Jim Rodford: (1941-2018) R.I.P.

Jim Rodford. (Photo courtesy Klaus Hilscher)
Jim Rodford. (Photo courtesy Klaus Hilscher)

Rock guitarist Jim Rodford died after a fall on his stairs at home on 20 January 2018, at age 76, just a few days after returning from a tour of America.  Probably not many of you have heard of Rodford, but you will have certainly heard his bass guitar playing in many classic songs.

We can trace his roots back to 1958 when he helped a group of young musicians to form a band called The Zombies in St Albans, England.  Although Rodford never played with The Zombies in their first incarnation the band had a critically acclaimed career, but sadly at the time little commercial success.  On their demise in 1969 the keyboard player Rod Argent formed his own band, which suitably enough was named Argent, and immediately got in his cousin Jim Rodford to hold down the bass guitar duties and backing vocals.

Rodford’s fluid bass lines mark out Argent’s smash hit single “Hold Your Head Up” (1972), which went to number five in the British and American charts and sold over a million copies.  More hits followed including “God Gave Rock & Roll to You”, a hit for Argent but also a great single for American rock band Kiss, who turned it into their anthem.

After seven studio albums and one wonderful live double album in 1974, the members of Argent all went their own way.  Rodford then made the surprising decision of joining the Davies brothers in the Kinks (1978), who although they wrote wonderful songs were a disaster playing live.  With Rodford joining however, it all came together and then when Mick Avory left the band in 1985 after years of infighting with the Davies duo, Bob Hennit took over the drum stool to reunite the Argent rhythm section.

The Kinks were banned in the mid Sixties by the American Musician Union for being naughty boys whilst on tour.  It was not until the early Seventies that the ban was lifted and they could try once again in the States, and their second coming was much bigger than the first.

Rodford’s effect upon the Kinks was immediate.  The first album to feature his bass playing talents was “Low Budget” (1979), the band’s eighteenth studio album but the first one that was a real rocker, and which better suited the stadium arenas The Kinks were now playing.  It was the band’s best selling album in the USA, reaching number eleven in the charts and receiving great critical acclaim.  The following years were heady days for The Kinks indeed and 1978-1986 was considered one of the pinnacles of their success – smash hit records and sold out arena tours.

Sadly all good things have to come to an end and from 1986 until 1996 the Kinks carried on recording and touring to an ever dwindling audience, finally calling it a day in 1996.  After this, Rodford gigged firstly with the reformed Animals before finally becoming a Zombie in 2004 when the band got back together, and that’s where he stayed until his death in 2018. (Note: this period also included a brief tour with the original members of Argent in 2010.)

Jim Rodford was a marvelous musician and one of Rock’s real gentlemen.  He will be greatly missed.  To get an idea of his musical genius please listen to 1974’s “Encore: Live In Concert” by Argent.

Written by Mott The Dog.