Ben Fitzgerald gets deeper on down with rock legend Francis Rossi on life after Rick, the joys of touring and his latest projects…
Francis Rossi is showing no signs of slowing down.
He’s a fast as a whip and his words tumble over themselves trying to keep up with his thoughts.
When I give him a call he picks up after the second ring, singing the Judy Garland classic from Singin’ in the Rain:
‘Good Morning, Good Morning, We danced the whole night through!’
What would you be doing if you weren’t busy being ‘that-Francis-Rossi-from-Status-Quo?’
I’m still mouthing ‘Quo’… when he comes back with his reply.
And it takes a while for his answer to sink in… did the double-denim chug rock legend just say he’s a frustrated shopkeeper? He’s deadly serious.
“It’s in the blood. When I was growing up in Forest Hill my parents ran an ice cream parlour. And in a way, being in show business is not really that different.
“You are selling a product – people get a bit funny when I talk about what we do in that way, but I think being aware of what you are selling, and who you are selling it to is why we have been so successful.
“I’m always aware that I’m supporting a whole bunch of other people, not just my family, but also all the people who are behind the project. The thing is, people don’t want to peer behind the curtain… but that’s show business!
“When I was growing up – people thought I was from the posh end of town. Imagine that! It’s all relative I suppose, but it’s because my parents had a shop. They assumed that I would be helping myself to free ice cream all the time – and obviously you can’t do that, it’s your stock. But I did find myself adopting a bit of a different persona, you know, just to fit in.”
So do you have a different stage identity from the other Francis Rossi – you know, the one who puts out the bins… and does other normal things?
“Well yes, of course. And I suppose I have been doing this thing for so long now that it has become second nature for me. I had someone backstage saying to me ‘how do you do that?’ because right up to the moment that I am due to go on, I’m just me, just standing around chatting and having a cup of tea. But then I can go out and perform in front of a large crowd of people and I’m that performer that everyone knows me for. It is strange I guess.”
I suppose that most people know you from the classic Quo years – from the early 70s to the start of the 80s – when you became well known for your boogie rock classics. But I imagine that many are not aware that you went through an early psychedelic phase and that there are many more strings to your bow.
“Oh yes, that’s very true – there is a pressure from the fans who want to pigeonhole you as a certain type of act. But the older I get, the less I find that I worry about what other people think.
“My latest album is a collaboration with Hannah Rickard ‘We talk too much’ which is a country album.
“As a musician, it’s important to keep growing and pushing the boundaries.”
Why do you keep touring…?
“I love it. It’s because of the buzz – it’s like an addiction. You are always looking for the next fix. I suppose it’s a form of showing off.
“People say that I wear them out – I’m always on the go and I’m obsessive about every little detail.
“Does that make me a monster? Maybe it does. But that is one of the reasons why I have been successful – it’s the boring bits in the background that are important.”
We can’t talk about Status Quo and not mention your partner in crime Rick Parfitt…
“He was with me from the early days – I do have many fond memories of him. But at times he could also be a right pain.
But that’s going to happen if you work so closely with someone. It’s something I talk about in my show.”
Were there any moments when you wanted to call it a day for Status Quo?
“Every day mate…!”
Francis Rossi and collaborator Mick Wall will be touring with his spoken word show ‘I Talk Too Much’ at 36 venues including Swindon’s Wyvern Theatre during which he lifts the lid on 50 years of life on the road. Expect laughter, revelations, tales involving some of the giants of music, exclusive video clips and classic tunes.
Francis Rossi’s show comes to the Wyvern Theatre on April 26. Tickets: £25 or £32.50 (for VIP seats) www.statusquo.co.uk
Francis Rossi has also confirmed the release of a collaborative album We Talk Too Much with vocalist Hannah Rickard and a new autobiography written with Mick Wall.