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That was the Quo month that was ... October 2008

1st - Quo concert at Colston Hall, Bristol

Quo played the first of two nights to a packed house at Bristol's Colston Hall on October 1st. The following review of the show by Helen Sloan appeared on the Crackerjack site, with a rating of eight out of ten!

"There was a swirling, moody keyboard track playing as Status Quo walked on to a stage shrouded in atmospheric blue light.

This didn’t last long of course, and within seconds the enduring rockers were straight into the instantly recognisable riff of Caroline. “Sing it!” Francis Rossi said, but their fans really didn’t need any encouragement; singing, clapping and punching the air throughout the entire show.

The Quo played songs from across their considerable history, from last year’s Beginning Of The End to Pictures Of Matchstick Men, their first big hit from 40 years ago.

It’s a tune that’s not showing its age at all, something that can also be said about Rick Parfitt and Mr Rossi. They played the entire show with the energy of men half their age, their voices untroubled by their long tenure and hectic touring schedule.

And they do it all without stimulants these days – Francis apologised for the fact that Is There A Better Way was slower than the original, because back then they’d been enjoying some substances that “make you go faster”.

At the other end of the scale, he told us that it was alcohol that helped capture the bar-room blues sound of In My Chair.

In The Army Now finished the main set, and was concluded with an eardrum-shattering drum solo from Matt Letley that earned two of the biggest cheers of the night. Well-deserved too, as he was the only one who didn’t get a break.

Even after such a great show they were still able to crank it up even further for the finale, finishing with a trio of tunes – Deeper Down, Whatever You Want and Rockin’ All Over The World – that had the whole place dancing."

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2nd - Francis interview in The Oxford Times

The following interview with Francis was published in the Oxford Times newspaper on October 2nd, entitled "Still refusing to accept the status quo" and written by Nick Utechin.

"When Status Quo come to town, you know what to expect: the sell-out audiences tomorrow and Sunday evenings at the New Theatre will see an expertly crafted show highlighting four decades of hit rock 'n' roll. When I picked the telephone up at an arranged time to interview the group’s front man, Francis Rossi, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Would he be the same cheeky chappy he is on stage to the faithful and idolising fans, or would he merely go through the motions — after all, he and band mate Rick Parfitt hardly need publicity these days?

Three-quarters of an hour later, I replaced the receiver wearily and was still smiling. ‘I tend to natter a lot, I warn you,’ Rossi said at the outset. This is true: he could natter for England. He’ll be 60 next year, and the group’s breakthrough hit, Pictures of Matchstick Men, was released in 1968. There’s a lot to natter about.

"Influences on my first group, The Spectres (a very early ‘60s sort of name!)? The Everly Brothers, Johnny and the Hurricanes and especially Little Richard — that man’s still got the energy: he is rock 'n' roll. But it was the Everlys that made me first pick up a guitar when I was about seven. Rick was in a group called The Highlights, and they were, believe it or not, a cabaret act. He used to sing songs like Danny Boy and he’s a very good singer. What you hear from him now with Status Quo is different: back then his voice was very smooth, very nice and gentle! "Me? I don’t have a real voice at all; I just have a commercial voice."

Parfitt came along to see Rossi’s group and heard them do a sound check before a show: "He said, “''That’s what I want to do.' But it wasn’t until ’67 that we got together and he joined us after a fight with his band. Our first show was at the Welcome Inn at Eltham, supporting a group called Episode Six!’ I asked Rossi if he knew that Matchstick Men was going to be a hit when he wrote it: "I knew it was very unusual. When you write lots of two or three minute songs, you have a sort of feeling you can spot it. For me, it’s always the melody first, then lyrics: I’m not wordy or a literary type at all. In fact, it was my ex-wife who came up with the L. S. Lowry connection: I’d only got as far as starting with a “P-p-p-p” noise!"

That song, of course, had nothing to do with what quickly became the recognisable sound of Status Quo: they felt they were too constrained after this big hit, being told what to look like, what to buy and wear. They were also asked always to play their second hit, Ice In The Sun, as the opening number in every show.

