In 1996 Backwater met Francis Rossi in his suite at Stockholm's Sheraton Hotel to talk about his new soloalbum. It became a very straightforward interview where Francis talked about what went wrong with "King Of The Doghouse", his lack of confidence after "Thirsty Work" and the future for Status Quo

Interview by Per Engelbo & Olle Östergård, (c) Backwater Online 


After 34 years in the music business and 22 studio albums with Status Quo, you released your very first solo album "King Of The Doghouse". What took you so long?

I dont' know. I tried once sometime in the 70s. Not a solo thing really, but Bob Young and I were going to do an album. At the time certain members of Status Quo said that I wasn't concentrating enough on the band, so I stopped and didn't do it.

Then I tried again in 1985 with Bernie Frost and we had two singles out, which were small hits in England. But again, I asked Phonogram to do a soloalbum then, and they said "ok, give him some money, let him do that and then we'll have another Quo-album". Whereas with this one I didn't go looking for it.

I'd got to know this man Tony McAnaney, the producer, and we did some writing. Then we tried to get together again - I'm trying to keep this story short because it's a long one - and he came to my house. We did the writing in 1993 and he eventually came to my house in early 1995, just after "Thirsty Work". I was particularly low after "Thirsty Work" because I thought it was a very good album, and it wasn't as successful as I thought it was going to be. I did "King Of The Doghouse", "Darlin'" and "Give Myself To Love". They were the first three songs we recorded at my place. Tony played them to his publisher, or his manager played them to his publisher, and the publisher played them to somebody at Virgin. Then Virgin offered me a deal, and my ego went...mmm! You know, your head just goes... WOW! Somebody wanted to know about me without Status Quo. So again, my ego was kind of tickled, and then they offered me a lot of money.

When Phonogram did it they kind of had to do it, if you know what I mean, me asking them for a deal. "We better do this", you know...

But that album you recorded in 1985 was never released, was it?

No, it wasn't. Two singles were released, that's all. As I said I think it was very much like "give it to him, and we'll have another Status Quo-album soon". I mean, it wasn't very nice, but that's just how this business is. With this one, I was so flattered that somebody wanted to offer me a deal. I'm 47 years old, and somebody still wants to take a chance with me. It was really quite flattering, so...

Things have gone wrong with it, but I will tell you about that in a minute.

When you look back on the finished album now, are you happy with how it turned out?

No. As I said, there are things that have gone wrong. The opening track, "King Of The Doghouse", is the wrong mix. It's an entirely different mix. The one I did on television tonight is closer to the one it's supposed to be. The second track on there, "I Don't Know", is the wrong mix. There's another one with a louder vocal and a clearer sound. "Someone Show Me Home" is the wrong mix. There's another, longer version with strings. There are a few things like that. I quite like the way it has come out, but the producer went away on holiday when it was time to cut the album, so people just put various tracks on that were the wrong thing.

Tony McAnaney should have been there to finish it off right into the end, but he wasn't. Materialwise I like "King Of The Doghouse", I like "Darlin'" but it's the wrong mix, I like "I Don't Know" and that's the wrong mix too... I like "Give Myself To Love", that's the right mix. I didn't like that at first, but it grew on me. I like "The Fighter" because I wrote it, and I really like "Someone Show Me Home", but again it's the wrong mix. I like "Happy Town" because it's about Amsterdam. I think I like most of the songs beacause, after all, I chose them. But as I've said, things went wrong.

Things were done very unprofessionally in the outcome, and I've subsequently found out that while I was off doing shows or whatever else, these people were doing ecstasy at the weekends. You know, when comes monday and tuesday, the world was a f...ing drag! That kind of drug will do that to you. It's great when you're doing it, but then you have to get over it. So I think some of this was being done while we were recording. It would explain certain situations that happened to me. One day things would be fine, the next day everything was terrible. Overall I'm pleased with the album, but for those reasons...


 

In what way do you think people will find this album different from a regular Status Quo-album?

I think it's fairly obvious. One of the initial things that was said about it was that it's different than Status Quo, which I think it is other than my voice.

But is it really that much different if you compare to Status Quo in the 90s?

Oh yes, I think so. You guys don't think so because you prefer the "old" Quo. If it had been too much like Status Quo, then I would have heard that from everybody, and that would have been a real downer for me. I don't think it sounds like Quo, but maybe it does to you, I don't know. Some people feel that if I'm singing then it's Status Quo. I can make that argument with "In The Army", it's nothing there like Status Quo until I sing it, or with quite a few songs actually. As far as I feel this soloalbum is different enough, and as I said I'm quite pleased with the overall thing, apart from them bastards f...ing with it. But that's just how life is, you know. These things happened on Status Quo-albums as well, we just don't ever really talk about it.

I've heard stories about a particular Pink Floyd-album that somebody I know was on, and somebody said something about the lyrics. I'm not sure which song it was, but Roger Waters said "don't worry, somebody will make f...ing something out of it". We all tend to think, whoever we are, when we listen to someones record that "ooh, they did that just right", you know. A lot of times it came up by accident or fighting or whatever. It was like when I loved The Eagles. The trouble within that band when they were making the album "Hotel California"... Fleetwood Mac hated each others guts while they were making their best album, "Rumours". I never knew that when I listened to the album. We imagine what's happening and what's on a record, so it's all really in our minds.
I'm not sure I'm giving you the answers that you want here...?

What about Bernie Frost, are you still working with him? 

Yes, we're writing together at the moment for the new Status Quo-album. I'm finding it increasingly difficult though, probably because of the "Thirsty Work" album, which I thought had one of the best sounds we'd had for a while. And the best material for a while too... If that isn't right, then I don't know where to go.

It's alright with everybody saying "we want you to be like Status Quo when you were 25", but I'm not 25 years old anymore. I don't think like that, and I don't feel like that anymore. To me it would be totally untrue to myself to try to do what I was doing when i was 25. I hope we do to some degree just by being Status Quo... I'm also finding it strange with the new crop of English so called "britpop", music that people try to tell me is new. I can't accept that. I like it, but I can't accept that it's new. I'm getting to the point of, and I talked to Andrew about this at rehearsals yesterday, and I thought this could never be, but perhaps it's all been done. You know, to be different. If you think about, right at this moment, how many people are actually making records all over the world? Japanese people, French, German, American English, Swedish, Italian... All the people in the studios at the moment making records that they think are great, and that they think are a little bit different. It seems to me that possibly it's all been done. What do you do now? Do you change the bass style? Do you take drums out? Do you put drums in? Do you take guitars out? Do you put guitars in? I don't know if this drive that seems to be, to be different, is what's happening within Status Quo. You know, I pick up a guitar, play a few chords, and say to myself "I've heard that". Then I try something else and go "I've done that"...


So you're finding it more and more difficult nowadays to come up with good ideas for new songs, is that what you're saying?

Not necessarily the good ideas, no, but whether or not they are actually interpreted as new. Because Status Quo now having difficulty, particularly in England, getting airplay, we have a problem there. Do we just leave it, or do we have to do something like the last album, a covers album? We probably have to do something like that again, you know. We have no trouble with TV or press, but we have serious trouble with radio. Possibly the only way for us is via TV advertising. With the last album I didn't want to do an album full of covers... Because what that suggests, you know. The stigma attached to doing covers. It turned out a very good album, I really enjoyed making it and it was also very successful, so maybe I'm wrong... I think the only way for us at the moment is to do half and half. Basically a new Quo-album of all new material and some covers so that the English record company can TV advertise which is what gets to people. There's no way we can pretend that we can be marketed to teenagers. I'm not saying teenagers don't like us, some like us and some don't, but they can't market us towards those people. That's the only way through for us, rather than being shut out entirely, and I love a fight when it comes to that kind of fight. So I think we're possibly in a position where we'll do maybe a 17-track album or something like that, and do some covers and some original stuff. I mean, I was so depressed at that time after "Thirsty Work". I knew what the next album was going to be and thought "oh f..k!". It meant that at the time I didn't think it was important to write any songs, you know. "Important to write a song for what?". I really wondered why I should write a new song. "To do what with?" Just to have a song? So what!".

