Will Cozy Powell find happiness in a suitcase

His fists are shoved deeply into the pocket of a mammoth, furry coat, making him look comically like an emaciated polar bear. A couple of years ago Sounds ran a feature entitled 'The Lament Of A Studio Musician' starring Mr. Powell, but today he wears jet-lag like most women wear mascara, both second-nature and becoming. He is on tour forever, and at this moment had just returned from Japan to his cottage outside Oxford which he sees "once every pancake day", and is off to New York in less than two weeks for rehearsals, then a concentrated robbery of American's devotion.

"You gonna take your wife with you?", I enquired.

"My wife and I split up. 'Cos of this business. It's impossible to make a marriage work if you're touring all the time. Either you take your wife or girlfriend on the road with you all the time, which pisses off the other guys in the band, or you leave her home all the time, which pisses her off. She's imagining you're up to all sorts of debauchery you may have been up to a couple of years ago, but it's just not like that any more. Women just don't understand.

"Look, (he says defensively), I'm going away for four months, I'm gonna get lonely, I'm gonna want to go to bed with someone. It's a natural thing, (he Muses...), humans do it all the time...."

"When I first went to the States in 1970 with the Jeff Beck Group, you'd sort of rub your hands together and think of all the chicks. But these days it's a challenge," Cozy says energetically. "It's a darn sight harder than it used to be. Being skinny and English just doesn't cut it now, you've got to put on a ridiculous show and come up with the goods that the kids wanna hear. So now you're thinking about grafting, the social scene is gone.

"I'm thinking about America alot now, as that's where we are headed. 'We've just finished the rest-of-world tour; Japan, Europe and Britain, you know. We concentrated on the areas that bought the albums first, and now that we've cracked all the other countries, it's time to go Stateside. Most groups do it the other way around, but now we've got gold and platinum albums in those other countries... so it's 'Go West Young Men..."

"It's difficult for us over there, as we are a headlining band, yet we're not. I mean, we can headline the Los Angeles', the New York's, the Chicago's, but forget about the New Orleans', Miamis', and those places, which are just as important. This is why we have to make such a concentrated effort, but the trouble is that we need to find a band that will have us support them. Most bands don't wanna know. The ideal things would be to either co-headline, or just to switch around in the cities in which whomever is the larger draw. It's tricky... musicians egos and all that. We have to find someone we get on with really well, and we're just gonna hafta work. It's gonna be tough, and quite honestly, I don't know if the band will make it over there or not. Like I said, it's a challenge..."

What happened with Jimmy Bain?

"I don't really know," Cozy answered, folding his forehead, ",,,he's a great guy, I really used to enjoy playing with him. But when Ritchie gets an idea in his head, that's how he wants to hear it played. It has to be a certain way with Ritchie, and I guess Jimmy didn't play it exactly the way Ritchie heard it. This is why we've gone through two keyboardists, two bassists and the rest... so then we had to audition bass players, which is really painful for everybody involved, and now we've got Bob Daisley (ex-Widowmaker), which is working out really well..."

Me and my childish illusions of democracy...

"It's as democratic as it can be, really. Ritchie, Ronnie and myself run the band, and amongst the three of us it is democratic... we are credited accordingly. But the bass and the keyboard players are on salary. It would be unfair to get somebody in and give them a cut of the action straight away. Besides, there are all sorts of legal entanglements... a band, like it or not, is a corporation these days.

Which brings to mind the question of why they never go open market. What a scram! What a way for a new group to get monty together! Sell stocks and then go bankrupt? Can you see it on the Wall Street boards...? 'Sex Pistols up 3.2', 'Abba up 46½,,,', 'Bad Company down .2".

Oh, yeah. A Corporate Cozy Powell. Funny, he doesn't look it. What is he? A Junior President of the Company? Of the Board of Directors? Chief Executive Drummer? Jeez. Life was so uncomplicated as a session musician...

"Yeah. That used to be really good fun. I've played on literally hundreds of albums and singles, but I don't get the time anymore cos Rainbow is such a full time job. It's a bit of a shame in many ways as you get no chance for real expansion in a band like Rainbow. It's a rock'n'roll band, no more, no less, that's all. Nothing jazzy or anything. Sometimes it's nice to play with a variety of people so you get the chance to play some other kind of music.

"I enjoy recording, it's painless to me. If I don't get a backing track down in 2 or 3 takes, I leave it till the next day. If it takes you 15 takes you have no energy, you get bored with the track. It's pretty easy for the drummer anyway, you just buong it down, and if it's got the feel, you leave it. Then you come back a week later and listen to what's been put on top, the guitars, vocals, keys... and that's when it gets exciting. There are some great songs that work so well in the studio, but somehow don't work in front of a live crowd, but that's a whol 'nother story. I think bands that use tapes are a cop-out. They may as well not go on the road... I'll go back to session work if I ever get sick and tired of playing on the road...

You really like a variety of music?

"Yeah. I like anything as long as it's good. I'm not keen on the stuff that comes out these days. The again, I haven't been here for so long I've lost touch so that's unfair. I'd be interested to see what's going on, to get back into living in England, but I can't. I live out of a suitcase..." (he pouts slightly).

"Oh well. 'Long Live Rock'n'Roll', eh? (he grins sardonically)..." corny name for an album, huh....

Weeellll... it, er... comes out in April, right?

"Yeah. The last album we did didn't get on the radio much... it was just too heavy. The live album didn't get on the radio cos it was just too long. But this one is a bit more commercial with a lot shorter tracks and it should get some airplay, 'specially in America."

What's your real name?

"Colin. Cozy's been my name for the last 17 years, and there are two ways of answering that question. The first is that there was a drummer in the '50's called Cozy Cole, and because I joined a band in school in which everyone had a nickname, Cozy it was for me! The second way of looking at it is that if someone was trying to chat me up, I would say 'Well, you can always find out just how cozy I am..."

(I grimaced)

"Well, it worked 15 years ago...".

© Donna McAllister, Sounds - March 4, 1978
Photo by © Jill Furmanovsky