Born in Forest Hill, South London 67 years ago, Francis Dominic Nicholas Michael Rossi has sold 128 million albums as a member of Status Quo. Here are his innermost thoughts as the veteran band prepare to morph into an acoustic-based act.
IT COULD ALL HAVE BEEN SO DIFFERENT (PART ONE)
Had I stayed with the family’s ice-cream business I might have been asking people: “Would you like a Flake in that?” But I wanted to escape it all. My childhood was post-World War II bomb-site England.
I’VE ALWAYS BEEN AN INSECURE LITTLE SHOW-OFF
I like to have people looking at me, but each night before I go on stage there’s an element of: “Please don’t make me go out there and do that.” No, I’ve never felt the need to visit a shrink about it, because doing so would suggest there’s something wrong with me, and I can’t have that.
QUO WERE ALWAYS COCKY
At secondary school in South London, with a mother who had a northern accent and a father who spoka like dis [imitates an Italian twang], I stood out. People said I spoke poncey. So I made up for all of that with bravado – “Oi! Fakkin’ ’ell, you c**t.” And it seemed to work on stage. Perhaps it masks another insecurity.
WE ARE JUST TOO POLITICALLY CORRECT
An innocent conversation can be a minefield. I hate that if you voice an opinion on something, you suddenly become a racist. I could say I don’t like the government of Romania, but if I said that about Israel then I’m anti‑Semitic. I’ve no issue with any race at all, but I reserve the right to say what I’m thinking without being accused of having some kind of agenda.
RELIGION IS THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL
I was named after Saint Francis of Assisi and raised a staunch Catholic, but I’m very much lapsed. If there’s an all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful God, then what’s all the other shit about? Religion is responsible for so much misery and negativity. If you ask me, all religions are looking for trouble.
PINK POWER IS OKAY WITH ME
It’s been suggested I had a hard time dealing with the fact that one of my sons is a homosexual. That’s bollocks. My Simon, the eldest one, is the faggy – and yes, I can say that; I think it’s better than ‘homosexual’ or ‘gay’ – and he often asks me to retell a story from twenty-five years ago. We were on the tour bus, someone was eating, and I said [in an unintentionally fey voice]: “Ooooh, beans on toast with brown sauce. How unusual. Can I have some?” He pissed himself with laughter. I like gay guys because they’ve dealt with the type of shit that the rest of us only have nightmares about.
OUR YOUNGER GENERATION IS GROWING UP FAT, LAZY AND ILL-DISCIPLINED
The other day I saw some footage of a guy who told some kid on the train: “Excuse me, son, take your feet off the chair.” And he refused. So the bloke ended up holding down the little fella [until support arrived]. He only put his arm behind his back, and now he’s in fucking trouble. If he really wanted to hurt the fucking kid he’d have broken his arm. That type of disregard for one another is going to permeate our society.
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I’M A CONVERT TO THE INTERNET
I’ve got a Mac, an iPad Pro and my iPhone and I don’t know what I’d do without them. Like anything man-made, the internet is good and bad. On the negative side, bullying goes on, there’s the dark web and it’s full of pornography… although thinking about it, that’s blinding – let’s put it on the plus side! Ha! Or maybe not.
VOTE, OR STOP COMPLAINING
Like a lot of others, I didn’t bother to vote in the Brexit referendum because I thought there was no fucking way that we’d leave. I regret that now. As much as there are a whole shitload of problems with the EU, opting out seems a bit of a dickhead move. Had we stayed, I’m sure we could have adjusted certain conditions, as we’re far from being the only nation unhappy with the way things are going. But it’s too late now.
THE DRUGGED-UP YEARS WEREN’T SO CLEVER
People say they [drugs] broke up the Frantic Four. But at the Manchester Apollo [during the reunion tour], John Coghlan admitted: “We’d have split up eventually.” Of course I regret the money [an estimated £1.7 million] that I wasted on cocaine in the 1980s, though mostly I’m very happy with where and who I am today.