I've got over that now and I'm writing again. I think Bernard and I've got eight or ten new ones, but still you go... "da-da-da"... "No, I've heard that before"... And if we're not careful, then we're not Status Quo, because people say that "da-da-da" is Status Quo.

I suppose you gather from this interview that I'm totally confused, and I don't really know what to do...?

We've always felt what we wanted to do and I wonder if we're now going to make mistakes by doing what possibly needed to be done. We always did what we wanted to do. You know, "we like it and if you like it too - good, and if you don't - f..k it, what can we say?". Now we're also in a position where the band has been around that long we've all got heavy expenses. I've got eight children and a huge place. I have to earn money! We may be rich at the moment, but if I stop tomorrow it won't last long. I won't be able to keep my children, I'm now very aware of that. I'm now also aware that all the guys in the band have wives, children and houses that they have to keep going. It's alright to be a musician or a rockstar and say "f..k, we don't care, man", but stark reality, they all need to pay their mortgage. Jeff needs to pay his mortgage, John's got his children at school and Andrew... It's just stark reality. I suppose the answer to your question is that I don't know what the f..k is going on. I really don't, and I do think that possibly it's all been done. I don't know if we can make an album of what people consider to be "real" Status Quo. Then you'll have half the world saying "hmm, it sounds just like Status Quo" and the other half will say "it doesn't sound like Status Quo". So we just have to to wait and see what happens next really. I really don't know what to do, although at the moment we are writing some stuff that I think sounds like Status Quo.

You mentioned earlier the problems Quo have getting radio airplay, weren't you afraid that the fight with BBC would also damage your soloproject?

Oh, yes, but I had to wear two hats. I'm not the kind of person who says "I need this one for my career". I'm still a member of Status Quo, and I feel I'm very much a member of the band. The solothing is just a bonus. I prefer being in Status Quo, I really do. I obviously knew, we all knew, we'd had nine singles that had been into the chart and were not played by by England's Top 40 radiostation. Nine singles! When we got to "When You Walk In The Room" the band, for once we all sat together, decided that we needed to do something. It was going to damage our careers, it wasn't going to be good for us, but we were so pissed off by it all! What could you do? Noone knew what was going on. They all thought Status Quo were just fizzling away. It wasn't true. We were being pushed out, you know. If we were dying off, then okay, but if you know that you're being pushed out, then you have to do something. We all decided that we had to do something about Radio 1, one way or the other. So we called David, our manager, and told him what we wanted to do. He wasn't too keen on it, managers are sensible people, you know. The band said "we want something done, so come up with an idea". The only time to do it was when we had a really high profile in the beginning of this year. We knew it wasn't going to get us any airplay on Radio 1, there was no way that was going to happen, and we knew the rest of the radio may follow it on. It could bring it to a point where all the radiostations would follow it on. But at least we now feel better that we did it. It got to the stage where we still didn't get our records played, and noone realized what was going on. When we come to Europe and Scandinavia, people laugh and say "what's wrong with the BBC?".

We had to do it , but I knew at the time that it wasn't going to do my solocareer any good. I couldn't pull away and say "no, I want this for me". They wouldn't let me anyway. I couldn't really sit there and say that "it's those four guys they dont like or have something against, not me". It's not true. If they've got it against anybody it's me, or me and Rick. So I couldn't step back and say "no, I need it for my solocareer". It had to be done. Probably a mistake in retrospect, but we would still have done it.

 

Do you still, after all those years, have any unfulfilled goals or ambitions? You mentioned a couple of years ago that you would like to do a country & western album.

I don't think it would be wise for Status Quo to do one right now, because we did the covers album. I think I'd like to do a country & western album for myself. I don't think Quo-fans would necessarily accept that, whilst I think that "Claudie", "Wild Side Of Life", "Fine Fine Fine" and "Marguerita Time"... lots of them are basically country. I've always believed that rock, blues and country are very similar. I just don't think it would be a wise thing to do for Status Quo at the moment. I'm not sure that's what we as a band want to do, whilst I'd love it. I think it's possibly a better thing for me to do. We're just not talking about that now, so I don't know... 

We did an interview with Rick during your latest tour and he then talked about some plans within the band to do a Quo-album 'unplugged'. What happened to that very interesting project?

Yeah, that's been talked about for a while. It's a nice biproduct, but I want to have a Status Quo-album that is, ideally, a Status Quo-album. As I said, the next step we have to make is probably half original stuff and half covers just to get through. Otherwise we won't get through. We know we can get TV advertising, we know the record company will go with it. We know if it's TV advertised a lot, the people that are interested in Status Quo will get to hear it. Whether they like it or not, they at least get to hear it and can decide if they want to buy it. If we don't go that route, the people that do like Status Quo won't hear it at all. No matter how well we do with press and television, and we do very well, people still come up and say "where have you been?". It seems to be the only option left to us other than to retire, and I'm not going to retire because I'm being pushed out by a radiostation in England. There's no way!

Do you really think it's necessary to record a cover to actually get radio airplay? What if you come up with another hit song like "Whatever You Want", "Down Down" or "Marguerita Time"?

It depends. There's no way you can ever find out. We all thought "I Didn't Mean It" was going to be a hit. It wasn't one of our songs, but we thought it was going to be a hit, but if noone plays it - how can it possibly be? At present, in England, Phil Collins has the same trouble that Status Quo have. Phil Collins is the next one. His single went in, and then straight out again. How are people going to get a chance to hear it, people that may grow to like it, people that may be fringe fans of Genesis or Phil Collins? It needs time on the radio to get through.

If we sit here and I play you our new song and you say "wow, that's a hit" and we go with what you think, how are you going to convince the radio that because you think it's a hit it should be played? So as I said, the only way to get through is by TV advertising. The TV advertising gets the album initially sold, then hopefully you pick up some airplay you wouldn't have picked up, and keep the Status Quo-fans happy with the seven original tracks, or ten original tracks. It's not simple I tell you. If it was simple I'd just do it! If it was simple "I Didn't Mean It" would have been a hit, it was a great little song. It was definitely Status Quo-ish, a good little melody, nicely played... or pick out any other song from "Thirsty Work"... or "Rock 'Til You Drop". Unless you have a different opinion than me, unless you think nothing we have done in the last, whatever it is, years is worth a hit. There must be one. Even if you hate all the others, there must be one song we've done...

We never get the chance of getting the airplay, and if people don't hear it more than once... How many records do you hear once and you think "yes" or "no"? I used to hear Queen-records a lot, and thought "nah, I don't like that". Two or three weeks later, "it's good, that is"... Most records you hear for the first time you think "nah", and occasionally you hear a record and you go "yes, I like that". Even then sometimes you're wrong. I heard a band the other night called Imperial Dragon. Fabulous band! Young guys, early 20s I should think. They looked a little bit hippie 70s, long hair and stuff. F..k that was good! Really raunchy, you know, on the rock side but also with a certain commercial quality. I thought "yeah, that's it". Nothing. Haven't heard it, never going to hear it again. That's an excellent band that won't get through.


A lot of people, including us, were very surprised that we didn't any new songs written by yourself on this soloalbum, apart from "Isaac Ryan" that is. When was that song written, and why didn't you use more selfpenned material?

