Status Quo Biography

The much-loved Status Quo have carved a large niche in music history by producing uncomplicated, unpretentious and infectious rock music. The origins of this durable and now-legendary attraction lie in the Spectres, a London-based beat outfit. Founder members Francis Rossi (29 May 1949, Forest Hill, London, England; guitar, vocals) and Alan Lancaster (b. Alan Charles Lancaster, 7 February 1949, Peckham, London, England; bass/vocals) led the act from its inception in 1962 until 1967, by which time Roy Lynes (b. 25 November 1943, England; organ) and John Coghlan (b. John Robert Coghlan, 19 September 1946, Dulwich, London, England; drums) completed its line-up. The Spectres’ three singles encompassed several styles of music, ranging from pop to brash R&B, but the quartet took a new name, the Traffic Jam, when such releases proved commercially unsuccessful. A similar failure beset ‘Almost But Not Quite There’, but the band was nonetheless buoyed by the arrival of Rick Parfitt (b. Richard Parfitt, 12 October 1948, Woking, Surrey, England; guitar/keyboards/vocals), lately of cabaret attraction the Highlights (where he was sometimes known as Rick Harrison).

The revamped unit assumed their ‘The Status Quo’ appellation in August 1967 and initially sought work backing various solo artists, including Madeline Bell and Tommy Quickly. Such employment came to an abrupt end the following year when the quintet’s debut single, Rossi’s ‘Pictures Of Matchstick Men’, soared to number 7 in the UK. One of the era’s most distinctive performances, the song’s ringing, phased guitar pattern and de rigueur phasing courted pop and psychedelic affectations. A follow-up release, Rossi’s ‘Black Veils Of Melancholy’, exaggerated latter trappings at the expense of melody, but the band enjoyed another UK Top 10 hit with the jaunty ‘Ice In The Sun’, co-written by former 50s singer Marty Wilde. Subsequent recordings in a similar vein struggled to match such success, and despite reaching number 12 in 1970 with ‘Down The Dustpipe’, the band (now known simply as Status Quo) was increasingly viewed as a passé novelty. However, the song itself, which featured a simple riff and wailing harmonica, indicated the musical direction unveiled more fully on 1970’s Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon. The album included the band’s version of Steamhammer’s ‘Junior’s Wailing’, which had inspired this conversion to a simpler, ‘boogie’ style. Gone too were the satin shirts, frock coats and kipper ties, replaced by long hair, denim jeans and plimsolls.

The departure of Lynes en route to Scotland - ‘He just got off the train and that was the last we ever saw of him’ (Rossi) - brought the unit’s guitar work to the fore, although indifference from their record company blighted progress. Assiduous live appearances built up a grassroots following and impressive slots at the Reading and Great Western Festivals (both 1972) signalled a commercial turning point. Now signed to the renowned Vertigo Records label, Status Quo scored a UK Top 10 hit in January 1973 with ‘Paper Plane’ but more importantly, reached number 5 in the album charts with Piledriver. A subsequent release, Hello!, entered at number 1, confirming the band’s emergence as a major attraction.

Since this point the band’s style has basically remained unchanged, fusing simple, 12-bar riffs to catchy melodies, while an unpretentious ‘lads’ image has proved equally enduring. Each of their 70s albums reached the Top 5, while a consistent presence in the singles chart included such notable entries as ‘Caroline’ (1973), ‘Down Down’ (a chart-topper in 1974), ‘Roll Over Lay Down’ (1975), ‘Whatever You Want’ (1979), ‘What You’re Proposing’ (1980), ‘Lies’/‘Don’t Drive My Car’ (1980), ‘Something ’Bout You Baby I Like’ (1981), and ‘Rock N’ Roll’ (1981). An uncharacteristic ballad, ‘Living On An Island’ (1979), showed a softer perspective while the band also proved adept at adapting outside material, as evinced by their cover version of John Fogerty’s ‘Rockin’ All Over The World’ (1977). That song was later re-recorded as ‘Running All Over The World’ to promote the charitable Race Against Time in 1988.

The quartet undertook a lengthy break during 1980, but answered rumours of a permanent split with Just Supposin’. However, a dissatisfied Coghlan left the band in 1982 in order to form his own act, Diesel. Pete Kircher (b. 21 January 1948, England; ex-Original Mirrors) took his place, but Status Quo was then undermined by the growing estrangement between Lancaster and Rossi and Parfitt. The bass player moved to Australia in 1983 - a cardboard cut-out substituted on several television appearances - but he remained a member for the next two years, during which time the band announced they would be quitting live work. They re-formed to play the opening slot at Live Aid in 1985, Lancaster’s final appearance with the band, following which he unsuccessfully took out a High Court injunction to prevent Status Quo performing without him. Rossi and Parfitt secured the rights to the name ‘Status Quo’ and re-formed the band (as both a studio and live unit) around John ‘Rhino’ Edwards (b. 9 May 1953, Whitton, Middlesex, England; bass), Jeff Rich (b. 8 June 1953, England; drums) and Andy Bown (b. Andrew Steven Bown, 27 March 1946, London, England; keyboards). The last-named musician, formerly of the Herd and Judas Jump, had begun his association with the band in 1973, and became an official member three years later.

Despite such traumas Status Quo continued to enjoy commercial approbation with Top 10 entries ‘Dear John’ (1982), ‘Marguerita Time’ (1983), ‘In The Army Now’ (1986) and ‘Burning Bridges (On And Off And On Again)’ (1988), while 1+9+8+2 was their fourth chart-topping album. The band celebrated its silver anniversary in October 1991 by entering The Guinness Book Of Records having completed four charity concerts in four UK cities in the space of 12 hours. This ambitious undertaking, the subject of a television documentary, was succeeded by a national tour which confirmed the band’s continued mass-market popularity. They achieved another number 1 single in 1994 with ‘Come On You Reds’, a musically dubious reworking of their own ‘Burning Bridges’ recorded with soccer club Manchester United.

An ill-chosen version of ‘Fun Fun Fun’ in 1996 had the Beach Boys relegated to harmony backing vocals and did little for either band’s reputation. At the same time Status Quo attempted to sue BBC Radio 1 for not play listing the single or their latest album (Don’t Stop). As expected, they lost the case against Radio 1. That incident aside, the band’s track record is incredible: worldwide sales of over 100 million, and even with the dubious ‘Fun Fun Fun’, they have racked up over 50 UK hit singles (more than any other band). Parfitt had a health scare in April 1997 when he was rushed into hospital for a quadruple heart bypass, but has since made an excellent recovery. In 1999, the band played a short tour of UK pubs. Rich was replaced by Matthew Letley (b. 29 March 1961, Gillingham, Kent, England) the following year. The band celebrated their 25th anniversary in August 2002 with a surprise UK Top 20 hit, ‘Jam Side Down’ and a highly commercial album, Heavy Traffic.


Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.


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