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That was the Quo month that was ... March 1999

6th - Quo on "Noel's House Party"

Quo appeared on BBC1's "Noel's House Party" on Saturday 6th March. They formed the intro to the show with a stage performance of "Rockin' All Over The World" and played the show out with "The Way It Goes", the first UK mainland performance of the new single. The audience did a good singalong during "Rockin' All Over The World" and the new single also seemed to be well received.

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8th - "The Way It Goes" released in the UK

Quo's first original single since 1994, "The Way It Goes", was released on Monday March 8th. It is available in two formats: CD single (Eagle Records, catalogue numbers EAGXS075 / GAS0000075EGX / EDL EAG152-1) and cassette single (Eagle Records, catalogue number EAGCS075).

The sleeve is as seen on the official Quo web site, a bottle and its cap. The rest of the packaging is very plain, finished in blue. The tracks are "The Way It Goes (Edit)", Sea Cruise (CD only) and "Under The Influence - Album Trailer".

The trailer consists of "Twenty Wild Horses" / "Under The Influence" / "Round and Round"/ "Little White Lies" / "Little Me and You" / "Keep 'Em Coming" and gives a nice selection from the album-length CD.

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8th - Quo on "GMTV"

Quo appeared on ITV's "GMTV" on Monday 8th March, again stage performing "The Way It Goes" but this time almost in full. There was a brief interview between Eamonn Holmes and Rick and Francis about the upcoming pub tour, new album and Francis' hair transplant.

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11th - Quo on the "Vanessa" show

I attended the Vanessa Show this morning (11/03/99). A good crowd of familiar Quo people turned out, some of whom had travelled a very long way to be there and have the opportunity to ask questions directly to Rick and Francis.

Rick and Francis did a fairly short question and answer session with the audience (the only really interesting answer - Millenium venue either Wimbledon or Fiji) and then played the new single, "The Way It Goes", with lots of audience participation - Vanessa couldn't work out how we all knew all the words already!

A slightly different promo appearance for Quo and an excellent opportunity for fans to ask questions directly, not seen since the Gotcha .

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12th - Quo pub gig tour dates announced in The Sun

The "Under The Influence Pub Tour" dates were announced in The Sun newspaper on Friday March 12th. Their competition received some 10,523 entries, so these entries were split into regions of the UK in order that as many areas would be covered as possible, and pubs on the shortlist were considered according to their suitability for the gigs. Quo are due to play a 60 minute set commencing at 8:00pm at each of the following lucky pubs:

  • March 29th - Ruskin Arms, High Street, East Ham, London
  • March 30th - Fleece and Firkin, St Thomas St, Bristol
  • March 31st - Stumble Inn, Walsall Road, Cannock, Staffs
  • April 1st - Market Hotel, West Carr Road, Retford, Lancs
  • April 6th - Solid Rock Cafe, Hope St, Glasgow
  • April 7th - Star and Garter, Fairfield St, Manchester
  • April 8th - Holly Bush Hotel, Station Lane, Skelton, Cleveland
  • April 9th - The Duchess, Vicker Lane, Leeds
  • April 10th - The Railway, Foxhall Road, Ipswich
  • April 11th - The Brunswick, Holland Road, Hove, East Sussex

The proud landlord (right) of The Stumble Inn, Cannock, appeared on the front page of the Birmingham newspaper, the Express and Star, on March 13th.
Stumble Inn, Cannock
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29th - Quo concert at The Ruskin Arms, East Ham, London

The rock stars arrive... The first of Quo's ten pub gigs turned into more of a daylong event than a gig, both for the band and the lucky few at the pub. Early arrival at this large East End pub was rewarded by some unusual access to Quo promotion. First off, Quo arrived at about 3pm - in ubiquitous stretch white limo, make no mistake, the rock stars had arrived in East Ham!

They were greeted by a number of familiar Quo fans, locals and members of the press. The promotion for this first gig was very well organised and a big thumbs up to the Quo management for getting the act together so well in such a short time. An extensive photo shoot outside the pub followed (see below), the whole band then just Rick and Francis, before the band headed into the Ruskin's back room (where the gig would later take place) for a series of interviews.

