Farewell rock star Andy, who helped shape my youth

Founding member of Free, Andy Fraser visiting the Rock & Roll Icon in North Shields.
Founding member of Free, Andy Fraser visiting the Rock & Roll Icon in North Shields.

The death of somebody famous can wash over us, leaving us totally unmoved (I won’t name names) or it can leave us feeling some sense of personal loss.

So it was the other week when the death was announced of Andy Fraser. “Andy who?” you may ask.

Well, Andy was a rock star at his peak in the late 1960s and early ’70s, and as a member of the young band “Free” he co-wrote their pop-rock classic “All Right Now”.

It sold millions and is still being played on the radio today, for the simple reason it was and still is a great pop tune, with rasping guitar chords, wood-chopping drums, Fraser’s pumping bass line and amazingly soulful vocals from a white teenager named Paul Rodgers.

Songs trigger memories, and this one always recalls a summer holiday with a bunch of teenage Padiham lads heading for Newquay in a battered 1950-something Bedford CA van we’d bought for £60 from Arthur Pollard at his garage at Read. This zany vehicle with its wheezy engine, split windscreen, three-speed column change and a gear stick that occasionally came off in your hand made it something of an adventure. We called it “The Beast” with good reason.

On the trip, I’d frequently pick up my similarly battered 50-bob guitar and bash out the chords to “All Right Now” and everyone on board sang along and head-banged... like the famous “Bohemian Rhapsody” scene from “Wayne’s World”, but years earlier.

It was in Newquay that we carefree lads learned that six of our mates from our local pub, the Britannia at Padiham, had died in that dreadful plane crash in Spain. It hit us like a ton of bricks. That was the day we all grew up more than a little, and that’s why “All Right Now” is a bittersweet musical memory to this day.

Now we’re all in our 60s and Andy Fraser, who became famous at the age of 15, has died aged 62. It will be a pity if he’s remembered only for “All Right Now” because he wrote some tremendous songs for himself and other top artists; meaningful songs of compassion and a sense of justice.

From “Every Kind of People”, a hit for Robert Palmer, comes this:

“There’s no profit in deceit

Honest men know that

Revenge does not taste sweet

Whether yellow, black or white

Each and every man’s the same inside.”

Pop songs may be merely ephemeral, but as a philosophy for living I reckon that’s exemplary. Thanks, Andy.