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Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The School of Quo 1962-77

Status Quo get a lot of stick, some of it may seem like it is justifiable as they drifted from being a hard nose working man's rock and roll band to some form of family entertainment that would normally be found on a stage at Butlins. But the original line-up is very hard to find fault with. I have to confess that I have a soft spot for the band, especially their early material between 1968-77. I make no apology for posting this even though they are not a fashionable band to like! Click on the links to enjoy the music.

So I thought it would be good to have a little history lesson in the School of Quo 1962-77 before focusing on the current Frantic Four Reunion Tour that has four dates left to play (see picture below).

In 1962 Francis Rossi and Alan Lancaster formed a band whilst they were still at school (Sedgehill Comprehensive School, Catford, South East London - a few miles down the road from where I grew in Sydenham) and they called that band The Scorpions. They made their live debut a year later in Dulwich, South East London at a sports club.

In the same year that they played live for the first time John Coghlan took over the drum stool and the band changed their name to The Spectres. Writing their own material they met Rick Parfitt (around 1964 I think) and by the end of 1965 Parfitt and Rossi were good mates and made a commitment to continue working together (though Parfitt would not join the band until 1967). Parfitt was involved in a cabaret band called The Highlights.

July 18th 1966 The Spectres signed a record deal with Piccadilly Records, a five year deal and in 1966 they released two singles: 'I (Who Have Nothing)' and 'Hurdy Gurdy Man'. In 1967 they relased a third single, 'We Ain't Got Nothing Yet', a song originally released by a New York Psychedelic band The Blue Magoos. None of the singles reached the charts.

In 1967 they changed their name to The Traffic Jam and then had to change it again due to confusion with Steve Winwood's  band Traffic. Under this name they released another single ('Almost But Not Quite There') that also failed to chart. The new name of the band was The Status Quo and with Parfitt now on board their fortunes were about to change.

Released in January 1968 the first single from The Status Quo was 'Pictures of Matchstick Men'. It would reach #7 on the charts and I love Francis Rossi's explanation about how the song came to be written:
"I wrote it on the bog. I'd gone there, not for the usual reasons...but to get away from the wife and mother-in-law. I used to go into this narrow frizzing toilet and sit there for hours, until they finally went out. I got three quarters of the song finished in that khazi. The rest I finished in the lounge."

The follow-up, 'Black Viels of Melancholy' though did not chart and was thought of as just a copy of their debut single! 'Ice in the Sun', written by Marty Wilde followed and again they had a top ten single (eventually peaking at #8). The debut album 'Picturesque Matchstickable Messages From The Status Quo', which contained the three singles, only managed to break into the charts in Germany (#8).

In 1969 a further three singles ('Make Me Stay A Little Bit Longer', 'Are You Growing Tired Of My Love' and The Everly Brothers' 'The Price of Love') and an album ('Spare Parts') were issued all without any great success. The band in the meantime had changed dropped The and were just known as Status Quo.


Having ditched the sound of Psychedelia after the lack of success the band began focusing on a more blues rock sound.  'Down the Dustpipe' became a Top Twenty Hit reaching #12 in 1970. The follow-up, 'In My Chair' reached #21. The first album with this line-up was 'Ma Kelly's Greasy Spoon'. The album failed to chart.

1971 was the year that The Frantic Four - the classic Quo line of Rossi, Parfitt, Lancaster and Coghlan - took centre stage as Roy Lynes, who had played keyboards for the band since 1964 departed. They released one single ('Tune To The Music' and an album 'Dog of Two Heads'), what would be their last releases for Pye Records. Both were unsuccesful, though when Status Quo began gaining success with their new label, Pye issued 'Mean Girl' and 'Gerdundula' as singles in 1973 with only 'Mean Girl' breaking into the chart at #20.

