Q+A: Francis Rossi
Born in London to a family that ran the Rossi’s Ice Cream parlour chain, Francis Rossi swapped gelato for rock’n’roll as founder, lead singer and lead guitarist of Status Quo…
Established in 1967, the band has clocked up more UK chart hits than any other rock band, including the No.1 Down Down and such favourites as Rockin’ All Over The World, Whatever You Want, What You’re Proposing and Caroline.
Since the death of rhythm guitarist Rick Parfitt in 2016, Rossi has kept the Quo on the road but this spring has taken time out to record a country-flavoured duet album with Hannah Rickard called We Talk Too Much. He’s also penned an autobiography called I Talk Too Much and is about to embark on a theatre tour regaling us about his half century in the music business.
Was it your idea to write an autobiography or did someone suggest it?
Me and Rick [Parfitt] did two, I think, and I said I wouldn’t do another one. Someone said, “You can spill the beans on Rick,” but why would I want to do that? So I agreed to do a book if they threw some money at me. Now people will say, “You did it for the money.” Wow, you’re clever. It’s like when we did some adverts for a supermarket in Australia and people said, “You’re just doing it for the money.” No, we did it for the love of a supermarket. Of course we did it for the money!
Which periods of your life did you most enjoy revisiting?
I don’t know that I did it as chronologically as that. I was just talking [to co-author Mick Wall] and I might talk about when I was growing up with the Italians then go off on a tangent to when I met [original Status Quo bassist] Alan Lancaster at school. The best period of my life was when I lived in Amsterdam. Everyone thinks it’s because of the pot shops, but it was because it was flat and I could go everywhere on a bike. I liked the Dutch. I think they are truly the friendliest people of Europe.
Before Status Quo became big, did you always want to be famous or were you happy making music for the sake of it?
There was always a drive. It was probably to be famous, to be liked. I thought everybody liked you when you were in a hit band like The Beatles. In those days, we were always told, “You’ve got no chance – there are thousands of bands.” That made us fight for it. That happened again when Rick died. I started to hear, “You’re no good without him, are you?” and “How dare he go on without Rick.” It reminded me of when Rick and I split up with Alan Lancaster and we were told we couldn’t survive without him. It makes you dig in.
How did you come to make an album with Hannah Rickard?
Hannah came to play fiddle on the Aquostic gigs. She asked me, “Do you still write?” I thought, you cheeky cow, of course I still write! Later on, I texted her: “Did you mean you’d like to write with me?” So we wrote some stuff and my manager said, “Can I hear a bit?” “Well, if you like…” He liked it and said, “Can I play it for the record company?” Before I knew it, they liked it, I’m committed and thinking, “How did I get here?” So when we say, “Why do these old singers keep going?” there’s that thing where you get enthused about something and suddenly they’ve closed the door behind you. “Would you like to go talking?” “Yeah, I love talking…” Suddenly I’m doing a tour. “Now, hang on..” But it’s too late, the tickets are on sale.
Status Quo are supporting Lynyrd Skynyrd on a UK tour this summer and also playing some Let’s Rock festivals – do you enjoy that kind of show?
A couple of years ago we did a cruise and I said, “I’m not doing one of those!” Rick and I used to make jokes: “Oh, he’s on the cruise ships now, it’s all over for him.” But that’s not how it is now. There are massive cruises where you play two shows to 3,000 people. We do 80s and 90s festivals and it’s marvellous. We did one where it rained all day and the people had so much fun that they never moved away from the stage for any of the acts. There’s such a mixture of shows we do now that we didn‘t think we’d do when we were younger. I remember Elton John saying, “You should do corporate shows.” We thought, “Fuck off!” But he was right! You either fade out of the business or you do the shows that are around. If the money’s right, of course you’re gonna do it.