Joe Geesin recalls Cozy Powell’s long career, the key albums, and a friendship with one of rock’s finest drummers
Colin Flooks, better known as Cozy Powell, was a renowned rock drummer who, like many, lived like he played – hard and fast. With bands like Rainbow and Whitesnake under his belt, and sessions including Donovan and Cinderella, as well as having solo hits like ‘Dance With The Devil’ (which featured Suzy Quatro), Cozy was a man often in demand. Have drumsticks will travel.
My introduction to Cozy’s work was Rainbow’s Rainbow Rising LP, specifically the track ‘A Light In The Black’. An album rooted in progressive hard rock, the metronomic yet explosive power proved the perfect backdrop to guitarist Ritchie Blackmore at his most fire driven.
Growing up in the west of England, playing in school bands, and taking his name from jazz drummer Cozy Cole, Powell joined The Corals, who broke a (then) record for a 12 hour gig in the Cirencester town hall.
His first recording was with The Sorcerers (a German only 45) in 1967, before he recorded with Youngblood, Big Bertha and Ace Kefford, along side various members of the Ball family (notably bassist Denny).
He played the Isle Of Wight in 1970 with Tony Joe White, and would find fame recording with the Jeff Beck Group. Further sessions followed, and a classic hard rock LP with Bedlam (1973) followed. It was during this period that an early of using Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture as part of a drum solo really took off, and was often performed with fireworks during Rainbow and Whitesnake tours.
1973 also saw Cozy join Mickie Most’s RAK label, three solo singles and a RAK tour followed, even performing ‘Dance With The Devil’ on Top Of The Pops. The third single was released as Cozy Powell’s Hammer, featuring singer Clive Chaman, guitarist Bernie Marsden, pianist Don Airey, and bassist Clive Chaman (Neil Murray at some gigs).
After a short stint out of the industry, Cozy returned to join Rainbow and the classic Rising LP. Two LPs later (and several retrospective live sets) he bowed out after the 1980 Donington performance, by which time he’d released his first solo LP, Over The Top, featuring Don Airey, Jack Bruce and Gary Moore.
Albums with Robert Plant, Roger Daltrey, Bernie Marsden, Jon Lord, MSG and Graham Bonnet followed, the latter featuring the hit single ‘Night Games’, and further solo sets, before he joined Whitesnake in 1982, to tour the Saints And Sinners album and record Slide It In. More upheaval as that relationship broke down, and Cozy was out.
Albums with Phenomena and Forcefield, and sessions with artists like Warlock and Cinderella, but the highlight was as Carl Palmer’s replacement in ELP – Emerson Lake & Powell.
Black Sabbath in 1989
The 80s closed with Cozy playing with Gary Moore (After The War) before joining Black Sabbath, with bassist Neil Murray and singer Tony Martin. Those two albums Headless Cross and Tyr are underrated classics; I remember a show at Hammersmith Odeon on the Tyr tour where they were joined onstage by Brian May.
Cozy then joined Brian May’s band for a studio and live set, as well as a solo album and a tour as Cozy Powell’s Hammer. One more album with Black Sabbath (Forbidden), before Cozy took another break from the industry.
I was lucky enough to interview Cozy for Record Collector magazine during this time and he was impressed by my knowledge – I have on tape his first answer starting “Fuck Me, you would have to start with the most difficult thing I’ve ever done”. We became friends and I would then run his fanclub. Our next meeting was during his tour with Peter Green on the former Fleetwood Mac founder’s return tour. The show in Tunbridge Wells saw Cozy break the drum kit in frustration, it was held up for half the show but a roadie stood with it on stage.
Cozy’s final works would be with Brian May (Another World), Yngwie Malmsteen (Facing The Animal) and former Zombie Colin Blunstone (The Light Inside).
I remember a conversation with Cozy with him contemplating which tour to do. The decision was made after a motorcycle accident left Cozy injured, just before the tour rehearsals with Yngwie in the USA. Unable to play to the best of his ability and to requirement, he came home.
His final phonecall to me expressed mixed emotions; on one hand he was distraught at the injury and having to pull out, on the other he was having physio on the injury and was optimistic about getting in the gym, getting fit and going out on the road with Brian May. The next day his car was on its roof on the M4, and a legend came to an end.
Cozy Powell is primarily known as a hard rock drummer, but work with Black Sabbath and Judas Priest’s Glenn Tipton show a metal edge. Solo and session work have also shown blues and jazz leanings.
Powell is still highly rated and much loved as a drummer, I am proud to have been able to call him a friend.
Jeff Beck Group – Jeff Beck Group
Bedlam – Bedlam
Rainbow – Rising
Graham Bonnet – Line Up
Michael Schenker Group – One Night At The Budokan
Whitesnake – Slide It In
Emerson Lake & Powell – Emerson Lake & Powell
Black Sabbath – Headless Cross
Brian May – Back To The Light
The Young & Moody Band – Don’t Do That (featuring Micky Moody, Bob Young, Lemmy, The Nolan Sisters)
The Sorcerers – Love Is A Beautiful Thing £300
Cozy Powell – Dance With The Devil (export issue, p/s, blue vinyl) £35
Whitesnake – Slide It In (Japanese box issue, Obi, inserts, tray, inner, booklet) £30
Cozy Powell – The Drums Are Back (LP) £30
Album review (The Polydor Years)
(i) Rhythm magazine, June 2016
© 2006-2020 Joe Geesin/GRTR! All rights reserved.
In 2013 Get Ready to ROCK! Radio produced a promo for the planned Cozy Powell documentary film ‘Dance With The Devil – The Cozy Powell Story’. The special includes interview extracts and a selection of band and solo material. (54:16)
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