363. ‘Down Down’, by Status Quo

Into 1975, then… And with a big ‘hell yes!’, because look. ‘Tis the Quo!

Down Down, by Status Quo (their 1st and only #1)

1 week, from 12th – 19th January 1975

It’s not a very Status Quo-like intro though: it’s light and jangly, almost Baroque, if that isn’t going too far… But then in it comes, the trademark Status Quo chug. They get a bit of stick – most of it completely undeserved – for sticking by this chugging three-chord formula throughout most of their career. But for their one and only UK chart-topper, it had to be there. Get down, Deeper and down, Down down, Deeper and down… That’s the chorus – I’m listening to the lyrics properly for the very first time – I want all the world to see, To see your laughin’, And your laughin’ at me… And that’s the first verse. It’s a tale of a couple trapped in a relationship-gone-very-wrong, and the singer seems hell-bent on mutual destruction. I know what you’re doing, What you’re doing to me, I’ll keep on and say to you, Again, again, again, again…

I suppose you have to get the idea of ‘getting down’ equalling dancing out your heads. That’s why the band didn’t call the song ‘Get Down’ (that and the fact that Gilbert O’Sullivan had had a #1 by that title a couple of years before.) ‘Down Down’, refers to the fact that the couple are dragging one another down into the mire. They really should split up, or at least take a break, but nope. Down they go. It’s a nasty idea for a rock song, backed up by a nasty, tight, gloriously repetitive riff.

Anyway, that was some very in-depth analysis of a Status Quo song. Let’s stop all that, and just enjoy this moment for what it is: one of Britain’s greatest and most successful rock ‘n’ roll band’s solitary week atop the charts. With one of their best singles. One of their heaviest, too. You can split Status Quo’s career into roughly three parts: the psychedelic years of the late sixties, the heavy blues rock of the early seventies, and the glossier, poppier boogie-woogie rock of the late seventies, eighties and beyond. ‘Down Down’ comes at the end of Part II, but it is still one of the heaviest songs to have topped the charts so far.

I love the frenzied fade-out, with the sledgehammer riff boring its way into your eardrums as it goes. (The album version drags it out much longer, with some bass flourishes, for good measure.) And I love Status Quo. I love that they just keep on keeping on, never caring about being cool, just rocking and rolling, rolling and rocking, despite even founder member Rick Parfitt’s death in 2016. They’ve released over one hundred singles, twenty-two of them reaching the Top 10. And they have a new tour just waiting to go, once the pandemic is over. They are legends.

And I wish this wasn’t the only chance I get to write about them. Hell, I’ll do a Status Quo Top 10, soon, just because I can. (They will be involved, uncredited, in one other chart-topper, in the mid-90s, but it is genuinely awful and I can’t bring myself to mention it until I absolutely have to…) I’ve been listening to them since I was a kid, and they are still a go to on the home commute after a hard day. In fact, I might be getting carried away but… I don’t think there’s a more enjoyably unpretentious listening experience to be had than their ‘Anniversary Waltz’ – a ten minute medley of old rock ‘n’ roll covers. Here’s a link… Rock on.

Before we get into 1975, why not listen to (almost) every number one since 1952…

21 thoughts on “363. ‘Down Down’, by Status Quo

  1. I’m with you! Spinal Tap was loosely based on their career path from psychedelic to rock, and they became a critical target from early on for “sounding the same”, and as usual critics miss the point, plus it’s not correct anyway. My fave Quo period is 1968 through 1980, but they still had gems beyond that.

    I defy anyone to listen to Pictures Of Matchstick Men, Rain, Whatever You Want, Mystery Song, Living On An Island, Rock N Roll, In The Army Now (which is brilliant) as proof they didn’t all sound the same at all, though they did have a trademark sound.

    They did have another tenuous chart-topper though, sort of. Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas, Parfitt & Rossi were there along with fellow 70’s acts like Phil Collins, Boomtown Rats, Midge Ure, Kool & The Gang 🙂 Rick & francis were the longest-running in the chorus though, along with one or two from Kool & The Gang. I don’t count the spoken added messages on the 12″!

    • Well, I suppose Band Aid is a better coda to their chart-topping career than that horrible Man Utd song…

      I also think the ‘they all sound the same’ criticism is overblown, but at the same time it’s a wonderful moment in a Quo song when those trademark boogie woogie riffs appear. I’ve been enjoying their (fairly) recent ‘It’s Christmas Time’ in my Xmas playlists, which sounds exactly like a Christmas song written by Status Quo should.

      80s Quo isn’t as ‘good’, no, but I have big soft spots for their rock n roll covers – ‘Mess of Blues’, ‘Something Bout You Baby I Like’ etc… And then there’s ‘Marguerita Time’, another different sounding Quo hit… All good stuff. I really will do a Top 10 soon!

  2. Quo…magic…what’s not to love? They really had it all within this single, and as you say, also in the extended album version. It sounds so utterly simple on first listen, but then you realise they have added in all those little twists, like the stop-starts, a few seconds where it’s just the two guitars, then a little later the rhythm section kicks in again and it all goes VROOM, and so on. And as you say, that short list of some of the other hits is ample proof to anyone with a decent pair of ears that they were anything but samey three chord-merchants, and much more versatile than some of the cloth-headed brigade ever gave them credit for.

    • Yeah, I think they were/are very good at making their music sound simple, which was to their detriment at times. Their early seventies stuff was pretty heavy, but it seems once they went down the boogie woogie / rock n roll covers route in the 80s their reputation was sealed. I like both sides of the coin – there are genuinely times in life when all you want to listen to is Quo covering ‘Rock n Roll Music’, loud…

  3. One of my favourite bands of the early and mid 70s, first saw them in 1973, and probably once a year afterwards for the next few years, dutifully buying -and enjoying – each album on release. Could have called it a day once the eighties kicked in to be fair, nothing much of note been produced since 1979 IMO. And as for the Anniversary Waltz…I mean, could you imagine The Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks, Zep for instance doing something similar? A warm up studio jam that should never have seen the light of day.

      • Last decent Quo album was 1978’s IfYou Can’t Stand The Heat, last decent single was Whatever You Want (1979). IMO.

        As for Lennon, the RnR album was in part a response to the Morris Levy court case. I’ve nothing against covers per se, just that medley grated on me. Pub band standard at best.

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  5. For the longest time the only thing I knew by them was the Matchstick Men song. The more I’ve listened the more I’ve liked…Another band that didn’t hit it too big over here for some dumb reason.

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