The following story, entitled "Down Down by Status Quo (A Black Saturday story)" and written by Stephen Andrew, appeared in Stereo Stories on 6th February.
"Three weeks after the Black Saturday bushfires I’m spinning in the post-blaze smoke haze. One minute I’m leaping to life with blasts of inner adrenalin, then moments later, I’m fatigued, flat as a run over snake. I lurch from mood to mood, buffeted and blown around by the blackened environment that used to be so green.
Today, or at least for this moment, I’m up – pumped and on a mission. Purpose! In a world that has been forever altered by something as arbitrary as a bushfire, finding purpose and its associated flow is like sipping some sort of deeply spiritual nectar. Purpose! For mind, body, and soul. Purpose! It lands. I grab it. I’m off. Running. Pumped.
I have an errand to run, so I grab my car keys, a copy of Status Quo’s album On The Level and roar off down (down) the road.
This is a disc of much maligned British guitar boogie from the mid-1970s that I have treasured since I was a teenager. The critics hate these guys, and I’ve never really understood why. To my ears, Quo have always made the kind of music that sounds simple but is seemingly impossible to emulate. There is enormous mystery in this. How do they do it? A small handful of chords, a limited palette of sonic paint, lyrics a million miles away from a Shakespeare sonnet, and a simple guitar boogie attitude combine again, again, again, again to create minor miracles of tight, muscular music. It’s a unique kind of ragged minimalism.
My scratched and tattered vinyl copy of On The Level has made way for the digital age. Now I have it on CD. And now I can play it in my car, surely the quintessential Quo stage. This is driving music in both senses of the word.
Windows open, I wind up the volume and feel an intensity in the band’s playing that suddenly seems new to me. This opening of my senses is one of the unexpected gifts of the fires. Everything that I am hearing – all the riffs, powerchords, solos and lyrics – were subservient to the pounding, limping, thump, d’thump, d’thump rhythm the Quo are famous for. (This is a group that once released an album called Piledriver). The car shudders and rumbles with the sound of a four man, four cylinder, four-on-the-floor engine room.
The old side two opener, Down Down, is the highpoint and pivot of an album full of impossibly rich songs. The mystery I mentioned before is here too, but it’s even deeper (and down). The lyrics to this song are at once impassioned, meaningless, indecipherable, pointed and pointless. Google them and see. Metaphorical and metaphysical (Tao, tao, deeper than tao?!), these simple couplets are carried by those classic Rossi/Parfit close harmonies. These lyrics sit on the steel riveted chassis of John Coghlan’s thick-sticked beat and Alan Lancaster’s brutal and bulbous bass. This list of parts, however, fails to convey the transformative magic that emerges when all these elements are combined.
There’s no bridge. Just verse ’n’ chorus. There’s no solo. Where you’d expect one, the band just wig out and wring out the last drops of juice from the rhythm track. Listen to them play out the last minute and a half of the song and you’ll find it impossible to imagine any other vision than a tight line of three men, legs wide, backs bent, guitars fixed at 45 degrees, heads a-rocking like a kind of giant, turbulent, mopped, sea anemone. Hair guitar. Synchronised swinging.
As I sped along the blackened backstreets of St Andrews, this band created all and everything art could and should be. At that moment there was nothing more to be longed for or acquired. The sound was total. Utterly present. I was imbued with the music. It was I. And after all the loss, lability and disintegration that I had experienced in the preceding three weeks, this unity felt blessed.
© Stephen Andrew. A former writer for Juke, Rhythms and Rolling Stone Australia, Stephen has written Stereo Stories about Frank Zappa, The Oscar Peterson Trio, Bon Jovi, Slim Dusty and more. His story about Passover by Joy Division is also about Black Saturday. He and Peter Maskell are the music directors of Stereo Stories Live."Revisit the February 2015 event list
In a slightly surprising move, Quo announced an additional date for their "Aquostic" live tour in April 2015. The extra date will be at the Royal Albert Hall, giving the tour a very prestigious ending. The official fan club, FTMO, broke the news to its members first (to enable them to score tickets in an FTMO members only pre-sale) and the news hit the press soon after. As an example, the following article appeared on the MetalTalk.net site on 10th February.
