Fireworks

Fireworks Magazine Online 46 - Status Quo

STATUS QUO

"I don’t get it - how do you get to being 62 and finally make a decent album?"
Francis Rossi


Writing for a bi-monthly magazine, it can distort your sense of time. For example, if I reference an interview that only happened five or six issues back, the reality is I probably conducted that interview a year ago. Two months back, I spoke to Francis Rossi about his solo DVD ‘Live At St Lukes’, which appeared in the last issue. He told me that he was working on a new Quo album, and even with the distorted time, a promo copy of ‘Quid Pro Quo’ (click here to read the review on Rocktopia) arrived very quickly on my doormat. So I put it in and gave it a spin - and was delighted with the results! As I’ve done two solo interviews with Francis and two for Status Quo themselves, I was asked if I’d be up for a chat with someone from the band to talk about the new album. I said yes immediately, and the luck of the draw means you get either Rick Parfitt or Francis. I drew Francis again - and if you saw last issue’s piece, you’ll know he completely foxed me by answering the phone immediately in a timid girly voice, asking ‘Is Daddy there please?’ He enjoyed throwing me for a loop, so here we go for round two - only this time, I was ready for him!

Hello, is Daddy there please?

I’m afraid he’s not in, can I take a message?

Very good! I was just going to send you something... I thought there was supposed to be a phoner...

(laughs) I remembered! Are you well?

(Eerie silence) Eh? Is that not Glenn?

No, it’s James from Fireworks!

Oh... you sounded just like my production manager! I did the ‘Hello Daddy’ with you before didn’t I?

You did!

Bollocks. I’m changing it for you next time! I might get you with Freddie’s Sandwich Bar, you never know.

I’m quite pleased with that, I’ve managed to turn the tables. I’ve confused you this time!

That’s why I thought it was Glenn, he’s used to it - it was very good, your tone didn’t change, you were confident, I’m impressed. (laughs) This is part of our regular fucking thing now isn’t it, it’s a regular article!

It is, I can’t keep you out of the magazine! It’s your own fault, you will keep putting out albums and DVDs. If you retired I wouldn’t have this problem!

Well, I’m thinking about it...

No, don’t do that!

I just think it’s a bit weird that suddenly now the system has changed... you remember Martin Nelson, our old plugger? Every time we’d go in, he’d go ‘Blimey, is it that time of the year already?’ (laughs) A Quo album always came out September/October, that was the norm. The times he’d walk in - ‘is it that time already?’ So apart from anything else, the timing on this one has thrown us completely. But other than that, it’s... different. And the excitement surrounding it at the moment is quite... phenomenal. I’m thinking... why? (laughs)

I’ll tell you why - because it’s really good!

It’s got something. It’s got a lot of energy I think. Somebody asked me the other day how we got that. I don’t fucking know, we just played it! You don’t go in saying ‘extra energy guys, on this one, please!’ It’s not like X-Factor - ‘oh yes, we’re going to put 110% into this one’. We did our normal shit, and the fucking thing sounds like that. It’s quite good!

I was wondering if it was maybe because you had spent a lot of time doing your solo stuff and enjoying the more lightweight side to your songwriting, that when it was time to write for Quo you were maybe a bit more predisposed to write rockers for it?

Nah, everyone has got theories like that - somebody asked me if it meant I’d gotten all those ‘nice’ songs out of my system. Nope! I just didn’t write any for this album! I’d done about seven I think, normally I’d write twenty, twenty five or thirty and I’d get kinda pissed with everyone else just coming in with three or four. It’s very difficult to cull a load out of three or four, it’s easy to cull a load out of thirteen, fourteen, thirty... So I did my own culling, put my seven forward, produced those seven and I’m done. Something happened in the studio, I don’t know, it’s one of those things that makes this job so fantastic, I don’t know why it came out like that! I’d love to have an answer for you, say ‘oh yeah, it’s because the band decided to...’ all that bullshit, I don’t really know why. I’m just pleased it has that... that fucking energy in it! If I’m being honest when I first brought Matthew (Letley) in to do some tracks, I said I needed vibe, boom bash, boom bash, maybe a couple of breaks, lots of vibey energy. It’s not good doing Steely Dan on a Quo record, it really isn’t. Brilliant drumming - no-one cares! But fuck me, the little fucker pulled it out of the bag. You hear it and think ‘Christ, he means it!’ which is strange to get from Matthew, being the quietest man on the planet! So to be fair, I think a lot of it has to do with him going ‘Oh, THIS is what you mean!’

There’s definitely more energy about it. It’s a lot rockier I think, but it grabbed me right from the opening song - ‘Two Way Traffic’ is, for me, one of the best Quo songs I’ve heard in ages. I thought it was like one of the seventies songs.

