Status Quo (band)
|Also known as||The Scorpions (1962)
The Spectres (1962–1967)
Traffic Jam (1967)
|Genres||Rock, hard rock, boogie rock, psychedelic rock, blues rock, rock and roll, roots rock, progressive rock|
|Labels||Fourth Chord, Sanctuary, Eagle, Polydor, Vertigo, Pye, Cadet Concept|
John “Rhino” Edwards
|Past members||Alan Lancaster
Status Quo are an English rock band whose music is characterized by their distinctive brand of boogie-woogie. The group originated in The Spectres, founded by schoolboys Francis Rossi and Alan Lancaster in 1962. After a number of lineup changes, the band became The Status Quo in 1967 and Status Quo in 1969.
They have had over 60 chart hits in the UK, starting with 1967’s “Pictures Of Matchstick Men“, and the most recent being in 2010, which is more than any other rock group. 22 of which reached the Top 10 in the UK Singles Chart. In 1991, Status Quo received a Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music.
Status Quo starred in their first feature film, Bula Quo!, which was released to cinemas in July 2013. The film coincided with the release of the soundtrack album Bula Quo!, which peaked at number 121 in the French records chart. The first single from the album, “Bula Bula Quo” was released in June 2013, and is Status Quo’s one hundredth single release.
Status Quo was formed in 1962 under the name “The Scorpions” by Francis Rossi and Alan Lancaster at Sedgehill Comprehensive School, Catford, along with classmates Alan Key (drums) and Jess Jaworski (keyboards). Rossi and Lancaster played their first gig at the Samuel Jones Sports Club in Dulwich, London. In 1963, Key was replaced by John Coghlan and the band changed name to “The Spectres”. They began writing their own material and after a year met Rick Parfitt who was playing with a cabaret band called The Highlights. By the end of 1965, Rossi and Parfitt, who had become close friends, made a commitment to continue working together. On 18 July 1966, The Spectres signed a five-year deal with Piccadilly Records, releasing two singles that year, “I (Who Have Nothing)” and “Hurdy Gurdy Man” (written by Alan Lancaster), and one the next year called “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet” (a song originally recorded by New York psychedelic band The Blues Magoos). All three singles failed to make an impact on the charts. Parfitt joined the band in 1967.
By 1967, the group had discovered psychedelia and changed their name to Traffic Jam, but were forced to change again to avoid confusion with Steve Winwood‘s Traffic, following an argument over who had registered the name first. The band, which at this time included organist Roy Lynes, secured an appearance on BBC Radio’s Saturday Club hosted by Brian Matthew. They released another single “Almost But Not Quite There” which was also a flop. In late 1967, the band became The Status Quo and in January 1968 released the psychedelic-flavoured “Pictures of Matchstick Men“. Rick Parfitt was invited to join the band just as the song hit the UK Singles Chart, reaching Number 7. “Matchstick Men” also became their only Top 40 hit single in the United States. Though the follow-up was the unsuccessful single, “Black Veils of Melancholy”, they had a hit again the same year with the poppy, Marty Wilde penned “Ice in the Sun“, which climbed to Number 8. Although the group’s albums have been released in the United States throughout their career, they have never achieved the same level of success and fame there that they have enjoyed in their home country. After the breakthrough, the band management hired Bob Young as a roadie and tour manager. Over the years Young became one of the most important songwriting partners for Status Quo.
After their second album Spare Parts failed to impact commercially, the band abandoned pop psychedelia and Carnaby Street fashions in favour of a hard rock/boogie sound, faded denims and T-shirts, an image which was to become their trademark throughout the 1970s. Lynes left the band in 1970 and was replaced in the studio by guests including keyboard player Jimmy Horowitz and Tom Parker. By 1976, ex-The Herd, Judas Jump and Peter Frampton Band member Andy Bown was brought in to cover keyboards although as he was contracted as a solo artist with EMI he was not credited as a full-time member until 1982.
After two relatively poor selling albums, Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon and Dog of Two Head in 1970 and 1971, their major breakthrough came when they signed with the heavy rock and progressive label Vertigo. Their first album for Vertigo, Piledriver, was released in 1972 and heralded an even heavier, self-produced sound. This album was essentially the stylistic template for each album they released up until Blue for You in 1976. Quo’s more popular songs from this era include “Paper Plane” (no 42 in the German music chart) (1972), “Caroline” (no 36 in the German music chart) (1973), “Down Down” (no 14 in the Austrian music chart) (1975), “Rain” (no 27 in the German music chart) (1976), “Rockin’ All Over the World” (No 29 in the New Zealand music chart) (1977) and “Whatever You Want” (no 24 in the Australian Music Chart) (1979). “Down Down” topped the UK Singles Chart in January 1975, becoming their only UK number one single to date. In 1976, they signed a pioneering sponsorship deal with Levi’s. Quo have now sold approximately 128 million records worldwide.
Changes in line-up
From 1977 onwards, the band’s sound became more polished as they began to employ outside producers. These included Pip Williams, Roger Glover, who was the first outside producer to work with Quo since Pye‘s John Schroeder in the early 1970s and produced “Wild Side of Life” and its B-side “All Through The Night” in 1976; and John Eden.
