This year we’ll be giving an hourly spin to Quo in recognition of the band’s 50th anniversary. This is made all the more poignant by the recent passing of founder member Rick Parfitt.
Formed in the Autumn of 1967 from a previous band called The Spectres, and launched as "The Status Quo", their first record "Pictures of Matchstick Men" was released by Pye in January 1968. It was a catchy pop tune with psychedelic undertones , but the problem facing manager Pat Barlow was how to get it heard.
The just-launched Radio One had limited "needle time" and was unlikely to feature this unknown London band. The proliferation of "pop pirate" stations had been diminished by the government’s 1967 Marine Offences Act, but Radio Caroline’s two ships, North and South, were still operating. It was well known in industry circles that plays on Caroline could be "purchased", and Barlow threw the band’s entire budget into this. Soon "Matchstick Men" was booming out over Caroline, and reached the top 30. At this point, BBC plays and "Top of the Pops" appearances followed, and the single reached no 7 in the UK, and was a top 10 smash across Europe. Ironically it was to be the only hit they would ever have in the USA!
The band’s second single "Black Veils of Melancholy" failed to chart, but the third single "Ice in the Sun", written by vintage rocker Marty Wilde, had them back in the UK top 10. The band continued as a psychedelic pop act, but seemed to be losing their way as subsequent releases all flopped.
"The Status Quo" – circa 1968
Increasingly unhappy with their music, and dressing up in dated frilly shirts and Carnaby St suits, the band undertook a complete change of style and direction in March 1970, with the release of "Down the Dustpipe", the first Quo song to feature the trademark "boogie shuffle". From here on, it was hard rock all the way. The mod look was replaced with faded denims, open shirts, and long flowing hairstyles. The hits flooded in.... "Paper Plane" (No 8 in the |UK chart) (1972), "Caroline" (No 5 in the UK chart) (1973), "Break The Rules", (No 8 in the UK Chart) (1974), "Down Down" (No 1 in the UK chart) (1975), "Rain" (No 7 in the UK chart) (1976), "Mystery Song" (No 11 in the UK Chart) (1976), Rockin' All Over the World" (No 3 in the UK chart) (1977) and "Whatever You Want" (No 4 in the UK Chart) (1979). "Down Down" topped the UK Singles Chart in January 1975
"Frontmen" Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt
The 1972 album "Piledriver", launched on the new rock label Vertigo, defined this new direction.....its name was used to launch a Status Quo real ale by Wychwood Brewery in 2014 ! (Sadly now discontinued)
"The Status Quo" had soon become shortened to "Status Quo", but for many fans, they were simply "Quo" – one of the most exciting touring bands ever whose songs became anthems across the UK and Europe. It is a complete enigma that Quo never found success in North America, where they remain virtually unknown.
In recent years, the hard touring life was taking its toll on joint frontman Rick Parfitt, and following several doctors’ warnings, he quit the band in 2016. Sadly, Rick passed away on Christmas Eve last year. The band continues, fronted by Francis Rossi, and still packs the major venues with a chance to hear the songs of a generation.
Fifty years on from the days of Matchstick Men, Steam Fair FM will be playing all your Quo favourites – and a few hidden gems that have not been aired in many years!