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That was the Quo month that was ... February 1996

1st - Quo on "GMTV"

The February 1st GMTV show, presented by Eammon Holmes and Fiona Phillips, saw the first UK studio performance of "Fun Fun Fun" by Quo with The Beach Boys. A short interview between Francis Rossi and Mike Love about the background to "Fun Fun Fun" got things started, and clips from Brixton and the archives littered the show.

The mimed performance of "Fun Fun Fun" was superb, particularly given the early hour! Both bands looked fresh and happy, and worked together well. The performance was followed by a short interview with Fiona Phillips but the best was yet to come in the form of a viewers’ phone-in. Francis and Rick, with Bruce and Carl, answered questions from viewers and the atmosphere was very laid back. Finally, Eammon was presented with a nice guitar trophy from Rick.

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5th - Quo release "Don't Stop" CD and video

The long-awaited "Don’t Stop" album was released in the UK on February 5th, 1996 (on CD and cassette by Polygram TV, catalogue numbers 531 035-2 and 531 035-4 respectively) and was heavily advertised on TV during February. The accompanying video, filmed during the FTMO Brixton gig, has catalogue number 6382183. The album features 15 cover versions, all favourites of the band given that distinctive Quo treatment, and includes some real surprises!

We start with the legendary Beach Boys track "Fun Fun Fun" (penned by Brian Wilson and Mike Love, 4:03), featuring backing vocals and harmony from The Beach Boys themselves (including Brian Wilson). An extra verse has been added (written by Mike Love in 1995) and Gary Barnacle adds an interesting twist with a sax solo. The combination of Quo’s solid rhythm with The Beach Boys’ sweet vocals works surprisingly well, but that true California feeling has somehow been lost in the process. That said, the track went down particularly well at Brixton and the video goes some way to capturing the wonderful reception that The Beach Boys enjoyed. The stage setup was superb for this song and how incredible to see The Beach Boys playing air guitar!

Next up is the previously released single, "When You Walk In The Room" (by Jackie De Shannon, 4:05). The Searchers had a huge hit with this song back in 1964, but Quo only managed a disappointing 34 with their Pam Tillis inspired country version. The song was first heard on Chris Evans’ Radio 1 breakfast show on 10th October, 1995, back in the good old days when Quo still got (some) Radio 1 airplay... The Quo treatment is a little slow and plodding, but Rossi’s vocal is especially clean here and the production leaves the track feeling a bit too ‘nice’. The song is something of a departure for Quo but the unusual (!) harmonising on the extended version leaves something to be desired. The video reveals a Rossi-dominated song, performed respectfully in sombre blue lighting and gaining good audience support (perhaps as a result of the familiarity arising from the single release). A very nice song, possibly lacking a distinctive Quo-ness, but nonetheless enjoyable for that.

The pace is lifted again by The Move’s "I Can Hear The Grass Grow" (by Roy Wood, 3:27), featuring all but Jeff on electric guitars. This song is a ‘4 Bills’ favourite but Quo’s treatment is quite different and the guitar-dominated sound is very appealing (apart from the intro which sounds like the ‘Naked Video’ theme tune!). There are some questionable vocal breaks throughout the song too. The Brixton performance was not so good and this was one of the more obvious mimes - the video helps matters none by using black and white. Quo have definitely ‘done something’ with this song, it’s immediately recognisable with that indescribable Quo hallmark.

Things continue with "You Never Can Tell (It Was A Teenage Wedding)" (originally penned by Chuck Berry, 3:50), made famous in the Nineties by inclusion on the "Pulp Fiction" soundtrack. Rick takes over piano and Andy swaps keys for strings with a guitar session. The song has a traditional, country feel (thanks to prominent accordion work by Geraint Watckins) and Rossi’s vocals are again impressive (as his guitar solo). Less impressive was his mime on the video and this song left the audience quite dead as can be seen. The video also points out why live tracks never fade out! An especially enjoyable track, one of my favourites, and it is good to see Rick’s keyboard skills on something other than "Restless"!

Another highlight follows in the form of The Beatles’ immortal "Get Back" (by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, 3:22). The production here is huge - Rick takes on lead vocal with ‘London Beat’ backing him (George Chandler, Derek Green and Tony Jackson) and there are even Phantom horns from Stu Brooks, John Thirkell and Pete Thoms! Fortunately (and perhaps surprisingly!), it all fits together rather well and there is a classic Quo intro to get things off to the right start. Brixton loved this, as can be seen in the video, and the jamming session between Francis and Rhino is pure 90s Quo. Andy isn’t left out either since the track features some prominent keyboard work. A great cover version, paying tribute to the class of the original from The Beatles.

