So the black year of 2016 had one final kick in the teeth for us after all, as news came through on Christmas Eve that Status Quo’s Rick Parfitt had left us, just when it was beginning to look like nothing could bring him down.
The news came just a day after his old colleagues had played a show at Liverpool Echo Arena, the last date of the ‘Last Night Of The Electrics’ UK tour. He was of course fully intending to perform when these dates were announced, but in June of this year following a show in Turkey, he was hospitalised and it was later revealed that he had actually ‘died’ for a few minutes. The band, with dates to honour, continued with a stand-in guitarist (Freddie Edwards, son of bassist Rhino Edwards initially, then Ritchie Malone took over the role), but by September it was announced that Rick Parfitt had officially stood down from live performances as a result of his condition.
He had seemed to be on the mend, with plans for an autobiography and even a new album of recorded material in the pipeline, but what took him in the end was septicaemia, from complications arising from an earlier shoulder injury. One of rock’s most enduring figures, his hard style of rhythm guitar inspired many others to pick up the instrument.
Parfitt joined up with founding members Francis Rossi and Alan Lancaster in 1965, in The Spectres who later became Status Quo. After some initial success (most notably with the psychedelic hit ‘Pictures of Matchstick Men’) they changed style, finding that a straight-ahead, no-nonsense boogie sound had got crowds rocking they pursued that direction, scoring chart hits beginning with ‘Down The Dustpipe’. They went on to become regulars in the UK chart, and were frequently seen on BBC TV’s ‘Top Of The Pops’. The group still hold the record for the most appearances on that programme, which was cancelled in 2006 following a 42-year run on screen.
By the early 1980s the Quo were one of the biggest rock bands in the UK, they even headlined at the Monsters of Rock festival at Donington Park in 1982. By then the cracks had started to appear; drummer John Coghlan had quit the previous year to be replaced by Pete Kircher, and although the hits kept coming, by 1984 the group announced their retirement from touring with a ‘farewell’ UK tour. This culminated in a huge show at Milton Keynes Bowl in the summer of 1984, and although frontman Francis Rossi declared from the stage at that show ‘We are not splitting up – we will still be a band as normal!’, a split was nonetheless perceived. By this stage bassist Alan Lancaster had relocated to Australia, and they had to be persuaded by Bob Geldof to open proceedings at a fundraising concert he had organised in July 1985, to aid the famine relief effort in Africa.
Live Aid proved to be their revival, given the opening slot their performance was carried by television networks the world over. It was a masterstroke by Geldof to get Quo to start the whole show with their cover of ‘Rockin’ All Over The World’, and they performed two more numbers before making way for the next act. The next year, Rossi and Parfitt had decided to give Quo another shot, but without Lancaster (or Kircher), recruiting new personnel for their 1986 ‘comeback’ album ‘In The Army Now’. That album was a success and despite their earlier retirement, they took to the road once again and have toured regularly ever since.
Parfitt was the ultimate rock star who lived the dream, perhaps a little too hard, and in 1997 it caught up with him when he was admitted to hospital and underwent a quadruple bypass operation. He took on board doctors’ advice to curtail his hard partying, and after a period of rehabilitation he resumed work with Quo. He had several other scares in subsequent years, but had returned from them all, giving him a reputation of being near-indestructible. He continued to perform with Quo right up until June this year, when his most recent heart attack finally forced him off the road.
Some of Quo’s fan favourites were written and sung by Rick Parfitt, and in closing this post a few are presented. He is already missed; the Quo’s gig at Liverpool without him was still good, but it took the entire band to up their game in order to compensate for the blonde, Telecaster-wielding icon now no longer on stage alongside his compadre Francis Rossi.
Status Quo: ‘Rain’ (1975)
Status Quo – ‘Big Fat Mama’ (1972, live clip from 2013)
Status Quo – ‘Don’t Drive My Car’ (1980, live clip from 2009)
Status Quo – ‘Whatever You Want’ (1979)