23
Jan 08

STATUS QUO – “Down Down”

FT + Popular59 comments • 4,826 views

#363, 18th January 1975

There are records which could only have topped the charts in January (a phenomenon I’ve always known as the “Babylon Zoo effect”, though it far predates them). And there are records which are somehow January-ish: “Down Down” is one of them. A bracing, uncomplicated dollop of rock as the decorations go down and the festivants look ruefully at their waistlines. In the Summer this might be stodgy, the sort of number one that squats at the top and muscles brighter hits out the way. At this time of year though its hooky, muscular action is far more palatable.

Quo are an odd band – their reputation (such as it is) rests on the idea that almost all their records, barring the early stuff, sound exactly the same. As a result of this they are both icons and figures of vague fun – the Coronation Street plot from a few years back, where one middle-aged character idolised the band and just missed out on meeting them, couldn’t really have worked with any other group. Quo had the right comedy-drama combination of being a believable band for a bloke that age to admire, without being a respectable one. You could imagine a female character of equivalent age having Barry Manilow at the heart of the storyline, or an older or squarer one admiring Cliff. Which comparisons suggest that emotionally Status Quo are part of a light entertainment tradition as much as a rock n roll one, yet another point in British music where the two intertwine.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    Marcello Carlin on 24 Jan 2008 #

    However, it will be worth the wait to witness the spectacle of a grumpy 45-year-old Lex!

  2. 27
    Billy Smart on 24 Jan 2008 #

    Here’s an odd thing: In music, the slow season is January-March, in film I think that it’s supposed to be September-November, in television its June-August and in theatre its supposed to be Easter to May and August (when everybody’s decamped to Edinburgh). What other ones are there? Does every media have one?

  3. 28
    Marcello Carlin on 24 Jan 2008 #

    With music and publishing both January-March and June-August seem to be the slow periods; I guess they divide up naturally along these lines.

    With film it’s more to do with concentrating on the pre-Christmas (and Christmas) market. Hip hop & R&B oddly enough seem to operate on the same basis; witness all the major name albums which seem to flood out in December.

  4. 29
    crag on 25 Jan 2008 #

    Never had any time for any post “Matchstick Men” Quo for years till John Peel included this in 1999 in the ’75 edition of his brilliant Peelenium feature(i still dream of someone bringing that out as a cd box set someday). Hearing it in that context, complete w/ Peel proudly stating afterwards that he wanted the words “I PLAYED “DOWN DOWN” AT TRIBAL GATHERING” engraved on his tombstone really opened up my ears and helped me realise what a smashing(for some reason the only appropriate adjective when discussing the Quo in this way has to be “smashing”)rock tune this is.
    Everything they churned out after the late 70s was utter guff, mind you.I remember when i was about 13 a friends dad stating confidently that their godawful mid-80’s hit “Burning Bridges(On and Off and On Again etc)would defintely be the Christmas No.1 that year. Since it was only October and it was already mercifully sliding down the charts i ended up having a fiver wager with him on it failing. I never did see the cash though…

  5. 30
    Monitor on 25 Jan 2008 #

    This is a smashing song and something of its inscrutibility is revealed in the way we’ve detected affinities both to punk and prog. No mean feat. The reason we can find both of those movements in this song must lie in the way it manages to combine a propulsive forward momentum with those rhythmic interruptions: not just the slow down and stop shortly after the two-minute mark but also those triplets that take us from the first to the second line of the verse, the simple but crunchily exciting steps up the scale that bridge the second to third, and the false rallantando that propels us into the restatement of the chorus. It both rocks and interrupts.

    For all the talk that the Quo sound the same, their 70s singles are surprisingly varied. While the Quo riff underpins that great string of singles – ‘Paper Plane’, ‘Caroline’, ‘Rockin’ All Over the World’, ‘Whatever You Want’ – they manage to find some new hook that differentiates each from the last. Oddly, they most came adrift when they really tried to stray from the formula, semi-ballads like ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and ‘Living on an Island’ (and the later dirgey and slightly pious ‘In The Army Now’) none of which really work for me. The response to that seems to have been to withdraw into a parody of themselves, and in particular a rather mechanistic process of cover versions that just Quoized a series of rock ‘n’ roll and country classics (‘The Wanderer’, ‘Dear John’, ‘Mess of the Blues’, etc., to which they really add nothing).

