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That was the Quo month that was ... April 2010

19th - Daily Mirror story about Quo stranded in Russia after Iceland volcano

Following the Iceland volcano eruption that disrupted all of Europe's airspace in mid-April, Quo were left stranded in Moscow after their gig on the 15th April. The following article appeared in the UK's Daily Mirror newspaper on April 19th, entitled "Iceland volcano: Status Quo stranded in Moscow".

"Rock veterans Status Quo are stranded in Moscow - and face a lengthy rail and road slog to get home as a result of the air travel crisis.

The group played two shows in Russia last week - one in St Petersburg and the other in the capital on Thursday.

But the rockers - led by Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt, who received OBEs in the New Year honours - have now been forced to plan a new route home due to the travel problems caused ash from by the Icelandic volcano.

The group's tour bus has now been dispatched from the UK and is heading to Warsaw in Poland.

Meanwhile, Rossi and co have been booked on to the first available train from Moscow to the Polish capital, which is due to leave tomorrow morning - but will take around 24 hours to get to its destination.

The band will then travel by tour bus and ferry to arrive back in the UK on Friday - a week late.

Rossi said: "We've enjoyed spending extra time in Moscow but, after all we've been through over the years, I never thought that our touring schedule would be threatened by a volcano."

Another veteran music star has also taken drastic action to get home.

Steve Harley, of Cockney Rebel fame, took a 1,500 euro (s1,300) taxi ride from Frankfurt to Brussels to catch one of the extra Eurostar trains which have been laid on.

Harley travelled to Frankfurt for a radio interview on Thursday to promote his new album, Stranger Comes To Town, and has been stuck there since, waiting for the flight ban to be lifted.

He said: "I was only supposed to here for a few hours but I've ended up having to go out shopping for socks and a toothbrush."

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23rd - Francis interview on Steve Wright in the Afternoon (BBC Radio 2)

Francis made a belated appearance on the Steve Wright radio show on April 23rd. The interview was rescheduled following the Iceland volcano woes that saw the band stranded in Russia for almost a week and Francis gave a lengthy interview with Richard Allinson (sitting in for Steve Wright). Topics covered included the Iceland volcano saga, the forthcoming solo album and tour (and the single "Faded Memory" was played in full), the OBE, and the usual Quo longevity questions.

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25th - "Faded Memory" single released (as download only)

The first single to be lifted from Francis's solo album, One Step At A Time, was released as a download-only on April 25th in the shape of pop ditty, "Faded Memory". Although a professional video was shot for the single, no physical format was produced for the release and the single failed to dent the Top 100 during the first week of release.

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25th - Francis interview in A-Listed magazine, News of the World (UK)

The following article appeared in the "A-Listed" magazine of the Sunday News Of The World newspaper on 25th April. The colour magazine cover featured a nice head shot of Francis along with a live concert pose, emblazoned with "Status Single - Why Quo legend Francis Rossi is TERRIFIED about his first ever solo gig". The article itself was a two-page colour spread, titled "Guitar Solo - Rossi tells of terror as he prepares to play first gig without Quo in 40 years" and written by Tim Barr. A great live shot of Francis was the main picture, along with smaller ones of daughter Bernadette and a stage pose of Francis and Rick.

"I'm having a good day," grins Francis Rossi.

"Sometimes you just wake up and you go YEAH! Today is one of those.

"And I don't know why. It can't be the drugs because I don't take 'em any more..."

The new improved and super-healthy Status Quo frontman - who's long since turned his back on a ten-year three-grams-of-coke-two-bottles-of-tequila daily habit - is on typically good form. But though he's speaking to A-Listed amid the backstage commotion of a Quo gig, minutes before soundcheck in fact, his mind is focused on another show altogether.

In just over two weeks (and a fortnight before his 61st birthday) the veteran rocker will walk on stage at Edinburgh's Queen's Hall for the most NERVE-WRACKING gig of his life.

After selling 120million records and clocking up over 40 years on the road with Quo (playing to a whopping 25million people in the process) Francis Dominic Michael Rossi is about to play his first solo show.

And the prospect is terrifying him.

I'm sh***ing it," he confesses. "It's a very peculiar feeling for me. I've never been in any other band. I've never played with any other band.

"I'm the only person - including Rick Parfitt - who never joined Quo. They've been part of my life for as long as I can remember so the prospect of stepping on stage in Edinburgh without them is keeping me awake at night.

"A friend of mine put it well. She said, 'You wake up at four in the morning with this whale of a problem but in the cold light of day, it's really only a sardine.'

