Soundchecks Music Reviews

Very Best of Status Quo

Universal B000006X92

The Very Best Of Status Quo

review by Christopher Geary

It's easy to ridicule Status Quo. Much of their best material amounts to derivative 12-bar blues rock and they have eagerly, successfully, courted pop fans, with numerous chartable hits over the years. From their psychedelic breakthrough with Pictures Of Matchstick Men (1968) to hit single Rockin' All Over the World (an unofficial anthem of the international Live Aid event?), core members Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt overcame initial derision - as Status Quo were dubbed the "poor man's Canned Heat" - and fashioned a phenomenal three-chord act, attired mainly in blue jeans and white t-shirts, followed everywhere throughout the 1970s by a denim-clad 'Quo army' of fervent supporters.

Producing a string of classy albums; most notably Hello (1973), On The Level (1975), and Blue For You (1976), yielding several enduringly popular classics like Paper Plane, Caroline, Down Down, and The Mystery Song - which really ought to have been an instrumental (as with Bowie's Sound And Vision, the lyrics are superfluous); Status Quo finished the decade as one of the most loved British bands - as their frequent live appearances on BBC television's Top Of The Pops flagship music showcase later proved. However, it's impossible to discuss any Quo retrospective without addressing criticism of the group's steady, inexorable decline in the 1980s... although the rot had already begun to set in with If You Can't Stand The Heat (1978).

Cover versions of The Searchers' When You Walk In The Room, Dion's The Wanderer, and Fleetwood Mac's Don't Stop, a limp-wristed (Fun Fun Fun) sing-along with The Beach Boys, and a deplorable duet (All Around My Hat) with Steeleye Span's Maddy Prior, were all bad enough, but then we had to suffer the reprehensible, toe-curling, blatant inanity of Status Quo's medley Anniversary Waltz (surely one of the most inexcusably miscalculated and hellishly embarrassing tracks ever recorded?).

But, wait a minute... Status Quo are the grandmasters of attention-grabbing electric guitar intros. Tightly controlled energy ascends to mind-blowing flashpoint, as razor sharp hooks drag listeners away from reality into the realm of rock, with little hope of escape. Don't take my word for it, though. Just peal off the opening five to 20 seconds of any dozen sample tracks from this two-disc compilation album, line them all up to cycle on repeat, and you get a truly amazing sequence of riffs unmatched by the works of any other band or super-group you'd care to name (including, Rainbow, Queen, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, and even Rush). It hardly matters if the rest of a Quo song is mediocre and unadventurous in terms of prog rock. Once hypnotised by the intro's exhilarating fireworks, it seems irrelevant whether the band's rhythm section, vocals, and melodies prove to be numbingly unoriginal.

This strategy works in Status Quo's favour time after time, so why not forget about the typically unimaginative lyrical content (especially from preposterously witless tracks like In The Army Now), and wallow in those hurriedly exciting seconds of brief overture. Feel the anticipatory sting of Quo's essential magic cutting directly into your nervous system. Rock 'n' roll. Again and again...

Edited by Tony Lee
for PIGASUS Press