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That was the Quo month that was ... November 2009



2nd - Quo interview in the Flintshire Chronicle newspaper (UK)

The following interview with Rick and Francis appeared in the Flintshire Chronicle on November 2nd. The interview was conducted in Paris by Andy Welch and titled "Status Quo still Rockin' All Over The World".

"Status Quo are celebrating 40 years since their first hit Pictures Of Matchstick Men. The band carried on rocking all over the world, and have a full run of UK dates lined up for November and December. We travel to Paris with the Quo, talking to Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt about their lasting appeal, and how, despite being one of the biggest-selling British acts of all time, they might not get the credit they deserve.

"Really?" counters Francis Rossi. "So is Broadmoor."

We're in Paris for the first leg of the band's European tour, before they head to the UK for a 31-date stint.

The tour marks the end of a big year for the Quo who have been on the road almost solidly since the beginning of May.

Unsurprisingly, they're not nervous ahead of this evening's performance, although the links between their songs are causing rhythm guitarist and sometime singer Rick Parfitt a little concern.

"A lot of our songs end and go straight into the next," he says. "We have to change key, change tempo and things. I'm not nervous, but it's a first night, so nothing will go quite as smoothly as you think it should. The important thing is not to think too much. If you think 'How does it go here again?' you'll tighten up and tension creeps in.

"Despite what people say, our songs can be quite intricate," he says, laughing.

The Quo are well aware of their reputation. For years, they've been mocked for only knowing three chords. Proving they're in on the gag, their last album in 2007 was called In Search Of The Fourth Chord, released on their own Fourth Chord record label.

In reality their music is much more complex than you might think, and, if the band and the people around them are to be believed, they sound better now than ever before.

Lead guitarist and singer Francis, now shorn of his trademark ponytail, practices for three hours a day and has done for the last six years or so, only giving himself a three-day break over Christmas.

After Rossi and school friend Alan Lancaster formed the band in the early-Sixties, Parfitt was invited to join in 1965, himself a veteran of the holiday-camp circuit Rossi and Lancaster had cut their teeth playing.

By February 1968, they were riding high in the charts with debut single Pictures Of Matchstick Men. It might sound uncharacteristic now, but it's a swirling, psychedelic track, now hailed as one of the great singles of that decade, name-checked today by the likes of Kasabian as a big influence.

Despite the success of Pictures... it wasn't until 1973 that Quo had the follow-up Top 5 hit they'd been looking for. With hindsight, says Francis, that was a good thing.

"We never would have got to this point if we'd had a second hit straight away," he says. "We were always a rock band, but had a hit with a psychedelic song, and that sound didn't last. We realised records were pretty vacuous early on, and it was no good trying to appeal to the Top Of The Pops crowd. A few thousand of them would come to our gigs, but they'd get bored because the lads were just there because they knew there'd be masses of girls, and vice versa.

"Instead, we went back to being a rock band, left that psychedelic thing behind and built it up again."

The plan clearly worked, and in 1972 their song Paper Plane reached No 8 in the chart, kick-starting a chain of 33 consecutive Top 40 singles which included Caroline in 1973, the song that traditionally opens their live set, and Rockin' All Over The World, the first song anyone heard at Live Aid in 1985.

Watching the band in Paris is something of a revelation. Aside from the sight of 2,000 Parisians clad in denim, doing the signature Quo shoulder dance or playing air guitar - how could that not be amusing? - they're just so much better than you might imagine.

Any worries they might have had about the new setlist - which now includes Pictures Of Matchstick Men, a song retired for years and only resurrected last year to celebrate its 40th anniversary - are completely unfounded.

At the height of the Blur v Oasis media war of 1995, Damon Albarn snidely referred to his Northern rivals as Quoasis. Taking the intended diss as a compliment, Noel Gallagher appeared days after wearing a specially made Quoasis t-shirt, and he was right to do so.

There are similarities between the two bands; both have two members of core importance while the line-up around them changes, and both steadfastly refused to the change their musical style in the face of fierce criticism. Musically, they're not a million miles away from each other.

The deluxe edition of their recently released live DVD, recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival earlier this year, features a documentary on the history of the band, inside which are interviews with die-hard fans. Some are in their teens, as are a vast number of the audience in Paris. What is it about a band made up of guys of advancing years - the youngest member is 48-year-old drummer Matt Letley who joined in 2000 - who play shuffle music that attracts the teens in their hordes?