    There was also the curious spectacle of them recording with the Beach Boys for the remake of ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’; mind you, the Boys had done ‘Wipeout’ with The Fat Boys not more than ten years before, so their decline in quality control has clearly coincided with Status Quo’s.

    I also remember Francis Rossi talking about how proud he was of his gay son on TV in the 1980s, which has always rather endeared him to me.

  6. 31
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 25 Jan 2008 #

    haven’t checked this: did the fact of a key founder member leaving coincide with decline?

    (my one-time laser-memory for early 70s band-personnel is rubbed down to rub these days — that i can’t even remember who it was? not rossi, but parfitt maybe? who were the others)

  7. 32
    Tom on 25 Jan 2008 #

    In my teens I went on a school trip to see the National Theatre’s production of Henry V, which was a GCSE set text. They ended one of the acts with the various comical groundling characters getting kitted out for war while the staging went all camo-gear (it being a modern dress Shakespeare, naturally). The blaring accompaniment to this was “In The Army Now” and I have to admit it was surprisingly emotionally effective.

  8. 33
    Erithian on 25 Jan 2008 #

    Alan Lancaster (bass) and John Coghlan (drums) were the rest of the essential 70s lineup at least (not sure about the PoMM era), with occasional backup from Andy Bown, who was also the writer and performer of the theme to “Supersonic”!

  9. 34
    Marcello Carlin on 25 Jan 2008 #

    Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan. The departure of Lancaster (1983-4?) was quite an unpleasant affair as I recall, with legal action and so forth. After that they went into the all round family entertainment/Great British Institution spectrum: “Marguerita Time” was the turning point (Lancaster hated this coming out as a Quo record so much that he tried to sue them for putting it out) but it went top three at the beginning of ’84 so that was the end of that, really (Kevin Rowland liked the song so much that he covered it for a Dexy’s B-side). There was a decent Guardian interview with Parfitt and Rossi at the end of last year and they just said that Lancaster wanted to take the group in a rockier, heavier, more macho direction and they weren’t very comfortable with that.

    Meanwhile, Andy Bown, ex-keyboard player behind Peter Frampton in the Herd, is the Quo’s own Ronnie Wood; still “the new boy” despite having served in the ranks for 30-odd years.

    Am I right in thinking that “Dear John” was the last major UK hit single written or co-written by Tony Macaulay?

  10. 35
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 25 Jan 2008 #

    yes i remember it being surprisingly bitter — for such an amiable-seeming outfit

    i guess as so often, the people remaining were right that the splittist had been very wrong, about what quo “really were” etc — but weren’t so good at firing this up after the wrong-un had in fact split

  11. 36
    Mark G on 25 Jan 2008 #

    They reconvened for “Live Aid” but that was the last time.

  12. 37
    crag on 25 Jan 2008 #

    If memory serves, i believe Alan Lancaster’s response on first hearing the demo of “Marguerita Time” was the immortal words “How am I supposed to play THAT in front of my family? I’m A Rocker!”

  13. 38
    crag on 25 Jan 2008 #

    Just remembered another amusing Quo anecdote i heard once (yes, ANOTHER one). An acquaintance told me a few years how back in the 80’s his best friends mum went out with Francis Rossi. Over a few months the relationship blossomed, despite Rossi’s ocassional protacted absences for tours, studio dates etc until one thursday night Rossi and his new ‘family’ were happily sitting watching a special live edition of Top of the Pops when a deeply uncomfortable silence descended on the room following DLT or whoever announcing next up performing live on the show were none other than…Status Quo! It turned out that Mum’s beau was in fact merely some wideboy who wormed his way into gullible women’s affections by claiming to be International Rock Star Francis Rossi. I dont think the relationship lasted much longer after that..

