Why I Love Status Quo – By Mike Vennart

Status Quo have so much to answer for. I know what you’re thinking and you’re right, to a point. But I’m not here to tell you about the end-of-the-pier, Grandma’s-favourite cuddly-rogues Quo. I’m talking about the Frantic Four. The original, 1970’s Status Quo. Rossi. Parfitt. Lancaster. Coghlan. What a fucking heavy band.

It’s easy to blame nostalgia for one’s guilty pleasures, and this case is no different. Status Quo were the first band I ever saw live. It was at Bridlington Spa in 1984, and billed ironically as their ‘farewell tour’.

I don’t remember much about the gig because I was only seven years old. I remember my dad bollocking my older brother for rocking out a little too much – headbanging, hands aloft. Let’s not forget, this was the height of the air-guitar phenomena, and my brother was a pro. I also remember that the band was so fucking unbelievably loud that I was kind of overwhelmed – hey, I was only seven – so my dad went and took me to the bar to chill. I still remember though. I’d never heard anything like it, yet there they were – in person. The actual Quo (well, three quarters of them) were right before my tiny eyes.

After I saw that show, that was the end of Adam Ant and The Police for me. It was the start of ‘I’m gonna play the guitar extremely loudly for the remainder of my days’.

Just look at the personnel…

Francis Rossi – OK, his voice is fairly vanilla, neither here nor there. But his sense of melody is outstanding, and I can attribute that also to his underrated guitar playing. His solos are all as hummable and as lyrical as any verse or chorus. There’s a sense of structure there, it’s all so considered. Just listen to Backwater or Roll Over Lay Down. I love guitar players who play with a real elegant scruffiness, like Stephen Malkmus or Jonny Greenwood. Rossi has that too.

Alan Lancaster – Possibly the only bass player ever to make a short-scale Mustang bass look massive. His playing is as rudimentary as it’s possible to be. Zero fills or frills. One note per bar, max. And yet it still grooves like fuck. How?!

John Coghlan – Like all the greatest rock drummers (Bill Ward, Dave Lombardo), Coghlan plays at the very edge of his abilities at all times. He always sounds like he’s about to derail, but stays on the beat. Kinda. His playing questions the very foundations of time keeping itself – is he playing shuffle (swung) time or is he playing straight? Or some freaky hybrid of the two? Seemingly the latter. Coghlan should’ve been snapped up by a big time hip-hop producer years ago.

Rick Parfitt – My word. It’s him. The very reason I had to play guitar. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Rick Parfitt is the greatest rhythm guitarist this country has ever produced. Just look at that right fucking arm. Try playing like that for one song. Now try playing like that for ninety minutes. Now try playing like that for fifty years! An arm like a fucking cannon. Thirty years on, I can sure as hell play, but I can’t for the life of me do it the way he can. I frequently imagine I’m him when playing with Biffy Clyro. An underrated hero.

I’ve heard the Quo sound in a lot of bands since, but they and their fans probably won’t be aware of the band, much less admit to liking them. But I hear their sound in early Queens Of The Stone Age, Tame Impala and… Biffy Clyro. Little known fact. Mr Simon Neil’s first gig was Status Quo, too.

After I grew up a little, I kind of gave up on the Quo. They’d had their day. They got a couple of guys in to replace the original rhythm section in the mid 80s and they’d lost their edge. I found Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, so I didn’t give them a second thought. For another 30 years.

Then, out of nowhere, they reformed, so my brother and I snapped up tickets. We were virtually in a royal box at the Manchester Apollo. The vibe was electric. The place couldn’t believe what was happening; they were back, against all odds. We rocked out with a vengeance – with no dad to restrain us – and were almost tearful with joy. They were phenomenal. And they were still fucking loud.

British Theatre will release their full-length debut album later this year. Vennart is also planning a solo release and will announce a tour in the coming months. Check out his website here and his Bandcamp here.

Mike Vennart

Mike Vennart is guitarist with Vennart The Band, Biffy Clyro, Oceansize, British Theatre and Empire State Bastard.