Recent events have seemed to put the future of Status Quo in doubt.
The passing of Rick Parfitt on Christmas Eve 2016 could possibly have seen the end of the band, but as frontman and last-remaining founder member Francis Rossi tells me, this is far from the truth.
“Everything’s all right at the moment in the camp,” he says. “I’m even recording an album with Hannah Rickard, one of the singers on the Aquostic albums which has a country feel and it’s going quite well.”
But the death of his long-standing partner-in-rock, who joined the band in 1967 must have been a shock. “Yes, well it took a long time to sink in – probably still hasn’t, really.”
Rossi remembers the day clearly. “We arrived home from the UK tour at about nine in the morning on Christmas Eve and I got a call from Simon (Porter, the band’s manager) between ten and ten-thirty saying that Rick was very ill and within two hours he was gone.
“To be honest, it was something we were expecting, but I’m not quite sure I’m used to it and it reminds us of our own mortality. It was weird playing a gig when he wasn’t there, but we’ve been dealing with it.”
Parfitt had retired from Quo earlier in 2016 following a heart attack in the summer, but he’s played on the second Status Quo acoustic album and had been recording a solo album as well as writing his biography.
“I have no idea whether any of this will be finished,” Rossi says. “They played one of his solo tracks at the funeral.” And there will be a memorial to the blond guitarist at some point.
At some shows in the summer, Parfitt’s place had been taken by Freddie Edwards, who is the son of Quo’s bassist John ‘Rhino’ Edwards, and then during the December tour by Richie Malone, and I ask whether Richie is now a fully-fledged member of the band.
“Yes, he is,” says Rossi, 68. “Freddie was a great stand-in, but he has his own career. Richie is extremely good and can commit to the band. He has been watching us from when he was very young and knows what we’re about.”
In fact, the introduction of the Irish guitarist could be a bonus.
“Yeah, we may have been becoming a bit complacent. There’s a new edge to it all now and one’s interest is different.”
Rossi had been hoping Status Quo would have been able to hang up the electric guitars after the December tour, but this isn’t proving to be the case, as well over half of the shows in the diary are still electric, maybe the idea of an acoustic Quo isn’t as popular as it might have been.
“Well, the second album didn’t do as well as the first,” says Rossi. “But the show at The Roundhouse was very encouraging, it’s all about profile.” The demand for the electric Quo is still high though.
“Yes, and that’s what’s weird. We had an acoustic tour of Australia lined up, but that’s now become electric as they wanted a ‘Last Night Of The Electrics’ tour too.”
However, there are some great things resulting in the electric tours continuing, as Rossi explains.
“We have managed to keep our crew on. They all have families and mortgages, so being able to keep them on makes me feel good, as they rely on us to keep them employed.”
He sighs. “To be honest, I didn’t think this year would happen, but it is, so we just keep going.”
With a mixture of electric and acoustic shows in the diary, there could be confusion as to which version the band plays.
“Yes,” agrees Rossi. “Probably more in the acoustic shows, and especially if the song is one we’re still doing electrically. However, once rehearsals have been started I’m OK.” And Rossi is still getting used to playing the songs acoustically. “That’s right, I’m frightened most nights.”
But the acoustic versions of Quo classics is an interesting project, with a new slant being given to songs like Down Down, Caroline, Rockin’ All Over The World and Roll Over Lay Down.
“I was a bit unsure at first when we started the Aquostic stuff,” admits Rossi, “but as time went on we got a bit ‘precious’ about it and we’re very pleased at how the songs sound.”
When not working in Quo, Rossi works on other projects and keeps fit. “I have a trainer that keeps coming round and hurting me,” he laughs. “I do have a solo album in the can but as I started to work with Hannah on her album it got put on a back-burner as the album with Hannah is more interesting.” And there is also the little matter of the band’s 50th anniversary this year. But Rossi appears to be uninterested. “I would rather not do anniversaries.” Whatever happens, the mighty Quo will continue to treat their fans to a great night of music at their shows, whether it be electric or acoustic.
Status Quo perform at York Barbican on June 21. www.statusquo.co.uk