I’M NOT ASHAMED OF LIKING MONEY
Most people in my line of work think that it’s too vulgar to talk about, but the thing that keeps Status Quo alive is the money [the band] takes. People see: “Sold out at the O2 Arena” and probably think: “Look at all those people at thirty quid a ticket. Fuck me, they must have made a fortune.” They forget how much it took to put us in there, or that on days like today when we’re not working, the meter still ticks.
To those that say music should be free, I say I couldn’t agree more – as long as you put my eight kids through university, and I want my nice house and a new BMW every couple of years. I’ve been successful in my industry. Someone who’s clearing twenty thousand pounds a year might look at my life and presume it’s a piece of piss. But do they remember earning seventeen thousand a year? Like them, I live within my means. When I was younger I thought I’d have a pension. Not now, you bastards. I’m going into what must be considered semi‑retirement and I’m thinking: “Fuck me, how am I going to finance the rest of my life?”
HAVE A DRINK OR ME. OR PERHAPS NOT
I’m a teetotaller, but Quo have a branded cider [Down Down], and an ale [Dog Of Two Head] and I’m the chairman of a brand of whisky [Glen Rossie]. You can call me a hypocrite if you like – it’s hard to deny that I am one. But that’s democracy and capitalism at work, isn’t it?
THE PAST WAS GREAT, BUT I DON’T WANT TO LIVE THERE
The way that the Frantic Four met – I was at school with Alan Lancaster, we bumped into John [Coghlan] playing around locally, and Rick [Parfitt] at Butlins in Minehead, of all places – suggests there might be something to the theory of destiny. Back then we all had so much in common. Now I think there’s something wrong with me because we disagree so badly. The three of them want to be back in the seventies.
I’ve maybe fallen out with Alan Lancaster again over not wishing to revisit that old thing [the Frantic Four]. Rick very much wants to be there, and so does John. Also Bob [Young, unofficial fifth member] to a certain extent. Agreeing to do it the first time [in 2013] taught me such a lesson in nostalgia. Those people up in the balcony at Hammersmith, the looks on their faces – wow, seeing us again was better than wanking! But when we did it again [a year later] business was down. And now Alan thinks that if we made an album we’d sell half a million pieces. Al, what planet do you live on? I’m a Gemini, always thinking about what’s coming next.
THE OLDER I GET, THE MORE THE TRUTH MATTERS
I didn’t like hurting the feelings of the fans [when he criticised the first Frantic Four tour], but please don’t expect me to say what you fucking want me to say. I know how good – or how not good – I am, and I know the value of Status Quo and how their musicianship rates. It’s got better in recent years. Isn’t that the point of doing it for so long: to improve?
IT COULD ALL HAVE BEEN SO DIFFERENT (PART TWO)
I enjoy twelve-bar blues and shuffles, but if you ask whether I’d rather have spent the last forty years making the music that made me famous or to have played country rock, or songs by the Everly Brothers, I’d have to hold my hand up. Perhaps Alan, Rick and John were right – I should have left them to get a [replacement] singer to carry on playing that macho stuff they all love. That I didn’t was probably part of the insecurity thing.
QUO’S ELECTRIC YEARS ARE ALMOST OVER
I wanted to stop [and go unplugged] last year. Having said that, I can’t swear that my bottom won’t twitch as the tour concludes. Of course I hope Rick will be there [Parfitt was airlifted home after a life‑threatening incident following a show in Turkey, and gave the band his blessing to tour with a stand-in]. Could there be a Quo without Rick? I really don’t know. There have been various similar scenarios with other bands, and the outcome is always the same – change is inevitable. What I do know is that I still love music, and I’m excited by the prospect of what might or might not happen next.
PEOPLE CAN TAKE THE PISS ALL THEY LIKE, I’M FRANCIS ROSSI OBE
When we met the Queen [in 2010] she knew who I was. Well, she was aware that Quo are a double act. “There’s two of you, aren’t there?” “Yeah, your Majesty,” I replied. “He [Rick] will be along in a minute.”