It was written in 1973...

There were two main reasons why there weren't any more. First, as I said, it was just after "Thirsty Work" and I had lost confidence in anything I could do, and second, the deal was done on the Tony McAnaney songs. Being at a low time for me, his songs sounded better than mine, so I just said "fine, I like the songs". I couldn't say I didn't like the songs and didn't want to record them. The ideas of songs that were sung to me sounded great, and at the time i didn't think I had songs that were as good. I'm not saying I was right, but it was the way I felt at the time. Sometimes you get depressed, you know, "life is shit man". Everything seems to go wrong. I also felt it would be wrong for me to suddenly start dictating, "it's my deal, and I want to do my own stuff", when the deal was done on those first three songs that weren't mine. Because of the whole situation I was very unsecure at the time. I thought "I Didn't Mean It" was a good song, and I thought it would be a hit. So for me to push in and say "I'm going to do my own songs"... Maybe next time!

You've said before that you really dislike making promotion videos. Have you done any for this soloalbum?

I particularly dislike doing videos, yeah. I've done one which is quite good, and I quite enjoyed the day as well. It's all new to me to do it on my own, so from that point of view, well, it's ok! I still didn't want to come here today. I'm okay now, but I didn't want to come though. That's the trouble, because if I had it my own way, I wouldn't do anything. I wouldn't go to rehearsals, I wouldn't go to gigs. I just want to be there on stage, say "thank you", and go home.

But you don't want to retire from it all?

No, I don't. I can't have what I really want. Rick and I used to fantasize in cars when we were younger. We used to sit there back in 1968 or 1969, and think that by the 90s the cars will all be floating. There will be no wheels, because it will be all modern. And we'll have time travel so we can get in a machine and go somewhere, just like that. We really believed it would be, and here we are now in the late 90s...

I would really love that so I could go home in no time after I've finished this interview. That would be fabulous, but it's not going to happen. I'd be dead before that happens!


Backwater sat down for an interview with Rick Parfitt in the beginning of Quo's "Don't Stop" tour. This is what "the blond rhythm machine" had to say about the lack of a song writing partner, the choice of producers and the live set

Interview by Per Engelbo & Olle Östergård, (c) Backwater Online
 

Where and when was the first gig you did on this "Don't Stop" tour?

The first gig we did was two days ago, and I think it was in Copenhagen... This will only be our third gig, so we need to play a few more nights yet to get the band fully fired up. Tonight may be okay though. Normally it takes about a week, a week or so of playing that is, before we sort of settle down. It's an experimental period at the moment. We're going to put four new songs into the set, and we've only put in two in so far. We're gradually working them in, you know. Maybe tonight we'll put a third one in, maybe not, and then in another two nights time maybe we'll manage to put the fourth song in. We don't like to put too many in at one go.

Does it mean that you're taking something else out, or is the set just getting longer?

We have taken two songs out already. "Don't Drive My Car" is one of them, the other one I can't remember. We won't take any more out, so the set will increase to about an hour and fortyfive minutes I should think. Something like that. We're not mad on doing anything too much over the hour and a half really. Especially when there's a support band on as well we figure that's long enough for an audience. It's long enough for us, and the audience must be tired standing there for hours.

Is it because of the increasing age that you don't want to play for two and a half hours like you used to do ten or fifteen years ago?

I suppose it's got something to do with it, yes. We just don't feel like doing anything more than an hour and a half. It seems to be a good length of time to be on stage. It's enough time for us to get comfortable and... simply do what you're supposed to do. Anything over that hour and a half seems a bit like overtime somehow.

Last time when we spoke to you, during the "Thirsty Work" tour, you said that you wanted the next album to become heavier. You even said that the band might be in serious trouble with the fans if it didn't. How do you feel now when you look back on the finished album, "Don't Stop"? Did it turn out the way you wanted?

"Thirsty Work" I didn't really like. It wasn't heavy enough for my liking, and I just wasn't very fond of the album to be honest... At the time of "Thirsty Work" I didn't know what the next album was going to be. I could only assume in my mind that it would be an album with original songs and, as I said, a chunkier album. More back to the basics of Status Quo, but then of course it was brought to mind that it was the 30th anniversary, you know... All the songs from "Don't Stop" are songs that we've liked over the last however many years. Our manager, David Walker, suggested that we would put a load of them together for a 30th anniversary album, and we thought that was a good idea. It sort of marks 30 years I suppose, of us and our favourite songs. Obviously you can't get them all onto one album. We started off with about 40 or 50 songs, and these are the 15 or so that made it through. Having said that, I'm very pleased with the album. It might not be a typical Quo-album, but whichever way you look at it, it's a good one. That's my opinion anyway, what do you think?

To be honest we don't like it very much. When you buy a Status Quo record you always expect a certain kind of music, or at least, you used to... This album simply isn't it. Also the production is all wrong, it's too smooth and polished...

I'll have to listen to it again then, I haven't heard it like that. I think it's pleasant, and I think it comes across as quite a happy album because everybody knew the songs to start with, we all knew the melodies. It was just a case of raising the songs to where we thought they were acceptable playingwise. Not just to sit and play them like we did on soundchecks or rehearsals saying "one day it would be great to record some of these songs". We had to put quite a lot of work into them, which probably doesn't show on the album, but I'm very pleased with the result. It's doing very well in the charts, but I would imagine, and I stick my neck out again here, that it will be the last full covers album that we do. I can't see anything like this happening again. I will say now that the next album must be a regular Quo-album. And I don't see any alternative there.


Do you have any new material written already for the next one?

No, not yet, but there will be work on that in the near future. I mean, people are starting to drift into sort of songwriting mood now. That's generally what's happening, you know, people are picking up guitars in dressing rooms... I think there are quite a few ideas flowing around. Not from me personally though, but there will be. I don't think we'll be starting to work on a new album until, at the earliest, the beginning of 1997.

Have you had any discussions within the band about the next album?

No, none whatsoever yet.

So you don't know anything about what direction the other members want for the future?

No. I mean, I imagine that everybody will write how they write... Francis will write how he writes, Andrew will write how he writes and I will write how I write. If what I'm saying comes out the way I think it will, then I shall write the heavy stuff, because Francis won't do it. Nor will Andrew.

Do you know if Francis is still working with Bernie Frost?

I don't know. I think he still works with Bernie... but it's his thing, you know.

Don't you talk about things like that in the band?

Not really, no. Whoever he wants to work with is up to him. I don't interfere with that. At least not as long as the songs are acceptable, and one doesn't have to turn around and say "look, these songs are not making it". So we'll see for the next album, because I think there's going to be a fairly strict type of neck for the songs to get through. They've got to be of a certain standard. They've got to be good. The next one simply has to be a very good album.

Referring once again to our latest interview, you said then that the main reason why you didn't have any songs on the "Thirsty Work" album was the lack of a song writing partner. Have you found someone to work with now?

No, I haven't. It's a funny thing... In life I think everything happens for a reason. Looking back now I'm quite pleased I didn't have any songs on that album, because I don't think that the songs I'd have written would have fitted on "Thirsty Work". I would have written some heavier type songs, you know, and there didn't seem to be a place for them on that album, so actually I'm quite pleased that I didn't. With regards to a songwriting partner, I may well do some writing with Pip Williams again, and I don't know about anybody else. The thing is, what I've just set up at home, is a recording studio. I've just got it finished. Not a recording studio really, but a good writing setup. It goes right across the wall, it has got some speakers, and it's very good to sit and write on. I haven't had that before. I just sat in front of a taperecorder and played the song into it, and then tried to explain it to the band. Now I can do fullblown demos, which will be a great help.

