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That was the Quo month that was ... March 2014



18th - Quo concert at O2 Arena, Berlin, Germany

The "final" Frantic Four tour kicked off in Berlin on 18th March, with a gig at the massive O2 Arena. Only half of the vast arena had been offered for sale and that half was not fully sold, so the atmosphere was not what it might have been to welcome the Frantic Four back to Germany. However, the band played well together and made some slight changes from the 2013 tour - a slightly longer "4500 Times" segued into a teasing couple of minutes of "Gotta Go Home" (complete with some excellent three-part harmonies!) and the encore opened with "Caroline" (at the expense of crowd favourite "Don't Waste My Time"). The full setlist follows.


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19th - Quo article in The Express (UK)

The following article appeared in the UK's Express newspaper on 19th March, entitled "Status Quo have to keep rocking to pay the bills" and penned by Adrian Lee.

"AS THE group's original line-up prepares for a new tour, our writer discovers how being in the band has played havoc with their love lives and bank balances.

These days Rick Parfitt unwinds by splashing in the pool or enjoying a glass of wine on the terrace of his home near Marbella.

His old pal Francis Rossi also swims regularly and has a personal trainer to help keep him in shape.

Can this really be the pair who once boasted of blowing hundreds of thousands of pounds on cocaine and vodka binges during their hell-raising times on the road with Status Quo?

As Parfitt and Rossi prepare for a new tour with the band's original line-up after patching up their differences with drummer John Coghlan and bassist Alan Lancaster both admit they've mellowed.

Yet despite rocking for more than 40 years neither has any intention of hanging up his leather jacket.

"It's beautiful sitting with my feet up round the pool but I still get a glint in my eye when I jump on a plane to join up with the band," says 65-year-old Parfitt, taking a break from rehearsals earlier this week at Shepperton Studios. "It would be weird to just stop because I would have nothing to do.

"Why do you think all these bands like the Stones and Deep Purple stay on the road? We're having fun and I love being up there on stage. Once the lights go down and the crowds roar, something magical happens. All your aches and pains go."

Parfitt, who had heart bypass surgery in 1997 and a heart attack two years ago, once confessed that he drank three bottles of vodka a day in the 1980s.

Married for a decade to third wife Lyndsay and the father of six-yearold twins, he adds: "We were all nutcases but we've calmed down a lot now. The hangovers got too bad. I haven't smoked a joint for 27 years and I haven't done any cocaine for 10 years. I just do normal stuff - the kids keep me busy and I go shopping with the missus."

Parfitt bumped into Lyndsay in a gym, invited her for a coffee and credits her with turning his life around, adding: "She's taken me away from the rock and roll lifestyle. I'm not sure I'd be alive if lifestyle. I'm not sure I'd be alive if I hadn't met her."

Sadly there's a trail of broken marriages through the band, including Parfitt's first to German Marietta Boeker. The divorce cost him more than £1million.

"It is a regret but I got married too early, when I was 23," he explains. "The band was just starting to get big and the drugs were creeping in. My wife just couldn't put up with me and I don't blame her. I was coming home at four or five in the morning out of my tree."

It's a theme taken up by twice-married Rossi, who has eight children. He first tied the knot in 1967 having met his wife Jean at Butlin's but Quo's breakthrough a few years later with the album Piledriver, which has just been re-released, changed everything.

Rossi, 64, who comes from a family of ice-cream makers and lives with second wife Eileen in a mansion in Purley, Surrey, admits: "I went off to follow my dream. I didn't ask my wife if it was her dream."

He once claimed to have spent £1.7million on cocaine during the 1980s, adding: "Alcohol and peer pressure led me to cocaine. I have an addictive nature and I was doing it all the time for seven or eight years. I didn't like it in the end."

Remarkably, considering Quo has sold 130 million records, Rossi insists he still needs the cash. He says: "I'm at that stage when I notice that everything is costing more, like £5 for a burger. We've all spent a lot of money over the years. We didn't do cheap tours.

"I have a very nice life but don't know how long I'm going to live. I don't want to retire and have to watch every penny. That's not the rock 'n' roll dream I was sold.

"Of course we should have saved more but some of the money was ripped off, I did quite a lot on cocaine and alcohol, some of it went on marriages and children are expensive."

He is grateful Quo has had a much longer shelf life than most bands. Rossi says: "We've been extremely lucky but we've also worked hard because you don't want it all to end. We thought we'd get to 25 or 30 years old and it would all be over."

Despite a string of hits, including Rockin' All Over the World, Paper Plane and Down Down, their only UK Number 1, the band has never been fashionable. Their music, described as Boogie Rock, is often derided by critics for being basic.