Rick and Francis outside the Ruskin Arms The band pose outside the Ruskin Arms

Dr Lee and Mr Edwards enjoying an afternoon drink The pub had been very generous in providing a screen in the front bar to enable us to see the "action" from the back room - this was obviously put in for the benefit of the later gig, but it also served to give everyone a good idea of what promos Quo were doing behind closed doors. The interviews went on for a considerable time, John and Jeff breaking into the front bar on occasion, and VH-1 filmed for about an hour with Rick and Francis alone. Of course, this gave us all plenty of time to socialise in the front bar and great to see so many familiar faces from far and wide including the no doubt soon to be crowned King of Quo, Mike Paxman.

Highlight of the afternoon, though, came after all the press interest had subsided and Quo could get on stage and do some serious soundchecking - and what a soundcheck. Forget the normal routine, here was Quo knocking out brand-spanking new Quo songs with gusto. I was lulled into believing it was just the new CD being PA-ed, but oh no - this was live and Quo thumped through a good half of the album and it sounded fantastic.

As the afternoon became evening, the front bar became fuller and fuller and more famous names began to appear from the Quo scene, including Mike Hrano (from FTMO) and Dave Oxley, long time Quo fan, collector and soon to be author of an extensive Quo book. It was very interesting to talk to him about the book and it sounds very promising, so look out for it soon - it has Bob Young's seal of approval and should be on some sort of offer through FTMO soon.

As time edged towards the main event, something of a queue began to form and we eventually all squeezed through from the front bar into Quo's arena for the evening. From the off, it was clear that this would be something very special and unusual. By 8 o'clock, the room was heaving and the chants began - Quo wandered in and the place erupted. With the five guys just about squeezed onto the tiny stage and with just about enough light to see them, the scene was set for Quo's first pub set in who knows how long.

Surprisingly, they kicked off with "The Way It Goes" which sounded superb live and the band seemed to know it well - it also went down well, but with this audience they could hardly have put a foot wrong. The new album title track and "Twenty Wild Horses" were also thrown into the set later, the former in particular sounding like a stonking good live track. The more familiar fodder, of course, formed the mainstay of the set - "The Wanderer", "Mystery Song Medley", "Whatever You Want", "Don't Waste My Time" (great to have you back!) and "Rockin' All Over The World". The highlight, apart from the new tracks which really did sound fresh and good live, was "Caroline" in an extended and unique form. Just when we all thought we'd heard this enough times, Quo managed a new take and it stood out from the traditional Quo material - hopefully this new live version will not be a one-off. The set was rounded off with "The Anniversary Waltz", a disappointing choice in such otherwise good company.

Francis Andy Francis gets a sweat going Francis with a rye smile
Rhino Francis Rhino and Rick share a joke Francis doing a twiddly bit...

The band clearly had a fantastic time and the crowd were as enthusiastic and energetic as could have been wished for. The opportunity to see Quo so close up was incredible, the front rows could literally touch their idols but respect was shown and the adulation largely manifested itself in other ways.

A super promo effort, a great set and an appreciative audience - what a way to start the pub tour and this unique Quo event should put new life back into Quo's live act and knock many a pub local dead. Thanks Quo for a superb day.

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29th - "Under The Influence" released in Europe

Rarely in Quo's recording history has an album been quite so eagerly awaited as with the 1999 effort 'Under The Influence'. The last collection of original Quo work was some five years ago in the form of 'Thirsty Work', an album which was not greeted well by the Quo die-hards - it was seen as a retrograde step after the well-received 'Rock 'Til You Drop' and added fuel to the fires of those claiming that Quo's hard rocking days were over. There has been a noticeable campaign by Quo in the run-up to the release of their latest offering to have us believe that 'Under The Influence' is exactly the kind of Quo that the more critical fans have been looking for. Touted as their best work for years (see, for example, the recent "Classic Rock" magazine interview), the band took the unprecedented step of previewing the album during their German and UK tours in November and December of 1998. Whether fans greeted this as a good move is debatable, removing as it did some of that wonder which comes from an album's "blind" first play. The album's first single, "The Way It Goes", beat the album itself to the shelves by three weeks and also included an "Album Trailer" track, again unique amongst Quo recordings.

