There are few bands you can level the accusation of being a ‘Great British institution’ at, and of them all Status Quo has to be the most enduring – 50 years old this year and with over 118 million record sales, over 100 singles released along with 43 charting albums, it’s a staggering output. Add to that an estimated 6000+ live shows to over 25 million people and you’re talking serious stats.
This year Quo is back Down-under for their ‘The Last Nights of the Electrics’ tour in October which threatens to mark the hanging up of those famous electric guitars in favour of something more mellow and acoustic.
We caught up with Francis Rossi to talk all about the enduring nature of a band that’s been a constant for me and a lot of people in all corners of the world for most of their lives.
Mark: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to The Rockpit today Francis.
Francis: Can I say one thing before we start. It’s very nice of you to thank me but this is a two-way street so I should be thanking you too and any artist that doesn’t do that isn’t being real.
Mark: Well thank you.
Mark: The first ever Rock album I can remember listening to was one of yours – ‘Rocking All Over the World ‘and the first ever concert I was smuggled into was the ‘Never Too Late’ Tour so for me Status Quo has pretty much been there all my life. My mate’s dad took him to see Quo, he takes his daughter and she takes her daughter and this year there were four generations of that same family at one of your shows – you’ve got fans of a very different kind to most band haven’t you?
Francis: That’s fantastic. It seems to be yes and I don’t know why and I don’t question it really… do I hear a slight Sheffield accent in there?
Mark: Almost about 40 miles out, it’s Nottingham from years back. I’m impressed Mr.Higgins!
Francis: (laughs) It was just one word slip but otherwise it’s Aussie I just thought I’d do that! (laughs) It’s great that we get different generations come to see us and in truth I think that happens with lots of acts and I supposed if I loved something I’d love to share it. We’re in Germany at the moment near Stuttgart and there’s this family that’s been coming to see us for many, many years. And this couple one night we were playing cards somewhere and their daughter walked in she was eleven years old about two in the morning and we freaked out but she now has got four children and sometimes she comes out with her parents and her children and it’s rather good to see that. Not very what people would call ‘Rock and Roll’ not that I believe in that stuff, but all the same.
Mark: You’re bringing your final electric shows down to us in October, a very sad day for some of us, but of course always good to see you in concert. What made you make that decision and do you think you’ll be able to stick to it? It must be so hard after so many years to wind down even gradually?
Francis: Well it is very hard and there was a lot of concern with Rick’s health and stuff and moving to the acoustics and then Rick dying messed it all up, he always wanted us to carry on, we had shows committed, and it was very difficult in the beginning. When it was a temporary thing that was OK and then it became permanent, I though “ahh…” what do we do? So I suppose it kicked us in the derriere, made us focus, and try harder and it’s seemed to put us in a position now where it feels like we’re trying to prove something, like when we were younger. Maybe older bands do become complacent there’s less to prove perhaps? I don’t know? But something has happened with us and really I don’t know what to do at all, at the moment I’m just riding it to see what happens next. Sometimes I just think I just want to stop and sometimes I don’t feel that way. There’s a mirror just outside my bathroom at home and I have to move it because every time I see it I look at myself and say “you’ve got to stop”. So I think I’ll move the mirror! It’s only when one sees one’s physicality that you think “Ahh, maybe?” But otherwise I feel like I’m in my 30’s, 40’s, everyone knows that inside you don’t feel different I still want to gout they play and sell tickets. And the older I get the more and more I feel lucky we are very, very lucky people to do this. I’ve been doing this professionally since I was sixteen so I’m extremely lucky and grateful to fans to actually be here at all. I can well understand why they (fans) might say I’m too old and I just can’t do it anymore, but they do come, they’ve been coming all the summer and hopefully they’ll come and see us in Australia
Mark: I guess I just can’t see you as the sort of person who would be content sat on the porch playing the Blues? I can’t picture you being content in retirement?
Francis: Well I don’t think it would be quite that way, I have a studio in my garden so what I tend to do historically when I get home at Christmas is not do anything for two or three months, I just sit and light a fire, I do crosswords, I do puzzles and I vegetate for those months. And then people sy you’ll get bored so if you get bored do something, and if I do something I usually go in the studio and do something. There are various projects that may or may not get realised that I get involved in. One of my daughters said “If you do retire Dad, what are you going to do?” I said I don’t know what you mean and she said “Well ever since I was born I remember you playing guitar at night for two or three hours” And I thought that’s a point, so I would still sit and play guitar so I’d have a routine, and I’d make music: and I don’t necessarily mean make music for commercial release. There is a joy in writing something, putting it down, starting to build a track and you see this thing and you build this thing so it’s still enjoyable to build this stuff even if one only builds it for oneself. There’s still a joy in listening to this creation if you like.
Mark: I guess if you’ve come to this gradual realisation that this might be the end of ‘the electrics’ does it excite you about the possibilities of what might happen after that or scare you?