"So I keep waking up thinking 'Oh no. What am I doing? Why did I agree to this. I'm no good at this, I'm wandering outside my comfort zone.'

"But eventually I go back to sleep and next morning I think, 'I'll be alright.'

"I'm just in a flap because I've never done it before. And I know I'm going to be like this until we walk OFF that stage in Edinburgh next month."

After a professional career that began with a summer season at Butlins, Minehead, in 1965 - and has since taken in a record-breaking 64 hit singles, their era-defining performance at Live Aid, a gig on the Ark Royal and even an appearance on Coronation Street - it's safe to say there aren't many firsts left for Quo to conquer.

But when it comes to Rossi's solo career, it's a very different story.

After forming the original version of Quo at 15, he's been without the band for just one brief period.

In the mid-80s, sickened and worn out by the combined effects of relentless touring and a gargantuan drug intake, he decided to fold the band.

"I just didn't want to do it any longer," he says. "I'd started to see continuing with Quo as a waste of time. It wasn't just being in the band, it was everything else that was going on in my life too - the endless grams of coke and the empty tequila bottles piling up around me."

Between the final date of their End Of The Road tour in July 1984 and the brief ten-minute rehearsal they did the day before Live Aid in July 1985, Status Quo were no more.

Only the plight of millions of Ethiopian famine victims - and Bob Geldof's nagging - persuaded Francis to quit work on his solo debut and reform the group.

That early tilt at a Francis Rossi LP, co-written with ex-truck driver-turned-songwriter Bernie Frost, was left on the shelf, though two singles from it - Modern Romance and Jealousy - were released and landed in the Top 40.

It wasn't until 1997's King Of The Doghouse, which he describes as "a good album scuppered by poor production", that he made his full debut as a solo artist.

But with Quo busy touring the US, Japan and Australia, there wasn't time to fit in solo gigs. So it's taken until now and the release of the second Francis Rossi album, One Step At A Time, which comes out on May 3, for that to happen.

"I never stop writing songs and melodies," he says, "but there have been many tracks over the years that just weren't right for Quo. They've been gathering dust in my mind for too long and now seems the right time to showcase them."

Recorded at his home studio ARSIS (it stands for A Room Somewhere In Surrey), One Step At A Time isn't the biggest leap from Status Quo's chart-busting heads-down-no-nonsense boogie you'll ever hear.

"After all," says Francis, "I DO write Quo songs." And, with the exception of just three tracks, the album is mostly co-written with Rossi's long-time sparring partner Bob Young, co-author of some of Quo's biggest hits.

"Bob's a key figure in the story of the band," explains Francis. "We first met him when we were doing a tour with Gene Pitney in 1968 and I liked him as soon as I met him.

"We persuaded him to become our tour manager but he's always really believed in the band and encouraged us.

"I think he's a little bit in love with the rock 'n' roll fantasy."

It's no coincidence that after Bob was edged out of the Quo operation in 1980, the band fell victim to a scam that ultimately cost a staggering 6million pounds.

"The band got ripped off quite considerably," Francis recalls. "And that would not have happened if Bob had been around. He was one of those tour managers who knew where every penny went. A situation was engineered by other people to get him away from us and once that happened, that's when the damage was done.

He's always been a great friend and, of course, he's a f***ing great songwriter into the bargain."

Among the Quo classics Bob, 64, has helped pen are Paper Plane, Roll Over Lay Down, Mean Girl, Mystery Song and piledriving anthem Down Down.

"There's something I find very comfortable about working with Bob," says Francis. "We'll sit down with the guitars and our various lyric books and, if it's a bluesy-type song it'll usually start with him.

"I'll say, 'We need something in this area, Bob' and he'll come up with something straight out of his head.

"A good example would be Quo's All Stand Up (Never Say Never). I had the riff but I couldn't get any further forward with it and as soon as I played it to him, he came out with the lyric for the chorus just like that. He's very, VERY good. Though we've got to that age where sometimes, it's just as likely that instead of writing songs, we'll end up snoring on the couch together."

Alongside classically-built boogie-rockers like Sleeping On The Job, Crazy For You and Strike Like Lightning, One Step At A Time also includes one of the best-loved Rossi/Young hits - a reworking of 1973's Top Five hit, Caroline.

Written by the pair on a paper napkin in the dining room of a hotel in Perranporth, Cornwall, during the band's 1970 tour it's been the standard opener of their explosive live sets - including last December's much-talked-about SECC show - ever since.

But the revamped version on One Step At A Time ditches the 12-bar blues feel in favour of their original vision of the song as a country-tinged shuffle.

