It's Status Quo week at Chop's Top Fives HQ. I know this won't mean much to non-Quo fans but the classic line-up have reunited for a mini UK tour and I'm off to see them at Hammersmith Odeon tonight (yes I know that's not it's current name but it is it's CORRECT name). I don't think I've ever been this excited about seeing a band live. I spent a considerable amount of my teens jumping up and down to Quo records in my bedroom and perfecting my air guitar technique. In many ways it's a shame I never applied myself to anything useful with quite the same degree of enthusiasm. I got into the band just before their "End of the Road" tour in '84, so failed to see them live before they split. Of course they popped back in time to open Live Aid in 1985 which meant I saw them on telly but then that was it ...
... until Rossi & Parfitt decided to get back together in 1986. It was possibly the shortest split in the history of rock. So, I finally got to see them live in 1986 supporting Queen at Wembley Stadium, and then later the same year at Hammersmith Odeon. They were brilliant (and have been every time I've seen them since) but they were without Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan. Alan had been a founder member of The Spectres with Rossi in 1962 and John had joined on drums a year later. They were an integral part of Quo during their best years (1971-1976 in my opinion) when they became known as the Frantic Four due to their live prowess. With all four of them now well into their Sixties, and the split fairly acrimonious, a reunion seemed pretty unlikely, so I'm over the moon to get a chance to finally see them play.
I did my Top 5 Status Quo albums last year, which you can check out HERE though, with hindsight, I think now I'd reorder that to read Live/Quo/Dog/Hello/Piledriver. My problems getting the album order right pale into insignificance compared with the anguish of pinning down my favourite songs. I found it fairly easy to draw up a short list of 20 but it was a struggle to whittle that down to just 9 at which point I spent a few days performing a sort of chinese puzzle to decide which would miss out.
1. Caroline (on Hello, 1973) - It's the song I think most people would identify with Quo. Down Down might be their only number one but Caroline is really their greatest hit. As such it's easy to overlook it. I've heard Caroline a lot, but it's still a monster of a tune. The perfect opening number kicking off with a typical Parfitt riff before settling down into the familar chug. It's got the hint of a Fifties rock'n'roll classic but Quo'd up.
2. Railroad (on Dog Of Two Head, 1971) - I love the sound on the Dog Of Two Head LP. It was the last they recorded for Pye (who were never happy with the rock turn their psychedelic pop stars took) and walks a fine line between the heavier sound that was to follow and the lighter tone of their earliest releases. Railroad is probably the closest to the sound that was to follow. It's got the perfect tempo to jump up and down to. Not so fast that you can't keep going for the whole song, not too slow. Halfway through there's a trademark widdly guitar solo from Rossi and then a fantastic bit of Harmonica (by tour manager Bob Young) that bridges into the slower chugging riff that brings the song to a close.
3. Backwater/Just Take Me (on Quo, 1974) - I realise that technically these are two songs but ... BUT ... oh come-on! They are nearly always paired together. The version on the album sees Backwater end with a clatter of drums that builds straight into the start of Just Take Me. It's seamless and brilliant. Individually they're both cracking tunes, together they are outstanding. Hey, it's my blog and I'm having them.
4. Paper Plane (on Piledriver, 1972) - Just shy of three minutes and with some mild drug references in the lyrics, this is Quo at their most efficient. Their first big hit as a proper rock band and the point when they really caught public attention.
5. Slow Train (on Quo, 1974) - Following in the tradition of epic album ending tunes that had previously provided two of Quo's best live tunes (Roadhouse Blues & Forty-Five Hundred Times) this is not so well known but has been a favourite of mine for many years. Quo seem perfectly suited to songs about trains and as the video below shows their rhythym fits the sound of a locomotive very well. There's enough time for some twiddly guitar jigs and even a drum solo before it all ends.