  14. 39
    Waldo on 26 Jan 2008 #

    I remember a few years ago some sad little man ingratiated himself into the affections of a pub someplace by tragically pretending to be sixties warbler and Stevie Winwood doppelganger Dave Berry. He too was easily unmasked and kicked safely into touch. I guess that this is just an extension of young lads in pubs or clubs trying to convince girls that they are record producers or airline pilots whilst on the pull. I never used either of those but I do recall in about 1981 being in a wine bar in South Ken (wine bars were de rigour back then) and ludicrously telling an impossible target, a beautiful young Annabelle, that I was a tennis coach. She looked at me for a few seconds, grasping a bottle of “Blue Nun” (me not her), and burst into peels of laughter (“filled to the brim with girlish glee”). The incident was not without humiliation for me but it was entirely deserved.

    By a strange coincidence, John Sullivan later incorporated a very similar scenario into an episode of “Only Fools”. Del and Rodney were in a wine bar chatting up two “sorts” and Del was trying to convice them that Rodders was a tennis player and he, Del, was his manager.

    Del: “No, Rodney’s a top player. He’s just beaten that Jimmy Connolly!”

    Girl (Laughing out loud): “Don’t you mean Jimmy Connors?!”

    Del: “Oh, naw! He knocked that numpty out in the first round!”

    Incredibly, there ARE guys like this.

  15. 40
    crag on 26 Jan 2008 #

    Re:The fake Dave Berry-All i can say is it must have been quite a few years ago indeed- Sorry but I cant imagine many people in the last 20 years even remembering Dave Berry, let alone being impressed by his presence in their local. If DB really did look like a “Stevie Winwood doppelganger” (I’ll be honest i wouldn’t know – I wouldn’t recognise him from Adam)then why did fake Dave not just regail the regulars with exciting anecdotes about hanging out w/ his mates Eric and Ginger whilst touring with Blind Faith or give it some “actually, theres a really funny story about how i came up with the idea for ‘Back in the High Life'” style chat instead? Seems a much simpler way to have got free pints…

  16. 41
    Waldo on 27 Jan 2008 #

    I became aware of the fake Dave Berry about ten years ago. I think it was the diary section of the London Evening Standard. The story referred to an incident some years before that but not that long. The entralled regulars were a group of old lags, who were, despite Crag’s doubts, suitably impressed by the arrival of “Dave” in their provincial drinker. These barfies (who were only hoodwinked temporarily) were probably very tragic indeed, bearded, real ale, pub quiz, Lib Dem sorts, the kind of no-lifers who would spend their time on a computer discussing number ones from days long past, in fact.

    I had a couple of blokes out of The Overlanders in my local the other day. And Julie Driscoll…

  17. 42
    Waldo on 27 Jan 2008 #

    Oh, and to answer Crag’s specific question, Fake Dave clearly felt that putting himself across as Stevie Winwood was a little bit much, as he was/is much more celebrated than Berry ever was and would thus be unmasked in a jiffy whilst bullshiting about Eric and Ginger. Either that or perhaps, considering the eye of the beholder (Fake Dave’s eye), Berry doesn’t look like Winwood at all.

    Or perhaps it WAS Berry in the pub!

  18. 43
    crag on 28 Jan 2008 #

    Maybe somewhere there was a Fake Stevie who was eventually revealed to be the real Dave Berry, desperately posing as Winwood in a sad attempt to reclaim the adulation and kudos from his fellow pubgoers he had been so accustomed to before Fake Dave’s earlier antics had soiled his name and reputation!
    Anyway, all this Fake Davecentric chat seems to have scared everyone else off so to return to the (almost) real world and the matter at hand i’ll say i’ll give “Down Down” a 7.

  19. 44
    Marcello Carlin on 28 Jan 2008 #

    Keith Tippett will be wanting a word with you out the back, mate…

    Self-correction: Billy Fury’s number two hit was “Jealousy” not “Jezebel.”

  20. 45
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 28 Jan 2008 #

    my extensive weekend research (= playing “rocking all over the years: 22 tracks inc.all their top ten hits” more times then my neighbours will quickly forgive me for) leads me to declare that their rep for saminess is undeserved and their 80s decline is overstated

    however my theory that they are “our” television really really won’t fly — *lightbulb* perhaps they are “our” mission of burma!!? *hurries back to turntable*

  21. 46
    Marcello Carlin on 28 Jan 2008 #

    I still think that basically they are “our” ZZ Top, and the temporal coincidence of “Gimme All Your Lovin'” and “Marguerita Time” not actually a coincidence.