Under The Influence - front cover The twelve-track CD version of 'Under The Influence' was released Europe-wide on March 29th 1999 (although copies were available in Holland from the 26th, their versions coming complete with a unique free poster) on Eagle Records, catalogue number EAGCD076 (also EDL throughout Europe, catalogue number EAG153-2). The CD is attractively packaged and the front cover (see left), consisting of Rick and Francis wearing black on a traditional British pub sign with the album name and Quo logo, is eye-catching. Any disappointment at yet another two-man band promo is quelled by the rear cover (see right), which features a shot of the whole band (taken while on the 1998 Spanish tour) along with the track listing. Under The Influence - back cover

The CD itself comes finished in a rather poor wood effect and first copies have an 'Under The Influence' merchandise inner. In answer to the many critics of recent CD issues, the booklet here is of good quality - it consists of lyrics to all twelve tracks, new photos of all the band members (though why choose one of Rick showing his plastered fingers?), two complete band shots (again from Spain in 1998) and the ubiquitous credits. A particularly nice touch is the final credit: "This album is dedicated to all our friends around the world who come to see us year after year, again and again ... and Nooo Shit!"

A glance at the credits for the songs on offer reveals an album of some promise - eleven Quo originals plus a cover of "Not Fade Away" (as made famous by the Rolling Stones and also available, complete with orchestral backing, on the German-only compilation CD "Philharmania" released in November 1998) sounds like a recipe for success in itself. But what of the new Quo songs and their ingredients? No artificial additives here - six Rossi/Frost songs, two by Bown alone, one by Parfitt alone, a joint Bown/Edwards effort and a joint Parfitt/Edwards song. The very successful partnership of Francis Rossi and Bernard Frost has always produced Quo songs of consistent quality and the remaining new songs on offer look like a sensible mix of the whole band's involvement. It would be easy to dismiss the album immediately - too Rossi-dominated, too few Parfitt tracks, a pointless cover version - but such concerns are ill-founded and this is an album with a few surprises up its pretty sleeve.

Perhaps an indication of his influence, or perhaps just because it's a fine opener, Francis' favourite song "Twenty Wild Horses" (Rossi/Frost, 4:59) kicks off 'Under The Influence'. Also Francis' choice of next single, "Horses and Men" (as he chooses to call it) has formed part of Quo's set on their UK pub tour. According to Francis: "...the story developed about a guy that had been accused, I suppose, of something and has been found out and is paying for something that he didn't do. But there's no deep meaning to the lyrics other than the fact that it sounded good..." And sound good it certainly does, whether that be the live or recorded version - in typical Rossi/Frost style, the song is lyrically not only strong but infectious, with a catchy melody. The intro is misleading and, by mid-song, the chonk is in full flow and the song carries itself along pretty well with a satisfyingly upbeat tempo after that flaky countrified start. A well-chosen opener and a not atypical Quo track.

The title track, "Under The Influence" (Rossi/Frost, 4:03), is next up. Although another Rossi/Frost effort, this track changes the style and pace - from its opening bar, it grabs you by the scruff of the neck and shakes the life out of you right to its end. Any track gaining "favourite" status from both Andy and Jeff must be pretty good and this song really shines when it is let loose in its natural environment, the live arena. Again used as part of the Quo pub tour set, "Under The Influence" stands out as all that's classic about Quo - it's pacey, simple, well written and even throws in the long-lost harmonica. The influence of new producer Mike Paxman is rarely more evident on this album than on this very track - his desire to bring the energy of Quo live into their recorded material has worked to great effect on this track and it has to be considered as a potential single. One of my favourites, "Under The Influence" is a cracker.

Coming, at least partially, from the pen of Andy Bown, "Round And Round" (Bown/Edwards, 3:25) is a surprising song. According to him, it's "... ended up with a lovely riff on it and a nice little set of verses which, I think, everybody who's lazy and feckless can relate to." Francis is still left with the responsibility of lead vocals and does a good job with what is definitely an album track only. The simple chorus is quite catchy and at times the song picks up tempo nicely, but most of the time, it feels a bit of a plodder and lacks the originality and freshness of some of the other material on offer here.