So things had to change and when Caroline came along as a No. 5 hit in 1973, followed a year later by their first (and only) chart-topper Down Down, the way forward was clear. It should, actually, be pointed out that Quo now always use Caroline as their concert opener. It must be nice to be your own boss all these years down the line.

Certain things have remained unchanged during the intervening years, specifically the guitar Francis Rossi uses more than any other, a 1957 Fender Telecaster. He became ever more animated and enthused: "I used to play a Gibson Stereo and we were working somewhere with . . . oh, who the f… was it? They sang 'If you want it, here it is' . . . (later research proved this to be a song by the group Badfinger) and one of the guys had this two-tone deep green Telecaster and he wanted mine, so we swapped. I think he thought I must be mad. What’s important is to know how to play your instrument. Like the string gauges: some American player came over and I heard him and thought: ‘Why the f… can’t I sound like that?"

My strings were like tramlines, but he just had a thinner gauge and so could bend them. And then I was once with a famous guitarist who said: "What you need to do is tune this string to 'the . . . that one’ — he didn’t know the name of the music key!"

The Quo operation these days is a big one: for theatre tours such as this one — as opposed to big stadiums — "we only need 25 people — not many, believe you me.

"It’s lunacy, but, for example, European regulations mean we have to have three drivers for the bus. There are guitar techs for stage left and right (the one on the right also does keyboards), there’s the drum tech and the people out front for sound and lighting. Oh, and we keep them on retainers, so they’re always available. The Stones couldn’t do you a concert tomorrow, but we could!’ My son immediately asked me to book Status Quo for his nineteenth birthday. Rossi told me that for the first time he is going to be doing some solo touring next year: perhaps that would be the better bet.

Status Quo come with their Pictures — 40 Years of Hits tour to the New Theatre, Oxford, tomorrow and Sunday."

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4th - Quo concert at New Theatre, Oxford

Quo played the first of two nights at Oxford's New Theatre on October 4th. The show was recorded by Live Here Now and would turn out to be an excellent snapshot of the band's "Pictures" tour set. Photos of the band in action can be found here, here and here. The following review of the show appeared in the Oxford Times newspaper and was written by Nick Utechin.

"In front of me was a 60-year-old, next to me were two 18-year-olds and across the aisle was a young man on crutches who by the end of the show was on his feet, rocking with the rest of us. Status Quo are undoubtedly still capable of providing a lot of what does you good.

After so many years, Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt never ever seem to give an iota less than their best. They may not vary their material much these days: Caroline is always their opener and Rockin’ All Over The World would invariably bring the curtain down if they used one. On Sunday, Quo played for 90 minutes, during which they performed 22 songs and a drum solo, followed by a short encore.

It was 40 minutes into the set before Rossi spoke, and even that was brief; it was another 25 before he talked to the audience again. Parfitt, as usual, never said a word. But my notes are more about him than his partner: "Great rock voice on Say You Love Me." “Parfitt lead singing on great rock ’n' roll version of Creeping Up On You, fantastic rhythm guitar on Roll Over Lay Down."

But Rossi has his moments, none finer than when he purposefully strides to the front of the stage to kick off Down Down towards the end of the show; and he still gets a lot of stirring solos out of his legendary Fender Telecaster.

I haven’t so far mentioned Pictures of Matchstick Men, What You’re Proposing, In The Army Now and Whatever You Want. All were there; and you can be sure that the audience recognised the introswhen the first guitar chord was thrashed. Everyone in the stalls stood up as soon as the group came on stage, but I felt the general reaction was slightly more muted than it had been last year. When the Quo left the stage before returning for their farewell, the atmosphere was more that of an adoring crowd of regulars who knew perfectly well there was going to be an encore, rather than the rolling roar of approbation that usually comes at that point in a group’s show."

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5th - Quo concert at New Theatre, Oxford

Quo played the second of two nights at Oxford's New Theatre on October 5th. Photos of the band live on stage can be found here.

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6th - Francis interview in Halifax Evening Courier

The following interview with Francis appeared in the Halifax Evening Courier on October 6th, written by Pauline Hawkins.

"IN a rapidly changing world, with banks in crisis and the weather veering between amazing and abysmal, it's good to know some things don't change.

