Status Quo live in 1971 and 1972
The birth of the boogie maestros
This is going to be a bit of a marathon.
I have seen Status Quo somewhere around 30 or 40 times, probably more than any other band apart from, perhaps, the Groundhogs. I am going to spend the next week or so reflecting on Status Quo live over the years (and by the end of this I might actually have a better idea of how many times I have actually seen them). I don’t intend to spend a day on each gig, rather I will combine some concerts I have seen into coverage of specific periods in the band’s career. Otherwise I will be writing about Quo for a month or so which will drive me crackers, and I don’t imagine it would be much fun for those who read my ramblings. However I will spend quite a bit of time discussing Quo in the 70s, when the classic “frantic four” line-up was at its peak. So off we go.
My first memory of Status Quo is, as it will be for many of us, hearing “Pictures of Matchstick Men” on the radio. My mate down the street had the single and played (and sang) that song endlessly, along with the B-side “Gentleman Joe’s Sidewalk Cafe”, which is also a great track. “Matchstick Men” was also played a lot at the Saturday morning disco that we used to go along to at Sunderland Top Rank (aka “The Rink”). We can’t have been more than 11 or 12 years old at the time. Along we went to the Rink every Saturday morning, having graduated onto this from the Saturday morning pictures (the ABC Minors), decked out in our finest mod kids gear; hipster trousers, kipper ties, and wide black plastic belts with double prongs (you got them in Woolies). I had a massive wide red plastic watch strap which was so 60s and I thought it was so cool to wear it. “Matchstick Men”, “Mony Mony”, “Jumping Jack Flash” and then “Ice in the Sun”. Happy days. Everything seemed so bright, so sunny and so simple.
The next time I saw Status Quo there were on the telly playing “Down the Dustpipe” or “In My Chair” and, hey they had long hair, looked scruffy and were dressed all in denim. Something had clearly changed. I recall seeing an advert in our local paper announcing a performance by Status Quo at a local club, Doxford Park Workingmen’s Club; it must have been around 1970. My mates and I talked about how we might go, and started to make plans (which would never have worked) to get in somehow, as we were only 13 years old at the time, and well below the age of “going to the club”. The gig didn’t happen (not sure why) so we didn’t have to enact our plans.
The first time I actually did get to see Status Quo was at Sunderland Locarno in 1971. I can’t be certain exactly when it was, and the gig doesn’t appear in any Quo gigographies, but I am certain that it happened. I think it may have been in December 1971, just after the release of “Dog of Two Heads”. By now Quo had made the transition from pop chart heroes to denim boogie merchants. So the Quo I saw at that gig (and three more times in 1972) was a full-on, loud, heads down, long haired, denim, boogie machine. Pure class. The band members were: Mike (he had not yet changed his name to Francis) Rossi, Rick Parfitt, Alan Lancaster, John Coghlan, with road manager Bob Young joining them on stage on harmonica towards the end of the set. And the set…true rock’n’roll classics: always starting with Alan singing and leading on Junior’s Wailing, the wonderful Someones Learning, Umleitung, the great single In My Chair, Railroad, Is It really Me/Gotta Go Home, Mean Girl, a class cover of the Doors Roadhouse Blues, and the closer which was always their cover of Chuck Berry’s Bye Bye Johnny. It just didn’t get any better. Honestly.
One thing I forgot to mention about that gig at Suderland Mecca. Rick and Mike (soon to be Francis) were running around the small stage criss crossing their guitars and heads down hair flailing. Rick tripped over. He got up and discovered that he had snapped the neck of his guitar. The show was halted and Quo went off stage. After a few minutes someone came on stage to tell us that Rick didn’t have another guitar and the gig was abandoned. The story goes that he asked the guitarist in the support act to borrow his guitar, but he didn’t want to lend his precise 60s Strat to Rick. And so it was back to the disco (“See Emily Play”, “Southern Man” and “Gypsy” always went down well, filling the dance floor).
I was lucky enough to see Quo three more times during this period, before “Piledriver” and “Paper Plane” took them back into the mass public eye. These were on 29th May 1972 at the Lincoln Pop Festival, on 13th August 1972 at the Reading Rock Festival, and then on 23rd September 1972 at the Grangemouth Pop Festival, just north of Edinburgh. The Lincoln Bardley Great Western Festival is often rated as “one of Quo’s most influential appearances.” According to the QuoGigography site, this was “the festival that got Quo recognised as a high class live act and cemented their change to the 12-bar boogie rock that would prove to be their trademark for decades to come.”
Those festival performances were amazing. John Peel was a great supporter and champion of the band, and he was DJ at Reading and Grangemouth, telling us all that Quo were the “best rock’n’roll band in the world” (or something like that). Happy days. Tomorrow I will move on to Piledriver, Paper Plane, renewed success, and nationwide concert tours, always calling at Newcastle City Hall. Oh and a tradition of strong support acts.
Status Quo live in 1971 and 1972 The birth of the boogie maestros
Status Quo live in 1971 and 1972