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Tuesday, March 30, 1999 Published at 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK


Preserving the Status Quo

Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi: Three chords, but thousands of fans

By BBC News Online's Darryl Chamberlain

A damp Monday afternoon in a forgotten corner of London's East End might not be everyone's idea of rock and roll heaven - but for 32-year-old Till Langhorst it certainly is.

The BBC's Jane O'Brien reports from the Ruskin Arms gig
Resplendent in stonewashed jeans and leather jacket, Till has travelled from Bavaria, Germany, to see his idols Status Quo kick off a series of small pub gigs - and he's thrilled to be in the Ruskin Arms, Manor Park, to see his heroes up close.

"I don't take holidays in Italy or Spain - I come to England to see them play their stadium shows instead," he says.

[ image:  ]
Mention Status Quo to serious music fans and they won't be able to suppress a titter. The surroundings are suitable - a DJ with a spectacular 'mullet' hairdo is playing Deep Purple's Smoke On The Water to the punters at the bar.

But next to the pub's tiny stage, the band's long-standing frontmen, Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt, are holding court, knowing they don't have to care with fans like Till around.

The band are touring pubs across Britain to promote their new album Under The Influence. The duo, now 49 and 50 respectively, are relishing the chance to go back to their roots.

"The excitement here is the unpredictability," says Rossi.

"It can get predictable in stadiums, but tonight, we haven't got a clue. We're sailing by the seats of our pants. There's no dressing room here, we've just got to walk through the crowd and get up and play."

Reassuringly the same

[ image: Outside the Ruskin Arms:
Outside the Ruskin Arms: "Tonight we haven't a clue"
Apart from an early flirtation with psychedelia, the Quo have stayed reassuringly the same since their inception in 1967.

Man has landed on the moon, punk has been and gone, and the shops are open on Sunday - but Status Quo are still dishing the same three-chord rock they did during the time of the three-day week.

As Till puts it, "They don't follow trends, they just play good rock and roll for their fans."

The critics' sniggers don't bother Rossi and Parfitt any more - three years after they tried to sue Radio 1 for taking their music off its playlist.

They're at ease in the tiny venue - and come across more like a couple of old workmates having a lunchtime pint, rather than two of the UK's most well-known rock stars.

"When we're up on stage, or making records, we do take our music deadly seriously. But we enjoy ourselves," says Rossi.

Parfitt adds: "The love of the business keeps up going. There's something that keeps driving us on. We could retire - but we love what we do."

Rossi chips in: "If we gave it up, we wouldn't get that ego massage - we walk out on stage and everyone cheers. You can go to work and everyone just goes, 'morning' - if you're lucky."

"The fans keep you motivated, we've still got aims," adds Parfitt. "As long as we're still striving do to better, then I can't see the band stopping at all."

Four decades of experience

[ image: A hairy moment: Status Quo in 1989]
A hairy moment: Status Quo in 1989
Their minds aren't closed to new influences - a small yellow character has lodged himself in Rick Parfitt's mind.

"I love that Flat Eric ad," he says. "There's something about the track I like. I love the little fella nodding his head. He's fantastic."

Rossi adds: "We couldn't do a dance track, we're true to ourselves. And we couldn't dance."

But they were a Levi's band long before Flat Eric - having been sponsored by the company in 1976.

With four decades' worth of experience behind them, what advice would they offer bands starting out?

"They've got to be dedicated. New bands should give up if they're not dedicated," says Rossi.

Parfitt adds: "And if they are dedicated, they'll think I'm a silly old sod anyway and carry on."

Tours and recording are taking up most of Quo's 1999 - and Parfitt and Rossi have an intriguing choice of places to see in the new millennium.

"We're supposed to be spending New Year's Eve in Fuji or Wimbledon.

"And I know where I'd rather be," grins the south London lad. "Wimbledon. Wouldn't you?"

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