Most people outside of Europe don’t get it and now that I think of it, most people in Europe don’t get it either, but those who do probably feel like members of some sort of secret society or cult, forced into the underground by ignoramuses that jump at every chance to trash one of my favorite bands, Status Quo.
I’ve learned not to excuse my loyality towards a band that’s definitely had its ups and downs, I’ve stopped trying to explain the merits of their no-nonsense heads down 12-bar boogie to people who just don’t know how to boogie, and I’ve given up entirely on Americans who don’t even understand the concept of status quo … not to speak of the one in music.
Status Quo, with Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt on guitars and vocals, Alan Lancaster on bass and John Coghlan on drums, provided the soundtrack to my earlier days on this planet and I fondly remember all their albums until “Rocking all over the World” (1977), an album which completely lost me and provided a stunning blow to my heretofore unwavering support. To be quite honest, I didn’t give any of their material since then much of a chance in my collection, but I stand by the band that until today has regularly jumped out of my collection at me, begging for another trip down memory lane or just some unadulterated fun.
On top of that, in an age of overly compressed and altogether appallingly inadequate digital reissues, remasters and reshuffles, we – the Status Quo fans – are the lucky ones, with an entire run of excellent remasters that have restored the formerly muffled and uncharacteristically boring digital tracks to their deserved glory. Tim Turan of Turan Audio Ltd. got it right and re-injected that warm analog sound and, in some cases, made the Status Quo back catalog sound better than it ever had in any of the previous reincarnations (and I have or have had most of those). The tunes now sport depth, clarity and a much improved soundstage without taking away from the unwavering raunchiness some of the especially older Quo material displayed. These remasters come as close to being perfect as is possible today, and I certainly won’t need to reinvest some of my hard-earned cash into another run of their material.
Of course, some of the detractors haven’t been all that far off when they complained about a few too many fillers on some of these albums, the repetitiveness when it comes to their 12-bar boogie repertoire, the at times incredibly stupid behavior of some of the band members, and the general unevenness of their released material. But they don’t take it that one important step further and say what we Quo fans have said all along: “Who the hell cares?”. Status Quo is not supposed to kick-start your cognitive capabilities and is certainly not out there to stimulate intellectual discussion. Status Quo is out there to entertain and to rock your socks off. This is party music, live power rock, boogie-till-you-drop. It’s supposed to be fun. The music is meant to grab you by the cojones and make you get down and boogie – no more … and no less.
Yes, Quo hit the scene (interestingly enough, Alan Lancaster’s pre-Quo 1962 band that Francis Rossi joined was called The Scorpions) as one of those flowery bands and didn’t reinvent itself until around the beginning 70s, but if you were there like I was, maybe you got to know (and like) both of these almost separate careers. Hence their transitional period (that’s what I would call that) presented in 1970 on “Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon” was already your cup of tea and, like me, from “Dog of Two Heads”, released in 1971, you were hooked. I fondly remember blasting “Umleitung” and “Gerundula” out of my 9 square meter room as much as my plastic stereo allowed and when “Piledriver” (1972) arrived, Status Quo became a daily listening experience for the entire street I lived on.
In my eyes, the run from “Piledriver” to the 1977 live album, aptly entitled “Live!”, is one of the most successful and best European release runs of any band, with a multitude of hits and powerful tunes such as “Don’t Waste My Time”, “Oh Baby”, “Big Fat Mama” and their “Roadhouse Blues” cover (“Piledriver” 1972), “Roll Over Lay Down”, “Caroline” and “Forty-Five Hundred Times” (“Hello”, 1973), “Little Lady” and the segued-in “Most of the Time” (my favorites), “I Saw the Light”, “Down Down” and “Bye Bye Johnny” (“On the Level”, 1975), “Is There a Better Way” and “Rain” (“Blue For You”, 1976) and every single damn tune off one of the best rock live albums ever (“Live!”, 1977) … and I’ve only listed the classics.
In its most recent remastered form, the live album, now with the tracks (recorded on a three-day run at the Apollo Theatre in Glasgow from October 27 to October 29, 1976) in the correct order, is simply stunning. It includes, with tremendous live atmosphere to boot, most of the 1972 – 1976 hits, the comparatively simple drum solo by John Coghlan which made me want to be a drummer, their by-now famous “little ditty, you know, … the bit” and it shows how tunes such as “Roadhouse Blues” or “Forty Five Hundred Times” took on a life of their own and grew to 14- to 16-minute jams in a live setting. Perhaps only rivalled by Thin Lizzy’s “Live and Dangerous”, this earlier Status Quo live album is the best Europe had or has to offer.
25 albums followed, some of them Best-of compilations, but, personally, I don’t think the Quo ever managed to recapture the magic of those early 6 albums. John Coghlan and Alan Lancaster left the band in the 80s and were replaced with people I couldn’t connect with at all (besides Andy Bown on keyboards, who had seemingly been around forever), the compositions took a turn to the poppy and forgettable, more and more cover tunes made the cut and, altogether, their recorded material was far too polished for my taste, but it didn’t stop me from hitting the Quo concerts whenever I had the chance. No matter what state they were in and despite some of the shite they squeezed into those longanimous grooves, Status Quo rocked the house until the rafters came crashing down. It is this latter aspect – because you asked – that largely contributed to the positively huge and loyal grassroots fan base this band has (and which made other bands eat their hearts out … with fava beans and a nice Chianti) and when I go to a Quo concert nowadays, the only difference is that the demographic has changed – if not broadened – somewhat. The rest is boogie ’till you drop … and that’s all a Quo fan like me could ever ask for.
No matter what your take on the Quo is, they have a tremendous track record with worldwide sales of over 100 million albums and, including the crummy ones, they have racked up over 50 UK hit singles (and that would be more than any other band ever had, thank you very much, and only The Beatles and the Stones can better their tally of top 20 albums). In 2002 they celebrated their 25th anniversary and they continue to rock the house with their current album and their 2006 Australian and European Tour with nine confirmed dates in Germany, one of which I’ll be celebrating at … as usual.
There, I said it.