Status Quo Shirts Might Get Loud

By Martin Popoff

OK, now for something completely different. English boogie kings Status Quo have been regularly cranking out their brand of riffy roots rock for a good 45 years now, with records coming regularly in the 2000s as well. But the band’s new album, Bula Quo!, is a strange one, mostly—mostly—a new studio album, but also the soundtrack to the band’s new madcap crime movie (more Bondo than James Bond!) of the same name shot in Fiji and launching shortly.

“Well, really and truly, it’s not a Quo album per se,” explains Rick Parfitt, who has been Francis Rossi’s co-guitarist and partner in crime since the beginning. “Whereby, I mean, when we were writing the album, or me particularly, I read the script from the movie, Bula Quo!, and read the chase scenes and the fight scenes and all sorts of things that happen in the film, and I wrote, really, these songs with the screen in mind, rather than writing for the stage. But consequently, it took a different slant on the album. And I think it’s got a different kind of personality from an every day Quo album, as it were. And I see it in two halves, really, Martin. I see the album on the left-hand side as, as it were, the soundtrack to the movie, and then on the right-hand side, I see the movie with no soundtrack to it. Then for me, if you put the two together, you get the game, the set, and the match. So for me, it’s a project of two halves.”

Highlights for Parfitt... well, it seems like it’s the songs that recycle best.

“Well, I particularly like ‘GoGoGo’. I’m not saying that because I wrote it. I just think it’s a good rocking little song. It fits very well to the film, and also I think it will work well on stage. I think that is the first one that comes to mind, when you get to Quo live, because it’s quite rocking. And the other one, I mean, I like ‘Bula Bula Quo’. I think it’s very infectious. It took me a while to get to like it. I particularly like the chorus, and again, it’s so perfect for the movie. And I think that maybe that one will work live on stage, because it’s got such character. So there’s really two, I think, that could work on stage. I’m not sure whether we’ll put too many more than that into the stage set.”

“I loved it,” says Rick, asked about his thespian turn in the sun. “It’s kind of out of my comfort zone really, if you like. But surrounded by so many nice people and good actors who do it professionally. They helped us along, and it was a wonderful experience, to be in Fiji for a month. I must be honest with you, I’ve never worked so hard in my life. We were working 12, 13 hours a day on this. And of course no-frills, because it was done on a shoestring budget. You know, between scenes or camera changes and set-ups, me and Francis were just sitting on the pavement, really. There was no motor homes or nowhere to go, and so I thoroughly enjoyed it. And I believe there’s another one in the pipeline. So I really look forward to it. But I mean, it won’t affect what Quo do, as much as in the fact that we’re out there touring, doing what we do, making albums, and it will go on as Quo as everybody knows. But it’s just an added bonus, to be a film star as well, I say jokingly (laughs).”

The other just as remarkable turn of events in Quo’s career this late in the game was a full-on reunion tour re-pairing Francis and Rick with bassist Alan Lancaster and drummer John Coghlan.

“It was amazing to all get back together again,” muses Parfitt. “Because you know, when we first started out, we were all in it and were all very close to one another, we had a lot of laughs and a lot of fun, and then when it all went pear-shaped, it’s really horrible to be at loggerheads with these guys who you’ve had all this success with. And for me personally, when we got back together again, sling our arms around one another and go, ‘Right, that’s the end of all that crap.’ It was just a wonderful thing to do, to put it to bed. Because life’s too short for all that. And as far as the shows were concerned, for me, it was amazing. I forgot how heavy the original Quo was. It’s just got a natural heaviness about it that is just there. We weren’t looking for it—it just appears. And I don’t quite know how that happens. Because the current Quo we’re working with now, we’re now beginning to label Quo Lite, although it’s really not, but there’s just something heavy about the original Frantic Four, and the shows were amazing. The feeling in the room was just incredible. People from all over the world came. I had a great time. The energy was amazing, and I enjoyed playing those songs again.”

