From Butlins to Buckingham Palace – it has been quite a journey for rockers-turned-family favourites Status Quo.
Frontman Francis Rossi, who was playing with The Spectres alongside bassist Alan Lancaster and drummer John Coghlan at the time, first met rhythm guitarist Rick Parfitt, a member of The Highlights, at Butlins in Minehead in 1965.
They became friends but it would be another couple of years before Rick joined Francis’s band which by then had become The Status Quo.
It was when they changed their pop psychedelic sound and image and put on denim and T-shirts that they found favour with the rock audience.
A string of hit albums, including Piledriver, Quo, Hello!, On The Level and Blue For You, cemented their place in rock history.
Along the way there have been band bust-ups, drug abuse and creative low points but in last year’s New Year Honours Francis and Rick were each presented with an OBE.
‘‘We’re kind of establishment now, I guess,’’ says 63-year-old Rick. ‘‘We stick to what we’re good at. I never imagined that something like getting an OBE could happen to me.
‘‘All the charity work we’ve done has been because we’ve wanted to, not because we might get something out of it. Most of it is a real pleasure and it raises a huge amount of money.’’
Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones famously criticised his bandmate Mick Jagger for accepting a knighthood. How does Rick feel about his honour?
‘‘I’m very proud of my OBE, I’ve got it on my credit cards,’’ he admits.
‘‘Let people know. Why not? When we did the Prince’s Trust Gala the other month I wore my medal. I went in and saw Brian May and he just said, ‘I should have worn mine!’
‘‘To be honest I wasn’t sure if I should but when can you wear it if you can’t when you’re playing to his Royal Highness? There were a few people there who thought they should have worn theirs – if you’ve got a medal put it on!’’
Rick has his own ideas why Quo have retained their popularity.
‘‘People have warmed to us, we’re just doing what we always have done and have enjoyed and the people have enjoyed.
‘‘Radio DJ Steve Wright told us that wherever he is, people ask him, ‘Got any Quo?’ and that’s how it should be.
‘‘It would seem if you’re feeling a bit browned off with life it’s, ‘Put a bit of Quo on’. You couldn’t ask for more than that. We’ve shown endurance, we always aim to go to the people. We’re accessible, always playing somewhere in Europe.
‘‘Recording and touring has just become what we do. It’s not a money thing, nor an ego thing, it’s a need. If Quo wasn’t here now I don’t know what I’d do with myself, I’d have to do something.
‘‘Quo keeps me young, keeps the mind active. There’s not a day goes past, working or not, where you don’t think something about the band, or an idea for a song or a T-shirt.
"Every day is a Quo day, there’s always something on the horizon.’’
But the fact remains that Rick and Francis are not getting any younger.
Earlier this year 62-year-old Francis revealed that the band would be pruning their set time for the forthcoming Quofestive tour, which also features Roy Wood and Kim Wilde, and plays Birmingham LG Arena on Saturday.
‘‘We are getting older and I never thought I’d have to admit it but physically it’s getting harder,’’ Francis says.
‘‘It was either cut it down to an hour and 20 minutes or we don’t go. As much as we say, ‘no come on let’s do it’, the following day it’s ‘that hurts today’. I’m still a fit man physically and I want to go on a little longer.’’
Rick agrees and says that by inviting Roy and Kim to play on the same bill they are still giving value for money.
‘‘It’s going to be a three-hour show. I haven’t seen Kim perform – as it were – for a few years but last time I did it was really great, she had a good rocking band with her.’’
And Roy Wood has the secret weapon of the crowd-pleasing I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday in his arsenal of hit songs.
‘‘Roy toured with us a few years ago and just killed it. What a song to have to play in December… you can’t go wrong. It takes the roof off the place and it’s sometimes daunting as you think, we’ve got to follow this… but of course we do.
‘‘We’re thrilled when the support is good, but Quo is Quo and it does what it does to the crowd.’’
?Status Quo play the LG Arena in Birmingham, on Saturday, December 3. More details at: www.lgarena.co.uk/whatson/quo-festive