You mentioned Pip Williams. Do you think he's the right producer for Status Quo?

Not necessarily, no. I think he was the right choice for "Don't Stop", but I'm not sure he's the right person for the next album. But then again, if Pip isn't right, who is? There are hundreds of good producers out there, but how many of them are right for Status Quo? It's a very difficult thing... It's like if you go to a restaurant to eat, and you're really hungry, and you see something on the menu that you've had before, and you know that you like it... Then somebody says to you, "hang on, try this instead". You're really hungry, you decide to try it, and you don't like it. You've wasted your money, and you're still hungry!

If I go out and pick a producer and say "ok, I've heard about you, come and produce us", he comes in and it doesn't work... Then what do I do? We're halfway through an album and we go "this ain't working"... It's very difficult, but as I said, I'm not sure Pip is the right producer for our next album.

Then again, it can't be all up to the producer. If you compare the work Pip did on the "Whatever You Want" album to how albums like "Perfect Remedy" sound for example. There are some major differences there...

Yeah, "Whatever You Want" was much better, wasn't it? Everybody was a bit more raw then, you see. As you go through life you mellow slowly, and we were all rawer then in the late 70s, we were harder I suppose. I know what you're trying to get to, I know what you're asking me... "Where are the Quo we used to know?". And believe me, it's still there! It's all about motivating people to get heavy again. Personally I don't have a problem with that, I really don't, but I'm not sure Francis want to go down that heavy road. Maybe we could have a kind of "split album", with Francis doing Francis' stuff and me doing mine. We could have a half-heavy, half-mellow album... Not really mellow, but Francis doesn't write in the same style as I do. I haven't written anything in quite a while now, but when I do it's going to be chunky stuff again. I don't have a problem with getting the rest of the band to play that, but I do with Francis because he's quite set in his ways, you know. I think it's going to be a time for give and take. I will play all his stuff and he will play mine.

I hope this doesn't sound like there's a split in the band because there isn't, but we're going to have to give and take. There's going to be some heavy stuff and there's going to be some not so heavy... I don't foresee another Quo-album beeing right through heavy, I don't think it will be like that anymore. There will be heavy songs on there, typical Status Quo-songs, and some not so typical. I think that's probably the way it's going to be in the future.

 

When you play live it's still very much the old, chunkier, Status Quo. That's what the audiences want and expect from the band. Isn't it strange to be a totally different band in the studio?

Well, it's not a totally different band, I don't agree with you there. Tonight when you hear "Get Out Of Denver" it's going to be very much the same band as on record, and I think you might also be pleasantly surprised when you hear "Get Back". I think you'll hear on stage the Quo that you know and love. Personally I think both "Get Back" and "Get Out Of Denver" kicks a bit of arse on the album as well...

At least if you compare them to some of the other tracks. I mean, "Safety Dance" and "Johnny And Mary" aren't exactly what you expect from Quo...

No, and they weren't meant to be. We set out to do some songs that we liked, you know. They can't all be typical Status Quo-songs. It was just an album of songs that we've messed about with during soundchecks. This album wasn't really meant in any way to be a heavy album. It was meant to be songs that we've liked over the passed 30 years.

You said that you started off with about 40 or 50 songs. Does that mean that you've recorded more than the 15 tracks that ended up on the album?

No, we decided pretty much on these 15 before we went into the studio. We tried a couple of other ones though, one was Johnny Kidd and The Pirates' "I'll Never Get Over You", but they didn't really work. I suppose the shortlist was about 20, no more than that, and these are the ones that made it.

I'm disappointed that you don't like the "Don't Stop" album. How many times have you listened to it?

Lots of times. We've really given it a try, but it's simply not our cup of tea. Sorry...

Yeah, if you're not mentally turned on by it then, I don't suppose you'll get into it. It's not a headbanging album.

We definitely don't want a headbanging album from Quo. "Anniversary Waltz" is a great example how the band should sound on record. We're sure that fans say the same in England and all over Europe if you ask them. At least the fans that has been with the band for more than ten years.

I think it's possible for the next album to be a good, solid Quo-album, and to get the best of two worlds. I can only assume what it will be like, and it's possible that we can do something along the line of "Anniversary Waltz". I have preconcieved ideas of what it could be like, but...


 

Through the years Status Quo have a history of not playing the singles from most of the albums when performing live. What about the singles from this one, "Fun Fun Fun" and "Don't Stop", are you going to include them?

Yeah, we're going to do "Fun Fun Fun", but we have some problems with the technical equipment at the moment. We want to feature The Beach Boys, you see, and we have this screening process... Not on the stage we have here now though, because we lost a lightrig about a week ago. Just before we went out on tour the whole thing fell from 30 feet and smashed. So this is a makeshift lightrig, but the original rig has got three circles in it which are photographic, and you can put an image onto them. What we want to do is to use a clicktrack so we can have The Beach Boys singing the verse and chorus on stage with us. You see them visually as well on the screen. We can't do that at the moment, and that's why we're not doing "Fun Fun Fun". We're going to include "Don't Stop", that may go in tonight, I don't know... And we're going to include "Proud Mary", but that won't go in tonight. They are the next two to go in, and then "All Around My Hat" is going to go in. Not one of my personal favourites, but it's going to go in.

You have included some old favourites of ours in the set like "Softer Ride" and "Backwater". Did you talk about any other old songs as well?

Not as yet, no. The set is as it is at the moment. We haven't really talked about any others. What would you suggest?

There are so many great songs in the old catalogue. "Claudie" is one of them.

Yeah, we talked about doing "Claudie" a couple of years ago, and I'd love to put it in. I know Francis would as well, so I don't know why we haven't.

You should play that just before or after "Gerdundula" in the set...

I'll remember that. I'll actually convey that in just a minute to the rest of the band, because I'd love to put "Claudie" in... It's funny though, some tracks that work on albums don't work on stage. You think they would, but they don't. For some reason they just haven't got the energy. They are good on the album, and they cook along quite nicely, but when you get to do them in front of ten thousand people it doesn't work. For some reason it just doesn't... Then you have other tracks that you think won't work, like "Gerdundula". We haven't done that for more than 20 years or something. It tears the place apart every night! You just can't tell, you know...

Talking about "Gerdundula", do you know why Francis and Bob who wrote the song don't want to put themselves as writers? It still says Manston/James everywhere you look.

There were some confusion both with the publishers and the record company at that time. There was a little bit of skulduggery going on somewhere, and they had to publish it under different names because we obviously wanted to release the song. They couldn't publish it under their names at that particular time, that's all I can remember about it. It's not a problem anymore, but they just haven't done anything about it, I guess.

You told us in a previous interview that you had some plans to do an unplugged album during 1995. What happened?

There was talk, yeah. It just went flat and I haven't heard anymore. It's been lots of other things that have overtaken it, lots of more things have come up. If the opportunity to do it is still there, I don't know. I'd still love to do it at some stage, I think it would be great for Status Quo. Tracks like "Caroline" are fantastic with acoustic guitars, and "Don't Waste My Time", we can do a really slowed down version of that. It sounds great. "Claudie" would be fabulous unplugged. I'd very much still like to do it, but we'll have to wait and see what happens in the future.



Backwater got the opportunity to sit down for a long chat with the former bassplayer and co-founder of Status Quo in his hotelroom in Stockholm. In this indepth interview Alan talks not only about his recent work with his band Lancaster Bombers, but also the years with Quo. From the golden era of the 70s to the breakup in 1985. The passed, present and future!

Interview by Per Engelbo, (c) Backwater Online


We haven't heard much about you and your band Lancaster Bombers lately, so what's going on at the moment?

