Perhaps more so than with any other band, Status Quo’s repertoire includes a handful of songs that became enormous chart hits yet were reviled by many of the band’s staunchest fans. In Quo’s case examples of this include Living On An Island, In The Army Now, The Anniversary Waltz and Burning Bridges.
But Marguerita Time, a jaunty yet seemingly inoffensive ditty that Francis Rossi and collaborative partner Bernie Frost wrote about an alcoholic cocktail, was despised so much by one member of the group that it caused him to quit. Which may even have been a catalyst in Quo’s decision to call it a day (temporarily, it turned out) in 1984.
The previous summer, the UK had been swept by a craze for getting smashed on margueritas – a sweet-tasting but deceptively strong tequila-based cocktail. Decorated with fruit and mini-umbrellas, for all its potency it was about as far from the good old-fashioned British pint as you could get. Rossi didn’t care at all, and found himself supping more margueritas than was advisable.
“I’d never been a drinker until then, but they were delicious and really got you pissed,” he recalls. “I used to order them six at a time. For a while I got out of control on tequila.”
The basic structure of Marguerita Time came together while Rossi was “poncing around” on his grand piano at home, and the rest was worked up with Bernie Frost over the phone. (Rossi actually volunteers the similarities to Labelled With Love, which was a hit for fellow British band Squeeze two years earlier.)
The album it appeared on was 1983’s Back To Back. It wasn’t an easy record to make, and Quo almost scrapped it and started again when they returned home. Nevertheless, Rossi had very little trouble persuading Alan Lancaster – the band member who ended up opposing Marguerita Time so vehemently – to record his bass part for it.
“He didn’t argue too much because he didn’t think it would see the light of day,” Rossi recalls. “But the record label knew right away it should come out as a single at Christmas time.”
Speaking to Classic Rock, Lancaster once said of Marguerita Time: “All it did was advertise the fact that we were becoming a bunch of nerds.” The fact that it became the band’s first song to be playlisted by both Radio 1 and Radio 2 quickly brought matters to a head with the frustrated bassist.
“Funnily enough, it also made the Kerrang! heavy metal chart too,” Rossi chuckles. Because Quo had already recorded lightweight songs like Living On An Island, Rossi couldn’t understand Lancaster’s anger. “Alan had this macho attitude which really pissed me off,” he comments. “We’d be playing a song like Dirty Water [from the Rocking All Over The World album] on stage and he’d get really upset, claiming to be embarrassed to play material like that.”
Nevertheless, Marguerita Time reached No.3 in Britain. And when Lancaster – who had emigrated to Australia years earlier – refused to fly back to London to appear on Top Of The Pops, his continued membership of Quo became almost untenable.
“Alan didn’t wanna know,” sighs Rossi. “Just like he didn’t wanna know when Rick [Parfitt, guitar/vocals] suggested we record Rocking All Over The World [written by John Fogerty]. He told us that he didn’t know how he’d face his family again. If he’d had the courage to say: ‘I won’t accept my royalties for that,” I’d have admired the courage of his convictions.”
In the same Classic Rock interview, Lancaster also insisted that Rossi was the only member of Quo who had wanted to record Marguerita Time. Rossi pleads ignorance regarding Rick Parfitt’s opinion of the song, and his willingness to have played on it, but does point out:
“A lot of our fans absolutely hated Marguerita Time. The guy that drives us around these days keeps on at me for us to put it back into the set. He’s got no fucking chance.”
The band had planned to retire from the road after the Back To Back album and the End Of The Road tour. But of course their appearance as openers at Live Aid in the summer of 1985 prompted Rossi and Parfitt to put together a new line-up.
“It was a breath of fresh air,” Rossi enthuses. “I’d gone to school with Alan Lancaster, we’d been good friends and he was a great guy. I just didn’t want to work with him any more.”
The ‘new’ Status Quo played the controversial Marguerita Time live for a while, but as part of a medley. “Lots of people loved it when we did that,” Rossi says, “but our hard-core fans were up in arms. That’s the main problem this band has: the floating punters are the ones that just like the main tunes – one of which is Marguerita Time – and all the rest want to hear the album tracks. Personally, I still love Marguerita Time, but finding a balance is hard. Whatever we do, we seem to ostracise one side or the other.”