I’m the bloke who spills the beans... but talking about Rick is difficult
Status Quo’s Francis Rossi hopes to hit the road next year for intimate acoustic gigs – including three in North and mid-Wales. ALEX GREEN speaks to the veteran rocker about fame, family life and the death of his musical partner
‘I’VE become known as the bloke that spills the beans,” whispers Francis Rossi before emitting a sharp cackle. Status Quo’s guitarist and songwriter is explaining the premise behind his latest venture – a tell-all tour aptly titled I Talk Too Much.
He is, of course, best known as the man behind the stadium-sized riffs of In The Army Now and Pictures Of Matchstick Men. Yet in recent years, the South London-born musician of Italian-Northern Irish descent, has also earned a reputation for honesty.
His 2019 autobiography, titled I Talk Too Much, gave an unguarded, sometimes uncomfortably intimate, insight into the highs and lows of his 50-year career.
It explored the success of Status Quo, who have released 33 albums and more than 100 singles, the depths of his alcoholism and cocaine addiction, and the recent loss of Rick Parfitt, his bandmate and partner in crime.
Now the guitarist is planning to embark on an intimate tour next year combining acoustic songs and storytelling, from the Isle of Wight to Dundee. He wants to explore the myth of show business in close quarters.
“You know those hospital gowns you see?” he enquires. “You are all covered up at the front but it’s all undone at the back with your a** hanging out. That’s showbiz to me.”
He reached his 70th birthday last May and had planned to tour this year, but had to postpone following the coronavirus outbreak.
Now he is looking at taking to the road in 2021 with a mammoth 60-date tour starting on February 18 and continuing through in May. Preparing for it entailed a great deal of soul-searching for the veteran rocker.
“One has to be careful,” he answers.
“Don’t tap into my ego. I have enough trouble with that as it is.
“What am I proud of? The other day I was thinking that I was proud to be British, but isn’t there a saying about pride before a fall? It’s probably just lasting. Still being here,” he says after a pause. “And as a capitalist, I was proud that the band was that successful.
“As a songwriter, I was proud that I had some hit songs, albeit not particularly complicated songs.
“I am proud that I have got eight children and I didn’t f*** them up too much.”
And his regrets? “Drinking,” he says without a pause. “Alcohol led me to cocaine. People telling me ‘Oh, have a drink. What kind of man are you?’ All that stuff I remember from when I was younger.”
He is a rock star who embraces his band’s reputation for being “uncool”, an unerringly polite man who turns the air blue with his words, a celebrity honest about the shallowness of fame.
Writing an autobiography also meant confronting old memories of Rick Parfitt, who died from sepsis on Christmas Eve 2016. He had suffered a heart attack and throat cancer scare, although when he passed away, aged 68, he had not used cocaine for more than a decade.
“That bit is difficult to talk about,” Francis admits with characteristic honesty.
“It was difficult when I talked about it before. I don’t want to sound dramatic, but you really live it again.” The Status Quo star’s most colourful language is reserved for his ruminations on age.
“Roger Daltrey was wrong,” he chuckles before quoting My Generation, The Who’s anthem for doomed youth. “I hope I die before I get old... No I don’t. I’m trying to hang on now. I’m extremely fit. I look after myself. Anything to stay alive.”
His teetotal daily routine features swimming, healthy eating and workouts before rehearsal and he says life is worth sticking around for because of the kids. He has eight children from two marriages, some who play music professionally, and they have prompted him to think about how his generation has treated the world.
Talk turns to the planet and Greta
Thunberg. “Remember in the late Seventies, they said: ‘Prepare for an ice age.’ Well, now they are telling us it is the other way round.
“Then that young girl... If she really thinks my generation and the generation that are now 40 got on this planet and said ‘Let’s f*** it up everyone’ we didn’t.
“We thought we were doing well. We thought we were going to do the right things.
“We thought we were going to make it better and if she thinks her generation are going to get to 50 and 60 and go ‘We didn’t make any mistakes’, she is mistaken. “That’s how it goes.”
I am proud that I have got eight children and I didn’t f*** them up too much.
Above: Francis Rossi and, right, his Status Quo bandmate Rick Parfitt