That’s the way John (Edwards) and I write. I think I’ve written less of this one with him than any. I can’t sit down and write with John, it doesn’t work. I can sit down and write with Andrew (Bown), or with Bob (Young), but with John, we exchange bits and there you go, finished track. I think he asked Andrew to chip in with the lyric. But those collaborations, when they work like that, you go ‘Yaaay!’ I think the whole album works... but if it sells two million, twenty million, thirty million, then it’s fantastic. If it sells four thousand copies, unless I’m being a bit Spinal Tap, it’s not a good album is it? I can’t do the ‘It’s a very good album, but people didn’t understand it’. I’m sorry, I’ve been in the market place and that’s the tester - as much as us musos want to pretend people don’t understand your stuff, it doesn’t matter, they’re not buying it! (laughs) That’s what we all really need. The money is nice, but it’s the affirmation... ‘it is a good album, because shitloads of people want it!’ I’ve never subscribed to ‘Oh, I don’t want the masses...’ What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you want the masses? Apart from the financial rewards, which is the secondary thing, it’s the ‘Ooh, they love my song!’ It’s that ‘Mummy, mummy, mummy!’ thing. What follows that is the business of course.

I don’t see how you can go wrong here - as I’ve stated to all who will listen, I think the last slew of Quo albums have been superb. This one is no different, but it’s... it’s a bit like when ‘Rock ‘Til You Drop’ came out, and everyone said ‘Oh, that’s more like the classic Quo sound’. I think this is like that, there’s nothing on here that I think could be called a ballad, like ‘Tongue Tied’ on ‘In Search Of the Fourth Chord’. There’s nothing like that here.

Yeah - personally I miss that. To me, the so called archetypal Quo albums all had stuff like that on. ‘Piledriver’ had ‘A Year’. ‘Claudie’ on ‘Hello’, Rick would often write one like ‘Lonely Man’ - I suppose that’s old school, it gave the album more balance. In the seventies you could go to a party and you walked in and there would be thirty, forty people in a room listening to an entire album. It wasn’t at death volume, you didn’t go in drunk. It was to listen to the record, but I can’t imagine that happening now. It doesn’t happen anymore. That old school thing about how you made an album, with the idea it would flow from start to finish - it’s kinda different now. I think the CD did that. Somebody who works for us said he used to love the actual vinyl album, because when he had a bird he was shagging, he could get up and turn the fucking thing over to give his dick a break. I thought wow, you lasted that long did you? I never got close to the end of the first side! (laughs) But I do think, ideally, that the new album - if I were to critique it, I think it’s all pace, too many songs... ten, eleven or twelve is plenty I think. After that, I don’t care who it is, you get fed up listening. I like a bit of balance.

From my personal view, as a fan, I did think when I saw the tracklisting ‘Ooh, that’s a lot of songs.’ BUT, when I played it, it didn’t feel like a lot of songs. For me, the mark of a good album is it shocks you when you realise it’s nearly finished, because it’s flown by.

Oh, that’s interesting! Very good point, you don’t notice how long it is if you’re enjoying it.

Although there isn’t what I’d call an out and out ballad, there is light and shade. There’s ‘Any Way You Like It’ which is nothing like ‘Two Way Traffic’ but it still is a very cool song.

I like that one too! What do you think of ‘My Old Ways’?

I really liked it... well, to be honest, there wasn’t one on there I didn’t like. I was already familiar with ‘Rock And Roll And You’ because you put that out as a download first...

Yeah, that was put forward for the previous album.

‘Two Way Traffic’ is awesome, ‘Dust To Gold’ I really liked... as soon as I saw there was one called ‘Let’s Rock’ written by Rick, I thought it would be a real heads down rocker. But it’s not, it’s very good though, with those sort of horn stabs and everything, ‘Can’t See For Looking’ I liked, ‘Better Than That’ was cool, ‘Movin’ On’... I loved the riff on that, it was a bit like ‘Red Sky’ in style.

‘Movin’ On’.... da der da... oh yeah, I know. We had so many working titles I’m having trouble remembering what they finished up being called! I’ll tell you one I like - we were looking at doing a track for a movie called ‘Care Factor Zero’. That is what is now ‘Frozen Hero’. All I had in my head was like this kiddie jingle - ‘Care Factor Zero!’ It sounded fucking stupid. So I turned to Andrew and asked him to help me with it. Between us we finished the music, and then started on the lyrics. In the chorus we had ‘nah nah nah nah nah nah... rock and roll!’ Yeah, that bit has to be ‘rock and roll’. We needed ‘hero’ or something like that in there, and he came back with what you hear on the record. I think it’s blinding! I don’t get it - how do you get to being 62 and finally make a decent album? (laughs)

Read the full double page spread where Francis discusses the new album and the reissue of 'Under The Influence' in Fireworks #46. Available from:

• Participating WHSmith and McColls Group stores (see Store Finder for participating stockists)
• Here in the Rocktopia Shop  (registration required)
• Here in the Fireworks Magazine Mini Store (no registration required) 
• Direct from Fireworks HQ by emailing This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , paying via Paypal. Send £6 (Inc P&P)

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