Status Quo have remained among Britain's best-loved bands for the past four decades with their uncompromising rock sound. They really do live up their name.

On Sunday, Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt and co rock back into Calderdale with a special winter tour, delighting their vast army of fans with an array of songs from the 1960s to the present day.

But there are some things in the world of Quo that are new, exciting and unusual, timed perfectly to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their first hit single, Pictures of Matchstick Men.

Actors, musicians, footballers and other celebrities – including US rocker Alice Cooper, TV presenter and comedian Harry Hill, Liverpool FC players, GMTV presenter Fiona Phillips, Rolf Harris, the cast of Coronation Street and Quo themselves – have created their own version of a classic Quo single or album cover in aid of the Prince's Trust.

Their artwork will go under the hammer at Bonhams auction house in London on Wednesday, November 5 – open to invited guests only – but online bidding for the celebrity creations began last week on the Prince's Trust website.

Income from the auction and some of the proceeds of a book marking the band's 40 years of hits will go to the Prince of Wales's charity, which helps disadvantaged young people improve their lives.

Quo played at the trust's first fund-raising concert in Birmingham in 1982.

Frontman Francis Rossi, a father of eight from two marriages, is delighted with the plans. The band are even releasing their first festive single, It's Christmas Time, this winter – their 75th UK single.

The rocker, who will be 60 next May, says: "Rick and a friend have come up with it. I did find it very embarrassing but it is an extremely commercial piece."

But he doubts it will be at the top of the tree on Christmas Day, believing that honour will go to the winner of this year's X Factor.

"I love watching the auditions for the show," he says. "Then someone wins, and they think it's going to be like winning the lottery – but that's when the hard work begins. One single is not a career."

Francis, a typically garrulous Geminian, met Rick in the 1960s but it was not until 1967 that their Quo partnership began. The following year the psychedelic sound of Pictures of Matchstick Men made the British music charts, and the rest is history.

Hit song followed hit song, from the pop sound of Ice in the Sun in the late 1960s to the band's 1970s heyday when they produced some of their most memorable tracks – Paper Plane, Caroline, Down Down, Whatever You Want and Rockin' All Over the World.

They've been together now for four decades and "it don't seem a day too much"... they jokingly tell journalists that their relationship is "like being married but without the sex". Francis, whose boyhood heroes were The Everly Brothers, has passed his love of their sounds to a couple of his offspring, while another son's tastes in music range from Frank Sinatra to The Kooks.

Francis bemoans the fact that many radio stations now play a certain type of music, remembering when Quo sounds were played alongside tracks like Grandad by Clive Dunn and Grandma, We Love You by the St Winifred's School Choir. "I didn't like them but I still defend their right to be out there," he says.

From the relatively modern crop of bands Francis admires Take That for their staying power. He says they have done "supremely well" and he also likes rock band Muse.

But whether either outfit will still be touring, attracting huge crowds and chaotic scenes at the stage door after as many years as Quo, remains to be seen."

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7th - Quo concert at Fairfield Hall, Croydon

Quo played to a packed house at Croydon's Fairfield Hall on October 7th (and did it all again there on October 8th). Photos of Quo in action in Croydon can be found here and here. The following review of the show was penned by Classic Rock's Dave Ling.

"Cinders, you shall go to the ball. Last night Status Quo played the Fairfield Halls in Croydon, a local gig that under normal circumstances I’d never dream of missing – except this year they announced that Manfred Mann’s Earth band would support them at Wembley Arena in December, so I requested tickets for that one instead. However, after seeing the tour’s set-list I felt compelled to experience their greatest hits show in far more intimate environs. At lunchtime my mobile rang and Chris Hewlett, the band’s long-suffering publicist, confirmed that he’d acquired an extra pair of tickets at short notice – did I want them? Does the pope shit in the woods??!!

