our Mssr Gilmour would be there, but alas. No such luck.

      I realized how much I missed that characteristic finger print that is Dave’s very own style and touch on the song.

      Darren

  10. Wow, I have known All Right Now for years, a pretty huge track down here! But I hadn’t heard anything else from Free, I don’t think. After reading this post I found this live version of Moonshine on YouTube… the guitar solo gave me goosebumps.

    What a talent, a shame he was taken so soon.

    Thank you for posting this!

  11. please send in your personal recommendations from a sadly slight, but immense nonetheless, catalogue of work.

    In addition to the already mentioned tracks, my choices would be: Little Bit Of Love and Heavy Load.

    A tragic loss at such a young age.

    Also remembering an even more tragic loss 2 years ago today.

    R.I.P. Richard
    Wish You Were Here (released 35 years ago today)

    1. I’m with Ken… two years ago today! Seems like yesterday.

      I hope Roger says a few words in memoriam tonight.

  12. This is another good link. The actual film clip is not too good but the guitaring is great.

    I shall play along to it now. 🙂

  13. Hi, Mr Wright,

    Hope you are OK where you are. Today, I will listen to a lot of your wonderful music.

    Here is my favourite live version of your masterpiece ‘Wearing The Inside Out’. I’m sure you enjoyed playing it in 2006. So much feeling in your voice, your keyboard and in David’s guitar. Just beautiful.

    Thank you.

    1. Beautiful indeed.

      I’m so glad David and Richard got to play this track during the OAI Tour. It’s one of my favourite songs from The Division Bell, but I never got to hear it during the show I saw in ’94 at Earls Court.

      Saw it performed on the 1st night of the Royal Albert Hall shows and as Michèle says, just beautiful.

      The Mermaid version is exceptional.

      You forgot to credit Dick Parry’s soulful saxophone as well, Michèle, but I’ll forgive you, my belle…

    2. You’re right, Ken, I should have mentioned Dick Parry – and also the others.

      As written on someone’s T-shirt that day, ‘Didn’t they do well?’ 😉

  14. It’s my birthday today and I still hate the reminder that this day was a day for saying good-bye to Richard.

    RIP to Richard and Syd.

    1. I know what you mean Judy, we lost a family member on the same day another was born. It’s very bitter sweet.

      For a while we celebrated the birthday on a different day, more often than not we held the party on the nearest weekend. Kind of felt disrespectful to have a celebration on the anniversary. It got easier over time though.

      Many Happy Returns anyway Judy. 🙂

      My best wishes to Richard’s family and friends. Rest in peace Richard.

      ash

  15. Loved Free and absolutely love All Right Now.

    I am missing Richard Wright something fierce too. So few are the authors of Pink Floyd books and articles that really understand how important he was to their beautiful sound. What a creative genius he was. I remember when I bought my first copy of “Meddle,” an import copy, as a teenager, I opened it up and thought to myself, “Jesus, that dude is one handsome F—! I wish I looked that handsome.” I also always thought he aged incredibly well.

    It’s funny, but I have this little son, who never fails to point at the screen when I play Pink Floyd/David Gilmour videos and he always cries out, “Mr. Richard Wright!” affectionately and loudly. Wright is someone everyone instinctively likes. (Well, there was that one member of the Floyd, who briefly didn’t…)

    I really, really, pray, hope, dream that Mr. Gilmour asks Wright’s estate for the unfinished solo album, and also the master tapes to his two finished solo albums, strips the tracks down on melodies that inspire him–to the synthesizers–and uses Wright’s stuff to come up with something new. There’s a certain magic that Wright and Gilmour had together, a blend that is simply transcendent. They were musical kindred spirits/brothers or something–shoot, this is getting ridiculously sappy.

    I hope Wright shows up on Gilmour’s next solo album. That and the unfinished Syd song finished, “She was a millionaire…”

  16. A loss of life at such a young age is tragic enough. But even sadder when you wonder what more they could have contributed to music. This applies perfectly to Mr. Kossoff, as well as Duane Allman, Tommy Bolin, Buddy Holly, the Master himself, Jimi Hendrix – unfortunately, the list goes on and on.