The Lancaster Bombers are 'in limbo' right now. We are waiting to see if there's any interest in our new EP, "Pictures Of Matchstick Men", from the Quo-fans etc. Without a record company involved on the marketing side, it's pretty much impossible to promote the band efficiently though. Some radio play would be nice, but not having a manager to help, things are slow to say the least.

What about the EP, is it officially released or is it just for promotion?

It's released through Voiceprint Records, and can be ordered direct through them at the address PO Box 5, Derwentside, Co. Durham DH9 7HR, England, or on the internet. The EP has catalogue number PJR002CD, and contains four tracks, "Matchstick Men", "Roadhouse Blues", "Aim High" and "Is This The Way To Say Goodbye". It's released although its uneconomical to market it properly until such time as radio start to play it.

Brett Williams isn't with the band anymore, and Tyrone Coates is back in again. What happened?

Brett left the band to persue a more reliable career in multimedia computing. He loved playing in the band, but the future was too unpredictable. Tyrone rejoined as rhythm guitarist and extra vocalist to tour Europe. Unfortunately, if no serious overseas offers are made soon, I believe that the band may be forced to unfold.

You did two tours in Scandinavia with the Lancaster Bombers in 1994 and 1995, didn't you?

Yes, it was to see if there were anything there, if we were still remembered by the fans. Otherwise we wouldn't have known whether or not there were any interest in the band. It's difficult really, you don't go anywhere in Australia, it's pointless there. You can stay there forever, you know, so the European market has always been what we aim for. Because of the Status Quo episode it's been very difficult for me to do anything in Europe though... During the Scandinavian tours we played mostly Status Quo-material. It was a set we rehearsed specially for those tours. Really, in a way, playing Quo-songs were a bit new to us. We've always played my old songs, but not as many as we did then.

It's been a couple of years now since the album "Aim High" was released. Have you written any new material?

I have written quite a few new songs with the band. We tend to write a lot together. Unfortunately it's unviable to record them until there's a record company or publishing company interest. It's pointless for us to do a record deal in Australia alone. The Party Boys worked, but that was an exception. Europe is the only place to do a recording deal. To spend that amount of money making a record you have to sell a lot, you know... You have to sell records to get your money back, because that's what it's all about now. Gone are the days you could do it for sheer love. We love what we're doing, but we can't do it for sheer love. It's a very costly hobby, a very expensive hobby. I have to look after the guys in the band, I mean, this is their job now...


John Coghlan played percussion on your first tour in Scandinavia. Do you still have contact with him?

Yes, I have contact with John from time from time. The way we look at Lancaster Bombers today is as a four piece outfit with additional guests coming in. John Coghlan was a guest then, and he might be again in the future.

What about John Brewster with whom you used to write songs before?

I like writing with John, but he's now working with his old band, The Angels. He still lives next door to me. A similar thing that happened to me in Quo also happened to him. Everybody was saying how bad The Angels were, but now that John and the original bassplayer have rejoined, everybody says how good they are... There was a chemistry in the band. They've always had a fantastic guitarist, that's John Brewster's brother by the way, but without John and the bassplayer he didn't have the same band anymore. It's strange that if one or two members leave the whole thing collapses. They were absolutely terrible when I saw them play live, but now with the original lineup back together, they're great again.

You wrote some songs in the Quo-days with a guy called Keith Lamb, "Ol' Rag Blues" to name one of them. Who's he?

I've always been a teamplayer. I like to have somebody to work with, but I don't like having somebody pulling the strings over me. I enjoy working together with other artists, you know, like a bounce. "Do you like this? Do you like that?". Keith Lamb used to be in an Australian pop band called Hush, they were quite popular for a while. They had a couple of years of success I suppose... When I met him he had a record company function, and I just got friendly with the guy. In the cause of writing my songs he was there, and he helped me write them. "Ol' Rag Blues" was basically written when he came in, but he wrote some lyrics in it. "When you look into a mirror...", he wrote that part. It happens a lot, you know, if you work with somebody, and they become the cowriter. Strangely enough it was different with Status Quo. You could come up with an idea in Quo, and then somebody else did more work on it than the original writer. The writer wasn't the writer, you know, he just came up with an idea. For instance, Rick came up with the idea for "Rain" and "Mystery Song", but with "Mystery Song" I wrote most of the lyrics with Bob, and I also wrote the melody for it. It was credited as Parfitt/Young. I wrote part of "Rain", and then later on Francis wrote part of "Rain", and I think even Bob wrote a little bit of "Rain" too, but it was listed as Rick Parfitt. Rick didn't write those two songs, he wrote parts of them. Because Francis and I were writing together at the time, we felt like "let Rick have those songs", you know. That's the way it is, so the writing credits do not necessarily portray the writers. John Coghlan is not a writer. He didn't write "Roll Over Lay Down", "Break The Rules", "Lonely Night" or anything like that, but they are credited as written by five people.

 

Isn't it also a financial side to it all? I mean, the writer gets more money from record sales, doesn't he?

Yes, that's right. The writer of the song gets a writing royalty, but we never used to really think like that. We used to think everyone was going to get money for what they did. We tried to evenly distribute it, you know, because that was really our wage if you like, the writing. That was the only part our management didn't take control of. Except that they took control of the publishing, so really it was the writing royalties that helped us survive. That was why we sort of distributed the writing a bit. "Roll Over Lay Down" was written by me and Rick first off, Francis came in with the riff and Bob came in with some words. We didn't want to leave John out, so I suggested that he'd be credited as well. Whereas with "Lonely Night", I wrote that with Francis, but because I was writing with Rick at the time, and Francis was writing with Bob at the time, we decided to put Bob and Rick in. And again, why leave John out? "Let's put John in", you know...

Did you have lots of arguments within the band about what songs to include on the albums and what songs to leave out?

No, because we never really had enough songs. The rotten part about it was that when somebody wrote a song, and when I wrote a song in particular, it was very difficult to get the others to play it properly. Rick and Francis were more interested in their own songs, and if I worked on their songs it was like... expected.

Was it like that from the start or was it something that happened later on?

Later on. Much later on. That started, I think, around 1980. Yeah, early 80s...

It's quite obvious if you listen to the albums from that period. "Whatever You Want" is the last album where the band really sound like a unit. After that it's very clear who wrote what, and each member seemed to pull in their own direction.

That's right. It became like that. Whenever somebody wrote a good song, the others jumped at it  to add their own ideas. In the end it either came out bad, or it came out another way. It might come out even better, but in a way you didn't want it to come out, you know. The song "Ol' Rag Blues" for instance... I left the mix there, it was all done, and Francis went in and remixed everything on his own. When I went back to Australia, and Rick went back to his house, he secretly went into the studio and did it. And the mix on that album... Rick hated it, and I hated it. It was much better before he got his hands on it. So things like that were going on then.


I guess you weren't happy together in the studio then?

It's hard to say, you know, because when we were playing together we were happy, it was fine, but there were so many problems... Francis had so many problems all the time, but he was very secretive about them. Rick had so many problems as well. You know, I came into the studio full of enthusiasm, "let's go!", and everyone's on a downer. It was very hard to rise above it. We were sort of happy in one sense and unhappy in another, but we never really knew then what the problem was. Rick and Francis seemed to be unhappy in particular, and John was... John.

It's almost unbelievable for us who have got to know John later on, that he was considered to be wild and unpredictable in those days. I mean, he's really such a nice guy, almost shy...

It was the frustration of being in a band and not knowing what was going on. He was the one that was making it all possible, or one of four people making it all possible, and he was treated like... shit! He was treated so bad by our management, so bad by the rest of the boys. as if he didn't exist, you know. He just got very frustrated about it, he didn't know how to express himself, how to get it out. It was very awkward for him. I know this now, but I didn't know it then, because I was part of it, you know...

