Status Quo. The Quo. Just ‘Quo’. Hated, adored, never ignored… Or is that Manchester Utd? (The single that they released with Status Quo will not be coming anywhere near this Top 10, rest assured…)
Usually with my Top 10s I include any single released, and charted, by an act in the UK. Except, Quo have been around since 1962, charting since 1968. They’ve released a hundred singles over the past fifty-five years! For them, then, I’m only counting singles that made the Top 20.
Where to begin? Maybe some facts and figures. Status Quo have 400 weeks on the singles chart (but only one week at #1!), 500 on the albums, and have played Wembley Arena and on Top of the Pops more than any other act. Speaking of Top of the Pops…
10. ‘Jam Side Down’, reached #17 in 2002
Disclaimer: I’m not really including this as Status Quo’s 10th best single. I include it as I have very clear memories of watching TOTP in a friend’s bedroom – Wiki tells me it was the 16th August 2002 – and sixteen year old me being amazed that Status Quo were still on it. In the Top 20. Look at them! They were old men! The tune is pretty catchy, with that trademark Quo chug, and the lyrics silly enough: My bread keeps landin’ jam side down, Say you’ll be there to spread love around… Also on TOTP that evening were Darius Danesh, the legendary Bowling for Soup and an up and coming act called Coldplay. Wonder what happened to them?
9. ‘Down the Dustpipe’, reached #12 in 1970
Here they are looking a bit fresher-faced. This is perhaps the purest slice of Quo in this countdown. A two-minute blast of raw boogie-woogie, and the first hit to feature their trademark sound… which was still coming through loud and clear on Top of the Pops thirty-two years later!
8. ‘The Anniversary Waltz Part 1’, reached #2 in 1990
Status Quo do Jive Bunny. There are days when I think this might be the best piece of music ever recorded… And then there are days when I see sense. Quo lost their way a bit in the late-eighties, but still kept having those hits. And there is something about them doing a medley of old rock ‘n’ roll covers – ‘Lucille’, ‘No Particular Place to Go’, ‘Great Balls of Fire’ and more – that ticks a box for me. I love all their covers, ‘Mess of Blues’, ‘Somethin’ Bout You Baby I Like’ et al, but couldn’t in good conscience feature any more of them. Just think… This hot mess of a record came dangerously close to being their 2nd ever #1 single!
7. ‘Marguerita Time’, reached #3 in 1984
A complete cheese-fest that only Francis Rossi liked. Apparently it contributed to bassist Alan Lancaster quitting the band the following year! Yes, it is a million miles from the hard-rocking Quo of the seventies. Yes, there is a ropey synth-riff. Yes, it features actual yodelling. But there is not a week goes by when the lyric: Let’s have a drink, It’s Marguerita time… doesn’t pop into my head, usually around 5pm on a Friday.
6. ‘Again and Again’, reached #13 in 1978
Not one of their biggest or better-known hits, but I love the bluesy riff in this one. Plus, the chorus is peak Quo. Chugging guitars… Again Again Again Again Again Again Again Again, Why don’t do you do it, Why don’t you do it again…? Who said they were a limited and repetitive band…?
5. ‘Ice in the Sun’, reached #8 in 1968
Released as The Status Quo, when they were still a very sixties psychedelic rock act, this is the first Quo song I became aware of as a very little lad. It was on a ’60s Best Of’ cassette that had heavy rotation in my parents’ mustard yellow Ford Escort. It’s a very busy song, with lots of effects and, looking back, some fairly trippy lyrics. ‘Pictures of Matchstick Men’ is probably the better-known of their two sixties hits, but I’ve always liked this one more. Two interesting facts: ‘Ice in the Sun’ was co-written by rock ‘n’ roller Marty Wilde, and it was the Quo’s final hit in the USA!
To the Top 4, and it’s the big seventies hits… but in what order?
4. ‘Down Down’, reached #1 in 1975
Their only #1 single, but one of their hardest-rocking records. Is it just me, or is there something almost punk-like in the tight, fizzy, riff? The video above has a funky little outro that the single version don’t. Read my original post on it here.
3. ‘Paper Plane’, reached #8 in 1972
Another tight, thrashy rocker. ‘Paper Plane’ gave the band their first Top 10 since the psychedelic sixties, and it set the template for Quo from now until the end of time. Though they wouldn’t always be as frantic as this… I have no idea what the song is about, but I do like how it evolves from riding a butterfly to riding a paper plane to riding a Deutsche car… Possibly the least hippy-sounding hippy anthem ever.
2. ‘Rockin’ All Over the World’, reached #3 in 1977
There are some who might argue that this marks the beginning of the end of Status Quo – less of the hard-rock and more of the boogie-woogie cover versions that they flogged to death in the ’80s. And they may have a point. (Though to be honest, I’ve loved this song since I was wee, and didn’t discover that it was a John Fogerty cover for several decades.) But when a tune is as jubilant as this, who cares? When a tune is able to open Live Aid – see above – and get everyone jumping from the off, then it must be alright.
