Music Monday, February 29th

'Don't rule it out': Mick Ralphs on the future of Bad Company and Mott the Hoople

Between 1969 and 1974, Mott The Hoople made astoundingly creative music.

Bolstered by Herefordian Mick Ralph’s blistering guitar playing, the band achieved a position as one of the most influential British acts of the decade. 

The Mick Ralphs Blues Band will play The Hereford Rocks festival on Saturday, March 5.

In August 73 Mick, who hails from Stoke Lacy, near Bromyard, left the band to form Bad Company with Free vocalist Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke.

Their self-titled debut reached No.3 in the UK and No.1 platinum status in the US. By 1974 they were the most successful new British band in the USA, achieving immediate recognition. 

Their appeal increased on both sides of the Atlantic with the 1975 release of 'Straight Shooter', which reached the top three in the UK and spawned two hit singles ‘Good Lovin’ Gone Bad’ and ‘Feel Like Makin’ Love’, and now they are rock royalty.

This weekend Mick, who remains a member of Bad Company, will play the inaugural Hereford Rocks festival. We caught up with him ahead of the show, where he'll be playing with the Mick Ralphs Blues Band. 

Hereford Rocks: dates and tickets

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Why have you decided to play Hereford Rocks?

“We have an agency that gets us gigs and this one came up. It’s at the Left Bank and I've never been there. We played at The Jailhouse and it was a good little gig. We played it twice and it was fairly well attended. We play all over the place, mostly in the UK, but also in Europe and we always seem to go down well.”

Tell us about your new album? 

“It’s called ‘If It Ain’t Broke’ and that's out now. We recorded it near Reading. We did a day here and a day there; we didn't spend a lot of time on it but it all fell into place. The album is a mixture of songs we do live.

"The opening track ‘I Don’t Care’ is a new one written by myself and there's another there called ‘Nothing’s Going To Stop Me’. We’ve redone 'Too Bad' by Bad Company and we have redone ‘Some Old Blues’ by Freddie King, plus various other blues covers.

"We did have a live album out a few years ago but this is much more of a studio album - it has more polish about it.”

It was really sad news about [Mott the Hoople drummer] Buffin passing away. How will you remember him?

“Buffin lived in Usk in his later years and we rehearsed there for the 2009 Mott the Hoople shows. We rehearsed in the British Legion and went back in 2013, but at that time Buffin was unable to play at all.

"The first time we went down he could play but it was with difficulty and in the end we got Martin Chambers [of The Pretenders] in. It was a very sad day. He'd Alzheimer’s for quite a few years and it is one of those conditions that gets worse rather than better. It was nice to see all of my old mates up there and friends and family at his funeral.

"He was a great drummer. He was in a band with Pete Watts in Ross called The Soulents - we used to go and see each other. There was a club in Aubrey Street called the 1600 Club. We used to go and watch bands there. I thought he was rather good so we collared him for our band.”

Is there any chance of more Bad Company/Mott the Hoople shows?

“There might be some American dates for Bad Company this summer. We last toured in 2014 and the original plan was to do some festivals and shows in England and Europe but for some reason that didn't come off and the management said ‘what about doing some American shows?’

"I thought ‘here we go again’ as I have toured America so many times. The interest in America is still there after all this time. It’s unbelievable really. There are bigger venues over there but I would love us to do something like Glastonbury.

"With Mott I would doubt it very much. Ian has got his own career as a solo artist in America but I live in England still so I don’t know if it would ever come off... but I would not rule it out entirely.”

Is the idea behind the Mick Ralphs Blues Band to show the public your influences? How do smaller shows, such as Hereford Rocks, compare to playing stadiums?

“Yeah. The idea was to get back to basics. I like the idea of going back to small venues. There is no money in it but it is a more intimate thing. It improves your playing because you are so close to the audience. It’s fun from that point of view. With the big shows in America there are thousands of people there but you don’t get any contact with them.”

We’ve read that you once wrote a song with George Harrison (Flying Hour). How did this come about?

“He lived in Henley - there were a lot of people in the business who lived in the area. Because I was living out in the country nearby we used to socialise and hang out and we got on really well. In later years he would pop round for a cup of tea and we would play guitar.

"He played an idea he had and I played an idea I had and he went and recorded it. He was a very gentle guy and a nice fellow. It was great to know him. I treated him just like an ordinary bloke and he liked that. Everybody else treated him differently. I’ve also met Ringo and Paul but I never got to meet Lennon and, of course, never will. George always said that he was the main one with his acerbic wit and spiky lyrics.”

Is it true you didn’t start to play guitar until you were 18? What was the reason for the relatively late start?

“The music of the day was not to my liking. It was all pop, stuff like Cliff Richard and The Shadows. I missed rock’n’roll first time round.

"Then I heard ‘Green Onions’ by Booker T and the MGs. It was raw and bluesy. I found out what it was and that got me interested in playing the guitar. That's when I got into the blues and soul music. I have got a good ear luckily so if I hear something I like I can figure it out on the piano or guitar. I've always been able to pick things up pretty quickly so I am lucky in that respect.”

When did you start writing songs and how do you do it?

“It was when I started playing with local bands, with what became Mott. Like most songwriters starting out you write something quite dreadful and then you start learning how to construct a song. You have to keep an antenna out as most things have already been written about.

"Sometimes you can just come up with a riff, title, or chorus. One of the songs on the new album called ‘I Don’t Care’ - I just wrote in my head which is how I like to do it now.”

Hereford Rocks: dates and tickets

'It was a defining moment for me': Willow Robinson to play Hereford Rocks

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