Francis: Being honest it scares me. I have to be pushed in most things, I’ve realised that of myself, but yeah it scares me I think. I was somewhere the other night and Midge Ure (Ultravox, Visage, Thin Lizzy, Rich Kids) said something to be about something I might be doing next year, this Rock Classics thing, we were offered it a couple of years ago and Midge went and did it and I didn’t think we should do it. It’s with an orchestra and a large band and apparently the amount of people who have done it and said it’s such an enjoyable thing to do… But I’ve always been Status Quo and I like being in a team, I like the thing with the acoustics, the bigger team, everyone pulling together, I like that and I suppose you get that whole team thing of ‘let’s see if we can do this tonight, let’s make this work tonight’ and that I would probably miss. But just because we’d miss things doesn’t necessarily mean we should carry on doing them. I sometimes miss my ex-wife, but I don’t want to be back there (laughs). A lot of people would understand that. So it’s all those things, but I don’t think I would get bored I would do something.
Mark: Take it all the way back for us, when did you realise that music was going to be your life? Has it always been there? What do you listen to?
Francis: Well I’ve been hanging on ever since hoping it lasts and I still feel that way sometimes. But I always liked music and my Dad always said if you could play something you’d always be popular, he meant at parties and such, so I’ve always liked music and I like all music, not just one type of music Andrew and I are usually first on the bus and we both like Italian Opera, but you could equally be listening to Muse or Red Hot Chilli Peppers even Mariah Carey. There’s so much and it’s very difficult especially when you think of how much music there is out there these days to say no I don’t like this music or that music. We did this very famous huge Heavy Metal Festival at this place called Wacken in Deutschland, in front of 125,000 people and I’d always thought the people that had those tatts and that very aggressive look from that Thrash Metal thing we were more looked after at that Festival than any place I’ve been in a long, long time so it was a learning curve for me that they were really, really nice people, they just looked more aggressive and that’s perhaps how we looked to people when we were younger to that older generation, all loud with long hair and tatty jeans and whatever so I’m probably doing the same as was done to me but its very ice that I like all sorts of music, I’ll even like music sometimes by acts or bands that I think I don’t want to for whatever reason so one thing I do like about myself is I like all sorts of different music it doesn’t have to be one thing or the other. It might even be ‘How Much is That Doggie in the Window’ which I used to love by the way.
Mark: A great song, a song I remember my Nan used to love to sing to me when I was very young.
Francis: It’s great I’ve sung it to all my little ones and they’re fascinated by it and to me that might even be a way of getting into music, I was thinking of the age where I first started playing, and about my brother who plays cello in some sort of orchestra but he very much only wants to read music and play it, and I tell him to just play something and he won’t, so I’d say just play ‘Doggy in the Window’ and he won’t because he’s playing cello I think he thinks it’s sacrilege, you have to knock that out of music it’s just a bunch of notes and an arrangement of those notes and it doesn’t mean it’s a bad arrangement of those notes, just that you don’t like it. It’s very different when people say they only like ‘good music’ I’m thinking really? (laughs) I only like ‘good music’! (laughs) I was doing an interview in Holland once when I was in Los Angeles of all places, it was a really nice conversation and he said “I like you Francis, I only like good music” and I said I’d never say I like good music, I just like the music I like and presumably it’s good but I might be wrong…
Mark: Its human nature I think to believe we have good taste.
Francis: It is, we all want to be individual but we also want to be part of the crowd, we don’t want to stand out. When you look out at the crowd at Wacken they all look the same but when they dissipate into society they stand out.
Mark: I think we just have time for one more question, the traditional closer to all our interviews. What is the meaning of life?
Francis: What is the meaning of what?
Francis: Well that’s not fair is it! (laughs) I was thinking the other day the strange fact of life is death. I find that frustrating and I told it to my brother to wind him up… If you think of how one should be in life I suppose its “Treat people as you wish to be treated yourself, allow your fellow man to be” which is similar to what I was saying about music – we all want to be so right and other people to be so wrong, but we’re just people and we’re all just trying to get along somehow. Sometimes I find it easy to understand sometimes I find it damn frustrating but why can’t there be an absolute, and why can’t we all agree? And I know a lot of people think it would be a very strange place if everybody agreed but for me that would be wonderful.
Mark: It would be an interesting world, but one things for sure it’s a better world for Status Quo, you’ve made a lot of people happy and you’ve certainly given my family a lot of pleasure over the years.
Francis: Thank you Sir, I heard ‘Nottingham’ again when you said family. It’s nice to hear it.
Mark: Thank you so much for taking the time Francis.
Francis: I’ve really enjoyed talking to you, though I’ve rambled on a bit! Thank you Sir.
Don’t miss Status Quo’s The Last Night of the Electrics tour – proudly presented by Artist Network and
Regional Touring – before the band unplug their telecasters and turn off their amps for the last time.
Tickets are on sale now.
Friday 13th October 2017 – THE STAR GOLD COAST QLD
Special guest Travis Collins
Saturday 14th October 2017 – Civic Theatre NEWCASTLE NSW
Special guest Travis Collins
www.ticketek.com.au | (02) 4929 1977
Sunday 15th October 2017 – Sydney Opera House, SYDNEY NSW
Special guest Travis Collins
21st & 22nd October 2017 – ROCK THE BOAT
Tuesday 24th October 2017 – Hamer Hall, MELBOURNE VIC
Special guest Dino Jag
For more information, please visit www.statusquo.co.uk | www.artistnetwork.com.au |