The Purley King (of the Doghouse)
by John Keeling
It’s time to interview Francis Rossi proper and, although I’m used to his studio, I’m still nervous about how this will go. I needn’t have been. He seems well up for it this morning. When I apologise for having so many questions he shrugs it off with “Don’t worry. I love talking about me.” It’s never that easy to tell if he’s being serious.
If I tried to mention everything in the interview that didn’t get to the documentary cut we’d be here until Doomsday. Suffice to say that, for the most part, he was very frank (Ho ho!) One thing that did interest me particularly: in one question I refer to Quo as playing ‘heavy rock’. He visibly frowns at this. You get the impression that he’s never seen Quo that way. Ever. One thing for sure, Francis doesn’t believe in intellectualising music.
“It’s just music,” he shrugs.
He constantly makes references to the ‘uncoolness’ of Status Quo – almost obsessively.
When the interview is over I finally have a few minutes just to chat with him. I ask about the current furore over Live 8. [Media speculation and commentary as to why Quo was apparently being ‘overlooked’ for this Live Aid event – especially as they had opened the original so magnificently with Rocking All Over The World. In fact an existing gig on that day meant that Quo would have to pay early in order to take part.]
“It’s not like we need a f**king gig!” he says. “I wouldn’t mind but it’d cost us fifty grand just to play the one number. There’s a lot of ego stuff going on here.”
(Naturally neither of us mention Bono. Honest.)
I challenge Francis over his deprecating comments about Quo’s musical ability: ‘After everything you’ve achieved, I just don’t understand it.”
He looks at me for a moment.
“Yeah, but you’re a fan.”
It’s now a mad dash to Rhino’s…
Rhino Saw Us
John ‘Rhino’ Edwards seems completely unpretentious. Very affable. His home, like many of the Quo homes, is comfortable rather than ostentatious. And once again, if you’re hoping for the place to look Rock’n’Roll, you’re going to be disappointed. The only giveaway for Quo fans are the various Rhinoceros object d’art you see dotted about the house.
Rhino and and his wife, Cath, make us very welcome. We can film the interview wherever we like. The man seems comfortable sprawling on his sofa so we go with that.
This is a very forthright interview; there’s absolutely nothing guarded about his answers. If Rhino changes a reply (halfway through one) it’s because his thoughts seem to collide into one another! I would have liked to use more of it in the finished film, but you’ve only got finite time.
I’m struck by the sheer nastiness originally shown to Rhino by some of the ‘hard core’ fans. To be spat at by so-called fans (a fact Francis confirmed) is a truly shocking thing to hear. Rhino claims to have brushed it off but you can see there were experiences that hurt him.
“Andrew Bown once said to me, I would always be Alan Lancaster’s replacement in the eyes of a lot of the fans. And I still am. I don’t play like Alan – I’m a different kind of player. He’s really good, you know. I’m a fan of him. I don’t think he’s particularly a fan of me but that’s…I don’t give a toss to be honest.”
I then ask the question which all members of the band take a little time over:
“When you are song-writing, are you conscious of writing for Status Quo, or do you just write for yourself?”
After a couple of false starts he concedes, “That’s a good question that. F**kin hell! I think I’ll start that one again.”
The upshot is, Rhino prefers Quo to concentrate on writing together within the five members of the band. And he’s quite pointed about this.
He obviously loves writing with Rick.
“I like every song that Rick and I have written in the last six years. One is not as good, but that’s a very big hit with the hard-core fans, so I won’t tell you which one that is. But, yeah, we’ve forged a good song-writing relationship. I mean, I know Francis is doing his solo album next year (2006 at the time of this interview) and we’re talking about doing ‘Rick & Rhino’s Rocking Review’ or something like that!”
You can’t help being impressed by Rhino’s sheer enthusiasm. This is obviously someone who eats up life and loves his job in Quo.
“I am a rocker,” he pleads. “People don’t believe me. I am seriously into rock. If it doesn’t kick arse, forget it.”
I believe him.
As we wind-up he says, “I enjoyed that much more than I thought I would!”
I thank him and he adds, ‘Rick’s a top bloke by the way. Rick is a definite top bloke.”
We get the picture.
The Man From Barnes
Today is turning into a seriously ‘kick bollock scramble’ affair and, truth to tell, I’m feeling a bit frazzled by the time we arrive at Andrew’s leafy suburban home. The first thing Andrew Bown asks is, “Would you like a glass of wine? Champagne?” I have to smile.
First issue is where to conduct the interview? Andrew’s recently had a music room built at the bottom of his perfectly manicured garden. It’s a fab spot but so full of keyboards and other instruments that there just isn’t enough room. One of the rooms in the house is plastered with gold discs. Rock’n’roll methinks! Unfortunately, it’s too difficult to light. I make a mental note to get some footage of the wall of discs before we leave – and then promptly forget to.
We settle for an elegant lounge. There’s a superb portrait painting of Andrew on the wall, the original for one of his solo album covers. I promptly forget to film this as well. Still, I’m not making ‘lifestyles of the rich and shameless’ here. Before we start the interview we stand chatting in his garden, a chance for me to puff on another cig. Andrew’s given up. Sort of. He’s down to the occasional cigar, and a pipe when he fancies some ‘herbal’ tobacco.
He is a very enigmatic man. Laconic. Even Gin and Tonic! A sense of humour both dry and sly – and one that takes some getting used to. There’s a perpetually mock-serious expression to his face, and for the first quarter of an hour I suspect he thinks I’m a bit of a twat. By the last quarter of an hour I’m convinced of it! No, Andrew is great fun. He has some particularly interesting things to say about the Alan/Francis split.
“We’re talking fire and ice here, man.”
He sounds like he means it.
“I think they were diverging when I first started playing with the band. Alan always wanted to do things in a grand operatic [way] – it’s very strange, it’s a dichotomy. He wanted to do BIG productions and yet he was the one who really wanted to do hard rock. It didn’t sort of go somehow. Although we did a few songs of his that worked out nicely.”
Creatively, Andrew is proudest of his song, Confidence – commercially, it’s Whatever You Want.
“One is really quite complicated, and the other one isn’t. And the one that isn’t has to date sold, I think, 24 million grillion more than the one that is. I think I’ve learnt something.”
It may surprise some to learn that Andrew tends to write with guitar more than keyboards.
“It focuses the mind. It’s simple. It’s also, for me, a lot easier to be more rhythmic, and you can do a lot more with rhythm than you can by changing chords every half bar in rock music.”
As to the ‘three-chord critics’ of the band?
We wind down the day in Andrew’s kitchen, sipping champagne with his gracious wife Ronnie. Not a bad life really. The last interview will be drummer Matt, and that’s going to be backstage at Guilfest…
(To be continued)
Part 4 to follow.
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