Do you feel guilty yourself for John Coghlan leaving the band?

I blame myself entirely for John, and I have told him that too, although he really only had himself to blame. We couldn't afford financially or timewise to have somebody to mess around. We were men, had families. We couldn't afford spending months in studios just drinking or having a joke, you know. We were there to work.

So what you're saying is that John didn't really want to work?

He wanted to, but he only wanted to play the drums. Rick wanted to play guitar, and Francis wanted to play guitar, but nobody wanted to do the real work of learning what to play. It's all very well to say "I can play the drums" or guitar or whatever, but you have to work, you have to learn the things to play, and nobody wanted to do that. They thought it was going to come naturally, you know, all of a sudden... It takes a lot of work to make a song happen, a lot of work. These songs we're doing now in Lancaster Bombers, we've all known them for years, but still we have to practice for a month, every day of the week, to really sort of push it out. It's a lot of work behind it!

With Status Quo they thought it would come naturally to them. They forgot that in the old days we used to sit in a room for twelve hours a day, playing together, working it all out. That's why it was so good. When the big success came, they suddenly thought it would come naturally, but it doesn't happen that way, and I had no time for that. As I said, I blame myself for John leaving. I flew over from Australia to the studio in Montreaux, Switzerland. We spent two days setting up the drums, mike them up and everything, and then John went in and kicked the drums over... I thought to myself "I can't put up with this". I said to the other guys "we'll get someone else, we have got to work properly".  You know, we have all these songs, we have spent months and months of writing and doing demos at home, then somebody comes over and messes it all up... I was annoyed, so I said "ok, we'll get somebody else to do the album".

 

Did you already then see it as a permanent solution, that John was out of the picture for good?

No, not at all. That was just to do the sessions. Even so, John could have come back and put drums on if necessary, if things weren't very good. We needed somebody that was going to work with us. If he was a good or bad drummer, we'd soon know, but it wasn't even necessary to record with the guy, but we did of course. Still, John could have come back and said "look chaps, let me put the drums on now and forget all that"... I mean, fine!

But you didn't contact him after that incident in the recording studio to try to solve all the problems?

What happened was that Francis had gone to Pete Kircher, who really was somebody I contacted at first to do some demos for me in London. Pete's a nice guy, and a good drummer as well. He's not a great drummer, he hasn't got the magic that John Coghlan has. John has really got something else about his playing, you know. He's a good drummer, John, but in a completely different way from Peter Heckenberg for example. I mean, Peter is a world class drummer, but John has got a certain something when he plays, what can you say...? When John went, Pete Kircher flew in the very next day. The idea wasn't to get rid of John permanently, no, but I think Francis Rossi already had it in his head. Our management also seemed happy about it, "think about all the publicity we're going to get from this". You know, one of the original Quo leaving...

Around this time Andy Bown became a full member of Quo. How did that happen?

About a year or 18 months before this happened, I said to Andrew "in a year or two you'll be a permanent member of this band". I also said to him "I think it's going to be wrong, I think it's not right for us".

But who made that decision if you were against it?

That was Francis. When I was away in Australia there was no balance in the band, and Francis had the stick. When I was there it was always balance between me and Francis. Sure, Rick jumped on Francis' scales quite a lot, or he might jump on my scales and alter the balance, but basically it was me and Francis that balanced the scales and kept it at even balance. When I wasn't there Francis would say things like "we can't ring Alan up in Australia all the time to ask him questions". Francis basically engineered John Coghlan to leave the band. I was told that John wanted to leave, but really John has told me now that just felt very embarrassed at the time. He was promised money in compensation which he never really got. He got some, and Alan Crux helped him to leave basically. John was forgotten and it was very, very bad. I still feel bad about it, that was wrong. At the same time, you know, John asked for it in certain ways. I would never have giveout and left him on his own though. I thought he was well taken care of.

Francis really engineered the situation for him to go, and get one of his friends in, Pete Kircher. Then of course Andy Bown was called, because Andy was always taking sides with Francis, to be part of it. Rick said okay because then there was another member you could side with, you know. You've got to understand, it was a question of companionship within Quo. Rick was always hanging on to Francis and wanted to be accepted by him, but really, the companionship was between the three or four of us in the band. Maybe me, Rick and Francis. John was always sort of on the edge, but he was still one of us, a member of the band. The companionship was me, Rick and Francis, but Francis was always looking for someone else to... show off, if you like. He couldn't show off in front of me, or in front of Rick for that matter. 

Out of all this came a very strange album. I mean, most of the fans expected something really special since it was the 20th anniversary and everything, but the "1+9+8+2" album wasn't good, was it?

What songs were on that album? I don't remember, were there any good ones?


The only song that I really like on "1+9+8+2" is a track by Rick called "Resurrection".

You see, the problem was that Francis did not want anybody to play on his songs. He wanted to do his songs with Bernie Frost, and that's what he did. He did the demos, and he wanted to release the demos all the time. When the band came in and made them better he was happy, but it was really hard to make them better because he wanted them certain ways. He wanted them played exactly the same. With "Jealousy" we played exactly the same as the demo, making it a bit better, you know. For hours and hours he put the "Jealousy" on that he did with Bernie Frost, and then the "Jealousy" we did with the band. It got to the stage where I was saying to Rick "well, we've done it exactly the same, I can't even tell which one is which now". I believe he put on the original. I don't think that's a Status Quo-recording, "Jealousy". I think it's the Francis Rossi and Bernie Frost version on the album. I think if the "Jealousy" we played was the same, he would have thrown ours off and got his on. That's what I believe he would have done. If ours was better, or if it was different, he wouldn't have had a choice, but if we made it the same...

Francis wanted to control the situation, he wanted to show off. He wanted me and Rick to look up to him. Same with Rick, he wanted me and Francis to look up to him. They were always trying to prove themselves in different areas all the time. It wasn't like this in the early part when all the good stuff was happening, this was later on when the drug situation came in.

What strikes me with the "1+9+8+2" album is the lack of musical direction. The members of the band really seem to have drifted apart musically. Any comments?

Well, it started with the "Rockin' All Over The World" album. That's when we started to go wrong, because we always produced our own albums. Up until then it was all us, and then Pip Williams came in with a completely different technique. It was like as if he was doing some band that had no direction. He started to create new ways for the band, you know, different recording techniques, stuff that was irrelevant for the band. It was wrong for us, but Francis was impressed, and he made friends with Pip. You see, it was like he took him into his confidence so that Pip could think he's the one, that he was the leader of the band or something. That wasn't the case at all. Francis in fact was the weak member of the band in reality. He used to get his own way because of the way he used to engineer people, manipulate people. As far as 'leader of the band' he was like last in the line in a way. It was probably on a very equal basis, but Francis used to go out on a different route to get his own way, like he took Pip Williams into his confidence, and like he took Andy Bown into his confidence...

After the "Rockin'" album we should have dumped Pip. The only thing that made that album was really the song "Rockin' All Over The World". I mean, it wasn't a bad album. It was good in the sense that everyone was enthusiastic because we were doing something new, but when "If You Can't Stand The Heat" album came out everybody in the whole band knew that "this is wrong", you know, "this whole Pip Williams thing is wrong". Because Francis had him under his thumb, he wanted us to try one more, "we'll co-produce it this time". That's what we did with "Whatever You Want". We kind of merged with Pip, "we don't want any of this, we want it like...".

In the book "Just For The Record" Francis says that you were against recording the song "Rockin' All Over The World". That's a bit strange, isn't it?

