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Ark Royal Special - 30 July 2002

The Quo take the deck of the Ark Royal - copyright Navy News Online 2002 Rick and Francis rockin' the Ark Royal - copyright Navy News Online 2002

To launch the "Heavy Traffic" album in style, Quo performed a special press gig aboard the Royal Navy aircraft carrier, The Ark Royal, on 30th July. Around 400 press, 100 lucky FTMO members and about 600 carrier personnel experienced a Quo event like no other, culminating in one of Quo's most bizarre live promotional performances.

The event started on platform 2 of London's Victoria railway station, where the famous Orient Express was chartered to ferry the press and fans to Southampton docks. Arriving in style at the QE2 arrivals lounge, a short coach trip whisked them out to Portsmouth and the waiting Ark Royal.

The fans would be treated to the following live set, Quo performing "on deck" on the great ship.

The crew rockin' on the Ark Royal - copyright Navy News Online 2002 The Quo stage on deck of the Ark Royal - copyright VG (www.vg.no, 6th August 2002, photographer Espen Haslene)

A very happy Quo crowd on the Ark Royal - copyright Navy News Online 2002 For the sake of completeness, playback versions of the forthcoming single, "Jam Side Down", and also the album opener, "Blues and Rhythm", followed and rounded off a memorable Quo performance.

The satisfied crowd were then returned to London on the Orient Express. Collectors should look out for copies of the press kit handed out during the day, as well as personally signed copies of the Orient Express menu card!

As was the idea, this event received mass media and press attention. This special report includes a number of articles, reviews and photos from the event for your enjoyment.

Click here for exclusive Ark Royal event photographs by Press Association photographer Matthew Fearn.



31st July - review on BBC Online

The following review appeared on the BBC News Online site on 31st July (and also on the BBC's teletext service Ceefax, page 548). The review was titled "Status Quo still afloat" and was penned by Leigh Mytton.

It was the most surreal welcome the passenger ferry 'Pride of Bilbao' had ever received.

All aboard the deck of the Ark Royal - copyright BBC 2002 It arrived in Portsmouth harbour to the strains of "Whatever You Want", being played live on the deck of aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal by rock legends Status Quo.

Passengers jostled on the decks to catch a glimpse of 600 military personnel enjoying a 12-song set by the veteran band to celebrate the launch of their new album, "Heavy Traffic".

The sailors and soldiers were joined by 100 Quo fan club members and VIP guests - including scantily-clad glamour models, teddy boys, ageing rock chicks and denim-clad groupies - who had travelled to the gig on the Orient Express.

Inflatable green guitars waved above the crowds as frontmen Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt danced hip-to-hip on a stage constructed on the ship's runway.

Stage on the deck of the Ark Royal - copyright BBC 2002 The long-haired faithful rushed to the front of the crowd while squaddies imitated the Quo dance. Most of the officers crossed their arms and nodded along to "Rockin' All Over The World".

Even the rain failed to dampen the spirits of this lot.

Comedian Harry Hill - resplendent in a teddy boy coat and Quo baseball cap - was mingling with the crowds.

The Ark Royal's 600-strong crew were given a couple of hours off to enjoy the festivities.

With an average age of 22, the Quo hit the big time before they were born, but they didn't seem to mind.

"I think they're all right," enthused 18-year-old weapons engineer Gemma Davies. "My mother and father have got all their records."

Hospital worker Brian Campbell - one of the Quo's dedicated fanbase dubbed "the loyal family" by the band - paid 300 for his day out and he said it was worth every penny.

"I love it when Rick starts playing Caroline. The music is pumping. They are giving it everything and so are the crowd," said the 29-year-old from Greenock.

"I've seen them about 16 times, but I've never done anything like this. I met them, too. Nothing was too much trouble."

The day out was tied in with the video for the Quo's new single "Jam Side Down", which was shot on the Ark Royal after Rick Parfitt bid for a day out on the ship at an auction.

"I bought the tickets for me and my 13-year-old son," said Parfitt.

"We talked about how great it would be to do a gig on the flight deck and the crew said 'it's possible'.

"It's nice for everyone to see us, rather than launching the album at a club. It's really quite special for all of us. It's just different."

