“I can’t think of anything worse than trying to be Rick”
Meet Richie Malone, the replacement Parfitt picked himself.
Richie Malone’s story is a tale to warm the heart. A diehard member of the Quo Army since his father took him to a concert on the Under The Influence tour in Belfast, the Irishman befriended his hero Rick Parfitt, who, following a heart attack in July 2016 temporarily brought Malone into the Quo line-up. Then, shortly before Parfitt’s death that same year, Rick effectively chose him as his successor in the band.
“At that very first show there was eye contact between Rick and I, and I really hadn’t expected that,” 33-year-old Malone recalls two decades later. “Dad and I were at the barrier that night, and it’s where I remained till I joined the band.”
One Quo show led to 10 and eventually became around 50, and Malone became a regular among the familiar faces at Quo shows in Ireland and across the UK.
“Each night my right hand would be over the barrier mimicking his style, and Rick would joke: ‘You’re doing it wrong’ or ‘That’s good’, which went on for a few years,” he explains. Following a stage-door conversation at another Quo gig in Dublin, the pair established email contact. “He’d say: ‘Next time you’re coming to a show, let me know,’” he recalls, still incredulous.
After Parfitt’s final cardiac scare, Freddie Edwards, son of bassist ‘Rhino’, was also brought in as a fill-in replacement. Then after Parfitt passed away Malone was given the gig full-time. Since then a solitary moment has caused him to pinch himself and exclaim: “Fuck me, I’m a member of Status Quo!”
“Twenty or thirty shows in, in Switzerland during Roll Over Lay Down I suddenly realised everyone was looking at me, and it hit me like a ton of bricks,” he recalls. “That train of thought can be dangerous, so I try to keep it out of my brain.”
Rossi divides Quo’s followers into two groups – hard-core (those obsessed with the Frantic Four era) and the rest. Once a regular at the message boards where heated debate of their merits continues, Malone manages to remain in both.
“I only go online to check out what names I’m being called,” he says, laughing. “But that negativity can only affect you if you let it. Quo were touring a covers album when I discovered them, so I went backwards to discover the Frantic Four. Those early albums speak for themselves, and I can also pick out the better tracks from Heavy Traffic and Famous In The Last Century. Both eras give me pleasure.”
For the newcomer the prospect of a first album without Parfitt was pretty terrifying, but he wrote one of Backbone’s standout songs, Get Out Of My Head. But Malone doesn’t resemble Parfitt, he certainly doesn’t sing like him and, he insists, Quo don’t pressurize him to try.
“Years ago I had blond hair down past my shoulders, but I can’t think of anything worse than going on stage with that and a white Telecaster,” he says, cringing. “I don’t try to mimic him. Putting myself back into the shoes of that guy on the other side of the barrier, I know that trying to do so just wouldn’t work.”