1. ‘Caroline’, reached #5 in 1973
You might struggle to think of a Status Quo riff (or you might struggle to distinguish one from the other…) Except this one. I love the way the entire first minute of the record is devoted to the riff building, adding guitars, drums and bass. No nonsense, heads down, rock the flip out. ‘Caroline’ is another favourite from my childhood, and is possibly the main reason that, to this day, I can’t shrug off the grip of three-chord, three minute rock ‘n’ roll. There are times in life when nothing but Status Quo will do, and this is their finest moment.
14 thoughts on “Top 10s – Status Quo”
Interesting choices! I’ve never done a Quo top 10…so here goes:
1. In The Army Now 1986 (sounds nothing like quo’s trademark sound, a rare emotional record)
2. Whatever You Want 1979 (their ultimate riff singalong)
3. Pictures Of Matchstick Men 1967 (hippy dippy trippy fabness)
4. Down Down
5. Rain 1976
6. Mystery Song 1976
7. Paper Plane
9. What You’re Proposing (1980)
10. Roll Over Lay Down (1975)
Nice list… I had Whatever You Want in the Top 10 until the last second, and then felt it had been a little overplayed. Was it Argos or something like that used it in their adverts? Plus there was that horrendous Scooter mash-up…
Pictures of Matchstick Men – I’ve always preferred Ice in the Sun, but it was a toss-up between them. Both are great.
In the Army Now is an interesting choice at #1. It does sound nothing like their usual style, but I can never get into it. I’ll have to give it another go…
Happily I tend to skip adverts and anything Scooter-related so I’ve not had WYW ruined by association 🙂
I find In The Army Now moving – not a word you’d associate with Quo tracks, generally, and it’s very much the anti-war/being sold a false vision lyrics that resonate. Great melody too.
As a Quo nutter myself, I always love seeing people’s different choices of a Top 10. Somebody’s beaten me to it I notice, but my jaw also dropped open a little at the omission of ‘Whatever You Want’, ‘Rain’ and ‘Pictures of Matchstick Men’. It’s arguable whether it could be included, but I would certainly also register a vote for the ‘Aquostic’ version of ‘Burning Bridges’. I always loved the 1988 original, but the folky version is out of this world. Oh, and well done for remembering the game-changing ‘Down the Dustpipe’ too.
Glad to have gotten a jaw-dropping reaction! My Top 10s are very heart-over-head (hence ‘The Anniversary Waltz’ making it in). I had included ‘Whatever You Want’ until the last minute, then cut it as it’s been overplayed. But it’s #11! It was a toss-up between ‘Pictures of Matchstick Men’ and ‘Ice in the Sun’ for the 60s slot, and I’ve always preferred the latter. ‘Rain’ was on the shortlist, too… I love the middle-eight in that one. Let’s say it made #12. And I’ve always found ‘Burning Bridges’ to be a bit… twee? But I’ll check out the Aquostic version again and see.
Another band that just got lost in the shuffle in America. Pictures Of Matchstick Men is the only thing that really hit over here…I really like the ones you posted. I like their version of Rocking all over the World. The one I know best is by the Georgia Satellites…they combine two Fogerty songs together… Almost Saturday Night – Rockin’ All Over The World
I was amazed that their last – of two – US hits was ‘Ice In the Sun’, given how long they have gone for since then. I haven’t heard the Georgia Satellites’ version, but am sure I’d like it… I think it was one of your posts that turned me on to them.
I want to find more Status Quo…most UK people I’ve talked to are tired of them…kinda like the Slade Christmas song…but I’ve never heard them.
They aren’t very ‘cool’, and I don’t think they were cool even back in the 70s, but they kept getting hits… ‘Whatever You Want’, ‘Rain’ and ‘Lies’ are other songs that almost made my list. Then there’s ‘Piledriver’, which is a really heavy, blues-rock album. There’s a lot to discover!
Thanks man…I’ll use some of those as my starting point! To me they just seem like a good no frills rock and roll band.
‘No frills’ is the perfect description!
Interesting factoid about Marguerita Time: Alan Lancaster refused to take part in the promotion for it after recording it. Slade’s Jim Lea mimed the bass part when they did Top of The Pops. (Slade were on the same week to do My Oh My)
Sorry Darren, I’m a little late…according to Francis Rossi, Alan Lancaster loathed Marguerita Time and (perhaps – it’s still much disputed) only played on it on the understanding that it was going to be part of a new project when Quo disbanded and Francis went solo or else as a duo with Bernie Frost as a pop-country act, which he was seriously considering. According to Alan, it was a good song but he always felt it was wrong for Quo. He was on TOTP the first time they promoted it, miming though not very enthusiastically, as this clip shows. But this one gets forgotten about. The one we all remember is the notorious performance, when Alan was presumably back in Australia with his wife and family. Jim Lea was on bass, Rick fell into the drums and they were in cheerful chaos while the backing track played on! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=es5JPtKo6g4
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