Parfitt and Rossi say the new album recaptures the raw energy of the Quo's heyday.

"It's pure Quo - more than it has been for the last 10-15 years. There's just something fruity and colourful that's come off this album," said Parfitt.

Rossi added: "We sat and routined the numbers together. Each person was starting to get a vibe for the arrangement and then we would go and do the thing."

Rick and Francis on the Orient Express - copyright BBC 2002 The Quo have hit the headlines for their hard-living antics, but Parfitt and Rossi didn't end their day out with a party on the Orient Express.

Instead, they wandered up and down the carriages, chatting to fans over a few beers.

"We have kicked all the drugs but we still like a few drinks," said Parfitt, who had a quadruple heart bypass in 1997.

"You have to slow down a bit because with age your body cannot take it. It's not fair to the fans. We always want to come out and give it 100%."

As the train rolled back into London, Rossi reflected: "In the last two years so many things have slotted into place.

"If Rick hadn't had gone out that night and bid for the ticket and then got talking to the crew after a few drinks, it wouldn't have happened. Everything starts to snowball and, when you're up, that's what makes rock and roll work."

The Quo were first off the train at Victoria, so there was no chance for the fans to catch a final glimpse of their heroes. But they did not seem to mind.

Brian from Greenock wandered up the platform. "It's been a once-in-a-lifetime experience," he enthused, before spotting my goodie bag. "What's in it?" he exclaimed. I gave him my Status Quo playing cards. He was delighted.

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31st July - review on Navy News Online

The following review, titled "Rockin' All Over The Ark", appeared on the Navy News Online site on 31st July.

Francis and Rick rockin' aboard the Ark Royal - copyright Navy News Online 2002 Rock band Status Quo launched their new album "Heavy Traffic" with a concert on the flight deck of the Navy's carrier HMS Ark Royal yesterday. A crowd of 600 Quo fans and service men and women packed the deck to watch the veteran band in action.

The group played their latest single, "Jam Side Down" - the video for which was filmed over the course of three days on board the carrier as she returned this summer from the Mediterranean and Exercise Dynamic Mix.

In addition to songs from their album, Status Quo couldn't resist playing a number of old favourites. To the strains of "Whatever You Want", the assembled crowd, some in Naval uniform, some in their best Quo T-shirts, rocked along with their air guitars.

"In the Army Now" caused a few problems, as lead singer Francis Rossi started with the original lyric then under crowd pressure switched to the Navy before finally singing "In the Forces Now".

In the crowd, OM Kevin Moffat said about the gig: "It was absolutely tremendous. The last time I saw them was about 20 years ago. "I will definitely be buying the single."

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1st August - article in The Telegraph newspaper

This article, titled "All aboard for some ironic headbanging" and written by Tom Horan, appeared in The Telegraph on 1st August.

The commuters arriving at Victoria Station were faced with a strange gathering: a man with a bubble perm in a red drape jacket and matching drainpipes, a gaggle of Page Three lovelies in excessively tight denim shorts, a knot of paparazzi, and a teenage boy with a cardboard cut-out guitar.

And there, in the middle of it all, were Status Quo, who had chartered the Orient Express to transport 400 people to the launch of their new album - on an aircraft carrier.

Before we could depart, Quo founders Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt had to pose for the photographers. Parfitt was the one with the gentle, winning grin, the straggly blond hair he has had since about the time of the Boer War and a slightly effete pair of lilac pixie boots. He is 54. Rossi was less at ease. He was wearing a leather jacket in the thick July heat and had the look of a man who would have your dog shot if you crossed him.

White liveried waiters worked the aisles as the Quo Express clacked towards Portsmouth and the Ark Royal. Parfitt recently won a night at sea on the ship in a charity auction, and took his 13-year-old son along. They got on so well with the captain and crew that the band shot the video for their new single, "Jam Side Down", on board.

The pairing of band and boat makes an intangible kind of sense: ferrous, monolithic, steeped in the Seventies - two British institutions decked out in pale blue. All good PR for the Navy, of course, but, since the ship is technically ready for combat, they banned alcohol on the journey down. There was to be none on the ship either.