But Rossi says: "I'm at the age now where I don't at the age now where I don't care what people think. If they weren't being sniffy about us they'd be having a go at someone else. I'm not bothered how we're remembered. We're just a pop band."

Apart from the drugs and booze the band has also been riven by bust-ups down the years. Coghlan walked out in 1981. Lancaster's departure in 1987 followed costly legal wrangles and, according to Rossi, a punch-up with Parfitt on an aircraft.

Recently they managed to bury the hatchet and decided to re-form last year. The forthcoming tour will be the last featuring the four original band members, under the banner of the Frantic Four. Rossi and Parfitt will then resume performing with the latest Status Quo line-up.

Lancaster, 65, who lives in Australia with his second wife, was at one time feared to have MS but was diagnosed with a stress-related illness. He says: "I felt emotional getting back with the band. Being on stage with Francis, Rick and John again is my healing.

"Leaving the band was like losing somebody and I think I was actually grieving. We went through a lot together. Now it seems no different from the old days - we're even cracking the same jokes. They are all like brothers to me."

Of the hard-living times Lancaster, who lists opening Live Aid in 1985 as a career highlight, adds: "Drug-taking was endemic."

Coghlan, 67, who admits he came close to a nervous breakdown before he "threw a wobbly" and stormed out of the band while in the recording studio, says he had no hesitation in returning after so many years.

He adds: "If I'm honest there were two attractions: to play with the boys and get paid. I didn't want to turn down the opportunity and look back and regret it. It does amaze me that thousands of people still want to see us. We wouldn't be doing this if the fans didn't want it and the chemistry is still there."

The originals have a combined age of more than 250 and Coghlan is delighted to see fans from three generations of the same family in the audience. Asked to put his finger on the Quo formula for success he says: "We play great rock 'n' roll songs and going to see Quo is like being at a huge party."

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19th - Quo article in The Quietus (UK)

The following article about the reissue of "Piledriver" appeared in The Quietus on 19th March, titled "The Frantic Four: Status Quo Remember Piledriver" and written by Val Siebert.

"Val Siebert talks to all of the classic line up of Status Quo about the 1972 album that set them on the road to long lasting fame.

“It’s the marker, isn’t it? It’s the ‘BANG! Yes! You found it.' Like now we know where we are and we can go on,” says Alan Lancaster. “On Piledriver, we nailed it. We really found ourselves, we found our sound.”

It might be odd to think it now, but there was once a time that Status Quo was one of the most drastically evolving acts around. After initially gaining fame with the psychedelic pop nugget ‘Pictures Of Matchstick Men’, Quo would find themselves bouncing around on Top Of The Pops in flowing shirts and bold patterns to match their seemingly complicated music. The band struggled to figure out who they really wanted to be and found increasing frustration with the corner they’d painted themselves into. Labels, managers, producers and stylists defined their existence and tried at every turn to corral them into the ‘pop band’ image.

Despite the pressure, by 1972 Status Quo had gone through a massive change in music and style, so much so that their record label Pye was happy to see the back of them. The frilly shirts, bouffant hairstyles and cryptic album titles of the psychedelic 60s variety had given way to long hair, denim and hard rock. The change was a drastic, but natural one as the line-up of Francis Rossi (guitar and vocals), Rick Parfitt (guitar and vocals), John Coghlan (drums) and Alan Lancaster (bass and vocals) moved remarkably in sync from one era to the next. The two albums that preceded Piledriver, Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon and Dog Of Two Head, showed the glimmers of the band’s now-famous style, but Piledriver would be the first time that Status Quo boogied and shuffled their way into a trademark. Based heavily on the fashion of a single Doors tune, Quo found their rhythm, and the result was their biggest success to date. While not feeling inclined to take on the respective indulgences of the glam and prog movements gaining ground around them, Status Quo began to cement their position as denim-clad boogie rockers.

Piledriver is currently seeing a reissue in honour of the band’s upcoming shows, which are to be the last to feature the album’s line-up, known as the Frantic Four. When they first got back together for gigs last year they were welcomed with sold out shows and grown men weeping with happiness, such is the lasting effect of the band’s 70s period.

“There is something special about Coghlan, Lancaster, Parfitt and Rossi,” says Rick Parfitt. “I can’t put my finger on it. It’s frayed around the edges, it’s not perfect, and nobody quite knows where the endings are. Piledriver just had something very special about it. It’s a great album cover and it’s a great album.”

Before their last London shows at the end of the month, the band took a look back on the album that marked the birth of the Quo as many fans would like to remember them.