In a long overdue effort to please what Francis Rossi calls the “hardcore fans”, as opposed to the “floaters” – or more recent converts – some significant changes had been made to the show. Its first three songs presented little in the way of surprise, though Rick Parfitt’s ‘Don’t Drive My Car’ made a very welcome return. Then came the moment I’d been awaiting for… my pulse raced as the chords rang out… Der-der, Der-der, Durr… Der-der, Der-der, Durr… the intro to ‘Mean Girl’, from 1971’s ‘Dog Of Two Head’, closely followed by the ‘Hello!’ classic ‘Softer Ride’ and, not too far down the line, ‘Is There A Better Way?’, now with Parfitt assuming lead vocals, culled from ‘Blue For You’. The band’s faces were plastered with huge grins during ‘In My Chair’ and an encore romp through ‘Junior’s Wailing’, setting the seal on a joyous display. Yes, this really was a case of ‘new denim underwear please, nurse’.

My biggest worry, given Rossi’s oft-avowed reluctance to going back down the hard rock route, is that the next tour will be a “floater”-friendly one, i.e. full of (s)hits like ‘Marguerita Time’, ‘The Anniversary Waltz’, ‘All Around My Hat’ and the wretched ‘Burning Bridges’. That would be cause for a cyanide tablet. Here’s what the Quo **did** play: ‘Caroline’/‘The Wanderer’/‘Rain’, ‘Don’t Drive My Car’, ‘Mean Girl’, ‘Softer Ride’, ‘Beginning Of The End’, ‘Is There A Better Way?’, Medley: ‘What You’re Proposin’’/‘Down The Dustpipe’/‘Little Lady’/‘Red Sky’/‘Dear John’/‘Big Fat Mama’, Medley: ‘Pictures Of Matchstick Me’/’Ice In The Sun’, ‘The Oriental’, ‘Creeping Up On You’, ‘In My Chair’, ‘Living On An Island’, ‘In The Army Now’, Drum Solo, ‘Roll Over Lay Down’, ‘Down Down’, ‘Whatever You Want’, ‘Rocking All Over The World’, ‘Junior’s Wailing’ and Medley: ‘Rock ’N’ Roll Music’/‘Bye Bye Johnny’."

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8th - Francis article in the 'News of the World' (UK)

The following article about Francis (and Quo) appeared as an 'online exclusive' in the UK's News of the World newspaper on October 8th, written by Bruce Preston.

"FORTY years in any profession is an achievement but when you happen to be Status Quo it’s even more impressive given their infamous back catalogue of incidents and escapades. Quo are back on the road... again with a tour that celebrates 40 years of rock ’n’ roll.

It’s been 40 years since they had their first hit with Pictures Of Matchstick Men and they have hardly been out of the charts since and to coincide with the tour Quo are releasing "Pictures of 40 Years of Hits" a multi format collection spanning their incredible career, and they are releasing their first ever Christmas single, called...wait for it.... ‘It’s Christmas Time’.

I met up with Francis before the show at Croydon where he was keen to point out that Quo are going to be around for sometime yet, nefarious incidents and escapades apart.

It would seem that the Party is definitely not over yet for these originators of no nonsense heads down boogie, all be it with (a lot) less hair to shake about.

Back with a bang, Status Quo opened the show at the Fairfield halls with the time honoured classic, ‘Caroline’ which is part of a new ‘one-off’ set list, which has to be seen. This is a tour like no other, Rossi explained. Quo have dug deep into their past to include some gems, not least ‘Pictures of Matchstick Men.

As Rossi says it’s all about giving the punters what they want and Status Quo certainly deliver.

They {Quo} don’t use or need gimmicks, it’s all about their driving foot stomping music and if three chords will do why use more?

One of Quo’s charms is the ability to poke fun at themselves, which Francis Rossi does when he announces a new track from their latest CD, In Search of the Fourth Chord...something, he muses, they have been doing for a while!

Another song has Rossi trying to remember from which decade it was written in, was it the eighties?, seventies?, (now mumbling into the mike) or sixties? This is a band who know their audience inside out and give you what you come to expect and more.

The songs on this new set have been chosen for there ability to fit next to one another which keeps the show moving, building it up and ending it on a high, which has always been at the heart of what they set out to achieve at each gig.

Maybe Rossi and Parfitt won’t be remembered as the best song writing duo in rock history but they will be remembered as one of rocks most enduring partnerships and if they ever do find that elusive fourth chord I reckon they should just chuck it away and keep things just the way they are....and there’s a name for that!"

