John Jones (Oysterband) on Free: Why I Love

Folk Rock legends Oysterband have their new album – Read The Sky – set for release later this month. Naturally, we’ll have our own insight on their new work in due course. meanwhile, in another Why I Love tie-in, several members of the band have been busy on features for us. The first one sees singer (and not so reluctant rambler) John Jones reminiscing over those heady days and a band whose “energy and drive” opened his mind. Ladies and gentlemen, Free.


I could answer this by simply saying “Paul Rodgers voice“, but there is much more than that…

My time at University coincided with their relatively short but intense career. I saw them live, maybe 70/71 and was blown away. My mate was Social Secretary and we had them twice, once for 90 quid. They were there in my life, a life that was changing socially, musically and geographically. I was 260 miles from home but Exeter in leafy Devon felt to be light-years away for a boy from a mill town in the Yorkshire Pennines. 

School and football had filled my days but escaping to the soul clubs of Halifax, Huddersfield, Sheffield and Manchester lit up my nights and opened my mind to the power of Sam and Dave, Wilson Pickett, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell but here was a young white rock band that had soul, that grooved and powered their way through their raw blues-influenced songs with an energy and simplicity that I loved. No pointless psychedelic meanderings. Just pure energy and drive ..driven by the drumming of Simon Kirke, his hair plastered with sweat, Andy Fraser’s basslines, not a note wasted, Paul Kossoff’s slow build of guitar solos taking the music into another realm but always pulling it back at the right time. …

And at the front a skinny guy with a big voice. The sort of voice I probably wanted but could never have.. and even when he wasn’t singing, he stayed involved, no doubt waiting like all singers for the soloing to stop and to get back to the main event..the SONG.

Tons Of Sobs and then Fire And Water were the albums but it was as a live band they really shone. Over 700 gigs in just over 3 years takes its toll and with a Record Company pressing for a follow-up to Alright Now, musical differences and Paul Kossoff’s addiction perhaps made the end inevitable. Pressures we met as a band 2 decades later and older but they still have the power to mess you up. 

Finally, the irony for me is that much as I loved blues and soul music it was through discovering my own roots in British folk music, that I finally found my voice.

Our massive thanks to John – who we’ll never be able to watch again now without thinking of Paul Rodgers…

John Jones

Oysterband online: Website / Facebook / Twitter

You can read more from our extensive archive of Why I Love pieces from a wide array of artists on an even wider array of subjects, here.

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