'Piledriver' would begin to change the fortunes of the band. It was their first album on Vertigo and also the first album to be produced by themselves. The album was also the first one of theirs to make it to the charts peaking at #5 and spending 37 weeks on the chart. The only single from the album was 'Paper Plane' and that broke into the top ten peaking at #8. A few songs from the album would become live Quo classics - 'Don't Waste My Time', 'Big Fat Mama', and the cover of The Doors' 'Roadhouse Blues'.

The Quo hit the big time in 1973 with a #1 album in 'Hello' and a #5 single with 'Caroline'. Also on the album were two songs destined to remain crowd favourites at live shows, 'Roll Over Lay Down' and 'Forty Five Hundred Times'.

'Break the Rules' in 1974 peaked at #8, though it was not the single choice by the band themselves. The 'Quo' album hit the #2 spot on the UK charts when released in May that year. Later in the year they would have their one and only #1 single with 'Down Down'.

'On The Level' was released in February 1975 and went straight in the charts at #1! To celebrate 13 years in the business Status Quo released a three track live EP in 1975. 'Roll Over Lay Down' was the lead track.
The EP was seen by some as a foolish thing to do and the band were discouraged by many from releasing it but the success of it showed who was the wiser. The EP reached #9 in the UK, #2 in Holland and Australia, and a Top Ten hit in Norway, Austria and Belguim.
Oh, and John Peel did the sleeve notes on it!:
It is 1968 or 1969, some year like that, and Gaffer Peel is compere at a rock festival in Nottingham. The organizers expected a crowd of 40.000, got 400, and a poor time is being had by all. Band after band has numbered us with meaningful stuff about the revolution (whatever happened to it anyway?), or bored us with their suite base on 'Alice Through The Looking Glass'. I'm supposed to dart between the two stages to announce each band but I'm busy trying to fascinate a young woman (unsuccessfully, I'm afraid) and this shower get on stage unnnounced. "Ello", the below, stirring the stoned handful out of their torpor, 'you're not gonna like us at all, we make hit singles and we're very loud'. They didn't, they do and they are. At the time I was outraged. Who, I asked myself, are these outrageously vulgar yobboes? We wanted beauty and thruth, not rowdiness; certain substances, not brown ale.
Status Quo played, unabashed and basic, and since then, secretly at first because, I mean, Quo weren't, as we said then, where it was at, I've been a believer.
Amazing to think that when they first annoying the neighboors from scout halls and cricket pavilions, John Kennedy was still alive, only a fistful of daft Scousers and Hamburgers had heard of the Beatles, and I was selling crop insurance in West Texas. Even more amazing in this is - thirteen years on, their music is so fresh and vital that wherever you do a disco you know it's going to be a either 'Brown Sugar' or a Quo record that finally get's them moving. You know too, that there's always goign to be a row of loonies - Maybe including you - who'll get down into that celebreated Quo boogie stance and churn to and fro like creatures possessed. Status Quo are good lads, they make exciting and unpretentious records, they make me feel positively carefree, have saved many a potentially disastrous gig for me, and if they rock on for another thirteen years - well that's just fine by me. -
John Peel.

'Rain' was released in February 1976 and peaked at #7 on the charts and then the album 'Blue For You' followed in March 1976 and is the final studio album to feature The Frantic Four (as Andy Brown joined the band on keyboards following its release). The album entered the chart at #1 and stayed there for three weeks. The second single from the album was an edited version of 'Mystery Song' which would reach #11 on the UK charts.

Then in 1977 there was the release of one of my favourite live albums ever - 'Live!' went to #3 in the charts and was a superb record of the 'Blue For You Tour' as it reached The Glasgow Apollo for a three night stand between 27-29 October 1976. Bob Young plays harmonica on it and keyboard parts by Andy Brown were actually added in the studio!

Glasgow Apollo 1976

The Frantic Four are back out on the road again and I thought that they would be doing something different from last year but it's pretty much the same set as last year!

 2013 Set
Status Quo Setlist Wembley Arena, London, England 2013, Reunion Tour

2014 Set
Status Quo Setlist Eventim Apollo, London, England 2014, Reunion Tour

So here's a whole bunch of links to songs played on the tour from this year.

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