Was fame something you craved?
Status Quo: Cocaine Completely Screws You Up. By 1984 I Was On The Floor
Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt on planes, drugs, crazed fans, opening Live Aid and the perils of fame
Francis Rossi: I’d love to say I just wanted to be a musician and it was all about the love of music, but I wanted to be famous too. I wanted to be a musician for the wrong reasons.
Rick Parfitt:When I was very young I used to have posters of all the pop stars on my wall and dreamt of being famous. Hearing Move It! by Cliff And The Shadows really did it for me. I got a guitar and just lost interest in everything at school.
When did life start to change for you?
FR: I remember the lull after Pictures Of Matchstick Men became a hit and thinking: “Oh God, now we’re in deep shit.” It wasn’t until 1975 or ’76 that Quo started getting popular. That was when they began getting us in and out of venues secretly, with dummy cars going one way and us another. Looking back on it, I always wonder why I didn’t savour it more.
RP: Once we started playing places like the Finsbury Astoria I began to think something big was happening. And then there was being asked to go on Top Of The Pops – it’s a life-changing experience. I remember coming home one night from a gig at the Links Pavilion in Cromer, around 1971 or ’72, with four hundred pounds in my pocket. It all started to change for me around that time.
And was it all you'd hoped for?
FR: It doesn’t necessarily follow that being rich makes you happy. I’ve had unhappy times, but having money does facilitate a life where you can buy whatever you fancy.
RP: I bought my first Rolls-Royce, a Silver Shadow, and was living in a thirty-five-thousand-pound house at the age of twenty-one or twenty-two. Later in the seventies I bought a place in Hambledon, which was amazing. It was the highest point in Surrey and you could see right down to Folkestone. Some nights I’d come home, pretty out of it on drugs, admittedly, and the position of the house was such that you’d drive through the top of the cloud. Then life all went completely wrong from there, when all the drugs crept in. Cocaine completely fucks your life up. By 1984 I was pretty much on the floor.
What's been your biggest extravagance?
FR: I bought the big, fabulous house way back and all that stuff. I still have it and I love all that. And a few cars.
RP: I loved flaunting it. I bought myself an aircraft and learned to fly. I had a stable full of cars and twelve Porsches. I loved going out and having a good time, and couldn’t resist a club or bar after a gig. You have a little line of coke and think that everybody loves you.
FR: Rick’s the brash, flash sort of blond: “I’ve got a boat, I’ve got a yacht, I’ve got this and that.” But I’m quite content as I am. That’s where the balance is between us. I went up in Rick’s plane once. We were going somewhere to look at some amplifiers and he offered to take me up in it. But, oh fuck, I was so sick.
RP: He didn’t like it at all. It was only a four-seater. I thought I flew it rather well that day, but he used to get sick quite easily. Francis doesn’t even like a choppy sea if we’re on a ferry, whereas I love all that.
FR: Then he asked if I’d come on his boat and I said no. I don’t need all those things. I don’t need huge, great watches that cost twenty-five grand. I get whatever it is I need on stage; I get to be the insecure little show-off, then I go straight to the bus. Within two minutes of leaving the stage I’m putting on my pyjamas.
What about encounters with crazed fans?
FR: There was one woman who used to follow me around in my old place. We had two or three acres and she used to just stand in the garden and look up. We called her Snogger Woman. We turned up at Cornwall Coliseum one night and the guy in charge had moved her away. Then they made this arch of men for me to walk under to get into the venue. Just as I thought I was clear, I stood up straight and she suddenly came down from above. I’ve got no idea how, but she landed on my shoulders and flattened me to the ground.
Opening at Live Aid must’ve been a crowning moment for Quo.
FR: None of us were really interested at first. We just happened to be in Phonogram doing some PR and in comes Bob Geldof, who we vaguely knew as this upstart little fucker from the Boomtown Rats. He asked if we’d do this thing he’d planned and we said no. Then maybe a week later he asked again. When we told him that we weren’t getting on very well and were under-rehearsed, he said it didn’t matter.
RP: It’s wonderful that we opened Live Aid, though from coming off stage and going back on at night to sing Feed The World with everybody I have no idea what happened. Somebody said they’d seen me getting into a helicopter with David Bowie but, honestly, I haven’t got a clue.