"It's very similar to the way it was first conceived," he confirms. "A bit looser. A bit more laid-back.

"And, as soon as I started messing about with it, I thought, 'This would make a GREAT opening song for my solo set."

It's an in-joke that's sure to tickle Quo's army of long-time fans.

"I'm not so sure I'm that funny," adds Francis. "But Bob is. The other day he was saying to me, 'Your new album is really great, you know, there's not one track I'd skip' and I had to tell him, 'Of course you'd say that, YOU helped me write most of 'em."

Alongside songs co-written with Bob are two collaborations with songwriter Guy Johnson. But there's also plenty of evidence that dad-of-eight Francis is keeping things in the family. One of the album highlights is Tallulah's Waiting, a song about coming off tour to the comforts of home - and his second-youngest child, 16-year-old Tallulah.

Another daughter, Bernadette, 25, will be at the Queen's Hall next month. She fronts support act The North.

Son Nick, 38, will be there too. He's playing guitar in his dad's band and also contributed standout track Rolling Down The Road to One Step At A Time. "He wrote it for his band Little Egypt," says Francis. "At the time it was about something very personal he was going through. I really love the track and I really relate to it - though, to be honest, I never thought I'd be singing a song written by one of my kids."

Something else he didn't envisage was being awarded the OBE in the New Year's Honours List.

"I'm a bit embarrassed about getting it," he confides. "Rick and I found out the same day and we were sworn to secrecy. I don't think we should have got it but if it draws attention to, say, a paramedic from Paisley who's getting an honour for saving lives, then I'm all for it."

A short sidepiece article discussed the band's predicament when stuck in Russia during the Iceland volcano eruption, entitled "From Russia with Lava"!

"They've been Rockin' All Over The World with scarcely an interruption for more than four decades... until the Icelandic ash cloud struck.

Status Quo struggled back to Britain this week after finding themselves stranded in Russia as a result of the airspace shutdown.

Their seven-day ordeal began after they flew out to the former Soviet Union to play sold-out gigs in St Petersburg and Moscow.

And they took to the stage in the Russian capital just as the scale of the problem caused by the erupting Eyjafjallajokull volcano was becoming apparent.

"Everything went brilliantly... until we came off stage," explains Francis. "That was when we found out our flights had been cancelled.

"Over the next few days, our tour manager tried everything to get the band and the crew back, booking and re-booking flight after flight - to Madrid, Helsinki, Hamburg and Cologne - only for them all to be pulled at the last minute.

"We'd been through a similar thing in 2004 when our tour bus got caught up in the French ports blockade but this was much worse.

"We had to be ready to travel at a moment's notice so our bags were permanently packed.

"When it looked like the idea of a flight was a non-starter, we tried to organise train travel to Germany. That didn't work out so then we tried booking travel to Warsaw via Belarus, in the hope that our tour bus could come out from London and pick us up there. But everything we tried hit a brick wall."

By the time they'd languished in Moscow over the weekend and into the early part of this week, a new and more pressing problem began to present itself - the visas that the band and their crew had been given were due to run out, meaning they'd be stuck indefinitely.

"By that point," recalls Francis, "things were beginning to feel a bit desperate."

After a nerve-wracking SIX DAYS, the band finally made their escape in a bizarre case of history repeating itself.

Back in 1979, not long after Quo conquered the charts again with Whatever You Want, Rick found himself stuck at Amsterdam airport.

Needing to get to Dublin for a writing session with Francis, and with the day's flights fully booked, the flash rocker simply splashed out 3000 pounds on a PRIVATE JET.

So when the first available jet touched down at Moscow airport before a return flight to Stuttgart, Quo's backroom team sprang into action. They chartered the plane, crammed the band and crew on board and booked a tour bus to meet them in Germany. "I was so happy to see Stuttgart that I KISSED the ground," says Francis. "It was a real relief to finally be on the way home."

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25th - Francis article in The Sunday Times (Business section)

The following article appeared in The Sunday Times newspaper's Business section on 25th April, entitled "Scotch on the Rocker - Drinkin' All Over The World".

"Francis Rossi, lead singer and guitarist in the rock band Status Quo, is branching out into the drinks industry, buying a stake in a whisky with a similar name to his own, writes Mathhew Goodman.

The veteran rocker has teamed up with The Brand Cellar, a company specialising in acquiring older brands, to buy Glen Rossie from administrators to First Quench, the failed drinks retailer.

Rossi will own a significant minority stake in the 196-year-old brand and become its chairman. It is the first non-music business deal for the star, famous for hits such as Rockin' All Over The World.