Francis Rossi: If you go back to ’65, we had more of a rocky thing going than ‘Matchstick Men’ at the time. I was trying to write a song that was like Jimi Hendrix’s 'Hey Joe' and came out with ‘Matchstick Men’ so we went to record it. This record became a huge hit. After the initial success, the band were no longer successful and we decided we didn’t want to wear that kind of clothing anymore and we wanted to go back to something similar to what we’d done before the success. And we became known for it.

Alan Lancaster: At Pye Records we were in our evolutionary days, if you like. We sort of graduated while we were on Pye and our producer at the time John Schroeder (a very good producer) realised it was going in a different direction, the bluesier boogie direction. He let us have a bit of free reign, and that’s when we made Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon, which was the start of the change, then we did Dog Of Two Head.

FR: We’d come to a point with Pye Records where we were kind of manufactured somewhat. We were taken out and told what to wear, what to play, how to do. We had a crossover with managers and we were doing something similar to what we’re doing now, but Pye really didn’t see it.

AL: We realised we had to get out of it because they would always see us as the glammy pop band that we were being marketed as at the time. But it was such a natural change we probably would have made Piledriver as it is either way. But Vertigo came and they gave us a free hand to go into the studio and self-produce.

FR: Management called in the guy who ran Vertigo records. For some reason Vertigo was seen to be a very cool label. It’s a good thing I didn’t know that back then or I would have said, “No, don’t do that.”

Rick Parfitt: Changing the label was a step up I guess. Vertigo was a bit more trendy and a bit more hip. The promotion was much better, it was a bigger record company, more up to date and I think the timing was great. It elevated the band to where it wanted to go.

FR: We were listening to a lot of Chicken Shack at the time, which were Stan Webb on guitar and Christine McVie – though she was Christine Perfect at the time – of early Fleetwood Mac, Taste, coupled with all the Little Richard and some of that 50s stuff we drifted through. We would sit by the side of the stage and Chicken Shack would start, “2... 3... 4... dunk du dunk du dunk du dunk” and an hour and a half later they’re still doing it. And we’re thinking, “This is fucking great! Why aren’t we doing this?”

RP: On our first European tour, Francis and I went out to a club. The Doors’ ‘Roadhouse Blues’ came over the sound system. There was this couple dancing really kind of slinkily to this dunk-du-dunk-du-dunk-du-dunk kind of rhythm and I just looked at him and he looked at me and the hairs stood up on our arms. We thought, well, we’ve got to play that! That was really the start of the Quo style of music, the 12-bar blues shuffle rhythm.

John Coghlan: I remember we were in Germany in a club and this ‘Roadhouse Blues’ came on and the audience loved it, they were leaping about, having a good time, so we put it in our set and it paid off.

RP: We had just started touring and immediately we started to rehearse this ‘Roadhouse Blues’ track and it became very popular. Alan Lancaster sang it and he sang it really, really well. And we just did a completely different version of it than the Doors, much heavier and in the Quo style that we were just beginning to find. So we started playing that and then we started writing stuff like ‘Don’t Waste My Time’ and all kinds of things that had that sort of shuffle rhythm. It just became the trademark and people just loved it.

JC: I’ve always played a lot of stuff with what they call four-on-the-floor, four beats to the bar on the bass drum. Played hard and loud, that’s what makes the people leap up and down and do that Quo dance, shuffle. A lot of drummers don’t play four-on-the-floor, they do two to the bar, it doesn’t work, you have to play four to the bar, for the shuffle, which I’m pleased to say I’m good at.

RP: I like to imagine other bands going, “Look, I’ve come up with this song that goes dunk-du-dunk-du-dunk-du-dunk” and the other members going, “Well, we can’t do that because we’ll sound like Status Quo!”

AL: Piledriver was one of our natural albums. Our first big hit. We were playing that stuff on stage in concert and usually when you’re recording you’re making an album and you haven’t played the stuff before and you’re getting it all together and writing and then the album is made and then you realize when you’re playing them live that the recording was a lot better. But with Piledriver we were playing that stuff live and when we went into the studio we were ready to go! So that’s what I mean by natural, we didn’t have to work on the songs or write too much in the studio.

JC: I think we knew what we wanted. We didn’t want to be told by a producer how it should be. We didn’t want to spend all our time trying to explain how we want to go in one direction and have him trying to pull us in another way. He would want it to be really commercial and we wanted it to be more heavy.

FR: We used to sit in a circle at the IBC Studios in Portland Place, London. We’d be making the album, there’s the smell of kebabs and we’d be smoking joints.

