July the 4th – American Independence Day – and the date on which I first saw my then-favourite rock band Status Quo live in concert.
The year was 1984, and although it wasn’t my first gig (Saxon in 1982 had that particular honour, and I had also seen Gillan, Thin Lizzy and Y&T since them) Quo’s gig at the Showering Pavillion in Shepton Mallet was the biggest venue so far.
Billed as the “End Of The Road”, the band’s sixty-nine date 1984 tour was advertised as their last, with only recording supposed to happen following the tour’s end. It was as far as I was concerned at the time, therefore, to be the first and last time I would get to witness the band live.
History shows that once the 1984 line-up of guitarist / vocalist Francis Rossi, guitarist / vocalist Rick Parfitt, bassist / vocalist Alan Lancaster, keyboardist Andrew Bown and drummer Pete Kircher had effectively disbanded once the tour (and 1985’s brief Live Aid appearance) was over Quo would regroup with a different line-up, notably without the participation of Lancaster who Rossi felt unable to work with anymore.
Continuing a trend set on their 1979, 1981 and 1982 tours, there was no support band on this trek – which was something of a surprise to me as all previous concerts I had attended had support acts – as have the vast majority since.
Not sure how I got to Shepton Mallet from my Bristol home and back again – but suspect it was the taxi of Mum and Dad that was good enough to help me out – and I think I may well have gone with a mate from school, but again the detail is somewhat lost in the mists of time.
What I am sure about, though, is the excitement of seeing the Quo in the flesh for the first time, the house lights going down and Parfitt ripping into the opening of “Caroline”.
I had no inkling of the tensions and strife within the band, or the substance abuse that has subsequently been revealed. It didn’t show once the band were on stage. This may not have been the “frantic four” or in truth been as good technically as the later “Quo lite” band of the late 80s, but they were loud, and they were heavy too – no “Marguerita Time” in the set in those days!
One of my personal favourites – “Don’t Drive My Car” was excellent, the original medley (known as the “Milton Keynes Medley” once a recording of it taken from the final gig of the tour was subsequently released as B-side to 1986’s “Red Sky” 12″ single) was fabulous, the always welcome “Roadhouse Blues” and the full-length “Bye Bye Johnny” as encore closer – I do wish that was still the case instead of the snippet the band plays these days.
Best of all, though, was “Forty-Five Hundred Times” which lasted around seventeen minutes. An endurance test for the casual fan of the band maybe, but absolutely glorious to me!
Simply a fantastic gig from a fantastic band (and, as it turned out, only the first of many through the years)…
1. Caroline / 2. Paper Plane / 3. Roll Over Lay Down / 4. Backwater / 5. Just Take Me / 6. Little Lady / 7. Don’t Drive My Car / 8. Whatever You Want / 9. Medley: a. Mystery Song / b. Railroad / c. Most Of The Time / d. Wild Side Of Life / e. Again And Again / f. Slow Train / 10. Hold You Back / 11. Rockin’ All Over The World / 12. Over The Edge / 13. Dirty Water / 14. Forty Five Hundred Times / 15. Big Fat Mama / 16. Don’t Waste My Time / 17. Roadhouse Blues / 18. What You’re Proposing / 19. Rain / 20. Down Down / 21. Bye Bye Johnny
1, 3 and 14 originally from “Hello!” (1973) / 2, 15, 16 and 17 originally from “Piledriver” (1972) / 4, 5 and 9f originally from “Quo” (1974) / 7, 12 and 18 originally from “Just Supposin’…” (1980) / 8 originally from “Whatever You Want” (1979) / 9a and 19 originally from “Blue For You” (1976) / 9b originally from “Dog Of Two Head” (1971) / 9c, 20 and 21 originally from “On The Level” (1975) / 9d originally a single release (1976) / 9e originally from “If You Can’t Stand The Heat…” (1978) / 10, 11 and 13 originally from “Rockin’ All Over The World” (1977)