Forty years ago in May of 1982, British rock legends Status Quo played concerts at the Birmingham NEC in aid of the Prince’s Trust, and in the presence of members of the Royal family. The event, broadcast on TV and radio, helped to celebrate twenty years since the forming of a band that would become Status Quo; Specifically the combination of guitarist/vocalist Francis Rossi and bassist/vocalist Alan Lancaster.
Released to coincide with these events on the 12th of April 1982, was their cleverly titled fifteenth studio album; 1+9+8+2. Add up the numbers! Twenty! Further cementing the object of the campaign, the front cover artwork featured a triangle with roman numerals meaning twenty. Aside from the anniversary tie in, this album brought a few other landmarks.
- This is the first Status Quo studio album to be fully produced by the band since 1976’s Blue For You.
- The first album since Quo’s original drummer, John Coghlan left the band in 1981.
- The first album to feature Andy Bown as an official member of the band.
- The first album to feature Pete Kircher (Honeybus) on drums, who took over from Coghlan.
- The last Status Quo studio album to hit number one on the official UK charts.
She Don’t Fool Me: The second single taken from the album. An intriguing intro turns into a standard piece of boogie rock. Modern-day Quo-historians may term this as the start of Quo by numbers; A song that sounds like it’s trying to sound like Status Quo. Despite this, a solid performance with a particular note for Parfitt’s rhythmic playing and Kircher’s steady drums with a slight 1980s vibe. The B-side to this single was the title track to their previous album, ‘Never Too Late’.
Young Pretender: Another Quo-by-numbers composition that trundles along quite nicely. Definitely more than three chords, the melody offers some really pleasurable deviations that would even sound great in a different setting.
Get Out And Walk: A 12-bar number that shows some resemblance to a track from 1978’s If You Can’t Stand The Heat called ‘Gonna Teach You To Love Me’. No matter how derivative the work is, there is no denying the pleasing production and the various pieces of colour added to the core instrumentation; A full sound that includes a synthesizer and backing vocals. Lyrically, I have always enjoyed the line “I got ulcers from swallowing crap”.
Jealousy: A bouncy fun number that changes up the formula. The chorus is extremely catchy and often lives rent-free in my mind. It is the shortest song on the album, but perhaps one of the most memorable. This song was later re-recorded and released as a single by its songwriters, Francis Rossi and Bernie Frost, in 1985. Despite performing the song on various popular television shows of the day, the song peaked at ninety-eight.
I Love Rock And Roll: No, not that one! Alan Lancaster sings and pens this homage to Rock and Roll of the past. The song’s catchy nature and radio-friendly production made it a perfect candidate for a single, but sadly it wasn’t to be. Maybe the lyrics, which utilize song titles, and the fact it wasn’t sung by Rossi or Parfitt made it seem less like a contender. Whatever the reason: The finger-snapping, the groovy bassline, and the full stereo effect topped off with the anthemic climax make this a memorable number.
Resurrection: Ibbs ibbs? I’ve never been able to work out what the beginning of this track means, just another of Quo’s eccentric beginnings up there with ‘Like A Good Girl’ (If You Can’t Stand The Heat) and ‘What To Do’ (On The Level). The main body of the song is a standard twelve-bar but delivered with a feel-good factor. The way Parfitt effortlessly bounces through that rhythm section is lovely; You can’t help but bop your head. It’s probably Quo-By-Numbers or ‘typical Quo’ with bells on, but it doesn’t matter. The song was, if you’ll pardon the pun, resurrected twenty-four years later on the Aquostic II: That’s A Fact album. It was to be Parfitt’s last track on a standard edition of a Quo album, and a fitting one because of the (now) poignant lyrics.
Dear John: The first single from this album was released on the 19th of March 1982. It was written by John Gustafson and Jackie Macauley, it reached a peak position of number ten in the official UK charts. It sported a sound that demonstrated where Quo were at this point in terms of commercial appeal. The chorus is strong, but the backing perhaps a little generic. It sounds great on the radio though and is one of the strongest songs on this album. It is further cemented in the mind by the memorable, but slightly morally questionable, music video, and a number of (ahem) interesting promotional appearances. Bananas anyone? The composition was reinvented for the Aquostic II: That’s A Fact album and featured a light string section in a more sentimental reading of the song.
Doesn’t Matter: I have such mixed feelings about this song. It has a blandness to it, but that’s kind of appealing. It offers a lot and has nice variations but doesn’t really go anywhere, yet I can’t stop listening to it! It has a hypnotic nature that has me singing along. The lyrics read like an angry letter to a lover or an inner monologue and mix it in with repetitive riffs and hooks; including Bernie Frost’s unmistakable falsetto backing vocals.
I Want The World To Know: A slight shift in tone, but a welcome one. The second Lancaster sung track on the album. An attempt at trying something a little different, yet using some of the same frameworks. The lyrics, once again utilizing past song lyrics and titles, could be viewed negatively. The “I wanna be your brother, I wanna be your friend” section often gets stuck in my head though. This song was the B-Side to the Dear John single.
I Should Have Known: Another fast played Quo-by-numbers track that I often forget until I listen to the album again. The opening riff, and subsequent lead into the vocals, give me ‘Softer Ride’ (Hello) feels. The chugging rhythm of this song isn’t new, but it is hard not to be swept away by it. Am I the only one who had no idea what the lyrics meant until it got to the chorus? All that being said, there are some nice solo guitar moments from Francis Rossi in this track.
Big Man: Perhaps a sign band members were all pulling in different directions? A sign of what might have been? This Lancaster / Mick Green effort takes things to a completely different place. The eery beginning leads into a darker slickly produced soundscape, a series of memorable musical sections that sound traditional and (quite possibly) one of Alan Lancaster’s finest vocal performances. While not one of Quo’s best, it could have been a hit for a 1980s arena rock band at some point in that decade.
Since 1977’s Rockin’ All Over The World album, the band had tried to evolve the sound. After trying all manner of things over a five year period, the Quo arrive at this point; A commercial sound that stands out on the radio but feels weak when compared to what came before. There are a few positives though.
- Kircher’s drum sound is different but punchy.
- Andy’s keyboards are prominent but not intrusive.
- Some nice use of the stereo field.
It is easy to dismiss this album’s success as a product of hype, in fact, there is a very strong argument for it. It’s tough to judge specifically whether the band had become complacent, lineup changes affected things or they just got swept up at that moment. It’s a combination of things. The album may not be their best, but many of the compositions are nice songs; Although perhaps the execution wasn’t always on point. This was a bump in a very long road, one which they (some say never) recovered from.
- She Don’t Fool Me (Rick Parfitt, Andy Bown)
- Young Pretender (Francis Rossi, Bernie Frost)
- Get Out And Walk (Parfitt, Bown)
- Jealousy (Rossi, Frost)
- I Love Rock And Roll (Alan Lancaster)
- Resurrection (Bown, Parfitt)
- Dear John (John Gustafson, Jackie Macauley)
- Doesn’t Matter (Rossi, Frost)
- I Want The World To Know (Lancaster, Keith Lamb)
- I Should Have Known (Rossi, Frost)
- Big Man (Lancaster, Mick Green)
Producer: Status Quo