It is very strange, but the most successful bands of all time in the UK didn`t ever really “make it” in the USA. They tried, but ultimately they had to admit failure there. Not that it mattered much, as the rest of the world clearly loved them very much. Well, it is America`s loss, and our gain. Who wouldn`t like to have these fun, loveable guys around, turning out their catchy boogie-rock? I would.
The simple plod along Status trail
Andy McConnell reports on Quo`s progress from a pool side in Los Angeles
“We`ll plod along steadily. Things have happened to us over the years but we get over them. We keep getting knocked down, then knocked down again but we get up again. We`ll carry on and in the end we`ll look up and suddenly realise that we`ve made it,” said Francis `Mike` Rossi from beside Status Quo`s Los Angeles hotel swim pool.
The singer / guitarist / spokesman`s comment seemed to sum up his band`s simple philosophy. After ten hard years on the road in England and Europe the band have `suddenly realised` that they have made it over there. They have had a number one and a number two album and a series of top singles in England; statistics reflected all over Europe.
Now it`s the turn of the States.
“The first tour over here was good,” said Rossi in his heavy Cockney accent. “We got good reactions and we were told by everybody that things were very promising.”
Then they were `knocked down`…
“The second was a disaster. We started off at the beginning of the year with the Fleetwood Mac that wasn`t Fleetwood Mac. It was that mock-up Fleetwood. The tour started to fall to bits right from the start. People were throwing bottles at them and demanding their money back. Everybody was having rows. Then we were supposed to do some dates with Nazareth but they didn`t come over. I caught pleurisy, Richard Parfitt got something so we packed up and went home.”
Since the first tour Quo`s popularity has soared so much in England that it must be difficult for guitarists Francis and Richard, bassist Alan Lancaster and drummer John `Spud` Coghlan to come out and tour the States as second or even third on the bill.
“Yeah, it`s hard to come out here and have to start from scratch again,” the unshaven guitarist agreed. “Over here we don`t mean a thing, but in England we have reached a point where we can ask for whatever we want; each tour is bigger and better than the last one. We can have things there that we can`t over here. It`s a difficult psychological thing.”
The band had arrived in LA the night before. They had flown over from London for the start of a six week tour, opening with Rory Gallagher at Santa Monica.
Although it`s difficult to categorise bands` music, Quo`s is a sort of London 70`s R&B, I suggested.
“Yeah, that`s a nice phrase. I like that. It`s hard to say what it is but that sorta sums it up. It`s a kinda raunchy R&B. I dunno, it`s just something we get off on,” he said admiring his rapidly tanning chest.
But Quo`s music has not always been in that bag. No way.
The band knew each other from years back. They`ve been together as a four-piece for almost ten years. Francis knew Alan from the time he was 12-years-old. They found `Spud` two years later. They met second guitarist Richard in 1965.
Under the name of The Spectors they played as support band for touring solo acts in England. Anybody from the Dixie Cups to Madeline Bell, now of Blue Mink. They toured for a short while as Traffic until Stevie Winwood`s outfit of the same name broke onto the scene.
Eventually they chose Status Quo as a name. Their first single release was a weird little number, “Pictures Of Matchstick Men”.
“It got to the top five in England, number seven over `ere and higher in all sortsa places over the world. We used to think that if we ever had a hit single all our troubles would be over,” lamented Rossi with a vague smile.
“We thought that everything would be fine; no problems, no worries, our mums and dads would stop `aving a go at us. No chance! We were told what we should wear, told what we should say, what we should play on stage. All that old crap, yer know.”
After “Matchstick Men” the States forgot about Quo. So did England, well almost. The next single flopped. Things looked bad. The third one sold well, the fourth flopped. “We really got into a rut. Our producer had a strange urge to put strings on every track we cut.” Another single bombed.
Suddenly they got hold of a song they really liked, “Down The Dustpipe”. They got themselves back in the charts.
“We found ourselves in a situation that if we played a spot on television the night before we would pack out a gig, but things would die off towards the end of the week. There were usually 20 or 30 kids upfront screaming and trying to get hold of us while the rest of the hall was silent. The blokes would be there to get women and the women were there to get men. There was no satisfaction. We`d come off and there`d be nuffing; a couple of people would clap, that`s all. They wouldn`t know what you`d done and didn`t care either.”
So they decided to make a break. Instead of playing ballrooms and dance-halls, they started playing small clubs for either nothing or just expenses. They had another single success, with a song culled from an album. One album later they waved goodbye to a recording company they had grown to hate.
It took a year of court-cases and lawsuits to free themselves before joining a new, more sympathetic company. With the experience under their belts they recorded “Piledriver”.
“We put out “Paper Plane” from that album and everything went WHAM!” said Rossi leaning across the table. “Everything just bust wide open. Since then we`d have four smash singles on the trot in England.”
With Quo`s astonishing success, the old company jumped on the band-wagon, releasing tracks from old albums as singles and putting out their own, unapproved compilation albums.
“We had “Paper Plane”, our own single in the charts there were two singles from the other company; the “Piledriver” and the new “Hello” albums were in the album charts while the other company`s “Best Of…” and Golden Hour Of…” sets were high-flying. We were trying to keep a steady flow of material and there was this other lot flooding the shop with singles and albums. It was ridiculous.”
Since then Quo have had their new “Quo” album released in England along with the single, “Break The Rules”. The single was top ten. The album?
“We knew the album would do well,” declared Rossi draining the last of his 7 Up from the bottle. “We knew it would. But it turned out to be incredible. The first week of its release it went into the charts at number two. From then it fought it out with the Carpenters and Rick Wakeman! It`s amazing.”
Why come over to the States to start again from the bottom? Surely the last album will make enough money to keep them in plenty for a year?
“You can`t stop. You just can`t say that`s enough. We could stay in England and work away, turning out album after album and saturate things. We don`t want to do that.
“You have to come over to the States; it`s a natural thing to do. Richard said the other day `when you are in a race and you are half-a-mile in front of everybody else, you don`t stop, you keep going`. That`s what we are doing.”
What`s happening after this six-week trip, I enquired.
“We go home and try to get some things down for the new album which should be out early next year. Then we`ve got four days off, off to Sweden, Denmark and Norway then come back over here again in October,” answered Rossi.
Back to the States again? Four tours in 18 months?
“I think so. If we are really going to make a go of the States I want to do it now, not spread it over five years, coz we`ll be a bit old by then. We`ll all be 21,” he smiled with a twinkle in his eye.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Bob Marley, Billy Preston, Ronnie Lane, Golden Earring, Ronnie Spector, Duane Eddy, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Andy Fairweather Low, Viola Wills, Mick Jagger, Suzi Quatro, R. Dean Taylor, Johnny Bristol, Julie Driscoll, Argent, Georgia Fame, Vangelis, Greenslade.
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