Paul Rodgers makes the case for Queen’s The Cosmos Rocks: ‘Such a great groove to it’

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The Cosmos Rocks blended two seemingly disparate things — Paul Rodgers’ R&B grit and Queen’s outsized glam. That served to confuse many of each camp’s staunchest fans, who hadn’t often overlapped before. Yet Rodgers remains proud of what they accomplished, saying he felt the idea of Brian May and Roger Taylor sitting idle in the years after Freddie Mercury’s shockingly early death made little sense.

“Before that, I think Elton John described it as having a fantastic car in the garage, but with one part missing — so you can’t take it out, you know?” the former Free/Bad Company frontman said, in an exclusive Something Else! Sitdown. “They had all of the machinery. They had all of those songs, wonderful musicians, a great light show. It’s all ready to go, but they were missing that one piece, which was the frontman singing. There wasn’t anyone who was really willing to pick up that baton, and run with it. I did, and we did that together.”

The collaboration, dubbed Queen + Paul Rodgers, actually goes back to September 24, 2004’s Fender Strat Pack show, when May sat in with Rodgers on a live version of Free’s “All Right Now.” There followed a performance together when Queen into the UK Music Hall of Fame, and then suddenly a 2005 world tour.

The typical show would blend signature moments from both repertoires, from “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” to “Feeling Like Making Love,” from “We Will Rock You” to “Bad Company.” When it came time to record, there was a similar meeting of the minds — first on a well-received benefit single and then on 2008’s The Cosmos Rocks. Released on September 12 in the UK, after appearing the previous fall in American stores, the album may be the most anthemic recording of Rodgers’ blue-rocking career — and it’s certainly the rootsiest of Queen’s. In the end, The Cosmos Rocks was a true collaboration, with every song credited to Queen + Paul Rodgers.

“It was, very much,” Rodgers confirms — pointing out a prime example in the song “Voodoo.” “I had written that and we were just kicking ideas around when we played it,” he adds. “It had such a great groove to it, but Brian always said to me: ‘I can’t really play blues.’ I said: ‘Yes, you can. Just play.’ And he played a fantastic, very voodoo-like solo, right in the middle of it. I thought it was pretty good.”

Despite the quick fashion in which all of this came together, Queen + Paul Rodgers would end up working together for nearly five years. A tour of Europe followed The Cosmos Rocks, but then one of the perennial Bad Company reunion tours pulled Rodgers away in the summer of 2009.

“It lasted a lot longer than I had planned,” Rodgers tells us. “Originally, we were just going to do a tour of Europe just for fun, because it was so enjoyable to play together. And that turned into four years, during which we toured the world twice, and I went to all kinds of places I had never been before. We recorded a few live DVDs and finished off with a studio album of original material, at which time I felt it was time for me to get back, full on, to be own thing — my own music.”

Queen later began performing with Adam Lambert, a stint that continues to this day, while Rodgers recently made a soul pilgrimage to Memphis to record. He’d come into Queen + Paul Rodgers wanting to push his own craft into new places. And in the end, Rodgers felt he did just that, adding a new wrinkle to their towering legacy — and “not everybody can do that.”

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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