One of the more bizarre tracks comes next, in the form of "Safety Dance" (penned by Doroschuk, 3:56). ‘Men Without Hats’ had a huge one-off hit with this song in 1982 and Quo have tarted it up with the inclusion of accordion (once again by Geraint Watkins) and female vocals (from Tessa Niles). Tessa’s vocals break up Rossi’s excellent lead vocal and Jeff stands out with a great drum beat throughout. Surprisingly, the video shows how much the Brixton crowd enjoyed this song - even ‘Status Quo’ himself can be seen really going for it! Francis and Rick performed well together, as did Tessa and Rhino - Tessa was certainly well received, adding as much in visual appeal as vocal harmony! - but the fade-out spoils an otherwise successful ‘live’ song. Definitely a non-Quo track made Quo!

The pace is slowed down again by the old Buddy Holly number "Raining In My Heart" (by Bondleaux and Bryant, 3:32), which features ex-Queen lead guitarist Brian May. Rossi gives a particularly emotional and expressive vocal performance, and also excels during his guitar solo - only to be outshone by the talented May with a beautiful solo in his unmistakable style. The Queen fans gave May a fantastic reception and the video also shows plenty of admiration from the Quo contingent. The audience got involved with characteristic slow song arm swaying, a very well received song and another of my personal favourites.

The title track of the album follows, "Don’t Stop" (written by Christine McVie, 3:40). A classic Fleetwood Mac song, Quo’s version is not so different and suits their style well. The curious intro soon disappears and leads immediately to familiarity, this is a well known song and is recognisable easily even in this guise. A sweet guitar solo helps to make for a particularly well rounded effort, one which was clearly enjoyed by the Brixton audience. The band played this song superbly and only the fade-out spoils the fun. A quality original and a quality cover.

Another complete change of style brings us to "Sorrow" (by Feldman, Goldstein and Gottehrer, 4:14). Originally a hit for ‘The Merseys’ in 1966 (and, later, for David Bowie in 1973), the Quo version is played in G and again features Gary Barnacle on saxophone. The intro is something of a departure for Quo in that it uses a drum machine, with Jeff kicking in later, and it sounds just a little too ‘clean’ as a result. Francis’ vocal performance is again noteworthy and the saxophone solo works very well. It is not until the second half of the song, though, that it really gets going - more like an upbeat "Restless"! - and the Brixton crowd seemed a bit unsure of what to do. The sombre blue stage lighting fits the song well and there is some audience arm waving once it gets going, but Rossi’s mime is a bit too obvious here. Not the most immediate or obvious Quo track, but a good effort nevertheless and notable for its neat vocal work in particular.

A good, pacy rocker wakes us up now, in the form of "Proud Mary" (penned by John Fogerty of "Rockin’ All Over The World" fame, 3:30). The good pedigree of Fogerty shows through - indeed, his own band, ‘Creedance Clearwater Revival’, had a hit with this song - and Tina Turner has also had a stab at this song. Quo’s production is completely different - the boys from London Beat re-appear for backing vocals while Stu Brooks, John Thirkell and Pete Thoms provide the Phantom Horns (arranged by Pip Williams) - and Rick takes on lead vocals. Followers of ‘4 Bills And A Ben’ should be very familiar with this song, but everyone at Brixton got into it and Rhino’s requests for clapping were answered particularly strongly. The song has great drive and energy, making it ideal for the Quo treatment, and benefits from excellent guitar work plus a crisp backbeat. Rick’s vocal mirrors this energy and the London Beat harmonies provide some well needed depth to the track. "Proud Mary" is one of my highlights from "Don’t Stop" and, by the reaction at Brixton, that’s not just my opinion!

A track familiar to Quo fans comes next, Little Richard’s "Lucille" (written by Collins and Penniman, 2:58). The Everly Brothers’ version of this song had already been taken as basis for Quo’s "Anniversary Waltz" version, but the approach here is different again. Productionwise, pizzicato strings are used while Jeff exploits two snares, but the song still feels flat and lethargic. There is none of the energy which made Quo’s previous effort so enjoyable and this is reflected in the poor response to the song at Brixton. Another of the video’s curious black and white tracks, the only highlight is the great jamming between John and Jeff. A surprisingly disappointing track in my opinion, one of the poorest efforts on "Don’t Stop".

To change tack, bring on "Johnny and Mary" (by Robert Palmer, 3:35), a classic Robert Palmer song recently featured on Renault TV ads in Europe. Quo’s treatment adds considerable ‘bite’ to his original, though, and the simple production gives an atmospheric air to the song. Although not rapturously received at Brixton, the setup was super including Rick and Rhino sitting on stools hammering out that unmistakable rhythm. Francis puts in another excellent lead vocal performance plus a really sweet guitar solo. An unusual song for Quo, but very successfully executed and another of my personal favourites from the album.

