In Does Rock 'N' Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz a grizzled artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: Status Quo frontman Francis Rossi.
1: Why would one-time Status Quo bassist Alan Lancaster leave the room whenever your ‘Rockin’ All Over the World’ video appeared on TV?
“I suppose because we replaced him with a puppet of himself.”
“He didn’t think that single was going to work, and thought releasing it was one of the biggest mistakes we ever made. So we used a puppet of him dressed in his clothes because he refused to do the video. Between takes, we’d see this dummy sat down on a seat with its head down on a table – and the amount of times we all thought: ‘Well, Alan’s obviously jetlagged and fell asleep at the table!’. But it worked really well. Rick [Parfitt, late Status Quo guitarist] and our manager would drive around Soho with it in a Range Rover and the police once turned up going: ‘What the fuck’s going on? There’s a dead guy!’ – because that’s what it looked like. (Laughs) Sorry, I’ve made myself laugh. Write this down – ‘Close to death, Rossi is perked up by a man from NME!’”
2: You appeared in a number of Coronation Street episodes in 2005. Which character left to become Status Quo’s hair stylist?
“Very good! I haven’t the fucking foggiest what her name is. I learned how good soap actors are and how hard they work. You see the script and think ‘that’s a sack of shit’ and then in 20 minutes, the actors would transform it.”
WRONG. It was Candice Stowe, played by actor Nikki Sanderson.
“What happened for at least the next two years was we’d do various grin ‘n’ grips – what we call meet-and-greets – and the amount of times people would go: ‘Where’s Candice?’. We’d go: ‘Who?!’ ‘Your hairstylist, she’s here somewhere, can we meet her?’. We’d explain it was just part of a story, but they’d get annoyed and fume: ‘Don’t be silly, we saw her when she actually left – she became part of your tour!’.
It wasn’t your only acting role. In 2013, Rick and you bizarrely starred in your own action movie, Bula Quo!
“It wasn’t very good! It might have been if the idea had been left to Rick and I. Initially it was going to be quite violent – we were looking forward to that! – but they wanted to appeal to a wider audience so tried to make it funny. Some nice people in it, reasonably well-paid, it was great fun to do and be in Fiji – but a resounding failure. In fact, I had to go to the so-called premiere, and once the house lights went down in the cinema, I crept out on my hands and knees so no-one would see me! (Laughs)”
3: Which singer-songwriter invaded your This Morning performance of ‘It’s Christmas Time’ in 2008 wearing natty red shorts and sunglasses?
“Oh yeah, I remember – I thought it was just some random punter?”
WRONG. It was Patrick Wolf.
“Oh I obviously wouldn’t know him anyway with respect. Sorry Patrick! Oh jeez, I’m not doing that well am I? Obviously rock ‘n’ roll has addled my brains – it’s nothing to do with the cocaine, hash or the alcohol.”
4: Death In Vegas sampled ‘Pictures of Matchstick Men’ on the track ‘Scorpio Rising’ in 2002…
“Yeah, got paid in the end!”
…But which indie icon sang on the track?
“It was Liam Gallagher – cos Noel has the same birthday as me. It’s me, him and Scary Spice – that’s a lot of fun innit? Three fucking big mouths! But it was Liam, to his credit, that insisted that I got paid. He said: ‘You’ve got to pay him – that’s a complete nick [from ‘Pictures of Matchstick Men’]’– which it was. I’ve got great respect for him because it shows he’s not the kind of arsehole him and his brother try to portray.”
CORRECT. Noel once branded Status Quo ‘the poster boys for Help The Aged’…
“Yeah, but we’re the band to be rude about. Which is why Paul Weller always used to deny that Rick taught him how to play guitar – which he did – because it wasn’t good for his image. They used to call the Oasis boys Quoasis* ‘cos he sounds a little bit like me when he tries to sing. Like me, he’s only trying. But I quite like Oasis other than that they’ve been overblown by hype. So they’re not the second coming of Christ, they’re not the second Beatles. Amy Winehouse wasn’t this voice of a generation and inspirational brand new singer – she sounded like many singers of the ‘60s. Then she started to believe it – poor cow! – and that’s what ruined her.”
“But we met them [Oasis] on Top of the Pops and they were pleasant. When you get two jack-the-lad bands like us, we both get our testicles out and put them on our chest. We compete over who’s got the biggest bollocks and who can talk the most bollocks. Anyway…”
*During Oasis V Blur in 1995, Damon Albarn said that due to their repetition of simple chords and phrases, Oasis should call themselves Oasis-Quo. Noel Gallagher responded by wearing T-shirts emblazoned with ‘Quoasis’. History lesson over.
5: Name the guest stars on your 1995 album ‘Don’t Stop’.
CORRECT. What were The Beach Boys like?
“Fabulous! I was never a Beach Boys fan – it was too twee to me. But it was a buzz being with them. Mike Love keeps going up to the room going [Imitates lothario] ‘I’m Doctor Love’ and all of the women – his voice vibrates their beds and they’re all over him. And Brian [Wilson] was just coming around then. I remember doing a smudge – photograph – chatting to him in a car and suddenly [He whistles then stays silent]. Exactly that! It was like ‘Oops, he’s fucking checked out again!’ and they’d come and get him and walk him off somewhere.”
You were friends with Queen. Did you see Bohemian Rhapsody?
“No, one of my daughters and my wife love it to death. I can’t watch it because there’s some things in there that are not true.”
What’s your favourite Freddie Mercury memory?