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10th - Quo concert at Harrogate International Centre

Photos of the band in action at Harrogate can be found here and here. The following article appeared in the Harrogate Advertiser in the lead up to the show, entitled "Status Quo pledge in Harrogate: we'll go until we're 80" and written by Nina Swift.

"STATUS Quo have reached a rock milestone. For 40 years the band has entertained fans with hits including favourites Rockin' All Over The World and Down, Down. This is an achievement which still surprises Francis. "When we first started we didn't think you could be 30-years-old and still do this," he said. "Then we hit 30 and got to 35 and thought this is ridiculous and then 40... If Mick and Keith are still going that means I can. McCartney and Cllff are still working at 60. We could still be going at 80!"

Whether the relationship between the band's two founder members, Francis and singer Rick Parfitt, holds out until then is another matter. The pair have been mates since the age of 16, but after spending 40 years together they could be forgiven for getting on each other's nerves.

Francis said: "We don't have rows. We don't get on as well as we used to but we get on reasonably well.

"I have spent more time with Rick than any of my girlfriends or wives. People forget that. We see each other from the start of the day to the end of the day. He's the first person I see and the last. But it's how we get on stage that matters."

The rock veteran said he didn't know whether current groups would match their rock status and still be around in their 60s but thought Radiohead, Muse and Oasis were in for a shot.

He said: "Oasis I think should or could be but while the younger brother still tries to pretend he's 22 it's not going to work. There has to be a point when you think 'I'm quite content. I'm not that person growing up on a Manchester estate anymore'."

Fans heading to the International Centre on Friday and Saturday will be treated to hits spanning the Quo's 40-year career, which started with their 'Pictures Of Matchstick Men' single.

The show will boast state-of-the-art stage backdrops evoking classic Quo moments, something which Francis remains unsure about.

"There will be pictures from various times of our career including pictures taken in the 60s," he said. "Hopefully it will be fantastic. I personally don't like this. If someone is looking at the scene behind me I think do I need to be here? The thing that makes Status Quo what it is, is that people watch them. If they are watching those scenes they aren't going to be watching us."

Francis said he didn't know how well the gig would go down with fans as some of their lesser known earlier material will feature alongside the more traditional Quo crowd pleasers.

"We have had 67 top 100 songs and there are about 17 in any set so there is a big choice and someone is bound to be disappointed if we haven't played their favourite," he said.

"There might be two people stood next to each other – one who wants to hear all the well-known chart stuff and one who likes our unreleased tracks. Everyone is different."

Personal favourites of the guitarist, which may appear on the set list, include Marguerita Time and Rock Till You Drop.

Quo have played in Harrogate numerous times over the years and Francis enjoys playing in the town. "I love Harrogate by the way," he said.

“There’s something old world conservative about it.”

On this occasion Francis hopes the band will have a day off to wander around Harrogate.

And the rocker said he may even drop into Betty’s for a cream cake – an image many of the bands longest-serving fans will struggle to conjure up."

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12th - Quo concert at Victoria Theatre, Halifax

Quo played at Halifax's Victoria Theatre on October 12th, turning out to be their last gig on the first leg of the UK 'Pictures' tour as the remainder of the October gigs were cancelled due to Matt falling victim to a respiratory tract infection. Photos of the band in action at Halifax can be found here.

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24th - Woodedz gig at The Rising Sun, Twickenham

It was an Edwards family gathering at the impromptu Woodedz show at The Rising Sun pub in Twickenham on October 24th (Rhino being at a loose end after the cancellation of the night's Quo show in Ipswich). First up, Freddie (Edwards) amazed the crowd with a solo guitar piece, before Rhino then joined Freddie with Mae (Edwards) on the bongo drums for an acoustic version of "Republican". Mae then moved from the bongos to the drum kit aproper to bang out the ever-popular "Bad News". The set continued with Mae stealing the honours with a great vocal on "Lucille". Rhino’s wife, Cathy, was also in attendance along with a number of Quo fans and pub regulars.

Photos of the Woodedz rocking out at The Rising Sun can be found here (scroll down towards the end of the page).

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