Interview with LUCY PILLER
(All Right Now)
With many disappointments that running a website brings, there are few things making up for that - among them finding new friends. All of them, in this case, are musicians-related - if they're not musicians themeslves - and sometimes their lives are no less interesting than those of music-makers. It's not just music you talk about with these friends - mostly it's not music at all - that's what a friendship means. One of the people is Lucy Piller, an Allrightnow.com website mastermind, and well-known FREE fan, whose dedication has led her to giving the former band members all the support they need. But there's more to Lucy's life...
- What it was like, growing up in the Sixties' London?
These were the best years, the late Sixties and early Seventies. Every artist seemed to be unique. every style in fashion was brand new. From Granny shoes to bare feet and from bell-bottoms to hippy dresses with flowers. I first listened to the music of THE BEATLES, DAVE CLARK FIVE, HERMAN’S HERMITS, THE TROGGS and not forgetting a band called HEINZ... Anyone remember them? I was a mod as a teenager, and enjoyed all the pop music of that time, but also had an ear for other music. I seemed to move onto Motown - it was the soul sound in Motown that really moved me.
I went to so many festivals in and around London, and they are so clear in my mind. I feel so lucky to have seen artists play live, like Jimi Hendrix, PINK FLOYD, TEN YEARS AFTER before they were famous. I sometimes have to pinch myself to believe it. (Laughs.)
- There's a great picture of you at the 1970's Isle Of Wight Festival. What memories do you keep of "the last great event"? Did you stay there for all the five days?
The Isle of Wight is very easy to remember as it had such a huge impact on me. I was there for just three days. I had never been to such a peace loving festival. It seemed whoever I met became a best friend. We all shared food, drinks and blankets. My friends did sleep in a tent but I decided to sleep under the stars. It was almost impossible to sleep as the music seemed to play continuously. At night if you looked back you would see the hills with people camping out and with cigarette lighters lit to show the artists they were out there. The vast space we were in was filled with peace and love. Those were the good old days... I do hope in future generations people can experience this beautiful feeling once again.
- With such an exposure to all the great music, what was so special in FREE that attracted you that much?
FREE just put a spell on me. The cover of “Tons Of Sobs” was so mysterious and morbid it attracted me, then to hear the music - oh wow. It was like nothing I had ever heard. Then, to see them perform live the first time in front of maybe twenty-five people - I was addicted to FREE. If you think I am a fan now, you should have known me then! No band sounded like FREE back then. They were in the underground scene and no other band came close. Their style of music was so heavy. Their performance on stage was dynamic. I only saw the best of FREE.
My parents were wonderful with me, they knew this band were special to me, and they always looked at my photos after I had taken them to be developed. The band did the same thing. They would ask to see the photos of the last show. They would laugh at themselves sometimes, which was such a joy. Especially Koss... Just to let you know, one of my favorite photographs of Paul Kossoff that I took in 1970 will be printed on T-shirts to raise money for the Paul Kossoff Fund; more details will be posted on my website at www.allrightnow.com soon.
- How the idea of taking the "live" photos came about in the first place?
From the age of thirteen-sixteen I had taken photography lessons at my youth club called "Brady" in East London and took lessons three times weekly learning about all aspects of photography. In 1970, I had attended a show with my friend Paul Jupp, I had taken my camera to the show, I mentioned to him I wanted some close-up shots, so he suggested I went backstage. I attempted to walk into a door which I assumed was where the band was before the show, I saw another door, and knocked. A voice said, "Yes, who is it?" In I walked into a tiny room where all four members of FREE were sitting. I was in shock but kept my cool and asked if I could take some photos. They were very pleased to see me, and I remember saying to Paul Kossoff, "I will show you these photos in two days' time at the next show", and they asked me, "Where are we playing then?" I had told them they were performing at a club called "FARX" and they were impressed I knew this, and suggested I come backstage then and show them the photos I was taking tonight. This was my first connection with the band FREE.
From that time on, I took photos of every show live and backstage. Andy Fraser at one point asked me how many photos I had and I told him, a few hundred, and suggested I get in contact with Island Studios to sell my photographs to the record Label. By the way I was still in school then. I did contact Island, and they asked me to come into the Basin Street Studio which I did. After having Cat Stevens open the door for me, I went inside and talked about my photos. They did decide to go ahead and print some of them.
Today Paul Rodgers and his management permit me to take live and backstage photos. These photos I take are only used for the website. I spend most of the show looking over the stage lighting and thinking about what the fans would enjoy seeing. I do not sell my photographs. They are taken for the fans to see. The band members also enjoy the photos I take which makes it all worthwhile.
Meeting Carl Dunn and seeing his work makes me feel it is a gift from God, having the eye of a photographer, When I look at Carl's work and ask him how he got those shots, he says it was nothing special. Having the eye to me is something you do not learn: you either have it or you don't...
- Has any of the pictures you took of the band ended up on any of their releases?
Over the years it was a difficult keeping these photos and negatives in good shape. In the beginning. I used to share them with my friends, I never sold my photos. It has been only in the last ten years the interest came back to me, so none of my photos were published on albums. Island did not use me as a photographer - maybe, because I was under age to work! But, of course, many of my photos pop up in books or on other websites. "Heavy Load" has a good selection of my photos in it. They also turn up on some bootlegs around the world which I do not approve of.
- Did you follow the FREE-related bands after the band broke up?
No. FREE were it for me, simple as that. I was amongst a large following of fans that were devastated when the band split. I was also living in Israel and was out of touch with new bands.
- Did you get to see BAD CO or THE FIRM later on?