"Live Nation is proud to announce that due to huge public demand, Britain's best-loved rockers Status Quo have added an extra show at the Royal Albert Hall to their truly special 'Aquostic Live 2015' UK tour in April 2015.
Tickets for this prestigious show are on-sale from 9.00am on Friday 13th February from www.livenation.co.uk.
Tickets are flying out of the door for this tour which sees Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt, Andrew Bown, John 'Rhino' Edwards and Leon Cave building on the incredible success enjoyed by the 'Aquostic (Stripped Bare)' album itself which was a Top 5 hit, giving the band their highest chart placing for 18 years.
This is the show that wowed the listeners of BBC Radio 2, plus those lucky enough to be in the intimate surroundings of Roundhouse in October - and indeed the 8,000 fans who saw the show at the Schleyerhalle arena in Stuttgart. The band will release that first ever performance in London as 'Aquostic! Live At The Roundhouse' on 13th April 2015 on 2CD, Vinyl, DVD and Blu-ray formats.
Also, BBC4 will broadcast a one-hour special based on that Roundhouse show. 'Status Quo Live & Acoustic' airs on February 20th at 10.00pm.
After 50 years at the top of their game as one of the world's premiere hard rock acts, Quo have leapt out of their comfort zone, this tour will be fully acoustic and will feature female backing vocalists, additional musicians and even a string section; a totally new Quo live experience!
The Times said: "It's time to... reclaim them as one of Britain's great bands." The Sun said simply that the album, "Helps confirm their national treasure status."
Support on all dates will come from Terry & Gerry, the Birmingham-based cult skiffle cow-punk band. They have reformed in honour of their biggest fan, the late John Peel, to perform on both this tour and some headline dates of their own.
Featuring a full set of Quo classics that are immediately recognisable, and yet demonstrably re-engineered, 'Aquostic Live 2015' is proving to be a seriously hot ticket; these dates are not to be missed."Revisit the February 2015 event list
The following article about Leon Cave - titled "Status Quo drummer returns to college" - appeared in Cheshire Today on 13th February.
"A former Priestley student – who is now in one of the UK’s most famous rock bands – returned to college this week to inspire the next generation of musicians.
Leon Cave, 36, is used to holding the attention of thousands as Status Quo’s drummer but on Tuesday it was a smaller audience of Music students who listened to his every word during a series of workshops.
"It’s strange being back here after 18 years, a lot has changed at Priestley," said Leon.
"I just hope my being here can inspire some of the college’s talented musicians to greater things just by knowing that, not long ago, I was in their shoes."
Leon recently completed a gruelling 23-gig, six-week tour with Status Quo and performs on their latest album, Aquostic, which is their best-selling record for more than 25 years.
During a day in Priestley’s music studios and classrooms he shared his technical knowledge and performance tips with those hoping to pursue a career in the industry.
His message to all young musicians is to believe in yourself as he recently achieved a lifelong ambition to join one of the world’s greatest rock bands and will soon tick off another when he performs with Status Quo at the Royal Albert Hall.
"All I’ve ever wanted to do was become a musician," he said. "It’s never been about fame and fortune, it has always been about the music and playing to large audiences."Revisit the February 2015 event list
Quo played a private show (for a 70th birthday) to an audience of just 240 at the prestigious Aynhoe Park, near Banbury in Oxfordshire on 22nd February. The photographers hired to cover the event, Barker Evans, have included extensive coverage of the birthday party and gig on their website with lots of great photos of the band in action and also post-gig - read their full coverage here.Revisit the February 2015 event list
Rhino gave an engaging fifteen-minute interview with Gary Jackson on 27th February. He talked about Rhino's Revenge 2, life with Quo and many other aspects of his musical history. The interview can be heard here.Revisit the February 2015 event list