The tabloids had sent their showbiz columnists, who were a bit twitchy at the booze ban. They passed the journey with tales of Parfitt's quadruple heart by-pass, Rossi's cocaine-eroded septum and the sublime story of the day last year when the band who have played the same three chords for 35 years, cancelled a show because Parfitt had repetitive strain injury.

The Quo may be good for a laugh, but their career statistics demand to be taken seriously. Since they formed at Butlins at Minehead in 1967, the band has sold more than 112 million records and had 55 hit singles, more than any other UK act. They have played live to about 22 million people, including the Wembley crowd at Live Aid in 1985, which they opened with "Rockin' All Over the World". Perhaps more amazing than any of this, their new album, "Heavy Traffic" (Universal Music TV), is rather good.

At Portsmouth, the Naval welcome was warm with a hint of mild terror. The circus had come to town. "Ark Royal has been associated with music since the documentary Sailor was filmed on board in the late Seventies," said a chief petty officer over tea in the ward room. "It had the Rod Stewart song Sailing as the theme tune. Now, since Rick Parfitt spent the night with us, we've got this connection with Status Quo, which is very nice."

Behind him, comedian Harry Hill drifted past, wearing a Status Quo lapel badge and eating a custard cream.

Suddenly the room emptied. It was showtime. Hurrying along the cramped corridors to get on deck, one of the gossip column girls caught her ankle on the high iron lintel. She swore violently, and did indeed make a nearby sailor blush. As we reached the cavernous area where the planes are stored, a bearded officer was deep in conversation with the Page Three blondes.

"But it's so big," said one of the girls. "How come it doesn't just sink?"

The beard looked grave: "Well, it's basically buoyancy, ma'am."

"Oh, right. And where do you keep that? Down there, is it?" she said pointing.

Francis and Rhino aboard the Ark Royal - copyright Navy News Online 2002 With military punctuality, Rossi and Parfitt struck their opening chords. The flight deck is so vast that even the hundreds gathered to watch, barely covered a third of it. As they launched into "Down Down", two tugs appeared alongside the carrier, shooting plumes of water into the air. "I don't know what we're doing here," said Rossi, who looked marginally happier now, having changed into his signature leather waistcoat, jeans and white trainers. But the Quo have spent 35 years rocking crowds. So that's what they proceeded to do.

"Rockin' All Over the World" sounded a little tired, but the tracks from the new album were a lot perkier. The relentless boogie woogie thing that the band have spent a lifetime churning out, definitely acts at some primeval level. And, with Rossi and Parfitt hamming up the rock-guitar posturing on stage, it was hard to resist. At the front, the cardboard-guitar boy was strumming furiously. The crew tapped their feet politely, but a pocket of junior officers were the first to start headbanging. It was ironic headbanging, naturally, but there's a fine line between a head banged in inverted commas and a head banged in jubilant, Quo-tastic abandon.

Rossi played the inter-service rivalry card during "You're in the Army Now", which was booed and then cheered when he inserted the word "Navy". A passing container vessel loaded with bananas sounded its horn as the band concluded a new song, "Creeping Up", followed by "Whatever You Want".

With that, the animals left the Ark, album duly launched. The band, whose pre-show preparation these days, is all mango juice and early bedtimes, allowed themselves a glass or two on the train back. Parfitt was full of praise for the Quo die-hards whom he had so lavishly entertained: "They look after us and we look after them. They're lovely people. We basically know the front two rows at any show we play."

He was sad, though, about the recent cocaine-related death of his friend John Entwistle, bass-player with the Who. "I used to go raving with John in the early days. He liked a good time, bless him. I used to go home and he'd keep going."

Rossi was as contrary as ever: "He went out the right way. He didn't get old and ill and put into hospital and filled full of legal drugs. As far as he was concerned, he was having a good old night and then - boom - he was gone. It beats a long, slow decline."

Either way, on this vibrant form, it will be a while yet before the Quo and Entwistle are reunited.

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2nd August - article in The Guardian newspaper

The following article appeared in the Guardian on 2nd August, titled "Status Quo on the decks".