Asked what he’d hope Status Quo would be remembered for once they fold and hang up their jeans, Rick whiffs on the correct answer (boogie!), but says instead... “You know, we’ve been around for all these years. I think longevity is one of the things we’ll be known for. Because we’ve been doing it a long while, and we always kept our heads down, we’ve always been faithful to the fans. As far as I can remember, we’ve never let anybody down. I think people who go to a Quo concert know what to expect. They know it’s going to be loud and they know it’s going to be furious. They know they’re going to enjoy it. We never let them down. I mean, that is our attitude to going out on stage as well. Give it 100%, nothing less. Whether you’re playing to 2000 people or 20,000 people, go out and give it 100%. We’ve always been faithful to the fans in that respect. And I guess we’ll be remembered for having more hits than I think anybody else. If you told me this when I was a kid, that we would go out and have more hits than, if you like, the Beatles, we would fall over laughing. If you would’ve told us that. That’s the way it happened. I mean, ‘Bula Bula Quo’ as a single is our hundredth single now. Someone told me that the other day. I didn’t know that.”

Mods, rockers, punks... “It never bothered us. Never really bothered us, and I’ll tell you why. We’ve always had so much faith in what we do, that we’ve always known how good we are, and that’s not being flash, it’s just being truthful. We’ve always known that this is a good powerful band, and that we had something unique. And I remember years ago, Francis and I went to the Marquee Club, in town, just as the whole punk thing was breaking. And we went to see this punk band. I can’t remember their name, and the whole place was pogoing around, and people were spitting at one another, and I remember thinking, God, the energy, I’ve never seen that kind of energy. I mean, the Quo fans had all been headbangers. Everybody got off in that way, but the way these kids were dressed and the way these kids were jumping up and down. And I say these kids—we were only 28. And we walked into the Marquee Club, and they called us old farts. ‘What are you two old farts doing here?’ And I remember, you know, listening, seeing the reaction the band was getting, and it was something completely different. Having said that, it didn’t bother us at all, because it just didn’t worry us; we knew that what we were doing was what we wanted to do, and not that we were guaranteed to do well, but nothing bothered us. We weren’t fazed by it; we just knew what we had and we stuck to it. And still are. We’re still doing what we love to do. And you know, trends come and go, and we’ve never tried to be trendy. We are how we are, and we play what we play, and it’s seen us through nearly 50 years now.”

No reason for Rick to concede punk energy. When ‘Backwater/Just Take Me’, ‘Is There A Better Way’, ‘Little Lady’ or ‘Down Down’ pull their wheels up and take off, there’s no more frenzied assault in rock ‘n’ roll.

“Oh, high energy,” agrees Rick. “I often say, soon as we get on there, it’s 100 miles an hour, straight in with ‘Caroline’, and the set builds and builds and builds, and you know, you’ve got to be in fairly good shape to do what we do. We’re not getting any younger now, but the energy on stage, is still there. I mean, ‘Down Down’ is still at the same pace as the record, and it still rocks like crazy. I mean, on a good night, to be up there, when you’re dancing on the light fantastic and the whole crowd is going in front of you, it’s just incredible. Would have never believed that if somebody told me, I’d still be around 45 odd years later doing what I’m doing, it would’ve just blown me away.”

But it hasn’t been easy. Three marriages with more than the usual complication that entails, a quadruple heart bypass back in ‘97 and a cancer scare in ‘05... damn, we’re just lucky to have Rick up there, continuing to do his best Chuck Berry next to an equally loveable grinning fool in Francis.

“Well, yeah, I pulled back a lot from the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll age,” he says, assessing his health now that he’s been in a movie with Jon Lovitz. “I pulled back a lot from that. Which I had to do. But yeah, I mean, I keep myself fairly well. Eat properly, I don’t drink too much, smoke very little now, and I see the stage set as a workout, every night we do it. I don’t go to the gym, I don’t run, I just go on stage, and it keeps me fit enough. It’s a good workout for me.”