Status Quo began life as psychedelic/garage punk band The Spectres in the mid-60s.
Their success was minimal until Francis Rossi and co changed their name to The Status Quo, having dabbled with the name Traffic Jam.
Founder members Francis Rossi (guitar, vocals) and Alan Lancaster (bass, vocals) led the act from its inception in 1962 until 1967, by which time Roy Lynes (organ) and John Coghlan (drums) completed its line-up.
The band was buoyed by the arrival of Rick Parfitt (guitar, keyboards, vocals), lately of cabaret attraction The Highlights, where he was sometimes known as Rick Harrison.
The revamped unit assumed their Status Quo appellation in August 1967 and initially sought work backing various solo artists, including Madeline Bell and Tommy Quickly.
Such employment came to an abrupt end the following year when the quintet’s debut single, Rossi’s Pictures Of Matchstick Men, soared to #7 in the UK.
One of the era’s most distinctive performances, the song’s ringing, phased guitar pattern and de rigueur phasing courted pop and psychedelic affectations.
A follow-up release, Rossi’s Black Veils Of Melancholy, exaggerated latter trappings at the expense of melody, but the band enjoyed another UK Top 10 hit with the jaunty Ice In The Sun, co-written by former 50s singer Marty Wilde.
Subsequent recordings in a similar vein struggled to match such success, and despite reaching #12 in 1970 with Down The Dustpipe, the band (now known simply as Status Quo) was increasingly viewed as a passé novelty.
However, the song itself, which featured a simple riff and wailing harmonica, indicated the musical direction unveiled more fully on Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon.
The album included the band’s version of Steamhammer‘s Junior’s Wailing, which had inspired this conversion to a simpler, boogie style. Gone too were the satin shirts, frock coats and kipper ties, replaced by long hair, denim jeans and plimsolls.
The departure of Lynes en route to Scotland – “He just got off the train and that was the last we ever saw of him” (Rossi) – brought the unit’s guitar work to the fore, although indifference from their record company blighted progress.
Assiduous live appearances built up a grassroots following and impressive slots at the Reading and Great Western Festivals (both in 1972) signalled a commercial turning point.
Now signed to the renowned Vertigo Records label, Status Quo scored a UK Top 10 hit in January 1973 with Paper Plane, but more importantly, reached #5 in the album charts with Piledriver. A subsequent release, Hello! entered at #1, confirming the band’s emergence as a major attraction.
Since this point the band’s style has basically remained unchanged, fusing simple, 12-bar riffs to catchy melodies, while an unpretentious lads image has proved equally enduring.
Each of their 70s albums reached the Top 5, while a consistent presence in the singles chart included such notable entries as Caroline (1973), Down Down (a chart-topper in 1974), Roll Over Lay Down (1975), Whatever You Want (1979), What You’re Proposing (1980), Lies/Don’t Drive My Car (1980), Something ‘Bout You Baby I Like (1981), and Rock N’ Roll (1981).
An uncharacteristic ballad, Living On An Island (1979), showed a softer perspective while the band also proved adept at adapting outside material, as evinced by their cover version of John Fogerty‘s Rockin’ All Over The World (1977).
That song was later re-recorded as Running All Over The World to promote the charitable Race Against Time in 1988.
The quartet undertook a lengthy break during 1980 but answered rumours of a permanent split with Just Supposin’. However, a dissatisfied Coghlan left the band in 1982 in order to form his own act, Diesel.
The bass player moved to Australia in 1983 – a cardboard cut-out substituted on several television appearances – but he remained a member for the next two years, during which time the band announced they would be quitting live work.
They reformed to play the opening slot at Live Aid in 1985 – Lancaster’s final appearance with the band, following which he (unsuccessfully) took out a High Court injunction to prevent Status Quo from performing without him.
Rossi and Parfitt secured the rights to the name Status Quo and re-formed the band – as both a studio and live unit – around John “Rhino” Edwards (bass), Jeff Rich (drums) and Andy Bown (keyboards). The last-named musician, formerly of The Herd, had begun his association with the band in 1973 and became an official member three years later.
Despite such traumas, Status Quo continued to enjoy commercial approbation with Top 10 entries Dear John (1982), Marguerita Time (1983), In The Army Now (1986) and Burning Bridges (On And Off And On Again) (1988), while 1+9+8+2 was their fourth chart-topping album.
The band celebrated its silver anniversary in October 1991 by entering The Guinness Book Of Records having completed four charity concerts in four UK cities in the space of 12 hours. This ambitious undertaking, the subject of a television documentary, was succeeded by a national tour that confirmed the band’s continued mass-market popularity.
They achieved another #1 single in 1994 with Come On You Reds, a musically dubious reworking of their own Burning Bridges recorded with soccer club Manchester United.
An ill-chosen version of Fun Fun Fun in 1996 had The Beach Boys relegated to harmony backing vocals and did little for either band’s reputation.
At the same time Status Quo attempted to sue BBC Radio 1 for not playlisting the single or their latest album (Don’t Stop). As expected, they lost the case against Radio 1.
That incident aside, the band’s track record is incredible: worldwide sales of over 100 million, and even with the dubious Fun Fun Fun they have racked up over 50 UK hit singles (more than any other band).
Parfitt had a health scare in April 1997 when he was rushed into hospital for a quadruple heart bypass, but has since made an excellent recovery. In 1999, the band played a short tour of UK pubs. Rich was replaced by Matthew Letley the following year.
The band celebrated their 25th anniversary in August 2002 with a surprise UK Top 20 hit, Jam Side Down and a highly commercial album, Heavy Traffic.
The classic Quo line-up of Rossi, Parfitt, Lancaster and Coghlan reunited for a series of live concerts in 2013, billed as “The Frantic Four Reunion”.
Parfitt died in Spain in December 2016 from a severe infection after being admitted to hospital following complications to a shoulder injury. He was 68.
Alan Lancaster passed away in September 2021 in Sydney, Australia. He was 72.
Guitar, harmonica, vocals
John “Rhino” Edwards