JC: I’ve never smoked cigarettes in my life because I hated the idea of it, but I remember having a joint because in those days as far as I was concerned it was pretty mild and it was pretty harmless. It was part of that scene. But I had to be careful because if I smoked too much I couldn’t play!

AL: We very much played as a band, we didn’t do much of that one at a time stuff that bands do today. All of that stuff on Vertigo was played live. None of it was played individually like playing in the studio on your own – except for the vocals, we always did the vocals separate.

FR: All of a sudden the engineer would come in and say, “You’re going to have to stop”, because the Chinese embassy next door was sending morse code messages and they were coming through our amplifiers! It was hilarious at the time. Someone’s sending a message to China, do-do-do-doo-do-doo-do-do, all you’d have to do is sit down and work it out!

AL: It was a lovely big room with high ceilings and it had a fireplace in it. It was a massive so you could all play in it together and the sound wouldn’t smash your ears when you played hard. We’d play in the soundroom together and we used to call it the ‘magic circle’, all facing one another with John behind us and the lovely high ceilings would just pass it out and we would play and play and play, and in a few takes we’d have it down.

RP: I think Piledriver holds up because it was of its time and there is some beautiful songs on there. There are some classics like ‘Big Fat Mama’ and ‘Paper Plane’ and the now very famous ‘Roadhouse Blues’ which was actually responsible for kicking off everything that we do.

JC: ‘A Year’, ‘All The Reasons’, ‘Big Fat Mama’, they’re great songs and those three guys are great songwriters, as is [Quo roadie and collaborator] Bob Young.

AL: I wrote ‘A Year’ with Bernie Frost, a guy that John had introduced us to. He had this one line, he played it for me once at my house, “da-da-daa-da-da-du-da da-da-la,” he says, “that’s all I’ve got”. I took it from there. It’s got a certain vibe, we thought about playing it live, but it’s quite a down sort of song. When you’re young the things you think about are sex or death, and I guess sexual death is what that song is about! Losing someone you love. ‘A Year’ was one of those one-offs, I was just trying to make a nice dramatic song.

RP: One of the tracks that I really love on there that was really unusual for us was ‘Unspoken Words’, it’s such a lovely song. I don’t think we’ll be doing it live, but we’ll be doing things like ‘Big Fat Mama’ and ‘Paper Plane’. You know what? I love every track on that album! I think ‘All The Reasons’, it’s just such a beautiful song. I wrote that about my wife at the time.

JC: I love ‘O Baby’ it’s like early blues to me! We’ve been playing that one for the Frantic Four shows and it goes down great.

RP: I came up with the title of Piledriver because it was so heavy and I thought Piledriver was quite applicable to Quo at that time. It’s one of my favourite albums. I love all the albums from that time. We lost our way for a bit after that, in the mid-80s and 90s we lost our way, we got into drugs and everybody’s head started going off in different directions whereas before we were like one. Once the drugs crept in, everything started to go mad. It all kind of fell apart and of course the animosity crept in and Alan went to live in Australia and John disappeared somewhere. But for us to get back together for these reunion shows, and be friends all these years later, it’s been brilliant. People who had their Quo jacket hanging up in their wardrobe for the last 30 years are going, “Is this really true?” The reaction was amazing.

FR: It’s a learning curve for me because I hear ‘nostalgia’ and I think, “Puh! Bad word." But it’s not! We all have nostalgic feelings about all sorts of things. I could see these people at the shows and they were crying.

JC: When someone told me that, that there were grown men crying, I said, “Christ! We weren’t that bad were we?”

FR: It’s not necessarily my decision to end it now, but it can’t go on without me, and I’m not going! [laughs] I think it’s fine to have it one more time and then that’s it.

RP: Getting the band back together was a platinum moment, it was shiny and wonderful. This time with the line-up it will be gold, and I do not want it to go down to silver and then to bronze. I don’t want that to happen. I want to go out on a great high. So this is definitely the last time we’ll do it… definitely… maybe [laughs]. Maybe definitely."

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24th - Release of "Piledriver" deluxe edition

A deluxe collectors' edition of "Piledriver" was released in the UK on 24th March. The double CD package included the usual "Piledriver" as disc 1, along with 15 tracks of bonus material on disc 2 (including live recordings taken from Quo's 1972 and 1973 73 John Peel Sessions & the BBC "In Concert" performance at London's Paris Theatre in 1973). The booklet featured extensive liner notes by rock writer Dave Ling and a host of rare artist photos provided by Bob Young.

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25th - Quo concert at Lotto Arena, Antwerp, Belgium

The Frantic Four rolled out of Holland and into Belgium for one night in Antwerp on 25th March. Supported by local band Honky Tongue, a crowd of about 5000 witnessed what was widely regarded as the best show of the tour to date. Some amazing fan photos of this gig can be found here.

