What’s your name, baby?
From page 32 of Classic Rock Magazine November 2006
The confused story behind Free’s All Right Now.
The three surviving members of Free all have different memories of how their most famous song came about. According to Paul Rodgers, its genesis came from “the need to find a song that would be as big with our audience as [Albert King’s] The Hunter. We couldn’t play anywhere in the north east without doing that one or they’d have lynched us. And I thought, we really need to write one like that. So I wrote the first verse up to the chorus, then Andy went away and came back with the riff. I finished the lyrics while waiting in the street one day for the band to pick me up in the van, and I think we played the song for the first time that night.” According to Andy Fraser, however, inspiration for the song came from a disastrous gig in Hull “playing on a rainy Tuesday to about 20 people whacked out of their heads on Mandrax. Afterwards in the dressing room there was a horrible silence.” To cheer everyone up he just started singing “It’s all right now... It was Simon’s phrase but I just started doing it and everyone started joining in...” Simon Kirke, naturally, remembers it differently. “We were playing at the university in Durham and it had been a terrible gig. All our songs then were sort of mid-tempo or 12-bar blues, and the gig had been a bit plodding. Also, we were tired and had probably smoked one joint too many. Afterwards, Andy said: ‘We need an up-tempo number.’ I think he and Rodgers had something cooking because he turned to him and said: ‘How about that one that goes...’ He started singing the words ‘all right now’ and bopping around and slapping himself.” The song was recorded just a few weeks later at Island’s Basing Street studios and, according to Kirke, “took about 20 takes”. The band recorded it ‘as live’ with Rodgers adding his vocals when they were finished. “We weren’t that keen on it,” says Fraser now. But Island boss Chris Blackwell spotted its potential immediately. After it became a worldwide smash in July 1970, critics claimed it was ripped off from Honky Tonk Women by The Rolling Stones. But, according to Fraser, it was actually “me trying to impersonate Pete Townshend, cos he was the best chord player”.
Wherever it came from, it is now recognised as one of the most famous rock songs of all time, a staple of every pub band’s set from Land’s End to Los Angeles.