He first discovered the drink when someone bought a bottle for Status Quo's tour bus, and was approached last month by the Brand Cellar about the opportunity to buy it.

The scotch will be relaunched in a new-look bottle carrying a label in the shape of a plectrum, a nod to Rossi's music career."

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26th - Francis article in The Scotsman newspaper (UK)

The following article appeared in The Scotsman newspaper on 26th April, entitled "Status Quo star Francis Rossi to head Glen Rossie whisky" and written by Tristan Stewart-Robertson.

"STATUS Quo lead singer Francis Rossi usually only gets this excited when he puts out a single or album and watches the charts for success.

Now he admits his first non-music business venture is making his "left foot waggle" as he becomes chairman of an historic whisky brand.

Rossi has bought a stake in the 196-year-old Glen Rossie whisky and become its chairman in the deal with The Brand Cellar, a company specialising in acquiring older brands.

Glen Rossie was owned by failed drinks firm First Quench which went into administration last year, and when The Brand Cellar approached veteran rocker Rossi, he said he did not need much time before he took the opportunity.

He told The Scotsman: "I can feel my innards getting tingling. I'm elated by it. This is something different.

"The idea of me being a chairman, it's like, 'Oh yes'.

"I can't say it's not about money. I don't pretend I don't love money. This looks like a good investment.

"I grew up in retail so the idea of the turnover I get quite excited about.

"When a record comes out we see what the sales are. You see the position in the chart and it's an affirmation of success. I do love the thrill of the sale."

The 60-year-old, originally from Forest Hill, London, said he was first introduced to the whisky sometime in the past decade when a bottle of it was placed on the band's tour bus by a caterer who thought it was funny. Rossi said he first thought it was a joke, a bottle with nearly his name on it.

Glen Rossie made regular appearances on tours with the band, known for singles such as Marguerita Time and 28 studio albums including Thirsty Work.

The Brand Cellar approached Rossi about a possible deal on the whisky and a chance meeting in a hotel in Melbourne, Australia, while on tour earlier this year led to his involvement.

He said: "All of us in rock and roll have tried venturing into business.

"I know Floyd did it, U2 did it. We all think we know what we're doing because we earn some money. But we're not businessmen. I didn't have to go punting for it and it's not like I have had an idea. They have come to me. It was quite easy deciding.

"These guys are going for it, now, and that's similar to making records."

Rossi said his new brand was "not cheap p***", thin or watery and he liked the viscosity and density of it.

Keyboardist and bass guitarist Andy Bown always got Rossi to "smell things and Glen Rossie smells rather pleasant," he said.

He added: "Whisky generally can make me shudder. This tastes like whisky but it doesn't make you shudder. I can't drink loads of anything, but it's something nice to sip late at night. I just like the idea of a drink with my name on it."

The Scotch will be relaunched in a new-look bottle carrying a label in the shape of a plectrum, in a nod to Rossi's music career spanning nearly five decades."

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26th - Francis Q & A session at the Oxford Union

Francis was invited to appear at the Oxford Union on April 26th. The Q&A session was held in the historic Library of the Union and Francis fielded questions from about fifty scholars for well over the allotted hour! A set of professional photos of Francis's appearance can be found here and a clip of him answering the very first question in typical Francis style can be seen on YouTube.

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27th - Francis interview on Five Live (UK)

Francis was interviewed by Phil Williams on BBC Radio 5 Live on April 27th. The half-hour interview saw Francis in good form, kicking off with light-hearted discussion about the loss of his ponytail and the failure (in Francis's opinion) of his previous solo effort, in the shape of "King of the Doghouse". Francis went on to describe the title track from his latest solo album, "One Step At A Time", as the "best thing I've ever done" and they then played the single from the new album, "Faded Memory".

They went on to discussion the band's recent stranding in Russia as a result of the Iceland volcano and then had a long section of the interview about the solo tour. Francis spoke fondly about having his son Nicholas on tour with him and also how apprehensive he was about the whole thing. Other topics included his songwriting process, the new version of "Caroline" on the solo album, his recent deal to become chairman of a Scottish whisky company, the OBE, the next Quo album (due in March 2011 apparently!) and the mid-90s Radio 1 court case saga.

This was an excellent long interview with Francis covering a wide range of topics and not just the usual interview fodder.

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29th - Francis interview on TalkSport radio (UK)

Francis was interviewed on the Mike Parry and Andy Townsend show on TalkSport radio on April 29th. This interview was very jovial and Francis seemed to enjoy a less formal interview on this radio station, although the interview was cut short due to other promo commitments. He talked at length about the solo tour and seemed to be in good spirits.

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