Status Quo’s Francis Rossi is putting his Telecaster aside for a UK tour of anecdotes and admissions. JAMES READER spoke to the rock icon who’s set to drop in on Preston and Lancaster to tell all
For someone who has been the dominant force in a band which has sold an estimated 120 million records, opened Live Aid, retains a loyal fanbase and was once described by John Peel as making “exciting and unpretentious records” Francis Rossi is remarkably convivial and keen to put you at your ease.
It would have been easy to believe that someone who has lived five decades in the public eye, gone through years of rock excess, drug addiction and a bitter band split would be disinterested and too jaded to talk about the music industry, let alone two impending shows in Lancashire.
But the Status Quo frontman’s affable and down-to-earth approach could help explain his longevity and the fact that 2019 is going to be a busy year - where he isn’t going to be doing the same old things.
In fact, far from being withdrawn, he does by his own admission ‘talk too much’ - and that has become something of the theme for the year.
This year Rossi celebrates his 70th birthday and he’s marking the occasion with a new collaborative country-music flavoured album called ‘We Talk Too Much’, an autobiography entitled ‘I Talk Too Much’ and an ‘audience with’ speaking tour (also named after his loquaciousness), which comes to Preston Guild Hall on April 7 and Lancaster Grand Theatre on May 1.
Set to be published on March 14, the book has been created with award-winning writer and broadcaster Mick Wall, who has sold more than one million books.
It promises to reveal the true-life stories behind Rossi’s career, be indiscreet, painfully honest, and cover the glory years, the dark days, the ups and downs of his relationship with the late Rick Parfitt and the real stories behind the creation of rock music which has become a part of British popular culture.
Typically though, Rossi is modest and unassuming when asked if he learned anything about himself whilst writing the book.“I learned that I’m a pillock and I talk too much,” he says.
“I know that sounds comedic but I do feel somewhat of a pillock.
“When I see how many great minds there are around the world and what people have done I’m really just some uneducated pillock in a band that was successful for some time - and luckily so.”
Rossi says if he hadn’t made it in music he would probably have sold ice cream, and maybe had a shop.
“We were bred for retail,” he says.
But his love of music made it the natural route and the knockbacks and bad reviews just steeled him to go on - criticism performers from today’s X Factor generation are
perhaps not experienced at dealing with.
“One of the things that served me and the rest of Status Quo well is that people were always saying, ‘You’re not that good really’.
“So the more that people put us down, the more we dug in.
“I remember when I was younger, one of my great uncles saying, ‘What chance have you got?’
“All of the family said that.
“I find it very strange with the X Factor generation that their mum and dads are all saying, ‘You’re so good darling’.
“So darling sits there waiting to be discovered.
“They think that’s it, they are going to be successful. “They forget about the hard work. It is a struggle and you are an insecure little show-off.
“It’s show business. It’s not real.
“Show business always reminds me of that hospital gown.
“You are covered up but your bum’s hanging out. That to me is show business. You don’t want to show them the back of the gown, because you think, ‘Oh it’s quite ordinary back here’.”
On his speaking tour Rossi will be joined by Mick Wall and it will be first time on stage without Status Quo.
Expect laughter, revelations, tales, video clips, snatches of classic tunes.
“This show is something new for me,” he says.
“It will be live and unscripted, so God knows what could happen.
“I’ll be taking a guitar along to demonstrate how some of those classics came into being, and hopefully we’ll take a few questions from the audience, too.”
And he’s certainly a good talker - he discusses the Frantic Four reunion (working with former Quo band members, which he doesn’t remember that fondly) and Brexit (he’s a Remainer and backs a second referendum).
In another break from the Quo bubble, Rossi has recorded an album with vocalist Hannah Rickard, who worked with the band on the ‘Aquostic’ projects, which brought acoustic and more melodic reworkings of old classics.
The new album is a collection of country-flavoured duets and is due for release March 15.
“It’s kind of country poppy rock,” he says.
“I really enjoyed singing with her, she makes me sound good.”
Some more puritanical Quo fans will be pleased by the fact that veteran Rossi songwriting partner Bob Young has helped write the album.
It was with Young that Rossi wrote Quo classics like ‘Down Down’, which in 1975 became the band’s only UK Number 1 single.
In June, Quo will also be on the road, touring with Lynyrd Skynyrd on their ‘farewell tour’.
And 2019 marks two years since the death of co-frontman Rick Parfitt.
Again the experience steeled Rossi to go on.
“I’ve read and heard that I should stop and it won’t be that good without Rick,” he says.
“ Maybe so but it has made me dig in.
“It made me aware that I’ve maybe not got that long.
“Sometimes when I’m tired in the morning, I think why not just sit around and do nothing and wait for it... death that is.
I don’t mean that in a morbid way.
“But I enjoy doing things.
“I’ve realised that I really really enjoy the process.
“Whether or not the fruits are successful or if people love them, I love the process of writing, the struggle of getting a lyric, where you sit there for hours looking at each other, and then recording it, and the joy of making the record.”