1977’s Rockin’ All Over the World‘s title track, a minor hit for its writer John Fogerty (formerly of Creedence Clearwater Revival) became one of Status Quo’s most enduring anthems. Sales remained high in the UK throughout the 1980s, but tensions within the band saw founding member John Coghlan leaving the band late in 1981. His replacement was Pete Kircher from the 1960s pop band Honeybus. This line-up played its last full-length gig in 1984 at the Milton Keynes Bowl, although the band were contracted to record more albums. Status Quo’s final appearance with the Kircher line-up opened the Live Aid charity event at Wembley in July 1985.
That year, Rossi recorded and released two solo singles with long-time writing partner Bernie Frost. Parfitt also recorded a solo album, Recorded Delivery, with bass player John “Rhino” Edwards and drummer Jeff Rich. The album remains unreleased, although some tracks were reworked and released sporadically as Status Quo B-sides until 1987.
In mid-1985, Rossi, Parfitt and Bown, along with Edwards and Rich, started work on a new Status Quo album. Lancaster, who by this time had more or less settled in Australia, took out a legal injunction to stop the band from using the Status Quo name on any records, citing his increasing musical differences with the group, notably during the sessions for the 1983 album Back to Back. The specific dispute concerned two tracks which became hit singles for the group around that time. Lancaster had written the track “Ol’ Rag Blues”, but was angered when the producers chose to release a version with Rossi singing the lead vocal in preference to the one sung by himself. The injunction also prevented the release of a single, “Naughty Girl”, for which a catalogue number was issued by Vertigo.
An out-of-court settlement was made in January 1986, enabling the new Status Quo to continue recording the In The Army Now album, of which “Naughty Girl” was reworked as “Dreamin'”. Lancaster remained in Australia, and in 1986 joined an Australian super group, The Party Boys, which featured Angry Anderson of Rose Tattoo, John Brewster of The Angels and Kevin Borich, but achieved little success outside Australia. Lancaster left Status Quo formally in 1987.
The late 1980s and 1990s
On 11 and 12 July 1986 they played at Queen‘s Live at Wembley ’86 concert. The band also supported Queen at Knebworth and Queen’s European shows. The commercially successful In the Army Now album was released in 1986, the single of the same name becoming one of the band’s biggest selling UK singles, reaching number 2. The following album, Ain’t Complaining, released in 1988, was less successful but did produce the hit single “Burning Bridges” which got to number 5. This was later re-recorded (with new lyrics) in April 1994 with Manchester United F.C. as “Come on You Reds” which would have given the band their second UK Number 1, but the single was released as ‘by Manchester United’.
The early-to-mid-1990s saw falling album sales for the band. To promote the release of the “Rock ‘Til You Drop” album (1991), Quo performed four arena gigs across the UK in the space of a single day, earning them a place in the Guinness Book of Records. The 1994 Quo album “Thirsty Work” included a cover of the Jennifer Warnes song I’m Restless revealing an alternative and lighter sound to the band. Don’t Stop (1996), and Famous in the Last Century (2000) consisted almost entirely of cover versions, (with the only exception being the title track to the latter). The former brought some chart success for Quo with covers of Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” and The Beach Boys‘ “Fun, Fun, Fun“. The band became involved in an acrimonious dispute with Radio 1 after the station refused to include the “Fun Fun Fun” single on the radio station’s playlist.
In 1993, Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt attracted a crowd of over 25,000 when they performed the annual Blackpool Illuminations lights switch on.
Parfitt underwent quadruple by-pass surgery in 1997 but was able to make a full recovery and returned with a performance at the Norwich City Football Club ground three months later. Status Quo also returned to Australia in 1997, completing their first tour there since 1978. A greatest hits compilation, Whatever You Want – The Very Best of Status Quo was also released, achieving silver sales in the UK that year. In 1999, Quo toured Germany, Holland and Switzerland. Dubbed the ‘Last Night of the Proms’, the band were backed by a full orchestra during the concerts.
Rich left in 2000 and was replaced by Matt Letley. Andrew Bown also took a year off at the same time following the death of his wife, and was temporarily replaced on stage by Paul Hirsh, formerly of Voyager.
That same year Rossi and Parfitt made cameo appearances in the long-running ITV soap opera Coronation Street in a storyline which involved them being sued by the notorious layabout Les Battersby, and performing live at his wedding as compensation.
In December 2005, it was announced that Parfitt had been taken ill and was undergoing tests for throat cancer. All subsequent dates of the UK tour were cancelled as a result. However, the growths in Parfitt’s throat were later found to be benign and were successfully removed. In May 2006, a fully recovered Parfitt and the band returned to the NEC Birmingham to play the show that they had postponed in December. This was their 40th show at the venue, and was recorded for a DVD, entitled “Just Doin’ It”.
On 1 July 2007, they performed in front of 63,000 people at the newly built Wembley Stadium as part of the Concert for Diana. They also appeared on the TV program Tiswas Reunited, in which the band got the usual greeting of custard pies and buckets of water whilst playing the song, “Gerdundula”.
