Status Quo are an English rock band whose music is characterized by their distinctive brand of boogie rock. The group originated in The Spectres, founded by schoolboys Francis Rossi and Alan Lancaster n 1962. After several line-up changes, the band became The Status Quo in 1967 and Status Quo in 1969.
They have had over 60 chart hits in the UK, more than any other rock band. In 1991, Status Quo received a Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music.
On 28 October 2016, Rick Parfitt who had been playing rhythm guitar in the band since 1967 permanently retired from live performances after suffering a heart attack in a hotel following a concert on 14th June. Being replaced by Richie Malone in the band, Parfitt said he was doing a great job and wished him “all the best.”
Undertaking a hectic European tour, I had the opportunity to catch up with Richie in Germany and asked him firstly, had he woken up yet or was he still dreaming.
Firstly, how did you go from playing Quo covers in a band to playing those songs actually with Status Quo?
Well, it’s funny that this story has gone around that I was in a tribute band. I did a one-off gig, I think that it was around ten years ago, as a favour. I mean, we did a few songs in our own band. It’s the same old question isn’t it “how did you get the call”? It just came from meeting Rick a few times over the years at the venues. He knew that from a young age that I was obviously trying to replicate his style in some shape or form. Through meeting Rick at the venues and being brought in backstage I met the rest of the band, and they got to know me then.
As a long standing fan who has seen Quo over 20 times, I am aware that they have a very passionate and hardcore fanbase. How have you been received generally by the Quo die-hards?
My own personal take is that the positive side of things just overwhelms me. Every time you do a show, I receive a bunch of messages from young fans, from long-standing fans. It really is incredible the level of support from guys that have seen the band over a hundred times, and even more have sent me messages saying “that we can’t believe how tight the show is.” Obviously, it’s a drag not having Rick there, but as a show the sound and everything is just really rocking now. It’s really tight. Of course, you only need to go online to see the negative comments and that would be the one that sticks in your mind. That’s just the way that it is.
Is that something that harms, bothers, and upsets you personally? Or do you just avoid going on-line and on the band forums?
Well, some of the stuff that gets said can be so completely wrong. That is what some of these people think. Like at the end of the day, I am the one that is up there with the band and the places are packed out. It’s hard to take it on board when you walk out at night and there are so many people in the venues and so many people enjoying it. As opposed to a certain amount of people that don’t… they just don’t need to come. Everyone is totally entitled to their own opinion but I am the same with other bands. That’s just the way that it is.
You said that you have known the band for years, but what about the application process itself. Was it simply a case that they rang you up, or did you have to physically have to submit demos to the band?
Basically, I had gotten a call originally from Rhino [Edwards – Quo Bassist] and he wanted to know if I was still playing. Obviously, there were signs that Rick wasn’t going to make it to get back in time. It was a severe heart attack that he had. They were looking for somebody to stand in for longer than Freddie was available for. It was either him or Francis that brought up the topic “what about Richie?” There are a lot of guys out there that look like Rick – that look like him, dress like him, and have the same hair. Whereas I hadn’t been coming to the band for a few years, I had short hair, and wasn’t exactly trying to get up and be a tribute musician. I think that was the thought behind the call, to see if first, if I was still playing, which I was. I did have to go back and practise at home and get back into it.
So, I bet you initially thought wow incredible but then you asked yourself, “can I actually do this?”
Exactly, I thought what an opportunity, but then you start thinking. Well, I know from seeing the band that would be me that would have to do the shows. It’s not just standing there and doing your bit. If you don’t put everything into it then it just won’t work. So, I knew and that started to settle in. It was more that this could be an option so I had to go and learn the current set. I then sent off a couple of recordings for timing purposes playing along with a click. Obviously, it’s one thing going and playing in the pubs and clubs at home, to go up to the world stages with the technology and these guys are extremely talented. You must learn really quick. So, it worked and he rang back to say that they would be having auditions – a rehearsal really – in Belgium.
What was that first rehearsal like, walking in there?
It was nerve-racking as I said, but because I had met them so many times that put me slightly at ease. If it was just a fan walking into the room, then it probably would not have worked. You of course should have a level head but my heart was in my mouth. I was a bit ahead of the beat, Francis came over four tracks in and said, “You will be OK, and you will be gone by now if this wasn’t working.” That put it into perspective, that if it hadn’t been working the first or second song, that I would have been out of there. We did the full set – a full stage rehearsal. We didn’t have much time because there was a show booked. We had two or three days’ rehearsal and that was it. It was tight but it was working from the off, I just needed to tighten up here and there. Stage positions and timing. It was an incredible experience from the off.
If I could take you back, what was your first introduction to the music of Status Quo? Was it a particular album or a gig?
That’s a good question. Yeah, the first time was… my dad was a huge Quo fan and used to play them in the car. I remember he used to ask me, I think it was around 1996, I was only 10 and I was too afraid to go. I think it was the Don’t Stop tour, and they were playing at the Point in Dublin. I think it was three years later he asked me again if I wanted to go and see them in Belfast. It was at a festival in West Belfast. That was my first time seeing the band and it was then I decided that they were the band for me. Their lights, their sound, and their presence on stage. That was when it started, from ‘99 onwards. I would go to see the band wherever I could.
What about a favourite album by Status Quo?
It’s always been a toss-up for me. I think that I do like what they did recently, the Quid pro Quo. I think that there are gems on all the albums. Even one the film soundtrack album, there is one or two that I absolutely love. I think being a musician you can diversify a bit, you can pick out tracks here and there. Even for some of the long-time fans that say those albums are rubbish, that is their opinion. The likes of the Hello album and Blue for You, they would be absolute gems.
What about the legalities? Did you have to sign a contract that expires when the tour ends?
It is an agreement to see this tour out in the UK until December.
Have you personally been in any contact with Rick himself? Did he give you any pointers?
He actually messaged me a few weeks ago, basically saying that he had seen footage, and that I had stepped up and I was doing really well. He was proud of me. To get that from him was a really nice gesture. He has given me his seal of approval, so to say. I am looking forward to getting home for Christmas and just see family, put my feet up, and have a few weeks off. The schedule of touring is pretty intensive. I will probably get back to work in the new year. I have a job back home when I get back, so that’s what keeps me grounded.
All the best for the rest of the tour, and hopefully we can get an opportunity to meet up in Manchester.
Great to chat to you, Mark. Maybe I’ll see you in Manchester.