ANDY JOHNS on Working with Free

December 1, 2010

Andy Johns was there when a lot of classic guitar tones got laid down. Here he reminisces about working with Paul Kossoff and Free. —Matt Blackett

“I worked on their first record and then didn’t do another one until Highway, which I still think is great. I did the live record and Heartbreaker, which had ‘Wishing Well’ on it. Paul Kossoff’s touch was absolutely fabulous and he had one of the greatest vibratos of all time, obviously. They would make fun of him every now and again. He would pull faces with his mouth open and they’d laugh at him if we were doing overdubs. I thought that was a bit mean because he was such a sensitive chap. He was a hell of a guitar player and he wrote well too. He always played his Gibson into the Marshall. On ‘Stealer,’ I think I double tracked him on the Strat.

“It was Andy Fraser’s band really. He was the major writer. His bass parts, apart from holding down the groove, were very melodic and he carried the motion. Simon Kirke also was more than just a drummer. He would play acoustic guitar and come up with background parts and whatnot. And Paul—my gosh. I don’t know where he got all that talent. That man can sing and he could write great lyrics.

“It was just three cats with Paul standing up front, but they could make a big, big, bloody sound. I mean, listen to the live version of ‘All Right Now.’ It’s astounding. The nicest thing about working with them is that we were the same age. They played that half-time sort of hash music and I just loved it so. There was no competition between us. No one had to prove themselves. We just liked doing what we were doing.”

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