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The band Status Quo is playing on stage to a full crow.

Tunes & Chat with Francis Rossi

Francis Rossi – rocker and author – is coming to The Varieties. The man responsible for some of the greatest rock songs of all time will speak candidly about his life, plus play the songs that people love. We caught up with Francis to ask a few questions.

Written by Guest Author

Francis Rossi, founding member and leader of Status Quo, has literally been rockin’ all over the world since the 1960s.

The hits are the stuff of legend. From Down Down and Rockin’ All Over The World, to Whatever You Want and In The Army Now, his band has sold a reported 100 million records since their debut in 1968. As well as opening Live Aid at Wembley Stadium, winning a BRIT Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music, and being awarded an OBE in the 2010 New Year Honours for services to music and charity.

Francis also has a new book out, which focuses on the hits that the public loves. Songbook is his ode to a remarkable career, in which he’s never stopped writing classic songs.

Francis Rossi smiling, wearing a waistcoat with an acoustic guitar

Francis Rossi

The Tour

The tour will give fans the chance to enjoy an evening of music, along with his trademark chat, as he explores the high points of an incredible career.

I’m calling it Tunes and Chat,” says Rossi. “I’ll have another acoustic guitarist with me, and we’ll be playing songs that people love, explaining how they came about. What? You want me to tell you how many songs. Fine. We’ll be doing about twenty songs, so it’ll be a really good show with plenty of hits and some deeper cuts that don’t often get played.

The tour promises to be a unique experience in which Francis will reprise fan favourites as the audience enjoys acoustic versions of Quo classics, alongside previously not-performed-live tunes.

He’s played in theatres in recent years, on a hugely successful spoken word tour called: I Talk Too Much. That focused on his life and times, from watching his ice-cream-selling family as a kid to learning how to play music, from blowing a seven-figure sum on drink and drugs to the passing of his former bandmate, Rick Parfitt. His new tour, in contrast, will focus on the music, as fans get to hear the songs they love – as well as the stories behind them.

Rockin’ All Over The World, for instance, came about when Rick was going down the A3 one night, drunk. Francis says, “Rick used to pick people up on the A3, people thumbing a lift, there was a lot of that then.

The radio came on and Rockin’ All Over The World was playing. At the time, none of us were that keen about it, you know. We thought the song was alright, but we didn’t know what it would become.

We got more slagged off for that record than anything we’d done in our lives, until In The Army and Marguerita Time. I still find it weird today that people go ‘And I like it, and I like it…’ And they think it’s rock. No, it’s not. It’s a pop song. We do these big festivals, like Wacken, in Europe, which is like two million bikers – it’s not two million, it’s probably 100,000 – but it feels B.I.G. They’re the most delightful people. There’s something similar in Sweden too. Everyone’s got black everything: black hair, black tattoos, black clothes, and black leather. All these people come down the front to the pit when we do Rockin’. I don’t know what to make of it: it sounds like Singing In The Rain and all these rockers think it’s a rock anthem. I don’t understand. I’m delighted it was such a big hit for us, but I think we’ve done far better songs.

Francis Rossi is on stage behind a microphone. His arms stretched toward the crowd and a guitar hangs from his neck. There are red and yellow images behind him on screens.

Francis Rossi in concert.


Songbook is a fascinating book, and tour, for fans who want to know more about their favourites.

What You’re Proposing, for instance, came about when Rossi was propositioned. “I said to Bernard: ‘We can’t say that.’ I told him what – or rather who – it was about. I said:We can’t say that. People will realise who it’s about.’ I thought people would suss it. It was really quick, a really, really quick song. It’s very, very simple. I thought people would know who it was about, but they didn’t. There was a fear that it would expose itself – or her.

And then there was Marguerita Time, a song about the mother of his daughter, Bernadette, at a time when Rossi was heavily into drink and drugs. “I wrote it on piano. It came together easily. Even now if I hear the intro of Marguerita, it just sounds so happy. There’s was a girl in the video to that song and she was so happy. It was around the time that Liz and I were supposed to see the Everly Brothers and we didn’t go. She got pregnant that night and that’s what I now tell my daughter: ‘If we’d gone to see the Everly Brothers you wouldn’t be here.’ Lost in a fantasy. I was. I’d go to Ireland for a few weeks and just stay with Elizabeth. I couldn’t get anything for the last verse. Forget it. Let’s have a drink. I think I was getting through a lot of drink and a lot of cocaine.

The band Status Quo is playing on stage to a full crowd.

Status Quo performing at a concert. Credit Christie Goodwin.

As well as touring Songbook, Rossi has also recorded a CD EP, featuring acoustic versions of classic tracks: Jack To A King, Spinning Wheel Blues, (April) Spring, Summer And Wednesdays, plus And It’s Better Now.

You know what,” he says, leaning forward. “I really love this. I’m finally getting to do what I’ve always wanted to do, which is just play, simply, without the volume turned up to number 11. It’s taken me all of my career to strip it back and get really simple. I’m letting the songs do the talking.” Or, rather, he’s letting the Songbook do just that.