The Spectres were a London-based beat group which formed in 1967 with Francis “Mike” Rossi (vocals, lead guitar) and Alan Lancaster (bass) their core members. John Coughlan (drummer) joined the line-up which was complete with Roy Lynes (organ). After a trio of unsuccessful singles the band changed its name to Traffic Jam and concentrated on mod psychedelia but their early efforts were no better.
Ricky Harrison (aka Rick Parfitt – rhythm guitar and vocals) formerly with the Highlights, joined the group in 1967, and they changed their name to Status Quo. As well as pursuing their solo career Status Quo did backups for many UK acts including Liverpool’s Tommy Quickly.
Their debut single "Pictures of Matchstick Men," was written by Francis Rossi and quickly moved up the UK top 20 charts in 1967. The single also sold well in the US.
The group were now considered ‘bubblegum,’ and followed up with "Black Veils of Melancholy," which attracted no interest whatsoever, but their next single "Ice in the Sun," (written by Marty Wilde), became a top ten hit in 1968.
Sticking with the same successful bubblegum rock formulae the next two releases flopped. Organist, Roy Lynes left the band and the Quo took a new direction into heavier bluesy boogie rock fusion. The single "Down the Dustpipe" again saw the Quo in the charts.
The album Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon featured the Quo in hard rock mode and although it went almost unnoticed it did landmark the band’s metamorphosis from Mod psychedelia to Rock.
The Quo were never as heavy as Led Zepplin but did present a popular front to the musical genre. Now kitted in jeans and kickers the Quo embarked upon a series of UK college and festival dates which won them a loyal following with their live performances. In 1972 they appeared at the Reading and Great Western festivals and were outstanding. Vertigo Records signed them and their first single "Paper Plane," another Rossi composition was a top ten hit.
The album, Piledriver also topped the album charts and their other singles of 1973, Blue eyed lady (Hello) and Caroline were hits. You can hear John Coughlan’s drumming on Rossi’s ‘Caroline.’
Andy Bown (formerly Herd and Judas Jump) joined the group as their unofficial keyboard player and the hits kept coming with their formulaic uncomplicated, unpretentious and infectious rock music. The band even became Royal favourites and appeared by Royal Appointment on several occasions for Lady Diana. John Coughlan left in 1981 to form his own group, John Coughlan’s Diesel.
He was replaced by Pete Kircher (former Original Mirrors). Divisions within the band saw Alan Lancaster resettle to Adelaide, Australia, which made it difficult to have the band together. Alan finally left after performing at Live Aid in 1985.
The separation was acrimonious but Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt carried on with new group members, John ‘Rhino’ Edwards (bass), and Jeff Rich (drums) with Andy Bown, now officially the group’s keyboard player. The new Quo continued their run of hit singles and albums throughout the eighties playing to packed audiences in the UK and Europe. In 1994, the group had a surprise number one hit in the UK with the football anthem "Come on You Reds" which was recorded with the football champions, Manchester United.
Both Rossi and Parfitt contributed to the classical Quo portfolio with many of their hits written by Francis Rossi in collaboration with Bob Young (harp and roadie) and Bernie Frost; Rick Parfitt wrote with Andy Bown and Lynton. Alan Lancaster also made a major contribution to the group’s writing credits. In 1997 Rick had a quadruple bypass followed by a cancer scare but was able to recover suffice the Quo still perform. Between 1968 and 2004 the group scored 61 chart successes. In December 2016, Rick Parfitt died from sepsis following an infection of a pre-existing shoulder injury.
Worth a listen:
Down Down (1974),
Roll Over Lay Down (1975)
Wild Side of Life (1976)
Rockin' All Over the World (1977)
Down the dust pipe (1977)
Mean girl (1977)
Again again (1978)
Whatever You Want (1979)
What your proposin’ (1980)
Something about you baby I like (1980)