17 August 2011

Status Quo - before they were famous.

We've all heard the Quo at some point in our lives - their distinctive hard rock sound mixed with 12 bar blues and boogie riffs being present in all their most well known hits, such as the instantly recognisable "Whatever You Want" and "Rockin' All Over The World". Status Quo are also recognisable for their dirty rocker appearance; the pony-tail, jeans and waistcoat-clad singer Francis Rossi (who decided in 2009 to get rid of his famous lock) and the jeans, t-shirt and messy mass of blond hair belonging to guitarist Rick Parfitt. While the other members of the group have changed over the years, they all donned the same jeans and hair rocker look which has become the band's trademark.

So, therefore it wasn't half a shock to the system when I accidentally stumbled across the Quo's relatively unknown past, before the all the fame and glory; a top of the pop's video of the band performing their first hit, the heavily psychedelic pop song "Pictures of Matchstick Men" in 1968. In fact, it is almost impossible to tell that this is Status Quo if it weren't for the video being labelled as such.

This video is particularly eye opening for followers of the Quo for two reasons; firstly, their appearance. It seems almost unreal to see the rockers in frilly flashy Carnaby Street frocks and beatle hair. Secondly, the sound that they employed during the late sixties is immensely different to what they are famous for - I mean most musicians over the years do gradually change their sound, but the change in the Quo's sound is radical to say the least. And what's more, this song is really rather brilliant! Their whole first album and subsequent singles infact! So why the sudden and abrupt change in 1970?

During that year Status Quo decided they were through with psychedelia and almost overnight changed into what they have been ever since (which also included dropping the prefix "the"). The only real obvious reason for this is the lack of success; while they managed to reach the top ten in eight different countries with "Matchstick Men", no. 8 in the UK with "Ice in the Sun" and certainly made a decent enough breakthrough, they just weren't able to gain the success of superstardom that follows only no1 hits. This even resulted in the band's keyboard player Roy Lynes leaving the group partly due to the Quo's uncertain future. Frustrated with their lack of victory with the masses, they most probably adopted the new style because they knew it would gain them fame; breaking away from the blending in of mainstream. Their new musical style might not have been what they really wanted to do, but they went with it and stayed with it. Fortunately for them, it proved successful.

But the sad situation is that their early days are virtually unheard of. Whilst in the US the above song is all they are known for, in the UK even the biggest Quo fans don't even know the band existed until the 1970s; take my mum for example, who has been a hardcore Quo fan since she was a teenager and has never ever heard this song or even knew about it. The purpose of this post is to make people aware of their glam slam days and to open people up to the beautiful musical gems that lay hidden beneath the glory of the boogie rock. And what real diamonds they are. Take a look at two other brilliant songs from the 60s.

Ice in the Sun (Official Video -1968)

Technicolour Dreams (Official Video - 1968)

Also if you have time, give their first album a shot - "Picturesque Matchstickable Messages from the Status Quo" (1968). With pretty much every song becoming stuck in one's head for days, this album most definitely should be recognised as one of the greatest examples of psychedelia to have come out of the 1960s.

Who knows what the Quo may be like now had they actually won big with psychedelia in the 60s...

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