The peace is shattered by "Get Out of Denver" (written by Bob Seger, 4:05), an old Bob Seger song. The guys all take up guitars (apart from Jeff of course!) and Rick takes on the demanding lead vocal with help from Francis. The Phantom Horns are back too, adding an interesting extra dimension. The song suits Rick’s vocal style and he handles the immensely complicated and fast lyrics well; even his mime at Brixton was pretty convincing. This fast rock track went down well and the stage setup was again excellent for this song - a largely unfamiliar track perhaps, but quite a successful one and a welcome opportunity for Rick to shine.

Along with the "Safety Dance", "The Future’s So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades)" (by Pat MacDonald, 3:36) is the most bizarre track on "Don’t Stop". The original was a surprise hit for ‘Timbuk 3’ and Quo have taken their version to new heights with an ingenious interpretation. Andrew plays acoustic rhythm guitar with capo, as well as his more usual work on harmonica. Rick is joined by Tessa Niles on vocals and the whole thing comes together well, from its folky start to the more traditional Quo sound as the song progresses. Despite its previous success, the Brixton crowd were not enthralled by this song but seemed to enjoy Rick and Tessa’s ‘performance’. Evidence (as if any were needed) that Quo can turn their hand to anything!

All too soon we reach the final track on offer here, in the form of "All Around My Hat" (a traditional song, 3:56). In honour of the ‘Steeleye Span’ version, Maddy Prior joins Francis on lead vocals and Troy Donockley provides the beautiful Uillean pipes and whistles. The traditional arrangement results in a good jig, kind of "Burning Bridges" like, and you can almost hear the smiles on the CD! The Brixton crowd thoroughly got into this song and a great jig ensued. Francis and Maddy interacted well and Maddy was particularly spirited, though miming is definitely not her strong point! A nice happy song, well performed and unpretentious - a surprise success for Quo I think.

Far from being the easy option many have suggested, "Don’t Stop" involved much hard work and tough decision making - and it really does show. Of the 15 tracks, only a couple don’t work too well, the rest shine and can become Quo classics in their own right - not a bad result for a "covers" album!

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7th - Quo on "Des O'Connor Tonight"

Quo and The Beach Boys appeared on the Des O’Connor Tonight TV show to perform "Fun Fun Fun". Des interviewed Francis Rossi and Mike Love about the background to the song and then followed a performance of the song with some live vocals. The stage set was excellent and good camera work also helped make the performance very impressive. A shortened version of "Fun Fun Fun" helped Des close the show and the audience participation was unusually good - even Des joined in with Quo, playing air guitar!

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17th - '4 Bills And A Ben' at Bury St Edmunds

The annual gathering of the clans in Bury St Edmunds (at the Lucky Break Snooker and Leisure Club, Toyfen Road) provides that rare combination of great music with a free bar all night - and both parts of the combo were enjoyed to the full by the sell-out audience assembled for ‘4 Bills And A Ben’, supported by ‘The Clangers’. Doors opened at 7.30pm with a sensible hour to spare before the first performance of the evening to enjoy the free bar!

Local band ‘The Clangers’ produced a very well-appreciated hour-long set of guitar-based rock. Fronted by three guitars plus drums, the band made the most of the Quo support by playing a selection of rock covers with the emphasis on heavy guitar work. Things kicked off with Lenny Kravitz’s "Are You Gonna Go My Way?", then straight into Stiltskin’s wonderful "Inside". More ambitious numbers, like "Hey Joe" and "Purple Haze" by Jimmy Hendrix, were done very well and the band were really playing to their strengths on these tracks. Also included were tracks from the ‘Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ and ‘Thin Lizzy’. "Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door" was played a la ‘Guns and Roses’, while the stunning "Word Up" was given ‘Gun’s treatment rather than the original ‘Cameo’ style. The highlight of ‘The Clangers’ set was saved for the very end with a great cover of Quo’s "Roll Over Lay Down" - a brave choice considering their partisan audience, but played superbly in no small part due to the excellent work of the huge Quo fan rhythm guitarist. ‘The Clangers’ played a very good support set and the band are particularly adept with guitar-based classic rock numbers, the only criticism being a rather uninspiring lead vocal performance.

Another break left ample time for further bar exploration and buffet scavenging, well needed sustenance for the 90 minutes of ‘4 Bills And A Ben’ which lay ahead. The fluid line-up of the 4 Bills can always surprise and this time around the familiar Johnny Warman, Jeff Rich, John ‘Rhino’ Edwards and Andy Hamilton were joined by Tina Turner guitarist Laurie Wisefield and Paul Hirsch on keyboards. Their set, however, remains fairly constant but continues to excite. The spirited audience were treated to one of the 4 Bills more lively performances and lead singer Johnny Warman was certainly feeling the heat as the set progressed. In light of Quo’s "Don’t Stop" album, the 4 Bills versions of "I Can Hear The Grass Grow" and "Proud Mary" took on new guises.

