At the age of 61 [in 2010], how do you look back on your days as a hell-raiser? Rick [Parfitt] was always the hell-raiser and I was the mild one, though I suppose [as a band] we did our fair share. As a young man I was a complete dickhead, to be really honest. I don’t know why the sort of behaviour catalogued in rock mythology was ever indulged, or still goes on today. The way the books romanticise it, the tour bus would drive off the next morning with the reception staff waving, "Bye, Status..." In fact the manager of the hotel would say: "You’re not leaving till you pay three grand."
Rossi, the Status Quo man
On boozing, womanising and that kangaroo story.
So you never threw a TV set out of a hotel window?
No. And if I did, knowing that I’d be charged for it I’d be up early and off to Currys the next morning to buy a replacement [laughs]. To some people, that takes the rock’n’roll out [of being in a band], but for me the rock’n’roll was always the music and not the lifestyle.
We were always up for a laugh, though. Rick and I once took the door off Bob Young’s [road manager] room and hid it in a stairwell because we knew he’d be coming upstairs with some sweet thing. Another time we went into Alan Lancaster’s room and removed every stick of furniture. He walked in and it was completely empty.
In 2002 you told ****Classic Rock: “Our tours are pretty civilised now. We have little cheese and wine parties on the bus.”
We do have those, yeah. Those of us that still drink realise that it takes much longer to get over the hangovers. I suppose what’s true is that the older you get, the more important the gig becomes.
What are the pros and cons of cocaine?
I don’t think it has any pros. It’s rubbish stuff and it was always cut with shite. It changes your personality and makes you a fucking idiot.
But you took it for a long time.
Oh yeah, for eight or ten years. The only reason I did so was because it allowed me to drink much more. I was an ‘all the time’ person back then. At my worst, if I’d been drinking the night before as well, I had to have a toot to get into the shower because I couldn’t get out of bed.
Did you check into a clinic to stop?
No, not at all. I was going to Nassau, and decided that I wouldn’t do any until I had a night off in the studio, so it wouldn’t affect the work. We’d been there a week and I finished at nine. But I just didn’t fancy it, so I saved it for the next night. And 24 hours later I still felt the same; I just didn’t do it anymore. Drinking was even easier. I just stopped one night and never did it again.
Where and when were you the most drunk?
I was in Dubai and I fell asleep on the phone during a conversation with a girlfriend in England. The call cost me about three grand. The hotel manager was rubbing his hands with glee the next morning.
Quo were never perceived as womanisers, but did you partake in of all that?
Particularly in the early days, yeah we did. But it ran its course quite quickly. You could be out at a club with a bunch of guys and pull the one in the room that everyone fancies, which is great for the ego. But you get to your room and you realise it’s a person – “Why did I do this again?” So I stopped that quite quickly. The idea of dipping it everywhere you go very soon became boring.
What was your most rock’n’roll moment?
Well, you’re thinking about debauchery, which I was never really into. I remember being in France and Bob [Young] telling me we’d got to Number One with Down Down [in January 1975]. I was in the bath at the time, and for some reason all I did was splash the water about a bit: “Great, we’re Number One! What’s next?”
Did you ever have an operation to fix your septum (the wall between the nostrils) after it famously fell out in the shower?
No. It’s still the same. I can still scare children by putting a handkerchief in one nostril and pulling it out the other. And if that puts off one person [from cocaine use, which caused the problem], that can only be a good thing.
What do you think of the current crop of rock stars?
As I’ve said many times, too many of the young upstarts aspire to be rock stars for the wrong reasons – shagging everything that moves, making a mess of the dressing room, and of course the fame. We’ve gone through all of that and come out the other side. The joy of having been around this long is that all the bands that used to take the piss out of us for our age are now in their thirties or forties themselves. They’re beginning to realise: ‘Oh fuck, it happens to everyone.’
I want to know about a particular Quo rumour that has even been printed in books.
Oh, you’re going to ask me about the bloody kangaroo, aren’t you?
How did you know? Let us recount the tale. Quo are travelling across the Australian outback and their bus runs down a ’roo. Believing it to be dead, they dress it up in the driver’s denim jacket, bandana and some shades and then line up for a photo session. The flash goes off, and the marsupial – which is merely stunned – is shocked back into consciousness and scarpers into the bush. Everyone’s falling about – and then they realise the bus keys are in the jacket pocket.
I don’t know if it’s true or not. It didn’t happen to the band, I can tell you that. We would never have travelled by bus in Australia. But they still talk about it down there [Oz] like it happened!
THIS FEATURE FIRST APPEARED IN CLASSIC ROCK ISSUE 151.