With a prolonged absence due to Quo tour commitments, the classic 4 Bills line-up of Johnny Warman (lead vocals), Jeff Rich (drums), John 'Rhino' Edwards (bass and backing vocals), Steve Byrd (lead guitar and backing vocals), Andy Hamilton (saxophone) and Paul Hirsch (keyboards and backing vocals) returned to the Half Moon in Putney to put smiles on the faces of the Quo entourage. Ably assisted by Tonto, the 4 Bills produced a memorable performance and the support band were OK too!
Early arrival at the Half Moon was rewarded by the sounds of the support band during their soundcheck - their material had a familiar ring to it. A peep through the hall doors confirmed my suspicions, the one and only 'Little Egypt' were back in town! After a long period away from the UK scene, 'Little Egypt' made a welcome return with their first live UK performance since supporting Quo on the German leg of the "Don't Stop" tour. The early start of their set (8.45) meant that only a handful were lucky enough to see Nick and Co. play a storming 40-minute set. From their "Eyes of the World" album flowed "Hide Your Love Away", "You Better You Bet", "Garden of Eden" and "Tryin" after opening with the popular "Shine All Over". The mellow "On My Own" was a surprise, but the closing number was as expected in the form of "Eyes of the World" itself - the best 'Little Egypt' number to display their extensive talents. Nick Rossi on lead guitar and vocal was superb and Kieran Rossi on bass also had a good gig. Their new material and further shows are eagerly awaited and it hopefully won't be too long before they get the record deal they so richly deserve.
Just time to get the drinks in before '4 Bills And A Ben' took stage at 9.45. They were afforded a great welcome and rewarded our efforts with 90 minutes of rock and roll. While John and Jeff sported new haircuts (and Jeff a goatie beard), Johnny wore his familiar check suit ... until things got going then it was bare flesh as usual! Their time away had given the set a chance to change a little and the changes were very successful. As they become more diverse, the 4 Bills impress even more with the amazing range of material they can play well. We started off with Chuck Berry, had some Small Faces, through The Who and ending up at Bob Seger. Dramatic new songs included "Livin' In America" and the finale "Get Out of Denver" (a real Quo crowd-pleaser!). A great set, a great band and a brilliant atmosphere (even Daley Thompson enjoyed it!), what else is there to say?
Over two hours of professional music for a fiver at the Half Moon - beat that for value. And now add on the opportunity to meet two Rossi's, one Rhino and one Jeff Rich - simply unbeatable!Revisit the September 1996 event list
A '4 Bills' weekend mini-tour in the form of a Half Moon gig followed immediately by a seaside special (giving us the opportunity to enact "Living On An Island"!) at Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey, gave two 4 Bills gigs plus three different support acts. With no time for recovery from the Friday night Half Moon extravaganza, the faithful fans trundled to Sheerness for another dose of this wonderful medicine.
First up at the Sheppey Leisure Centre were 'Flashback' who played an entertaining 40-minute set (from 8.15 to 8.55) of rock numbers. While visually they were uninspiring, their material was well chosen, and they gained in confidence as their set progressed and the audience swelled. Whether to please the Quo contingent or not, their set included Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop" but this was one of their less successful efforts and they seemed much more at home with heavier guitar-based blues and rock.
Next came the very well-received 'Sweet FA' featuring lead vocals by Quo nut Alan Crook. Another 40-minute set (9.10 to 9.50) again drew heavily on classic rock tracks, but the highlight was a real treat for the assembled Quo contingent - a brilliant medley of Quo songs thrown together with some skill and thought. The medley included "Shady Lady", "Can't Give You More" and "Mean Girl" and was such a refreshing change from the now rather staid "Mystery Song" and "Roadhouse Blues" medlies from Quo themselves. 'Sweet FA' performed very professionally and Crook was instrumental as their frontman - but it's that Quo medley which we will all remember, simply inspired!
Two sets down and one to go - the 4 Bills (in the same setup as the previous night) took stage at 10.30 to the now densely populated hall and produced yet another top notch performance. With the same set as at Putney, there was no feeling of boredom, the new numbers in particular feeling very fresh. "Livin' In America" went down well and the two familiar 'Don't Stop' tracks of "Proud Mary" and "Get Out of Denver" (the closing song) were enthusiastically welcomed. A very good set and an enthusiastic audience ensured an enjoyable gig for all, not least the 4 Bills themselves.
With three acts on the bill and more than a splattering of Quo tracks throughout, a great evening's entertainment and well supported by faithful Quo and 4 Bills fans.Revisit the September 1996 event list
The Daily Mail's Friday music review included a review of Francis Rossi's solo effort, "King of the Doghouse" on Virgin Records. "You can take Francis Rossi out of Status Quo but you can't take Status Quo out of Francis Rossi. There are simple strumming melodies with basic lyrics, though this is also folky and more country than the Quo and he seems to have learned some new chords." The album is given three stars out of a possible five.Revisit the September 1996 event list
The Francis Rossi solo album for Virgin Records was released in the UK on September 16th, entitled "King of the Doghouse". The 10-tracker was available on CD and cassette, both on Virgin Records with catalogue numbers CDV2809 and TC2809 respectively.
All but three of the tracks were penned by Tony McAnaney (who has written for Jimmy Nail), the remaining three tracks (namely "Isaac Ryan", "The Fighter" and "Someone Show Me") being joint efforts between Francis and Bernie Frost. "Someone Show Me" is a rerecording of the Quo song "Someone Show Me Home" from the "If You Can't Stand The Heat" album. Simon and Nick Rossi are credited for backing vocals and the nice colour booklet comes complete with lyrics for each of the songs on offer here.
Promotional copies of the album have the same catalogue number, but come with a Virgin Records promo sticker confirming the release date as September 16th.Revisit the September 1996 event list
A double-page spread in September 19th's Daily Mail newspaper featured an article concerning the impact of rock star lifestyles on families. The article, entitled "A chip off the old rock!", gave interviews with Rossi sons Simon, Nick and Kieran about how Francis' lifestyle had affected them. The piece was accompanied by good photos of Francis and his boys.Revisit the September 1996 event list