What a life, eh?

Andy Fraser, who has died aged 62, was the bassist and a founder member of Free, and woke up to find himself famous at the age of only 17 when the band released the single All Right Now, which has become one of the classic rock anthems.

Fraser was 15 when he formed Free in 1967 with three other London teenagers (Paul Rodgers, Paul Kossoff and Simon Kirke). Almost at once the band won critical acclaim and a contract with Island Records, although their debut album (Tons Of Sobs) and its eponymous follow-up managed few sales.

Dear God:

Andrew McLan Fraser was born into a working-class family in Paddington, west London, on July 3 1952. Andy was still a toddler when his father left the family, and they had no further contact until the boy achieved stardom. Aged five, Andy begged his mother for a piano, and she bought one for £5 from a local pub, then insisted he take lessons. He applied himself rigorously, learning to read music and play classical piano, until, at the age of 12, he decided to take up the guitar. Realising that London was teeming with aspiring lead guitarists, he switched to bass, on which he showed a remarkable proficiency.

Fraser soon found himself working with West Indian ska and soul bands, playing clubs across the East End – “everyone being black, me being white, and not even old enough to be in a place that served alcohol”. Expelled from school at 15 for refusing to get his hair cut, Andy enrolled at Hammersmith College of Further Education, where another student, Sappho Korner, introduced him to her father, Alexis Korner, a father figure to many aspiring young British musicians.

Korner recommended Fraser to John Mayall, and through this connection Fraser played briefly with Mayall’s Bluesbreakers before Korner introduced him to three other young London musicians, Kossoff, Rodgers and Kirke. Having begun by jamming above the Nag’s Head pub in Battersea they decided to form a band. Korner came up with the name Free and encouraged Chris Blackwell, the head of Island Records, to sign them.

He was playing for John Mayall’s Bluebreakers by the time he was 15?

And he was 17 when he did this:

Simon Kirke later recalled: “All Right Now was created after a bad gig in Durham. We finished our show and walked off the stage to the sound of our own footsteps. The applause had died before I had even left the drum riser. It was obvious that we needed a rocker to close our shows. All of a sudden the inspiration struck Fraser and he started bopping around singing All Right Now. He sat down and wrote it right there in the dressing room. It couldn’t have taken more than ten minutes.”

Echoes of Sir Pterry’s inspirons sleeting through the universe there. And at 18:

Free were said to have “swagger”, which seems a fair description.

12 thoughts on “What a life, eh?”

  1. The first rock concert I ever attended was to see Free at the Lanchester Poly in Coventry. I was 15 or 16, and Andy was only 3 years older than me.

    I was about 2m from him, very near the stage. I had never heard music so loud, or so exciting. That night, and the band, were to me absolutely brilliant. A revelation.

    RIP Andy.

  2. Well 🙂

    The difference between Paul Rodgers and Russell Brand is, that Rodgers is probably the best English blues-rock singer of all time; and Brand is a talentless twat.

  3. As a boring going-on old fart, and unaware of what “da yoof” get up to, is there the same kind of fluid network of groups nowadays that musicians move between?

    From the 60s, look at the interaction between the likes of Mayall, Bruce, Baker, Clapton, Page, …. And that’s just off the top of my
    head. I think the various Band Aid abominations are the closest…not quite the same.

    And can you imagine the outrage from schools/social workers if a 15 year old prodigy casually said “yeah, I’m going on the road with a rock band”!

    Different times.

  4. GlenDorran,
    > And can you imagine the outrage from schools/social workers if a 15 year old prodigy casually said “yeah, I’m going on the road with a rock band”!

    Well it does still happen. Not rock bands so much, but manufactured bands. I hate to think what happens on the industry’s casting couches.

  5. Saw them live a couple of times. But it’s a tribute to their music that, even 40 years later, I can listen to them now and still find nuances that I missed.

    Mind you, when I stood next to Kossoff while he was doing his thing, I thought he had six fingers…

  6. Crikey. He was two weeks younger than me.
    Soarer: Lanchester Poly, that’s something else from the past. I grew up in Kenilworth and my brother did his ONC and HNC there.

  7. BiJ: Indeed – my uncle Roy was a lecturer in Engineering there. My dad watched the new cathedral being built from his office window nearby.

    I walked home from the Free concert along the Kenilworth Road (A46) as I lived in Cannon Hill then. Got searched for drugs by the rozzers too outside the Memorial Park.

    God that’s a long time ago.

  8. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Free are one of my favourite bands. Andy Fraser was astoundingly good. Have a listen to “Mr. Big”. That’s good bass. Funnily enough though, I think Heartbreaker is my favourite album, when Tetsu took over the bass playing.

    Paul Kossoff’s father gave an anti-drugs lecture at my school when I was 16 or so and it was one of the more effective performances in that genre I have ever seen. It would have been about ten years after his son’s death and it was still obviously raw.

  9. Bloke in North Dorset

    @GlenDorran

    “And can you imagine the outrage from schools/social workers if a 15 year old prodigy casually said “yeah, I’m going on the road with a rock band”!”

    This bass player left school at 16 to go to New York and she’s not bad. I first saw her on TV playing with Jeff Beck.

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