Lead guitar work was especially notable, and Jeff Rich seemed in great spirits and gave a very energetic performance. The whole band, as usual, wore wide smiles for most of the set and the atmosphere in the packed hall was superb. Johnny Warman inspires good audience participation and he seems to have an excellent rapport with Rhino, all helping to make the 4 Bills a particularly professional and tight outfit.

The traditional "Gotta Get Out Of This Place" finale fell on deaf ears, no-one wanted to leave! The chance to meet the band after the show is another definite plus point and a feature which more and more people are taking advantage of. An excellent evening’s entertainment, very good value and the 4 Bills experience should not be missed by any Quo fan.

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19th - Quo release "Fun Fun Fun"

The second single to be lifted from the ‘Don’t Stop’ album, "Fun Fun Fun", was released on February 19th on three different formats, 7" picture disc, cassette single and CD single (with catalogue numbers on Polygram TV of 576262-7, 576262-4 and 576263-2 respectively). The 7" picture disc was a limited edition and features the same picture as graces the cassette and CD single covers. The tracks on offer are "Fun Fun Fun" (short version) and a new Quo number "Mortified", with the CD ‘maxi’ single also getting an extended fade version of "Fun Fun Fun".

The two versions of "Fun Fun Fun" hold no surprises - the short version, at 3:05, cuts the album version down a minute or so, while the extended fade version, at 4:04, mirrors the album version. The bonus track is "Mortified" (Bown / Rossi / Parfitt / Edwards / Rich) (3:19) and is a poor effort all round. Things start promisingly enough with a nice acoustic riff, but soon degenerate with the lines "Got to keep your nose clean, Got to keep your underwear dry". The Rossi lead vocal is OK but there doesn’t seem to be much interest in the song, and the guitar break mid-song is simply dire. The only redeeming feature is a good rhythm, but a good Quo song needs more than that.

A poor bonus track and a simply chopped down version of "Fun Fun Fun" again make for a poor single release valuewise. For the record, the single entered the chart at 24, then slipped to 44 and again to 64. A slight revival to the 50s before slipping out of the Top 75.

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21st - Francis Rossi interview on 'Eagle FM'

Francis Rossi appeared on Peter Gordon’s breakfast show on ‘96.4 The Eagle’ (Surrey and North-East Hampshire FM station) to give a telephone interview. The focus of the interview was, unsurprisingly, the ‘Don’t Stop’ album and Francis talked at some length about the story behind Quo’s collaboration with ‘The Beach Boys’ on "Fun Fun Fun". He also talked about the two obscure tracks, "Safety Dance" and "The Future’s So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades)".

The interview continued with Francis outlining the plans for the remainder of the ‘Don’t Stop’ tour (Scandanavia, Germany, Summer festivals, Christmas tour) and indicating some promo work in Japan, Australia and the US (where he said there was "considerable interest").

Click here for a full transcription of the interview.

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29th - Quo issue writ against Radio 1

Quo delivered a writ to BBC Radio 1 on 29/2/96, claiming a breach of contract and looking for £250,000 in damages. The writ followed three years during which Quo records had entered the Top 40 but had not been included in Radio 1’s playlist, culminating in the single "Fun Fun Fun" entering at number 24. Quo claim that BBC executives, in particular Matthew Bannister (Controller) and Trevor Dann (head of productions), deliberately ignored their records because the band are considered too old and unfashionable. Quo’s manager, David Walker, pointed out that older stars such as David Bowie and Sting still receive regular Radio 1 playlisting.

In their defence, Radio 1 have said that they do not stick to the Top 40 for their playlist and a number of Top 40 records recently have not been playlisted - these include records by Mr Blobby, Michael Barrymore, Michael Ball and Cliff Richard. They also pointed out that Quo regularly receive Radio 2 playlisting and that ‘Don’t Stop’ had been Radio 2’s album of the week!

The writ received considerable media coverage, particularly in the London area. The 29/2/96 teatime edition of London Tonight (ITV) had an extended feature and this was summarised in their later programme. The following morning saw both GMTV (ITV) and The Big Breakfast (Channel 4) running the story too. Newspaper coverage was also widespread on 1/3/96. The Sun and Daily Star both ran small pieces on the story, while the Daily Express and Daily Mail both had better coverage with a third of a page each including pictures. Perhaps surprisingly, the best coverage was in The Times with a half-page spread and good colour photo of the band on page three! - also pointers to the story on both the front and back pages.

Page 623 of Channel 4’s teletext service also ran the story (briefly) on 29/2/96, as follows:

"Status Quo are suing Radio 1 over what they claim is a deliberate ban which keeps them off the station’s playlist. · Quo have issued a writ for breach of contract and hope to win £250,000 in damages · Leaders Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi say Radio 1 refuse to play Quo records because they are too old and executives don’t like their music · And Radio 1’s response? "Records are chosen on merit for the 1FM playlist." "

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