How does the world's least fashionable band sell albums? Caroline Sullivan joins Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt and several hundred British sailors on board the Ark Royal

Family-values types who think the world is going to pot would be heartened to meet the Tranters from Tredegar, South Wales. Dad Byron, mum Judith and their teenage son and daughter are making their own contribution toward preserving the nuclear family by sharing the same hobby, which has brought them to London's Victoria station on an unusually broiling Tuesday morning.

If the preponderance of denim didn't give them away, the logo on Byron's yellow shirt would: two guitars with necks crossed and, in defiantly large letters, the words Status Quo. Sitting quietly in a row, the Tranters are among about 250 fans and journalists who are about to board the Orient Express for a Quo day out - a leisurely chug to Portsmouth, where the band are launching their new album with an invite-only gig on the aircraft carrier Ark Royal. Then it's back on the train for dinner and a booze-up with Britain's least fashionable band. Tickets were 300 each, and they sold out via the fan website the day they went on sale.

It is Kimberlee Tranter's idea of heaven. Other 15-year-olds may prefer the callow charms of Westlife, but there is only one band for Kimberlee, and they wear white trainers.

She is too young to remember that bad time in the mid-1990s when Quo threatened to sue Radio One for refusing to play their singles, or the day guitarist Rick Parfitt was rushed to hospital for quadruple heart bypass surgery, the payback for decades of partying all over the world. She is simply mesmerised by the five bejeaned veterans, average age 50, who will never, ever boast of a "dance element" to their music.

"I liked the Spice Girls for a little while, but now it's just Quo," she says shyly. "I love Rick. I hope I get to meet him today." But he is 54 years old. "He looks younger," she insists, proffering a photo from the sleeve of their last album, which she has brought to have autographed. And she is right - the blond Parfitt could pass for, oh, a craggy 53, as we see moments later when Quo, rockular in leather jackets despite the heat, arrive at the station.

Immediately fans and media separate into distinct groups. The former, who are wearing T-shirts with slogans like There's Only One Rick Parfitt, whip out cameras and snap away from a respectful distance. The media, nudging each other mirthfully, barge in front and demand that Parfitt and ponytailed singer Francis Rossi pose on the steps of the train, which they patiently do.

Lunch is served almost as soon as we leave, which means we are stuffing down (entirely delicious) halibut with crayfish risotto at 11 o'clock in the morning. The extravagance is not lost on a writer from Mojo magazine, who plans to include the trip in a feature titled The 10 Greatest Ligs of All Time. That delights the band's publicist, Chris Hewlett, who has been telling us that this is a return to the era when album launches were hyper-expensive, orgiastic affairs that lasted all day and are still remembered. He envisages it taking its place in pop history books alongside fabled junkets such as the one involving a crowd of journalists being ferried to the top of an Alp to hear an album by a 1970s band nobody remembers. Quo's label, Universal TV, are footing the presumably huge bill, but ultimately the cost will be deducted from royalties from the new album, "Heavy Traffic".

Rossi, hearing of the 10 Greatest Ligs story a bit later, snorts: "This is promo, pure and simple." He is open about the fact that Quo have got into the habit of staging novelty events to make the papers. Three years ago they held a competition to play fans' local pubs; they have also played three countries in one day, and four British shows in 18 hours. "It's hard to get airplay and stuff, so. . ." he shrugs. "The more brick walls we come up against, the harder I fight." Easy to believe. He is a hard-bitten, funny character who admits that he's knocking on ("I've tried Viagra. It's just like speed. Come on, when you're 53 you need help") and has the Guardian crossword faxed to him every day on tour, "because I like worms. I mean words".

And he has no intention of updating Quo's three-chord formula, now or ever. "Why? Would you tell BB King to go and be a jazz singer?" Well, what about the dumb-ass sexism of Heavy Traffic's silliest track, The Oriental? ("Her name was Mia, from North Korea . . . the Oriental, very, very special, if you ever get some you want another one. . .") Explain that. He is nonchalant. "You'll have to ask John [Edwards, the bassist] - he wrote it. I like Indian girls myself. I go weak at the knees. Woof."