    Our eternal thanks to all those artists who have given us so many great moments to cherish. Special thanks to Mr. Richard Wright, for your invaluable contributions, RIP!

    Bill C

  17. What a musical loss, on this day two years ago. In my opinion, Rick’s contributions to PF were as important as Roger’s and David’s. Rick never got the credit that he deserved for that, especially around the time that Roger was taking over the band. Such a mellow, soulful guy. Such a great musical talent.

    I hope that wherever he is now, he knows that he is missed.

  18. I was extremely fortunate to see Free on their first outing in 1968-ish. They were supporting a load of other bands playing at the Adelphi Cinema in Slough. Among the headliners were: Crazy World of Arthur Brown, The Hollies, and The Who. I can remember that an extremely proud father, one Mr David Kossoff was in the front row watching his son’s band debut. Of course David Kossoff was a well known and respected actor and entertainer at the time.

    I immediately bought ‘Tons of Sobs’ on the strength of their superb performance.

    I was very sad when Paul died so tragically young. But I am afraid there was a lot of it about.

    Let us relish in the music he left us.

    Also, sorry to realise that our dear Rick has been left this mortal soil for two years. Your still in our hearts and minds, Sir.

  19. Firstly, Happy Birthday to Judy for yesterday I hope you found a suitably uplifting piece of Richard Wright-driven music to make it a happy day. 😀

    As regards Paul Kossoff, I believe ‘Koss’ is often neglected due to the fact that, similar to Rory Gallagher, his best work was always delivered in live performance; for that reason I would plump for ‘The Hunter’… inspiring, even before Zeppelin made their version more widely known.

  20. If ever there was a band that fell apart just as they were getting going, Free is that band. They were a product and a casualty of the time. They were really good at what they did and could have been as big as any of the big names. Terrible shame.

    Also a terrible shame for Paul Kossoff who succumbed to the “opportunity” to afford to buy lots of drugs. Unfortunately he like others from that generation, he was one of the unfortunates who didn’t know when to stop.

    Other people have mentioned songs I would have said were greats so I’ll relate one of my memories. 🙂

    My friends and I used to go to our local dance hall and at the time All Right Now was being played regularly, all the lads would air drum to that break in the middle. :))

    ash

  21. Apologies to Lorraine, Ken, Howard and Fed. 🙂 My mother rang me whilst we were chatting and she knew by my answers or lack of them that I wasn’t paying attention to her. I’m sure you all noticed the same at your ends. :)) I’m sorry for my bad manners, the only answer was to leave the chat and listen to her!

    See you all later or next time. 🙂

    ash

  22. Apologies for being off-topic (and late). 😕

    September 15th: Thoughts of Richard Wright all day, listening to “Stay and help me to end the day, and if you don’t mind, we’ll break a bottle of wine.” R.I.P.

    In fact several bottles of wine were broken in Rick’s honour and the same evening we had the privilege of watching The Wall go up to roars of approval for the first time in two decades in Toronto, Canada. It was rather surreal what with that anniversary the same day. David, Nick and Richard much mentioned and missed by fans. What can one say. Dazzling. Cross one off the Bucket List.

    A friend of mine said: “I can now die happy, if terminally paranoid.”

    Is Vera Lynn still alive? If so I hope she’s informed her “Bring the Boys Home” brought the 20,000 strong house down in 2010 (Canada being at war in Afghanistan). 8|

    Again, sorry for being off-topic.

    Hugs,
    Bella xo

    1. Bella

      I know exactly what you mean… I saw Wednesday and Saturday night’s shows… wow!

      Vera Lynn was born in 1917 and is still going strong, I think…

    2. You’re quite right, Rudders.

      Dame Vera is now 93 and still going strong. She even had a #1 album last year in the UK.