Yes, that's absolute nonsense, absolute nonsense. I don't know where that has come from. I mean, I've been against recording certain songs for sure, as everyone in the band has. I didn't want to record "Marguerita Time", but nor did anybody. I was actually the one that allowed it to happen, I got everybody together to record that. Not Francis, not Rick, not Andy or anyone else... it was me! I said "ok, come on, let's do it", talked everyone into doing it, learning it and doing it, because nobody wanted to do it. Francis says I tried to stop that, and that isn't true.

"Rockin' All Over The World"... I don't know where that has come from. That's a new one on me. It's nonsense, if it wasn't for "Rockin'" that album wouldn't have been very good at all. I mean, it was a pretty good album. It was good because it sort of showed another direction to the band, but looking back on it I don't think it's a great album, you know...

You recorded that album in Sweden. Do you have any special memories?

Yes, I remember it very well. My wife was over here, cooking for the band every day. She was looking after us, and we didn't even give her a "thank you" on the album by the way, and I remember we enjoyed making that album to a certain degree. I say to a certain degree, because we started with a different approach there. Francis was always hanging around Pip, you know, talking about his songs, what he wanted and what he didn't want. So in the end it was like Pip Williams working with Francis Rossi, not Status Quo. Pip was being briefed by Francis all the time, but he still didn't know what was in my head and Rick's head, so he had to look after us too. It was enjoyable making that album, but, it was a different way... It was different to make because nobody was helping one another with their work.

So that was really when things first started to go wrong then?

Yeah, it started to happen there with Pip Williams. It was like you had to have Pip to like a song before anybody else. That was what Francis engineered, because he played his songs so much that Pip got used to his stuff. Pip used to like my stuff, you know. He used to come around to my house in Surrey, and we used to rehearse there. I had a bit of faith in Pip in the early days. At that particular time it was kind of enjoyable that he was always treating everybody as an equal. It was the recording technique that was different, and everybody was impressed that he was using all these new techniques, you know...

Who came up with the idea to work with Pip Williams in the first place?

It was Colin Johnson's idea. We got Pip in, and it was a good idea at the time, but...

 

What about the song "Rockin' All Over The World", who suggested that one?

Rick found that song. Personally I didn't like the original version of it, but when we did it in the studio, that was the one that was natural. When we did it, all the other stuff was finished, and "Rockin'" just clicked naturally. We played together as a band, it was fine. With all the other stuff we worked on every detail, every tiny bit, but since none of us wrote "Rockin'" we just went in and did it. I love that song, you know, and I still play it on stage with the Lancaster Bombers.

If I ask you to choose your favourite songs from all the years in Status Quo, which ones would it be?

Let's see... "Pictures Of Matchstick Men", "Roadhouse Blues", "Rockin' All Over The World", Down Down, "Accident Prone", "Backwater", "Roll Over Lay Down", "Big Fat Mama", "Whatever You Want", "Over The Edge, "Break The Rules", "Softer Ride", "Rain"...

What other artists influenced you in the different periods of your career?

When we started out in the 60s I was obviously influenced by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones as well as Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry and Little Richard. To name a few in the 70s I would say Pink Floyd, The Eagles, Led Zeppelin... In the 80s... What happened in the 80s? Well, Aerosmith seemed to be happening. Nowadays I like the up & coming younger bands that are re-vamping the 70s style music into updated sounds and arrangements. And I was impressed with Lenny Krawitz's earlier work.

What about favourite albums by other artists, what would a 'Top 5 albums of all time' list by Alan Lancaster look like?

I would choose "Dark Side Of The Moon" by Pink Floyd, "Houses Of The Holy" by Led Zeppelin, "Desperado" by The Eagles, "Beatles For Sale" by The Beatles and finally "Imagine" by John Lennon.

Which album are you most proud of today when you look back on everything that you did with Status Quo?

It's hard, I have to think about that... All the stuff we did before "Rockin' All Over The World"  was really enjoyable. All the stuff... They were great times. Everything before "Rockin'" I enjoyed. I sort of enjoyed that album too. I even enjoyed "If You Can't Stand The Heat" to a certain degree, but it was awful. The album was awful. We still had a good vibe though...

Was it only in the studio that the problems seemed to emerge, or did you experience that on tour as well?

No, the tours were always happy, they were fine. No problems there. I mean, Rick and Francis were unhappy guys, they had been unhappy for a long period of time, but they created their own unhappiness. Lots of times I was sort of the mediator between them, but as soon as the two of them got together and I was away it was like I was ostracized for trying to help them get together. I could never understand that. I never let it affect me too much, but of course it did affect me. Rick and Francis were still in competition with one another all the time, but they weren't any good in the studio. Rick didn't really know how to work in a studio, Francis knew bits and pieces but didn't know how to go about it the right way. On the other hand, I did. I knew it, because I had my own studio for a start. Before that I had one in my house, so I was used to that kind of thing. They didn't like that, that I could do it, but I was very reluctant to put my hands on the desk, you know. I was also very reluctant to bring the sounds from my computers into the studio, because it would have blown their minds apart.

They wanted to mix their own songs, and I remember once when I came into the studio, and they were all there around the desk. You know, Francis, Rick, Andy, the engineer... They were making small adjustments here and there, very carefully fading for the last bit... Then I came up, "great chaps, but you have this bias noise all over the tape, can't anybody hear that?". There was this whistling noise all over the tape, and they were mixing with it! Nobody was hearing it, not even the engineer! I couldn't believe it. "Can't they hear this? It's all over their work!".

So, "Rockin' All Over The World" was enjoyable, "Cant Stand The Heat"... by then we knew Pip was wrong, but Francis couldn't bear to go into the studio on our own again. He didn't want to say to me and Rick "come, let's do this together", he couldn't say that. Finally, after the "Whatever You Want" album, we did something about the fact that it didn't work with Pip anymore. Then Francis wanted to use John Eden, the same engineer... So we did. Twice. First we did the "Just Supposin'" album, and when we were finishing that thing off, Francis wanted us to stay in the studio to do more and more tracks. I said to him "but we haven't got more tracks", you know. Everyone only had half finished songs, so I really didn't want to do it, neither did Rick. I finally went along with it to keep him happy. Francis was talking logical sense, it did make economical sense to stay in the studio, because then we would have another album. I thought "well, that's thinking, that's good". Although it made economical sense, it didn't make creative sense to me. I went along with it because I knew if everybody put their energy into it, we could do it. Of course "Never Too Late" was just really a throwaway album.   


So you're saying that "Never Too Late" and "Just Supposin'" are recorded at the same time?

Yeah, exactly the same time. We recorded those in Ireland. Francis was going with Liz Gernon then. He had a passion for the Irish and wanted to record there. "Never Too Late" was really a throwaway, we should never have done it. It made good sense if we could physically do it, but everybody was so pissed off. We had just finished "Supposin'", "why should we carry on with another album?", you know.

You mentionened that despite the problems in the studio, you were always happy together on the tours. Which are the most memorable moments in your career?

Obviously opening 'Live Aid at Wembley Stadium was one of them. The last concert on the 'End Of The Road' tour at Milton Keynes is another fond memory. Of course when we did the 'Prince's Trust' gig at Birmingham NEC, the first performance at my fathers sports club, Samuel Jones' Sports Club, and also the regular performances we did at the Greyhound pub in Croydon, London.

Opening 'Live Aid' was the last thing you did together with the original band. How did that thing happen?