"I wish I knew, but I don't," says Rick, 61, pondering the issue for a second. "I do know I love it, though. It's great to see people that age coming along, and they're all down the front doing that rock sign thing to us, you know the devil horns or doing that 'We're not worthy' worship thing from Wayne's World, and it really means a lot."

Francis, a year younger at 60, doesn't have a definitive answer either, but thinks the recent influx of younger fans might be down to YouTube.

"This is where the internet is great, because people will find something on their own and they can watch videos of us or hear the music and not have it judged for them," he explains.

"There are lots of bands of our age and older, The Who, for example, the Stones too who can go out and get the young crowds. Teens now can like The Killers or Muse and Quo, or the Stones or Oasis, or whoever they want."

Now in their 41st year, with millions of album sold, an enviable back-catalogue of hits and still with enough pulling power to sell out a massive UK tour year on year, it seems Status Quo don't get the credit they deserve.

Rick says he's been wondering about the same thing for some time, and holds ambitions to be inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame one day, which, considering some of the bands in there, wouldn't be unreasonable.

"I'm not going to say we don't get the credit we deserve," says Francis. "That sounds pompous. Perhaps, over the years, the incessant 'three chords' thing has done us harm, but we're still here and the people who like us love us to death.

"Usually people see us for the first time and say 'You're actually really good.' The first person who said that to me was Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet. He came up to me and said 'I'm sorry, I said all these things and didn't realise you were this good.'

"And we're even better now than we were then. I think in our area, our small niche, we're good at what we do. We're a very, very good band."

Extra time - Status Quo

Status Quo have sold more than 118 million albums.

Quo have recorded 64 British hit singles - more than any other band - 22 of which have hit the Top 10. The first hit was Pictures Of Matchstick Men which reached No 7 in January 1968.

Quo have made 106 appearances on Top Of The Pops, more than any other group. That works out to being on the show once a week for more than two years, or more than twice a year for the show's entire 42-year run.

Quo have spent more than seven and a half years (415 weeks) in the British singles chart, the 11th highest ever.

Quo have had more hit albums (33) in the British Albums Chart than any other band apart from The Rolling Stones."

Revisit the November 2009 event list  

11th - Quo concert at Colston Hall, Bristol

Quo played the second of two nights at Bristol's Colston Hall on November 11th (OK, cue the cheap "pair of Bristols" gags!). Supported by Reamonn, the band played the following set to an enthusiastic audience.

Photos of the band in action can be found here and here. The following article appeared in the Bristol Evening Post after their two-night stint, entitled "Status Quo are rocking all over Bristol's Colston Hall".

"Francis Rossi knows the Colston Hall like the back of his hand. So does his Status Quo fellow front man, Rick Parfitt. They should do. They've been playing this particular venue for the past four decades and have been in residence there for a couple of nights this week.

It's unusual for any band to play two consecutive nights at the Colston Hall but, such is the iconic status of Quo, it's something they can do. And do often. Putting bottoms on seats is not a problem. These days they are cult rock 'n' roll heroes with worldwide record sales in excess of 118 million. And there is no sign their popularity is waning.

Their mid-week occupancy of the Colston Hall follows on from a fabulous summer for them here in the West Country. It began with their rapturous reception on the opening day of this year's Glastonbury Festival which was followed, a few weeks later, by a return visit to the Somerset town, this time headlining at the Michael Eavis-inspired Glastonbury Extravaganza, staged in the grounds of the town's ruined abbey.

But back in Bristol and backstage I caught up with Francis as the countdown to their second show began. It wasn't exactly a warm-up, though. Backstage, he informed me, it was freezing, an issue he has about heating (or the lack of it) with venues all over the country.

There had been no chance, either, of popping in to his favourite restaurant, which just happens to be right here in Bristol. On the Quo official website you will find the assertion that Francis is "probably the English pasta-eating record holder." Which probably explains why his chosen eatery is Italian. In fact it's San Carlo's in Corn Street.

He remembers first coming to the city back in the Quo's very early Pictures Of Matchstick Men days, on one occasion with Gene Pitney on the bill. Though, as he says, playing the Colston Hall is something that seems to have "always been there". The hall's new gold-clad entrance is rather akin to an airport, Francis believes, but he reasons that perhaps the city could have spent just 19 million of the cash on the front and "a few bob" inside out the back. "They spend 20 million on the reception but don't put in a decent shower or anything," he says. It's a state of affairs typical of many venues up and down the country, apparently, but not at gigs across the rest of Europe.