Their twenty-eighth studio album, In Search of the Fourth Chord, was released on the band’s own Fourth Chord label in September 2007 in the UK, and on Edel Records in the rest of Europe. Produced by veteran producer Pip Williams, who had worked with Quo in the studio since 1977, the album was only moderately successful.
In 2008, they teamed up with German techno group Scooter to record a jumpstyle version of their 1979 single “Whatever You Want” entitled “Jump That Rock (Whatever You Want)“. In December 2008, they released their 75th single and first Christmas single, entitled “It’s Christmas Time“, which peaked at No. 40 in the UK Singles Chart.
Rossi and Parfitt were awarded the OBE in the New Year Honours 2010 for their services to music. Their long-standing work for charities includes The Prince’s Trust, British Heart Foundation and Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy.
Classic Rock magazine reported on 17 March 2010 that the band had patched up their relationship with Alan Lancaster, and were discussing the possibility of a collaboration in the future. The article stated “While the band are back on friendly terms with Alan, it’s unlikely we’ll see any future reunion, with Quo continuing as normal and Lancaster busy with charity events and overseeing the activities of his son’s band The Presence”.
On 26 September 2010, a new version of “In the Army Now” was released through Universal / UMC. All profits from this updated and lyrically reworked version will be donated equally to the British Forces Foundation and Help For Heroes charities.
A box set of sessions, live concerts and TV appearances at the BBC was released on 25 October 2010, titled Live at the BBC. The full 7CD version (+DVD) covers almost all appearances, while the 2CD and 4CD version present some highlights.
Their twenty ninth studio album, Quid Pro Quo, was released in a deluxe format exclusively at Tesco on 30 May 2011. The regular edition was released elsewhere on 7 June. The album peaked at number 10 in the UK chart.
December 2011 saw Status Quo undertake their first all arenas UK winter tour. Quo also performed for the first time at the O2 arena in London. The tour was dubbed Quofest and featured Roy Wood and Kim Wilde as support for all shows. They joined the band during the encore.
In August 2011, Status Quo began filming their first cinematic documentary with film director Alan G Parker. Entitled Hello Quo!, the production opened in cinemas on 22 October 2012. A Blu-ray/DVD release followed, through Anchor Bay Productions, on 29 October. The movie included contributions from Brian May, Jeff Lynne, Cliff Richard, Joe Elliott, Paul Weller, Joe Brown, Jim Lea, Andy Scott and Steve Diggle.
In April 2012, Status Quo announced they were shooting their first feature film, over several weeks in Fiji. A 90-minute action comedy, entitled Bula Quo!, taking its name from the islanders’ traditional Fijian greeting, and also referencing the title of the band’s best-selling album, Hello! featuring the band as themselves, and also starring Jon Lovitz, Craig Fairbrass and Laura Aikman. The film was directed by Stuart St. Paul, produced by Tim Major and is due to be released in cinemas on 5 July 2013. The film was accompanied by a soundtrack album of the same name, the band’s 30th studio album, released on 10 June. It will features nine new songs and ten re-records and live tracks and debuted in the UK chart at number 10.
On 9 July 2012 the band released the single “The Winner” for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
In July 2012 Coles, an Australian national supermarket chain, signed Status Quo to record a version of “Down Down” using Coles’ tag line ‘Down, down, prices are down’. In November 2012, Coles continued their association with Status Quo, producing a series of television adverts with the band appearing and performing “It’s Christmas Time”. In 2013, new adverts were released by Coles with Quo using “Whatever You Want” as the new jingle.
In December that year, Quo toured under the Quofest banner for a second year, this time supported by Bonnie Tyler and Eddie and the Hot Rods. On 17 December 2012, Matt Letley announced his decision to leave the band after 12 years, and subsequently departed following completion of their 2012 winter tour. However, Letley toured with Quo their Australia and Mexico tour in March and April 2013, due to limited time to find a new drummer after the Frantic Four Tour.
The 1970–76 line-up (Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt, Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan) reunited in March 2013 for a series of dates in Wolverhampton, Manchester, Glasgow and London. The last date of the tour, at Wembley Arena on 17 March was filmed for a DVD release scheduled for September 2013.
In May 2013, Leon Cave became Quo’s new drummer. In the latter months of 2013, Status Quo embarked on their Bula Quo tour, supported by Uriah Heep on German dates, and 10cc in the UK. This will be followed by nine concert dates in the UK during 2014. On 25 November 2013, it was announced that Status Quo will be co-headlining at the Download Festival in June 2014.
In January 2014, Wychwood Brewery announced they would be releasing a Status Quo brand of beer named after their 1972 album ‘Piledriver’ exclusively in JD Wetherspoon pubs across the UK in February before going on general sale in April. March 2014 saw the second ‘Frantic Four’ reunion tour featuring Rossi and Parfitt with original members Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan once more with their last gig being at the The O2 in Dublin. Rossi has indicated that this will be the last ever reunion tour of the ‘Frantic Four’ lineup. On 8 March 2014, Rossi and Parfitt appeared on ITV show Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway performing “Rockin’ All Over The World” with McBusted.
(The Spectres / Traffic Jam)