What happened was that Iain Jones said that Bob Geldof wanted us to open the show at 'Live Aid'. I said "great, I want to do it", but Iain told me that Francis didn't want to do it at this stage. Basically I said to Iain Jones "tell Francis if he doesn't want to do it, I'll make sure everybody knows why we didn't do it". Then it didn't take long before Iain came back and told me we were going to do 'Live Aid'...

Talking about Iain Jones, who actually chose him to become tour manager?

Again Francis. You see, Iain Jones came in as a keyboard roadie for Andy Bown. I never really liked the man to be quite honest with you. It was something about him I disliked, but I didn't really know why. I thought "I shouldn't really judge him", you know, "he's probably a nice guy"... By that time I lived in Australia, and somehow, one way or the other, he and Francis hit it off. Not long after that Bob Young was sacked, and Iain was made tour manager. Everybody hated Iain Jones, everybody... Francis in a way degraded the band with the things he did, because of his sucking up to people like Colin Johnson, Pip Williams etc, and doing things behind our backs. When he ought to be talking to Richard or me, he was talking to Colin Johnson instad. Things were being done without the knowledge of Rick and myself. That was causing friction in the band. It wasn't Francis' band, you see, he didn't own the band. Even if he was looked upon as the lead singer or not, he had no authority to do it, and of course we didn't like it.

Iain Jones obviously looked up to Francis, being charismatic as a rockstar... You know, "here I am, a lonely keyboard roadie, and he likes me". Francis liked the attention, so he made friends with Iain, and Iain went up the ranks and became our tour manager. Bob Young got the sack, but that was basically something we all agreed to do at the time. Bob had almost become one of the band, you know. He saw himself as one of the band. When we wanted things done he wouldn't do them. He was working for us, but he wouldn't do things... It became unfunctionable. I mean, Bob was a great tour manager, probably one of the best in the business, but he wasn't functioning as a tour manager for us anymore. He was functioning as a fifth band member. Then he started wanting a cut of our record royalties, and Francis at that particular time was prepared to do that for him, because he was friends with Bob. He was willing to give away part of my and Rick's royalties to Bob, you know...

 

Didn't you have any discussions within the band to maybe change management?

No, not really. In 1979, after my divorce case in 1978, I knew about he financial things, and I started to think about asking questions. By the early 80s, after some research, I knew things were wrong. You know, "where's this money, where's that money?". We never got payed a lot of money. You might think Status Quo made a lot of money, but we didn't. All the money we made went back into the band. We really only started to make money in the 80s, early 80s. It all went back into the band, and it went very quickly, because of the album costs. That was why John had to go, because it was costing too much money to not get the work done properly. Everybody made a lot of money out of Status Quo, except Status Quo...

We did the tour in 1984 to retire on, so that everybody would have enough money to retire on, but we lost money from it. When I brought it to the boys, you know, "ah, don't worry...". Rick was broke, he was technically bankrupt after that tour, and I wasn't supposed to be worried! In 1985, at the time of 'Live Aid', he had lost his house, his studio, everything. He was living in a little flat, he had no money at all, had no driving-license, nothing... That's why I flew over, to help him. Nobody was helping him, not Colin Johnson, not Francis Rossi, and Rick was on the verge of suicide as he mentions in their biography book. His friends weren't helping him, so I flew over from Australia, at my own expense, to see these new accountants, and that was when we found out we were being ripped off. Even if Rick knew he was being ripped off, he was too frightened to do something about it. When it was relayed to Francis, he didn't want to do anything about it, "I don't want to know about it". He said "ok, let's sack Colin Johnson, but I want him as my own manager, my personal manager". It was f...ing rediculous! By saying that I could tell what was in his mind, that he wanted to go solo. Basically he was throwing the band away. When the solo thing didn't work out, Francis was devestated. So was Rick. Rick's album didn't even get released. Because of all that I couldn't get a deal, even though I had payed for and recorded all my stuff on my own. I later used it for Party Boys, you know.

Did you get a chance to listen to Rick's and Francis' soloalbums?

Oh yes, Francis and I sat in his BMW and he played the whole album to me. We sat there, and I said "good one there, Francis, you need a little work here...". His stuff, in fact, had a certain little bit of charm, good bits here and there. I was living with Rick for a while, so all I got to hear then, day in and day out, was his soloalbum... Compared with Francis' stuff Rick's material was more earthy. It had good bits too, but that's not good enough, you know. When I came over with my stuff, the record company didn't even want to give me a deal. They had just spent 100.000 pounds on Francis, and 100.000 pounds on Rick, and they came up with absolutely... nothing!

After that it was impossible for me, even though I had already recorded the stuff. The material I did was intended either for me or Quo, because I can't record in any other way. I diverse sometimes, like the track "Flash In Japan" for example, but basically I record like I would in Status Quo. If I'd still be in the band you would be hearing things like "Escape", "Running In The Shadows", "Aim High", but now these songs went to The Bombers or Party Boys instead. The whole thing was so badly managed. It wasn't like KISS when they released their soloalbums, all four of them at once. Great! With us, Francis was doing his in secret, Rick was doing his in secret, while I was trying to make a Status Quo-album with noone in the band near to do it with me. Everything was so rediculous...

Have you recorded with or produced any other band, apart from The Bombers and Party Boys, since you left Quo?

Various artists still ask me to produce their material, but usually the budgets aren't realistic. I don't get asked often to do sessions as the scene is fairly limited in Australia, but recently I actually did some. I played bass and co-produced a cover version of the Neil Young-track "Old Man" for a Rip Curl surfing video, and I played bass on the background music for a recent National Parks & Wildlife video. I also played keyboards on the Roger Woodward album "Music Of The Night", which I produced as his first contemporary classical styled album. Otherwise I have only recorded with Quo, Party Boys and The Bombers. Oh, I did play bass on an old rock album by Chris Turner...


You saw Quo live at Ullevi Football Stadium, Gothenburg, in 1995. What did you think of their performance, and how did it feel to see the band on stage that you actually founded once?

I found that concert very uninspiring, it lacked feel and realism. Most of the songs were played much to fast, and the band looked cabaret. It was upsetting for me to see Francis and Rick degrading the name and legacy of Status Quo like that.

Did you meet Quo when they did their Australian tour in March this year?

No, I didn't, but I spoke to Rick on the phone a few weeks before, and then again a few weeks after their visit down under. I had a personal family trauma to deal with around this time.

One last question. Do you personally see all the doors closed for the original Quo to work together again in the future?

Let me put it this way, I don't see the doors closed, but I don't see them open...

I think the next worthwhile step is for the original four piece band to make a new album together while we still can. The amount of mail I recieve requesting this to happen from fans all over the world is quite incredible.

There still seem to be a lot of bitterness involved on a personal level, especially between you and Francis. Is that the case?

No, I'm not bitter about what happened. I'm angry about it. Angry in the sense that they took away my life from me, you know, at no given notice. It wasn't like "next year Al, we want to start replacing you, can we get to some sort of deal?". It was done very, very underhanded. It left me in a situation where I couldn't carry on with my life, because I was fighting for what I had. I'm angry about what Francis did, and in a way about what Rick did. They were my friends for 25 years, my best friends. It's very hard to forgive somebody if they're not sorry. I know they're sorry, so I can forgive them for it, but they still won't tell me they're sorry, you know. Rick kind of has, but they don't want to do anything about it. Even though they're sorry in a sense, they carry on saying nasty things about me. I don't know why they're doing this.

I would love, really, for myself, John, Rick and Francis to play together again, to all be friends. It would make the whole thing worth it. At the moment it feels as if I've lived a lie for 25 years. Francis was my best mate, so was Rick. We were like one! It would be nice to get together and play a show sometime, just because of that, and to salvage that. Then we could say that "it wasn't a lie, something went wrong inbetween, but now it's ok!".