Look at the Parfitt/Edwards credit and one can expect a hard (some might use the word 'traditional') Quo song - as Rick says "I wanted to do something with Rhino, because he and I fall into the same pocket when it comes to driving, sort of heaviness..." - what you get on 'Under The Influence' is "Shine On" (Parfitt/Edwards, 4:49). The song takes a while to really get going but that's no bad thing, for the wait is eased by ample opportunity to enjoy that rare commodity which is a Parfitt lead vocal. He does a fine job without ever getting too raucous and eventually the song drives along quite well, but without ever giving the impression it's really trying to get anywhere. The overall impression of the track is of an attempted Quo epic - but an attempt that falls short of expectation.

A song written by Parfitt, mainly sung by Parfitt and his favourite track from the album - this would be outrageous over-indulgence were it not for the fact that the song in question is "Little White Lies" (Parfitt, 4:19). A less typical Parfitt-penned tune you'd be hard-pressed to find, but this little ballad with its catchy verse is a real find. Rick says "This is the song which has taken me the longest, ever, to write ... I'm very pleased with it. It's enjoyable to listen to, I find; it's good on the ear. A lot of people have picked up on the fact that it's very sort of Beatle-y, and that can't be bad, I suppose." His time and effort has been well rewarded and the production is exquisite - the voices blend perfectly, the harmony is so sweet and the whole thing fits together seamlessly. A fine ballad amongst a cacophony of driving rock songs, "Little White Lies" could be the single which silences the "every song sounds the same" critics. Not since "Living On An Island" have Quo produced a better example of the genre.

The peace is soon destroyed as "Keep 'Em Coming" (Bown, 3:26) leaps from the speakers and once more shows the rock pedigree of Andy Bown. He says "... for me, it's a good bit of the "old " Quo with a bit of the new Quo" and he's spot on with that assessment - Francis' lead vocal has a harder edge on this track and the tempo is quick, thundering along with no real respite until a proper ending, no fades here. It has the ingredients of classic Quo, cooked up in a Nineties Quo pan - and is again a testament to Mike Paxman's goal to inject recorded Quo with live Quo energy.

A more typical Bown track comes next, "Little Me And You" (Bown, 3:48). With a Parfitt lead vocal, this is a pleasant if unremarkable little song and gets Rhino's vote as favourite track. Andy says "This song is a loving pastiche of a rockabilly song. There's a little bit of Elvis in there ... It's a nice, rounded hopeful song ... it's a feel-good song, a little rock 'n' roll vignette with a start, middle and a finish." Central to its success is a ridiculously catchy chorus, with the line "I got a bellyful of everybody telling me what to do" being easy for every fan to relate to. An unusual song, but it fits well and shows some of the diversity of Quo, not only musically but from the point of view of their skills in writing lyrically more intricate material.

The Rossi/Frost partnership then comes up with "Making Waves" (Rossi/Frost, 3:56) and Quo are back on familiar soil here. The intro is classic Quo territory and there's still no-one who does it better, like an old friend and great to have around. Francis again takes on lead vocals and gives a polished rendition of some well-crafted lyrics. An unusual bass guitar break and good pace help present "Making Waves" as the sort of quality to be expected from this writing partnership.

If any further proof is needed of just how special the songwriting partnership of Francis Rossi and Bernard Frost is, then call to the dock "Blessed Are The Meek" (Rossi/Frost, 4:19). This is a gem and Francis is not ashamed to say so: "Well, we love this song, Bernard and I ... I don't care whether anyone likes it or not, I'm blind to that song. It's just ... I have to play with myself when I hear it. It's nice to do that with something of your own." It might take a few plays to realise it, but the infectious melody and finely honed lyrics will get to you in the end. The song has a country feel, helped by heavy use of acoustic guitar and prominent keyboards, and, although far from being a typical Quo song, it's a highlight of 'Under The Influence'.

"Roll The Dice" (Rossi/Frost, 4:05) follows and restores the trend of driving, more traditional, Quo material. This is a less worthy Rossi/Frost effort and feels every bar the album filler. It may have been more successful under the title "Best of Both Worlds". It does nothing wrong but sets itself no new sights either, whereas much of 'Under The Influence' feels so much fresher and more positive.