And when you check out the group's itinerary you realise they know what they are talking about when it comes to concert venues. In recent months the group's staged gigs in Germany, Denmark, Norway, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, Gibraltar and the Czech Republic.

All this and a milestone birthday for Francis, who was 60 in May this year. What is it like to be still rocking all over the world at 60? Well, as he points out, he was absolutely fine as the anniversary approached but after it passed he realised there was "something about 60". He recalls a conversation with an engineer after he had installed a new studio in his home. He recalls: "I had not long moved to a new house and we built a studio. The engineer and me were sitting there and I said 'this will be all right for another few years' but you can't say that any more. Another 25 and I will be 85. Surely it will all be over by then ... but you don't know."

Checking out the current hectic tour dates, though, and there's obviously no imminent danger of retirement. I asked, though the answer was probably a foregone conclusion: Would they be back in Bristol some time next year? Of course they will. "We're already booked in," he reveals.

That, I think, is what you might call maintaining the Status Quo."

Revisit the November 2009 event list  

14th - Quo concert at Venue Cymru, Llandudno

Quo played the second of two nights at the modern Venue Cymru in Llandudno on the wet and windy night that was November 14th. The usual set was on offer, with Francis struggling due to a bad throat (that would see the next night's gig in Stoke being postponed). Photos of the band in action in Wales can be found here and here.

Revisit the November 2009 event list  

14th - "Statoz Quo" tribute band gig at McHappy Day, Morayfield, Queensland, Australia

Statoz Quo did a fine job of livening up the crowd at McDonald's Happy Day, in Morayfield, Queensland, on November 14th. Their one-hour set was streamed online at streamgigs.com and it came across the wire very well.

The set kicked off with the usual opener, "Caroline", and this inspired some curious line-dancing in the somewhat uninspiring car park in front of the stage. To keep the audience participation going, the popularist fodder that is "Something 'Bout You Baby I Like" came next, going straight into "Don't Waste My Time". Great lead work from Steve shone through the whole song, though streamers missed most of the visual as the camerman seemed more interested in some roadside sheilas trying to attract the attention of passing cars...

The band were in full stride by now and "Roll Over Lay Down" gave them chance to shine with some great lead and drum work. "The Wanderer" came next but it was in the next song, "Big Fat Mama", that the band secured their finest hour. Steve described it as "self-indulgent" but he needed make no apologies for playing one of Quo's greatest songs and playing it brilliantly.

As it turned out, this was just the beginning of a run of six magic moments, as it was followed up with "Don't Think It Matters", "Creepin' Up On You", "Paper Plane", "Little Lady", and "Backwater". Quite where the idea to thrown in "Don't Think It Matters" came from, I don't know, but it was an inspired choice for those who appreciated it - top song and a top job from the whole band. Statoz's rendition of "Creepin" is always good and this performance was no exception, with that infectious groove happening. Cobbling together "Paper Plane", "Little Lady", and "Backwater" is dreamy stuff for Quo fans and the band clearly had a ball banging these songs out for the small crowd.

There was only ever one way to finish off a set for this kind of event and of course it was "Rockin' All Over The World". Tony encouraged everyone to sing along and the band enjoyed playing the song so much they didn't seem to want to end it!

Shortly after their set finished, Tony Lingard gave a short interview for the benefit of those watching over the internet, including a brief plug for the band's next show in Deception Bay.

An admirable effort again from Statoz to give their time to supporting McHappy Day and Dave, Gary, Steve and Tony battled against warm weather and a small crowd to produce a performance full of energy and fun, well done Statoz!

Revisit the November 2009 event list  

14th - "Just Quo" tribute band gig at Southport Workers Club, Queensland, Australia

A great set of photos of Aussie tribute band, Just Quo, playing at the Southport Workers Club on November 14th is available here.

Revisit the November 2009 event list  

17th - Quo concert at Fairfield Halls, Croydon

Francis recovered enough from his recent throat problems to perform the first of two nights at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon on November 17th. Photos of Quo doing their thing can be seen here.

Revisit the November 2009 event list  

21st - Quo concert at Anvil Theatre, Basingstoke

Quo played the second of two nights at the Anvil Theatre in Basingstoke on November 21st. By all accounts the band were in seriously good form and the lucky audiences over the two nights witnessed modern day Quo at its peak. Photos of Quo doing their thing can be seen here.

Revisit the November 2009 event list