By Eric Mackinnon
Some times when my Spotify machine spits out a classic Kid Rock song I can't help but mourn wistfully for the Bad Ass that got away.
What happened to Kid Rock – well apart from banking a fuck-load of cash I imagine – but at what cost?
He hasn't been living up to his name anyway and Kid – or Bob – hasn't rocked in too long. And that's not a criticism, its a shame and I miss Kid Rock like a a crackhead misses his teeth.
Before he was ... well safe and middle-of-the-roadish, Kid Rock was fantastic. Damn great.
He said it best himself when he said: “If it looks good, you'll see it. If it sounds good, you'll hear it. If it's marketed right, you'll buy it. But... if it's real, you'll feel it.”
As a teenager I 'felt' the likes of 'Devil Without A Cause.'
It was hard not to. The poignant lyrics and harmonies of 'Only God Knows Why' twinned with the ass kicking riffs of 'Bawitaba', the foot-tapping groove of the bluesy 'Cowboy' and even the star studded angry rap attack 'F**k Off' with Kid Rock and Eminem who sung 'you know I'm losing it when I'm rapping to rock guitars.'
It was a musical masterpiece and even now 20-years on if I had only a handful of albums to take to a desert island, you can bet your ass 'Devil Without A Cause' would be one of them. Top three of my all-time favourite records.
But by the time 'Devil Without A Cause' dropped and Kid Rock was booting the door to mainstream consciousness of it's hinges in the late '90s he already had a pair of records under his belt.
He credits being handed sole custody of his son at six months old as spark which lit the creative fire under his ass.
“He was pretty much dropped off at my door at six months old: 'You raise this f*cking kid,' " Rock explained to Rolling Stone. “I was like, 'This has gotta work.' So what's popular? Korn. I knew I can do that shit in my sleep. But let me throw in 'Only God Knows Why' and 'Cowboy' so I can have a career.”
MTV took a shine to 'Bawitaba' and the rest, as they say, is history. Rock never looked back as his momentum took on the speed of a runaway freight train.
The video for 'Bawitaba' was sandwiched between the likes of Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys on TV and he recalls thinking each time he say the video: “We're getting a new f*cking house! We're getting a new car! ”
Devil Without a Cause, from 1998, went on to sell nearly 10 million copies and it stands up today as a slice of rock n' roll heaven. Meaty guitars draped around angry lyrics which Rock delivered with passion and feeling, a sprinkling of mournful country vibes and a generous garnish of hip-hop all fused together for the perfect storm.
His golden run with records, every album hit platinum continued until 2010 when 'Born Free' flopped – something he remains unsatisfied with.
In the most recent past Kid Rock has all but abandoned the rock which is literally in his name and gone full steam into country mode. Now that is fine and he has always been an artist who straddles a multitude of genres but I miss Kid Rocking. I'm not alone either. It is equally telling that at any given Kid Rock live show, the staple of his set is made up of harder hitting, harder rocking songs from his catalogue.
There is plenty room for the likes of 'All Summer Long' and 'First Kiss', tracks which sample 'Werewolves of London/Sweet Home Alabama' and sound like the Siamese twin of Bryan Adams' 'Summer of '69' respectively.
He is a self-confessed country boy. A guy who lives, most of the time, on his rural Alabama estate although he also has a landing strip for his private jet, so he fly on a whim to any of his other properties, houses in Michigan, Malibu, Nashville (where he also lives out of a double-wide) and Florida.
The first taste of crossover appeal and a big mainstream country hit came in 2001 with 'Picture' on the album 'cocky.' The heart-tugging duet with Sheryl Crow opened him up to an entire new spectrum of fans. Since then he is regularly pitched proposals to pen tracks with Nashville's top songwriters.
But as he told Rolling Stone it isn't something which holds great appeal to him.
"In country, those award shows make your career . . . and I don't suck dick," he says. "I'll tickle your balls a little bit. But I ain't gonna suck your dick."
All of his recent records have been in the laid back country style and inspired by his rural ranch in the backwaters of Alabama.
Tracks like 'Drinking Beer With Dad' a winding, melancholy track about watching his son grow up, on his Troy porch over a cigar and coffee.
Southern back roads and sipping Jim Beam at juke joints are the catalyst for the track 'Good Times Lookin' for Me' and he pays homage to gun-totting, denim-clad women on 'Johnny Cash.'
'Sweet Southern Sugar' was his last record which dropped in 2017 and debuted at number eight on the US Billboard 200 and number four on the US Billboard Top Country Albums and was less political but continued with his trend of heavy country leanings.until 'Grandpa's Jam' at the tail end of the record. The track is a tongue in cheek homage to his grandafther status while still in his 40s and on this track he channels the 'Devil Without A Cause' which clearly stills lurks within, spitting vintage style rap barbs and harking back to a day we all long for.
Like so many rock stars of his generation he has not been without controversy. From his infamous walkout at the Download Festival in 2008 without even taking to the stage with the story claiming he took a piss on promoter Andy Copping's couch.
A brief marriage to Baywatch pin-up Pamela Anderson and most recent public support for the new President Donald Trump, he even has a t-shirt on his official merch store calling those against Trump as 'haters' with a 'D in their mouth.'
Rock, whose real name is Bob Ritchie, is one of the industry's most outspoken stars. In recent years he has reportedly steadfastly refused to play in Europe or accept any invitation to play any mainstream festivals in America, But then he will play the likes of Seaworld or Cruise Ships.
Days after his 2007 record 'Born Free' hit stores Rock found himself hauled in front of a judge after a brawl in Waffle House with a customer.
The record shot to No.1 in the charts prompting him to joke maybe he should always go to Waffle House when he releases an album.
Rock is a huge supporter of the military and he has spoken fondly of the seven trips he's made to the Middle East to entertain troops – one occasion he is even reported to have kipped in Saddam Hussein's bedroom.
He is not the kind of guy who holds his tongue or to wilt from his beliefs. I was lucky enough to see him on a rare trip to the UK back in 2008 when he played London. I only hope he crosses the pond once again as the UK needs the American Badass.
We miss you Bob. The UK misses you, I miss you and the rock charts miss your razor sharp wit, insightful lyrics and hair swinging riffs too.
Maybe he can even return to the Download Festival with an apologetic smile, a full arsenal of hard-hitting hits and pick up Copping's dry cleaning bill at the same time.