GSTV’s resident Brit takes on the formidable task of trying to sell Status Quo to Americans
By The Mad Dog
What if I could introduce you to a band which has had more hit singles than the Rolling Stones (single number 100 came out earlier this month), has sold more albums than the Beatles, is currently in their sixth decade of recording and touring, and is in the Guinness Book of Records for performing a four city UK tour in twelve hours ? A band whose best known hit (Rockin’ All Over The World) was penned by John Fogerty and whose traditional live show opener was a storming cover of Steamhammer’s “Juniors Wailing?”
A band which in the ’70s and ’80s would regularly sell out London’s Wembley Arena (capacity 10,000) for seven to ten consecutive nights and today still pulls crowds of several thousand on tours throughout Europe, Russia and Australia ? And a band which is about to see the release of its first full length action movie, Bula Quo – “It started with guitars and ended with guns.” Oh, and let’s not forget their blistering opening of the 1985 “Live Aid” concert at Wembley Stadium.
Goofy though the new movie may be, England’s iconic Status Quo can seemingly do no wrong – as if the establishment could never get rid of them and have now decided to embrace them. Despite their legendary standing in just about every country in the world (the movie was filmed in Fiji), this is a band that remains largely unknown in the USA. Anecdotally, whilst they were hitting it big in the UK in the early ’70s, they were booked on a stadium tour of the US supporting Fleetwood Mac. Having just come offstage after performing a rousing, sweaty 40 minute set, a roadie was heard to say “man, you guys were bad.” Perhaps the band took this too literally but essentially their phenomenal success in their “home turf” of Europe and beyond at the time negated the implied requirement to move to the US, tour there relentlessly and establish then critical radio airplay.
Having lived in the States for eleven years and thoroughly indulged myself in the country’s rock culture, I reckon I know what American audiences like and Status Quo is probably one of the finest recording and live acts America has (almost) never heard of.
In trying to pigeonhole them as a live act, I would pitch Status Quo somewhere between Sammy Hagar and the Waborita’s and Jimmy Buffet though they sound like neither. They are, however, a fantastic “party” band whose faithful following these days often include three generations of the same family. These guys have cultivated a driving, twelve bar, country-rock style for which I honestly can’t think of a parallel. With all those decades of hit singles and albums behind them, it’s not surprising that they have transformed themselves over time from a psychedelic pop band, through a heads down, no nonsense boogie band, to the rockin’, pop-hook laden tour-de-force they are today.
The original “frantic four” line-up has seen some changes over the years but founding members and frontmen, Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt, still form a formidable lead and rhythm guitar duo with a vocal synergy which is perfect foil for their unmistakeable Strat and Telecaster jangle.
If you’re a newcomer to this band, you’ve got some catching up to do. I reckon I have everything Status Quo has ever recorded – that’s over 700 songs according to my iPod.
For something immediately indicative, check out “Caroline” from 1973’s Hello! album and “Down Down” from 1975’s On The Level – both excellent albums incidentally, which have stood the test of time. “Don’t Waste My Time” is another track which still features in the live set today. Dog of Two Head, released in 1971, features folksy “Gerdundula” whilst 1972s Piledriver album cemented their standing as a straightforward but very powerful blues-rock-shuffle band. “Big Fat Mama”, hit single “Paper Plane’ and a rousing cover of The Door’s “Roadhouse Blues” from this album capture the Quo’s relentless brand of in-yer-face boogie.
More recent album releases The Party Ain’t Over Yet, Quid Pro Quo and Heavy Traffic are also well worth a visit. The fact is, if you like what Quo are dealing you, then you’ll like everything they’ve ever done.
In March, I saw one of their reunion shows where the original four founding members re-united, due to unprecedented demand and….oh yeah….old age suggesting if not now, maybe never. They didn’t play a song later than 1975 and the energy and chemistry that night brought grown men to tears – seriously – such is the love people have for this band in the UK. The nostalgia aside, I was back in 1977 for a couple of hours – the first time I ever saw Status Quo.
This is a band dear to my heart and even though its late in the day, America should know about them. So, set aside some time, grab a cold one and get “you-tubing”…..if you like what you hear and see, whatever time you start delving into Status Quo’s massive catalogue, it’ll be dark when you finish and you’ll go to bed saying “Thanks, Mad Dog…..thanks”.