In another carriage, Rick Parfitt's teenage sons, Harry and Rick Junior, seem on the verge of woofing too. They are sitting across from Jade and Ruth, page three girls who have been brought along by the Daily Star as "colour". Harry, 13, looks as if he can't believe his luck when Jade, a Geri Halliwell-lookalike, absently pats him on the knee.

The crew of the Ark Royal have much the same reaction. Jade and Ruth waggle leggily on to the flight deck, where a stage has been erected at the bow (or possibly stern) end, and sailors' heads swivel. Even Mark, one of the Lieutenant Commanders who have been assigned to guide us through the ship, briefly trails off from his welcoming rap to take them in. Then it's back to business. "We're glad to have the band here; we've put out invitations to 300 people on other ships, though a lot of the younger ones said Status Who?" He is not a fan himself, he confides, but he has been looking forward to the event as a break from the mundanities of onboard life when the ship is in port.

Francis, Rick and Rhino doing what they do best, rockin! - copyright Navy News Online 2002 Status Who hatched the idea of using the Ark Royal months ago, when Parfitt won a night on the ship as a prize in a charity auction. He so enjoyed it that he convinced the band to film the video for the new single, "Jam Side Down", here, as well as launching the album on board. But now they are here, audience and band regard each other with blinking bemusement. "What the frig are we doing here?" inquires Rossi, before piling into the song many Quo fans consider their finest moment, "Caroline".

This end of the deck is the size of your average large auditorium, and filled with officers in white shirts, ratings in blue and groups of guest Marines and army squaddies. The white shirts, who are older and more likely to know the Quo, make their way forward to stand alongside the fans, and soon a mosh pit develops. Air guitars flail and heads bang in time. "Those are senior ratings," Mark says of one violently wobbling party of white shirts. "Oh, and there's a chief warrant officer, too!"

There is something about Status Quo and the armed forces that just works. When Rossi substitutes the word Navy for Army during "You're in the Army Now", there is a hysterical cheer, even from teenage enlistees who would probably rather be on pills in a club. Considering it's 3.30pm and everyone is stone cold sober, it's an impressive show of attitude. But it is poignant, too: these people would be on the front line in the event of war and some are little more than children.

When the gig ends after 45 minutes, the band are taken to the top of the sloping runway at the other end of the deck to pose for photos. A crowd gathers around them as the fans surge over, clicking away. A few yards to the right is another, more enthusiastic crowd, this one consisting of camera-wielding sailors. At its centre, the page three girls hug each other and pose for the boys.

Back on the Orient Express, it is guinea fowl en croute with champagne jelly for afters. I hunt down Kimberlee Tranter in the last carriage to see if she managed to meet Parfitt. No, she says disappointedly. Come on then, I tell her, he's doing interviews in the media carriage. Then we are suddenly squeezing past Parfitt himself, who has finished his interviews and is on the way back to his own carriage, and Kimberlee breathes, "Oh my God, oh my God."

But that's not all. It seems John "Rhino" Edwards is a Guardian fan and wants to give us an interview. Kimberlee nearly faints as he sits at our table and tells us that he is proud of the new album. So when are you going to go hip-hop, I ask. "Hip hop! Hip replacement, more like!" he chortles. Right. So what's that nasty song The Oriental about, then? "I just like songs that make me laugh," he wheezes. Why are you called Rhino? "Don't even ask!"

Status Quo, then. If you can't beat them - and you most certainly can't - join them. Or, on second thoughts, maybe not.

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Exclusive event photographs from Matthew Fearn, Press Association photographer

These photos come from long-time Quo fan Matthew Fearn, who was lucky enough to attend the event as a press photographer with the Press Association. These photos remain the copyright of the Press Association and may not be reproduced in any form without their permission.

Quo posing aside the Orient Express - copyright Press Association Rocking with the Pride of Bilbao cruising on by... - copyright Press Association Quo bid the Ark Royal stage farewell - copyright Press Association Rocking Rick - copyright Press Association Rick smiles under the Union Jack aboard the Ark Royal - copyright Press Association Rossi enjoying himself on stage - copyright Press Association Francis and Rick rocking the Ark - copyright Press Association Francis and Rick rocking the Ark - copyright Press Association

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