      Her birthday is a fortnight before David’s…

    3. Thank you Rudders in Toronto and NewYorkDan.

      Great news! After some googling I found out Dame Vera Lynn, OBE, DBE, Official Sweetheart of the Forces, is still going very strong at almost 93. In fact:

      “In September of 2009, the 92-year-old Lynn became the oldest singer ever to top the British album charts, when a new Decca collection of her World War II recordings, We’ll Meet Again: The Very Best of Vera Lynn, hit the number one spot, a doubly extraordinary achievement in light of the reissue of the entire Beatles catalog that same month.”

      Go Vera!

      She lives quietly in West Sussex (obviously a popular stretch of real-estate). 8)

      Rudders in Toronto: I am still absorbing September 15th – yes, wow… WOW! – but hope to have recovered by the time Ottawa and Montréal-where-it-all-began roll around, mon ami(e). Hope you’ll join in for both.

      Cheers,
      Bella xo

  23. David,

    reviens à Montréal… s’il te plait! Please, come back to Montreal.

    I would just like to say: voir Rome et mourrir!

  24. Shine On Sir Richard, I am so glad to have seen you many times and never had the opportunity to meet you. I was in heaven when Wearing The Inside Out was played live.

    What an ovation also from all of us in Toronto both nights. Thank You! 🙂

  25. David,

    Je dis toujours à mon entourage, rencontrer David Gilmour c est l unique rêve que je possède (mais çà n est qu un rêve). 🙁

    Alors au moins pouvoir enfin te voir en concert en France, cela l accomplirait un peu… Un projet de concert en France???

  26. So it was just two years ago!

    I miss you very much, Rick… remembering a lot of years ago when I was a very young Italian writer of music, you were so kind with with me, a gentleman and simple, in London.

    My generation has grown up with Pink Floyd and other bands, but not always the boys in were so professional and sweet at all.

    Remembering the blend of the voice with David and a special silent feeling without words between them. Remembering the sound -“that” sound – soft as a piano and strong as a wall of sound in a Cathedral.

    Remembering the style of a boy, eyes, fingers and smile and the suffering smiles of some last gig. That it’s remaining today it’s just music without end… let’s dream again with his last written tracks, David, if possible and if you want. I’m sure that he will be happy and you more and more with a piece of his soul.

    Bye bye guys
    diana

  27. I never saw Free although my brother did at the (Isle of Wight) but they are never far from my CD player. It still amazes me that they were all around 17/18 years old when they made Tons of Sobs.

    I did see Back Street Crawler at a local uni and a song that sticks in my mind is Time Away.

    I also remember going to see Bad Company at Earls Court not long after Free eventually split.

  28. Just read today that next weekend is an anniversary for John (Bonzo) Bonham’s passing.

    Maybe, a tribute to him if you may next week. 😐

    Love his solos on Moby Dick and Kashmir!

  29. Nostalgia e lacrime.

    Thanks FEd for sharing this, really a beautiful thought. Indeed Paul Kossoff was very influential and we all love him.

    It is beautiful to read about his father, the way he fought and kept his son up, encouraging him to keep working until the very last moment.

  30. Off topic.

    On BBC Radio 2 yesterday (Tuesday 21 September) there was a programme about The Jimi Hendrix Experience (to mark the 40th anniversary of the death of Jimi Hendrix).

    They said:”Contributors to this programme include Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Pete Townshend, Paul McCartney…”

    You can listen to this programme here.

    Availability: 7 days from 21 September.

  31. Getting back to Free’s Mr Big – surely it’s Andy Fraser’s bass playing that’s the real stand out on this great track.

  32. To all of you maybe who only know of Koss through “All Right Now” and the other worthy tracks he recorded with Free, you really must check out his playing on “Magic Ship” from the Free At Last album. Lyrics on the song might be “iffy” but just listen to the guitar/piano/vocal/percussion interplay… THAT’S what Free were about.

  33. What I love about this song is the bass and great guitar riffs. What a great clip.

    Thank you,
    Patricia

  34. He was a proper classically-trained guitarist. I really like “Mouthful of Grass” which was played a great deal in the pub I worked in in the mid-70s. The hippies put it on the jukebox all the time.

    Kossoff could communicate emotion with his guitar like great singers can with their voice.

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