Sunday 21 October 2012

Deeper and down: "Hello Quo!"

Hello Quo!, Alan G. Parker's profile of Status Quo, runs for a shade over two-and-a-half hours, according the denim-clad avatars of dadrock a significance greater than that documentarists have previously assigned to the Khmer Rouge (S21: The Khmer Rouge Death Machine, a mere 101 minutes) or the man who defended Klaus Barbie (Terror's Advocate, closer at 135 mins). In strictly rock 'n' roll terms, Hello Quo! reasons ver Quo are five-eights of a George Harrison (Living in the Material World, 208 minutes long) and around 50% more notable than Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young combined (CSNY: Deja Vu, 96 minutes). 

Eyebrows might, understandably, be raised at this: for the best part of fifty years, this band has projected the image of ordinary blokes playing to an audience chiefly composed of ordinary blokes. True, there have been variations on the basic formula - a formative spell as beat group The Spectres, Rick Parfitt's early years as a Butlins' entertainer, a brief Swinging Sixties flirtation with psychedelia - yet this is a group who openly admit to borrowing their entire sound from The Doors' "Roadhouse Blues", and to wearing ripped jeans because they noticed that's what everyone else was wearing at the time. Even the phasing haziness of Quo's breakthrough single, "Pictures of Matchstick Men", was mostly the work of its producers.

Along the way, there have been no major creative tiffs, no drug-related deaths, and - as much as you and I and Peel and the Cuban Boys might thrill to "Down Down" - no enduring classics, save perhaps the band itself, who've simply got on with it. It has always been the great joy and genius of Quo that they just put their heads down and rock out, and it's telling that Parker's film should foreground Spanish album covers and German TV appearances: this is music that requires no translation whatsoever, and perhaps no analysis with that. 

Angling for that Friday night BBC4 slot, Parker has dutifully secured access to all the principals: cheeky-chappie frontman Francis Rossi, smooth-faced second-in-command Parfitt (close your eyes, and he sounds exactly like Jimmy Greaves), plus original Quosters Alan Lancaster (a cross between Danny La Rue and Les from The League of Gentlemen's Crème Brulee, who somewhat unexpectedly turns out to have been the hardman of the group) and sticksman John Coghlan (still a little miffed at having been dropped along the way, but happy to show up for the reunion).

Between them, there is much talk of "Bob Hope" (dope) and "Niki Lauda" (powder); even the supporting cast of interviewees - Brian May, Jeff Lynne, Jim Davidson, Sir Cliff - speaks to a certain hoariness of thought. (The "modern" "music" "scene" is represented by Paul Weller and Joe Elliott of Def Leppard.) No-one's claiming Quo as groundbreakers, and absolutely nothing can make them hip. Most contemporary muso docs are required by law to include at least one clip drawn from the vaults of The Old Grey Whistle Test; here, instead, we get Parfitt and Rossi being interviewed by Cheryl Baker, and pics of them larking around during a Radio One roadshow with Simon Bates and "Ooh" Gary Davies.

To their eternal credit, the band themselves prove refreshingly candid (and often very funny) in discussing who and what they are; one of the reasons for their longevity would appear to be a lack of ego, vanity or pomposity that is rare among musicians. Parfitt reveals "Rockin' All Over The World", Quo's signature anthem and their most enduring commercial success, was a cover of a John Fogarty track (as Rossi frames it, "Everything I've done is a nick"); Rossi creases up upon a recalling a Two Ronnies skit that featured Ronnie Corbett as "the best-looking Rick I've ever seen".

It is as close as anyone might attempt to definitive, easily the most comprehensive thing you would ever want to see about Quo, extending even to a discussion of the group's on-tour wanking habits that you'll either find excruciating or peculiarly revealing (put simply: the band that pulls together stays together). And yet the heart does sink upon realising there are still 45 minutes to go after "In the Army Now" and the band's mid-80s renaissance: after that point, Quo are just there, going on and on and on, with nothing very much more to be said for them. You could almost file it under Too Much Information: in fact, everything you need to know about Quo can be gleaned from a two-second shot some two minutes and 54 seconds into Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" video (not included in Parker's film), where - amid the Geldof-led chariddy po-facedness - Rossi is caught on camera describing to Parfitt with his hands the precise curvature of Jody Watley's arse.

Hello Quo! screens in cinemas for one night only tomorrow, ahead of its DVD release next Monday.

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