The only cover version on the album, "Not Fade Away" (Petty/Hardin, 3:09), appears next. Made famous by the Rolling Stones, Quo's version has an acoustic and lightweight feel, while maintaining a definitive Quo stamp. Francis' lead guitar work is especially good here and, as cover versions go, the track stands up quite well. The only question mark really hangs over whether, after waiting five years for this album, a cover version has any place at all - particularly when it is already known that there was surplus original material from the recording sessions.

The final track, "The Way It Goes" (Rossi/Frost, 4:02), is safe Quo ground, even judged safe enough to be used as opener for the pub gig sets. A decent set of lyrics (Francis: "... the song is actually about that idea; your velvet wings are your parents ... they try and help you to fly but they won't always be there"), bog standard Quo rhythm and lead guitar licks - a familiar formula and a successful one as always. The obvious choice of single (reaching an airplay-led number 39 in the UK chart), the song is unremarkable but at least contains all the Quo trademarks that Joe Public would want. Note that pre-release copies of the album list this song with the title "Velvet Wings".

A mere 48 minutes of new material after five years but there is considerable quality if not quantity. While much of the album is all too familiar, songs like "Twenty Wild Horses", "Under The Influence", "Little White Lies" and "Blessed Are The Meek" give cause for optimism. The one big problem with the album is perhaps its lack of immediacy, it takes a few plays to begin to hit home and reviewers will only have one or two plays before they pen their words of critique. The production of the album is excellent though and Mike Paxman has done a great job - not only in putting it together but in getting the band fired up to sound more like they do live. To describe 'Under The Influence' as the 'Piledriver' of the 90s would be wrong - 'Under The Influence' is the 'Under The Influence' of 1999 and has qualities of its own which need to be appreciated in their own right without resorting to pointless comparisons. Forget "old Quo" and "new Quo" - this is "now Quo".

(All quotes from FTMO, Volume 4, issue number 3)

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31st - Quo concert at The Stumble Inn, Cannock

The third and smallest of Quo's pub gigs, the event at Cannock's "Stumble Inn" received great local press and TV interest. Here follows just a sample of the local newspaper reports on the gig.

From the Express & Star - April 1st, 1999 - by Andrew Toft (pictures by Dave Woodhall and Eddie Brown), with headline "All over the world - and Cannock".

Rick in action at The Stumble Inn

Wanderers Status Quo came down down and rocked into Cannock as part of a unique tour of tiny venues. They played to 150 regulars inside the Stumble Inn in Walsall Road, Bridgtown, while outside about 80 more fans who couldn't get hold of tickets stood in the car park listening to the concert.

As around a dozen police officers looked on the fans clapped, cheered and sang along with the lucky few inside who had managed to get tickets. The Stumble Inn was included on a unique tour of backstreet pubs afer regular Mark Eaton won a newspaper competition to get them there. Sitting in the bar before the concert Rick Parfitt admitted the pub was probably the smallest they would play on the 10-date tour.

Francis in action at The Stumble Inn

"They won't come any smaller than this, it's a real challenge to play places like this, although in many ways when you get up there it feels no different to playing in front of 20000 fans," he said. "It's good fun but I don't think we'll ever do anything like this again. We have been to Cannock before - just after the last king died," he joked.

The band pose outside The Stumble Inn Competition winner Mark was one of the first to arrive yesterday, getting there at 10.30am. And naturally he picked a prime position at the front. Afterwards, he said: "The gig was absolutely fantastic. I don't mind saying I was close to tears at one point. The best bit was just being so close to my heroes. I will be awake for a week on adrenalin. To be honest, they have been great all day, they couldn't do enough for me."

Status Quo's head of security Reg Walker said;" There were dozens of people standing outside just listening to the music, they were all clapping and cheering. They were singing along with every song. It was a wonderful atmosphere. We have never seen anything quite like it."

From the Sunday Mercury - April 4th, 1999 - by Tony Larner, with headline "Status Quo rocking all over the world ... and Cannock".