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29th - Quo concert at Hammersmith Apollo, London

The second of three nights at Hammersmith Apollo saw the Frantic Four play to a sold-out enthusiastic crowd who almost lifted the roof off this hallowed venue! The setlist remained unchanged and Rick Parfitt Jnr and Leon Cave were part of the amazing crowd. The following review of the show, titled "Status Quo: Britain's most underrated rock band" and written by Michael Hann, appeared in The Guardian newspaper

"I went back in time on Saturday, to 30 years ago, which was the last time I saw Status Quo play live. I was a kid, and went to Milton Keynes Bowl on 21 July 1984 to see what was billed as the last ever Quo show. It turned out it wasn't; they were back together for Live Aid within a year, and recommenced a career that continues to this day. I always felt cheated by that; I wouldn't have gone had it not been the last ever show.

But on Saturday night – as part of my continuing to campaign for force Guardian music writer, pop historian, and Saint Etienne band member Bob Stanley to embrace heavy rock – I was down at Eventim Apollo (or the Hammersmith Odeon, as pretty much everyone there would have known it) for the return of the Frantic Four, the original Quo line-up. Or, rather, the second return of the Frantic Four, since they first reunited this time last year for the first time since 1981. Never let it be said Quo don't have a pretty good eye for an opportunity, because this line-up is alternating with the actual current line-up, the Frantic Four playing the deep cuts, the current line-up doing the end-of-the-pier hits set.

Recent years have seen some extravagant claims made for Quo. A big Mojo feature posited their single-mindedness as a precursor to punk, and Bob suggested to me they had plenty in common with Krautrock, in their own peculiar way – making Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt the Norwood Neu! – and that the guitar pattern that introduces Caroline has rather more in common with the systems music of Steve Reich than with, say, Foghat.

I can't go that far. And I doubt Quo would be likely to make those claims for themselves. But, equally, to paint them as the world's most limited band is to do them a grave disservice. They are used a byword for predictability: I saw a review earlier of the Cure that took this usage, saying they had "turned into a formulaic, Goth rock Status Quo". And that's simply unfair, probably on the Cure and certainly on the Quo.

For a start, it isn't all heads-down no-nonsense mindless boogie. Alan Lancaster's Is There a Better Way is a song that provides some justification for the proto-punk argument; the guitar intros to Oh Baby and Blue Eyed Lady venture into near baroque territory; and Rossi, as everyone who's seen him live knows, is a genuinely excellent blues guitarist, while Parfitt's frantic downstrokes on rhythm were the blurry twin of Johnny Ramone.

But I can't deny it. Quo are at their most thrilling – and thrilling is the right word – when they bring on the boogie. Rain was astoundingly heavy, Down Down as fabulous as ever (and as lyrically puzzling: "I want all the world to see/ To see you're laughing and you're laughing at me." Why? Who would want that?). Small wonder the Apollo/Odeon was as packed as I've ever seen it, with an audience as fiercely partisan as I've ever encountered. This was the first time I've ever entered that auditorium and been physically unable to make more than a couple of steps into the crowd.

So why are Quo so dramatically underrated by those outside their fanbase? It can't just be that people think they do one thing and one thing only – look at AC/DC, whose range is equally limited, but who are now regarded by anyone with half a brain as a treasure. I think it's more to do with their lack of any hint of rock star mystique. Now, you might say AC/DC lack that, too, but they do it by being more or less invisible when they're not touring, and by doing so few interviews. By staying silent, they make themselves more interesting than they actually are. Quo, by contrast, have no problems putting themselves out there – Rossi and Parfitt have told their war stories a thousand times – to the extent that they even starred in their own crime comedy last year, Bula Quo! There's no hint of mystique about them: Rossi and Parfitt are evidently a pair of genial south London fellas who do exactly what they want, which makes them appear a bit naff (though it surely contributes to the fierce loyalty they attract from their fans). Pair that with records like the execrable Margarita Time and it's not hard to argue that if a big part of rock'n'roll's appeal is about creating an image of excitement, then Quo fail dismally. On Saturday morning, I was telling a friend I was off to see Quo that night. "For pleasure?" he asked. Yes. He looked aghast. And I got that reaction time and time again from different people.

That's probably the way I'd feel – possibly wrongly – about the official, current Quo line-up, which groups the hit singles into medleys, and which I associate with the band's transition from rock group to family entertainers. But the Frantic Four? That's one of Britain's defining rock groups, and they deserve to be treated as such."

Revisit the March 2014 event list