I did see BAD COMPANY only once in the Seventies and also saw THE FIRM at Wembley in the Eighties. I did take some photos of that gig, but did not attempt to go back stage. It had been many years since I saw Paul Rodgers - I did hook up with Simon [Kirke] at a Nineties' BAD COMPANY show in Philidelphia. I went back stage to show him the photos I had kept for so many years. He was just amazed to see them.
- What do you think of BAD COMPANY without Paul Rodgers?
BAD COMPANY to me is Paul Rodgers. I did go to shows with both singers Robert Hart and Brian Howe though. Robert Hart is a superb guy, and it was a joy attending his shows. Regarding Brian Howe, the first time I saw him he was extremely rude to me. Which one never forgets! I have seen him also in his version of BAD CO, and think he should stick to his own material. He does write great music and has a superb voice, but to hear him play Paul's songs really does not do it for me! Both singers, I felt, changed the style of BAD COMPANY, which I didn't want to hear, but then no one can really replace Paul.
Then, if you are asking what do I think of Paul without BAD CO... Seeing and listening to Paul Rodgers perform since 1969 and to see him develop as a singer has been a real trip and experience. I really enjoy Paul's solo material, and when I mean solo I mean acoustic. I am so relaxed and feel so good when I see him with a guitar and singing solo. His voice takes me to a place beyong my mind... And I know other fans feel the same. If I had my wish, I would get Paul Rodgers to do a one-man tour, him and his guitar for the voice only. He has so many songs to sing. And I really miss hearing them sung live. Songs from all his bands, to hear them now would be the ultimate.
- And what about the latest incarnation of the band? I guess, with just Paul and Si from the original line-up, they might have called themselves FREE as well as BAD CO...
FREE could not be replaced. Only people who saw FREE live would understand this. Each member of FREE was as important as each other. Koss could not be replaced by any artist on the planet. Andy's bass was and still is the best bass I have ever heard. Simon's drums are so damm tight! And Paul's voice... Need I say anymore? Not only was there John, Paul. George and Ringo but there was also Paul, Koss, Simon and Andy. FREE were magic.
- You're in touch now with both Rodgers and Kirke. What about Fraser?
While I was living in Israel, I did recieve a letter from Andy Fraser saying the band split and he was starting his own band named TOBY. He also told me that Paul Rodgers had married and that he started a band named PEACE. I still have that letter today. I have had a few contacts with Andy, but he wants his privacy, and I respect that. Paul Rodgers had offered to give me his contact details but I told him, if he wished to find us he would know how to reach us at Allrightnow. And I'll leave it like that. He remains very very close to my heart. If you ever read this, Andy... We all miss you! (Smiles.)
- There's a BAD CO song, "Oh Atlanta", and you live in Atlanta. A pure coincidence?
Yes, I live in Atlanta but its nothing to do with the song. (Laughs.) I have only lived in Atlanta seven years. So yes, its a coincidence.
- How come your site - a fan's site - many prefer to Paul Rodgers' and BAD COMPANY official webpages?
Well, what can one say? But thank you, www.allrightnow.com has become more of a magazine than just a fan website. We like to share our musical taste with the fans, We also enjoy promoting other artists that have some connection with Paul Rodgers or BAD COMPANY, and we must not forget all the tribute bands that have emerged over the years. At present their are fifteen tribute bands, that’s an outstanding number of bands and most of these are FREE tribute bands. Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke have been very supportive over the years. To me, I see them as brothers. The site is a small fire, which will continue to burn as long as there’s fuel. The fans are the fuel and the sky is burning for eternity.
- What criteria should an artist meet to get into the All Right Now site "roster"?
As you know Allrightnow.com is a non-profit website. I run the site first with the FREE, BAD COMPANY and Paul Rodgers' fans first in mind, I want them to get what I had missed so badly at a young age. Regarding the other artists. some are local artists I support in Atlanta, and others are bands or musicians of my taste in music, and I want to share what I enjoy. I do get many bands writing in to the site and mailing the CDs for me to listen to. I get some really great bands sending material. If I had my own way, I would start a new site for new unsigned bands as they deserve to be heard. And if I had the money and the power I would start a TV programme like what John Peel had in the Seventies, where new bands had the chance to play live on TV. They were the best programmes back then. Since last year, we have started up Simon's website. Simon means the world to me, and it was my suggestion to him to have his own website. Now that he is working on lots of new projects, its just ideal for him to have one.
- Has love to music enriched your life in any way?
Without music to me there’s no life. I am sure many of you are the same. How can we go through a day without music? What I love about music is there’s such a choice for every mood: it heals, it relaxes, it makes us happy or sad. Music is our life and memories.
- A bit of too personal question: what do your family think of your FREE obsession? Aren't they jealous?
Well, let's start back in the Seventies. Both my parents supported me going to the clubs taking the photos and were proud of their daughter enjoying the hobby of photography. Then, before moving to the USA, Rob and I had normal lives with family life and raising our daughter Samara. And it was only in the last eight or ten years that I have got involved again with the music, Of course, now Samara has her own music, but she does have excellent taste. I now ask her which bands she likes, because if I knew at the age of sixteen who was a great band, then she will know which bands are good now. I have offered Samara to continue the legacy of the Allrightnow website... When I asked her if she was iterested she burst out crying with joy... What more can I ask? (Laughs.)
Robert, my hubby, can't say much as it was him who suggested me doing the website in the beginning. After Samara didn't need mummy so much, I had more time on my hands. Also I was not allowed to work in the USA without a visa, so I needed a hobby, and Rob created Allrightnow.com. He also chose the name. Without Rob, theres no Allrightnow. He works on the site fifty-fifty with me: I provide the material, news, photos, interviews, reviews, and he lays it out for you all to see. So whats your question? Are they jealous? No, far from it!
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