They've been rocking all over the world for nearly 30 years. But last week Status Quo, who've played to packed stadiums and huge arenas, went back to basics for a pub gig in the tiny village of Bridgtown, in Cannock, Staffordshire. And the show, one of 10 UK pub dates, delighted the 160 fans who secured tickets for the most amazing show The Stumble Inn is ever likely to see.

The Quo stepped onto the cramped venue's tiny stage and delivered a faultless hour-long set, which was lapped up by denim-clad devotees. They kicked off with the thumping track "The Way It Goes" - off their new album 'Under The Influence' - before returning to past glories like "The Wanderer", "Whatever You Want", and, of course, "Rockin' All Over The World".

The energetic Rossi and Parfitt seemed to enjoy every minute of the gig, smiling, waving and chatting to the audience throughout the set. The show ended in fitting style with a guitar-led rock 'n' roll medley which brought the house down.

The Quo left the stage and left the pub - the only duff note for fans who'd hoped to buy their heroes a pint at the busy bar. But the crowd went home happy knowing they'd been treated to a once-in-a-lifetime show by the world's most successful pub band.

From The Cannock Chase Mercury - April 8th, 1999 - by Janet Lee, with headline "Surreal sights as Quo take pub by storm".

Bizarre: that's the only word for it. Status Quo - live in a Cannock pub on a Wednesday night. When the gig was first announced, people thought it was a wind-up. Even on the night there was a sense that it wasn't quite real. A kind of 'I'm watching this, but it can't really be happening'.

The five-piece squashed themselves up a corner on a raised platform that served as a 'stage'. With about a foot clearance between Quo and the ceiling the denim-clad heroes were in danger of head-banging for real. A packed, sweaty crowd crammed every crevice of the Stumble Inn at Bridgtown.

The band arrived just after 8pm. The intro tape spluttered, failed, spluttered again and failed - but they didn't really need an introduction. Rossi, Parfitt and the rest of the guys launched into action and an excitable crowd gave them an uproarious welcome.

"Rockin' All Over The World", "Mystery Song", "Caroline", "Don't Waste My Time" - they were all there, live and loud. And you have never seen an audience with such grins on their faces. The whole point of the gig was to launch the new Quo album 'Under The Influence', so the audience were treated to a sneak preview and gave the numbers a warm (very warm) welcome.

The band did their utmost to strike those classic poses in impossible conditions. How they didn't expire in the heat is a miracle in itself. By 9pm, dripping in sweat, the Quo made an exit, onto their tour coach and in minutes were gone.

The magic still hung in the air, the audience drifted outside - and were still grinning from ear to ear.

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31st - Quo appearance at HMV, Pavilions Centre, Birmingham

As a precursor to Quo's third pub gig at Cannock, the band made an appearance at Birmingham's HMV shop in the Pavilions Centre to sign copies of the new album, "Under The Influence". I arrived at about 10.30 to a surprisingly short queue of only about twenty people. The queue increased gradually over the next couple of hours though and a good 150 waited eagerly for Quo's arrival, slightly later than billed at just before 1 pm.

A very well-organised HMV took groups of at most ten through from the queue to meet Quo - the five members of the band sitting in a row and signing away frantically. Rhino, Andy, Francis, Rick and Jeff had their work cut out to keep up with the flow of fans, but everyone got a chance for a few words with each of them, their CD signed and the opportunity for a photo or two.

Rick The band Andy and Rhino

Dr Lee with Rick and Francis My chance came quite quickly and all the guys were in good spirits. A copy of a photo from a similar record signing from Geelong, Australia in March 1998 was my canvas for Quo's pens and they made a great job of personalizing this unusual item for me. It was also great to have John and Jeff recognize me as well as having the chance for a photo with Rick and Francis.

This personal appearance was very well received and there was some press interest. Passing shoppers in the High Street also showed considerable curiosity, with mixed reactions to the news that we were all waiting for Status Quo (ranging from laughter, through "Who?" to "Great!"). For many of the people waiting patiently for over an hour, this was a one-off chance to meet the band in person and, as ever, Quo handled it masterfully.

Revisit the March 1999 event list