January 2023 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Heartbreaker, the final album by the erstwhile teenage London band Free. With the exception of B.B.King’s Top 40 hit “The Thrill Is Gone”, most American white Baby Boomer teenagers had gotten our limited exposure to the blues second-hand via young English bands, such as Led Zeppelin. And even though the members of London-based Free were no older than me in 1969 ( bass player Andy Fraser was a veteran of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers at 15 ), the sound of lead singer Paul Rodgers’ voice and lead guitarist Paul Kossoff’s crying sustained notes, in very sparse arrangements, really appealed to me.I won’t hesitate to admit that it indeed was “All Right Now” on US Top 40 radio in 1970 that got me to check out their essential third album, Fire and Water. But when he heard me play “The Stealer”by Free on my radio show in Findlay OH while he was waiting to do soundcheck before a performance, no less than Bob Seger approached me to discuss our mutual admiration for Free, and it was during that conversation that Seger turned me onto the earlier Free album and even more obscure Tons of Sobs.
Drummer Simon Kirke would go on with Rodgers to found Bad Company by 1974, & Kossoff succumbed to the ravages of heroin addiction in 1976, but not before recording six Free studio albums containing “Woman”,”Fire and Water”,”Heavy Load”,”All Right Now” written by Fraser (sadly, Andy Fraser, bass player who as a teenager wrote and performed “All Right Now”, passed away a few years ago after a chronic illness);”The Stealer”,”Catch a Train”, the shoulda-been-a-hit “Little Bit of Love”, and often-covered “Wishing Well” from the breakup and seemingly swan song At Last in Summer 1972, and the actual finale Heartbreaker six months later. It’s all in this classic rock interview with Paul Rodgers. –Redbeard