“Messing about with him after we’d done Live Aid. He was frisky and we knew him well and he just got behind me and got me in a Half Nelson. And if he’d wanted to shag me there and then, he could have done! He just laughed and said: ‘Don’t worry, it’s alright’. He was one of the strongest people I’ve met in my life. Growing up, we were convinced by the system that gay people weren’t tough and couldn’t serve in the army. As if we’d managed to get through to the ‘60s without gay people fighting for us in the forces – what fucking idiots! – and as I was lying bent over that table, I thought: ‘Yeah, I knew they were wrong!’”
6: Who photographed you naked for the cover of your 2014 acoustic album ‘Aquostic (Stripped Bare)’?
“Come on, I’d have to be dumb not to know it was Bryan Adams!”
“It was very strange because we had our pants on at first and he said: ‘Guys you’ll have to take them off’. At a photo session, there’s shit-loads of people in the room. The things you do for dosh, eh?”
7: Status Quo used to communally wank off together. What unusual place did you once project the pornos onto?
“The idea was the projector would go on to the net curtains in the Central Hotel in Bielefeld – but we didn’t realise it used to shine across the road onto the other building. You’d see a huge member across the street and think: ‘LOOK AT THE FUCKING SIZE OF THAT!’.
CORRECT. Did you ever receive any complaints?
“Only that the movie wasn’t very good or long enough! (Laughs)”
For a bonus half-point, can you guess which two bands out of The Beatles, Muse, Take That and Coldplay have also admitted to having jerked off together?
“I think The Beatles. It might have been Muse because I know Muse quite well. One doesn’t like to think of Take That doing it! (Laughs) They don’t do that sort of thing surely?! They’re probably too bashful. Get the pun there? Never mind! So The Beatles and Coldplay.”
WRONG. It was indeed The Beatles. Paul McCartney once said he and John Lennon would shout out the names of people like Brigitte Bardot during their group spaffing sessions – with Lennon yellling names like ‘Winston Churchill’ to throw them off. But it was also Take That. Member Howard Donald once claimed he and Robbie Williams had a group wank, with innocent ‘lil Mark Owen watching.
“Really? Oh, I’m knocked out by them! I’m proud of those boys!”
Apparently (non-exhibitionists) Muse contain some Status Quo fans…
“Chris [Wolstenholme, Muse bassist] came to Plymouth to soundcheck ‘Don’t Waste My Time’ with us once. I hadn’t heard of Muse at that point but he played with us and then later, I heard ‘Hysteria’ and ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ and I fucking love that shit. Muse played ‘Burning Bridges’ at the beginning of one of their gigs just for the hell of it. It makes me sick that people like Muse are that brilliant and I’m not so can we change the fucking subject?! (Laughs)”
8: Who had to apologise after a 2010 job advert stated ‘Status Quo fans need not apply’?
“Sounds like something the Pet Shop Boys might say. It rings a bell but I don’t remember – sorry!”
WRONG. Brighton and Hove city council were forced to apologise for its recruitment website, ‘Say No To Status Quo’, which was emblazoned with the slogan: ‘Status Quo fans need not apply’. Quo-loving applicants were warned off four strategic director positions.
“Oh yeah! Fair comment, really! All that denim, tattoos and blokes with shit badges – who wants that working for them? I don’t! You want someone to maintain the other status quo and dress a certain bloody way. That’s life, innit?”
You’ve received a lot of criticism over the years. What’s the funniest thing that’s ever been said about you?
“The funniest thing is that ‘they’re really good’! All the jokes about Status Quo I find funny. When [Angus Deayton’s 80s comedy group] The Hee Bee Gee Bees did ‘Boring Song’ [as Status Quid] I thought it was fucking brilliantly funny. We’re not like the Bee Gees who got upset at their parody ‘Meaningless Songs (in Very High Voices)’. You can find the comedic angle in anything. Bono might talk like the second coming of Christ, but he looks and sounds like that bloke from Police Academy [Bobcat Goldthwait]”
9: In 2008, a conman posed as you for a year before being rumbled by Dover council after he failed to bring three friends to their local festival. Which three pop star mates did he pledge would come down?
“Fucking hell! Why would I know that shit?! I just remember him – and meeting some of the women conned by him. And his fake ponytail! When I saw it, I thought: ‘Jesus, he looks nothing like me!’”
WRONG. The conman promised that Brian May, Paul McCartney and Charlotte Church would play. Before that, he’d been treated to rides in the mayor’s limo – and even judged a carnival float contest.
“Interesting, as I’d not long met Charlotte Church then! I knew two of them – McCartney and Brian May – and Charlotte Church I met at Buckingham Palace. She’s got a fouler mouth than I have! She’s like me and Adele – but with a Welsh accent. There was even a guy who used to pretend to be Rick who had blond hair and would drive a blue Bentley and check into hotels and say ‘Yeah, Francis will be along later to pay the bill’. And the fucking hotels would believe him!”
10: In 2014, which band did you perform ‘Rockin’ All Over the World’ with on Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway?
“Oh – was it McBusted? Or Bucfly?”
CORRECT. It was McBusted.
“They were a fucking great little band – but both suffered from their poppy image which meant people didn’t take them as seriously as they should, which is a shame.”
The verdict: 6/10
“See, it’s a good job you didn’t tell me it was a competition or I’d have tried desperately to fail! Six out of ten? That’s pretty good. That’s made me feel better already. I might go and have a polish [wank] now.”
Status Quo play Radio 2 Live In Hyde Park which takes place on Sunday 15th September and will be broadcast on Radio 2 and BBC Sounds from 1pm. You can follow all the action live on BBC Red Button and the Radio 2 website here. Status Quo’s new album, ‘Backbone’, is released 6 September.