“In games Me + Trev lost to Nig + Pete 11-21, 21-17, 19-21” / “Borrowed Piledriver off Kristina F – Quite smart, gonna tape it” / “Borrowed hi-fi mag off Nig & lent him mine”
On the same day as it is suggested my table tennis prowess is unlikely to improve, my teenage musical tastes take yet another directional jolt.
Status Quo’s “Piledriver” is the only album of theirs I have ever owned. Cynics will doubtless comment that music fans only need one Quo album, the band’s sound somewhat… uhm… ‘similar’ across subsequent releases.
It wasn’t always like that. Formed originally in 1962, The Spectres (as they were first called) evolved into a british freakbeat combo of considerable note. In 1968 they released the psychedelic classic “Pictures of Matchstick Men” which was a huge hit both sides of the Atlantic.
Their late 60’s singles success was never matched by album sales, and they would have to wait until they signed to Vertigo Records (home of THE grooviest label logo ever!) in 1971 before their career took off.
“Piledriver” was released in 1972, introducing a self-produced MUCH heavier sounds which relied on familiar blues and blue boogie rhythms.
The lead-off single from the album was the defining “Paper Plane“, an instant hit of ‘classic’ status, and the first in a staggering unbroken sequence of 33 Quo singles which would enter the UK’s Top 40.
“Oh Baby” builds from a quiet start into 4+ minutes of growling blues boogie, whilst “A Year” proves that the band can mellow down a little bit, even if the melodies are a little too reminiscent of The Beatles.
“Unspoken Words” is a traditional blues lament. It’s considered by many Quo fans as one of their best songs ever, so maybe I am in the minority when I state I find it quite ‘ordinary’?
Side Two’s opener “Big Fat Mama” is – “Paper Plane” notwithstanding – perhaps my favourite cut on the album. It chugs pure and simple. The lyrics are as trite as hell … “Say you need me, say you need me, Tell me that you want my love, Say you will be mine and I am yours” … but when it kicks into the third verse with its breaking riffs I can’t help adopt the traditional pose of air guitarists everywhere!
“All the Reasons” breaks up side two’s apparently relentless party’n’beer atmosphere – it’s an uneventful so-slow so-so ballad – before we properly get back to it with a thundering cover version of “Roadhouse Blues“, a track written by The Doors, and which first appeared on their 1970 “Morrison Hotel” album.
Sure, I’ve dabbled in other Quo albums, but I kinda agree with the cynics that you really only need one… and I think this is the one to have.
Status Quo haven’t really changed their ‘act’ over the years, their sound and denim/waistcoat fashion combo proving strangely timeless. The core duo dynamic of the band – rhythm guitarist Rick Parfitt and lead guitarist Francis Rossi – are still touring, still banging out albums and singles and still rolling about in their rock’n’boogie millions. Parfitt has undergone a quadruple heart by-pass and overcome throat cancer, whilst Rossi has appeared in “hair restoration” commercials, but nothing seems to affect or undermine their huge appeal across Europe, where they still sell out concert halls and stadiums.
I think there is whole hell of a lot of truth in the rumours that Rob Reiner’s heavy metal “mocumentary” “This is Spinal Tap” was based, in part, upon Status Quo. There IS something strangely similar between this and this, plus I’ll bet a few quid on the fact that Quo similarly never had an issue with turning their amps up to 11.