RECENT events have seemed to put the future of Status Quo in doubt.
The passing of Rick Parfitt on Christmas Eve 2016 could possibly have seen the end of the band, but as frontman and last-remaining founder member Francis Rossi tells me, this is far from the truth.
“Everything’s alright at the moment in the camp,” he tells me. “I’m even recording an album with Hannah Rickard, one of the singers on the Aquostic albums which has a country feel and it’s going quite well.”
But the death of his long-standing partner-in-rock, who joined the band in 1967 must have been a shock.
“Yes, well it took a long time to sink in — probably still hasn’t really.
“We arrived home from the UK tour at about nine in the morning on Christmas Eve and I got a call from Simon (Porter, the band’s manager) between 10 and 10.30 saying that he was very ill and within two hours he was gone.
“To be honest, it was something we were expecting, but I’m not quite sure I’m used to it and it reminds us of our own mortality.
“It was weird playing a gig when he wasn’t there, but we’ve been dealing with it.”
Rick had retired from Quo earlier in 2016 following a heart attack in the summer, but he’s played on the second Status Quo acoustic album and had been recording a solo album as well as writing his biography.
“I have no idea whether any of this will be finished,” Francis tells me. “They played one of his solo tracks at the funeral.”
At some shows in the summer, Rick’s place had been taken by Freddie Edwards, who is the son of Quo’s bassist John ‘Rhino’ Edwards, and then during the December tour by Richie Malone, and I ask whether Richie is now a fully-fledged member of the band.
“Yes, he is. Freddie was a great stand-in, but he has his own career. Richie is extremely good and can commit to the band. He has been watching us from when he was very young and knows what we’re about.
“Bringing in some new young blood has given us a kick in the arse as we may have been becoming a bit complacent. There’s a new edge to it all now and one’s interest is different.”
Francis had been hoping the Status Quo would have been able to hang up the electric guitars after the December tour, but this isn’t proving to be the case, as well over half of the shows in the diary are still electric.
“Richie being in the electric band has made a change and the acoustic show at The Roundhouse was very encouraging, but it’s all about profile.”
The demand for the electric Quo is still high and there are some great things resulting in the electric tours continuing, as Francis explains.
“We have managed to keep our crew on. They all have families and mortgages, so being able to keep them on makes me feel good, as they rely on us to keep them employed.
“To be honest, I didn’t think this year would happen, but it is, so we just keep going.
“Some people thought we shouldn’t carry on, ut how can they say that Queen carried on, and so did The Stones.”
With a mixture of electric and acoustic shows in the diary, there could be confusion as to which version the band plays.
“Yes, probably more in the acoustic shows, and especially if the song is one we’re still doing electrically. However, once rehearsals have been started I’m OK.”
The acoustic versions of Quo classics is an interesting project, with a new slant being given to songs like Down Down, Caroline, Rockin’ All Over The World and Roll Over Lay Down.
“I was a bit unsure at first when we started the Aquostic stuff,” admits Rossi, “but as time went on we got a bit precious about it and we’re very pleased at how the songs sound.”
When not working in Quo, Francis works on other projects and keeps fit.
“Yeah, I have a trainer that keeps coming round and hurting me,” he laughs.
“I do have a solo album in the can but as I started to work with Hannah on her album it got put on a back-burner as the album with Hannah is more interesting.”
And there is also the little matter of the band's 50th anniversary this year. But Francis appears to be uninterested.
“I know Simon (the manager) would like to do something, but I don’t really get it, I would rather not do anniversaries.
“The main problem being is ‘what anniversary is it exactly?’. We celebrated the 20th anniversary in 1982, as the band was originally formed in 1962, but a lot of people tend to go from when Rick joined in 1967 and we changed the name to Status Quo. But you never know.”
Whatever happens, the mighty Quo will continue to treat their fans to a great night of music at their shows, whether it be electric or acoustic — and that is what the band have always delivered — whatever you want.
In fact, the demand for Status Quo is such that the traditional end of year tour - which was originally supposed to be an Aquostic one — is now a full electric one and is entitled Plugged In — Live And Rockin.
But make the most of it, as the band has announced that they are cutting back on live appearances for 2018.
“Yes, we’re having a bit of a hiatus in 2018, we’ll be doing the summer festivals that we’re already booked for, but there’ll be no winter tour.
“We’re thinking about 2019 actually, maybe also a full-on new Quo rock album.”
Status Quo will be performing their Plugged In— Live And Rockin’ set at The City Hall, Sheffield on Monday November 27.
Tickets are available from the box office and all the usual agencies.