  22. 47
    Waldo on 28 Jan 2008 #

    Marcello #44 – I have nothing to worry about, buddy. It was Fake Julie.

    I always felt that Francis Rossi was a ringer for Alan Pascoe. And let me tell you that whereas Fake Francis could probably have got away with playing with The Quo (it’s not as if you have to be a musician or anything), Fake Alan would have been truly cattled when attempting to negotiate the 400 metres hurdles.

  23. 48
    Mark G on 28 Jan 2008 #

    Wasn’t it the real APascoe who attempted a lap of honour by going the wrong way round the track, jumped one hurdle and went flying arseover?

  24. 49
    Waldo on 28 Jan 2008 #

    You’re quite right. Pascoe in fact fell over twice. The third hurdle he simply pushed over before commencing his honour lap.

    Just a minute…perhaps that was Rossi!

  25. 50
    Waldo on 28 Jan 2008 #

    Actually, my brother, who’s visiting me, has just convinced me that Alan Pascoe crashed onto his bottom no less than THREE times before deciding that jumping hurdles from behind was unwise.

    It MUST have been Rossi!

  26. 51
    intothefireuk on 22 Mar 2008 #

    My first bought Quo record was ‘Rain’ in 1976. Typical of their mid 70s output it motored along with the Quo boogie propelling it to its conclusion. No stop starts or slow build ups here (they seem to swap between the two styles). ‘Down Down’ though is ultimate Quo. It’s magic didn’t diminish in the disco era either when as part of my mates mobile disco it would regularly bring out the headbanging fraternity at any event. Ideal air guitar fodder as well. One musn’t forget either that one Chris Tarrant regularly lauded them (and featured them) throughout Tiswas’ run. This can only have enhanced their popularity and reputation as a Great British Instituion and good-time band. Unfortunately as has already been stated the 80s weren’t particularly kind to them but there is no doubt in my mind they were one of the great guitar bands of the 70s (and yes ZZ Top were the US equivalent).

  27. 52
    punctum on 1 Jan 2012 #

    TPL: an unexpectedly compassionate parent album.

  28. 53
    Cumbrian on 31 Mar 2014 #

    MichaelH goes to the Quo. And takes Lino with him by the looks of things.

    http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2014/mar/31/status-quo-britains-most-underrated-rock-band

    The live version of Down Down in this article is superb. The weight of the bass when it kicks in and the groove/boogie really kicks in – just classic. A little Quo goes a long way, in my experience, but after this article, I’d be willing to go back and listen some more – probably starting with the albums that have been featured on TPL, unless anyone has better ideas.

  29. 54
    hectorthebat on 8 Jul 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    John Peel (UK) – Peelenium: Four Tracks from Each Year of the Last Century (1999)
    Q (UK) – The 1010 Songs You Must Own (2004)
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Hervé Bourhis (France) – Le Petit Livre Rock: The Juke Box Singles 1950-2009

  30. 55
    Lazarus on 8 Jul 2014 #

    I’d forgotten all about the Peelennium (sp?) – I wonder if it’s possible to listen to that anywhere now, 15 years on – but it doesn’t surprise me that old Peely had a soft spot for the Quo. He and they must have started out around the same time, and probably crossed paths a few times as well.

  31. 56
    Paulito on 24 Dec 2016 #

    Sadly, it seems the Celebrity Reaper hasn’t put away his scythe for Christmas. RIP, Rick Parfitt.

  32. 57
    Paulito on 24 Dec 2016 #

    (Cue the “down, down, deeper and down” funeral jokes.)

  33. 58
    AMZ1981 on 24 Dec 2016 #

    RIP Rick Parfitt. It’s only when something like this happens that you realise just how many Status Quo songs there are that you like. Of course, what set them apart from other bands was how they just kept going but even then we didn’t realise just what an achievement that was.

    I’m not sure how the list has reshaped post download era but as of the early 2000s only two bands (the Beatles and Queen) spent more time in the singles charts.

  34. 59
    Erithian on 26 Dec 2016 #

    Somebody (it might even have been Marcello of this parish) was saying just the other week that all of the cast of the original Band Aid were still with us. Now we lose the first of them on Christmas Eve and the second on Christmas Day. RIP and thanks for the memories Rick. Can still remember the lingering backache after that night at the Manchester Apollo.

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