The joy of being a fan
Can you remember which band or singer you first fell in love with? And how that made you feel? My current musical taste is vast, varied and international. But my first teenage love for Status Quo still moves me the most particularly when I find life hard. And last Monday I re-experienced that teenage intensity all over again, and it was amazing and uplifting,
2012 has been yet another tough year for me both professionally and personally. Its been hard to stay positive and much of the time I haven’t. And then last Thursday I won two tickets to the only UK cinema screening of Hello Quo, a rock-documentary to celebrate the 50 year career of the Quo. Was this a sign of hope?
Status Quo – my journey with their music
I fell in love with Quo in 1974 when Down Down entered the charts. We didn’t have a telly, so the Radio One Top Twenty chart show on Sunday night was my Top of the Pops experience. As soon as I heard that sound I just had to dance joyfully around my living room. And nearly 40 years later, I’ve been hearing founder member Francis Rossi saying in interviews this week that he and the the band have to engage with their music physically to really enjoy it. Which is exactly what I did when I first heard it.
The first album I bought was On the Level and that sealed my love for the band. None of my friends were Quo fans but I didn’t care. I was very amused when my best friend said she didn’t like them looking at her. She was referring to the large poster on my bedroom wall where we were getting ready for the youth club disco. And I was too excited about seeing them live at Lewisham Odeon in 1977 to care that I was going to my first gig alone.
As I don’t know any other Quo fans, my love for the band and their music became a guilty pleasure particularly by the 80s when they were very uncool.
And when they split up in 1984 they broke my heart. And their final gig was not at Selhurst Park in South London as originally planned but in Milton Keynes! That was wrong for me because myself and three of the band members, Francis, Alan and John had all grown up within a mile of each other. The whole South London thing really mattered to me back then. So I missed that final gig. And when they reformed later I wasn’t delighted. I felt cheated, like a jilted lover who was supposed to take them back. But they were different with new members and newish sound. Was this Quo any more? And when my hero, Francis Rossi turned out to be coke-fiend my love for the band hit a rock bottom.
Fast forward to 2002, when I discovered their Heavy Traffic album and my love for the band, the new line-up and all things Quo returned. And thanks to the internet, I’ve caught up with their music and their stories.
And my love for Quo is no longer a guilty pleasure. And I’m rather proud they’ve stayed the course and I re-discovered them. I have pondered just why I love them so much. Is it that shuffle sound, that Francis says is in Italian music and can be found in other folk music such as Bhangra, (my Punjabi roots)? Is it their lack of pretension which I also like? The South London boys schtick? Most of all, the music makes me happy and you can’t beat a good boogie to cheer you up.
So when I won those two tickets to the premiere I was very excited, and even more when a dear friend, not fan but of the same age as me, said she’d come with me.
Hello Quo the film Premiere
The ticket said arrivals at 6pm for a 7pm start, so I arrived in Leicester Square at 5.30pm to capture the build up. A handful of fans were already standing at the crash barriers but the red carpet was still rolled up in polythene! It didn’t feel very buzzy.
It was still quiet at 6pm when my friend joined me. And then I spotted the original drummer, John Coghlan and his wife, quietly standing amongst us all. It only took a few minutes before he was spotted by other fans who warmly greeted him like an old friend, asking for photos and autographs.
I’d hoped to get some lovely pictures of the fans that night because their loyalty is part of what makes seeing Quo live so special. But when I saw an empty spot by the official snappers, I thought I’d try for some red carpet shots of the band too. Silly me. Their powerful flashes totally dominated my little digital camera. So I’ve gone for the impressionistic approach, “blinded by the light.” I had more fun and success capturing the fans from the red carpet point of view later.
Inside the cinema, the auditorium also took me back to my youth as we climbed some stairs, entering into the middle. As competition winners we had seats in the rear upper section whilst the invited guests and the band were in the front half. We sat 3 rows back from our front row perfectly placed to watch the other arrivals.
I knew the film was going to be very long at 150 mins and that the current line-up of the band were attending a Q&A afterwards. But would they really sit through the whole film first? I was sure that Francis and Rick would have seen it already. Yes they all did! They entered up into the auditorium via the same the same middle steps as we had, pausing to chat to fans and sign autographs in front of us. My friend was impressed by how friendly they were and I was pleased she was.
The very first image of Quo in the film was that On the Level album cover. Seeing it again instantly took me back to 1975 when I had bought it. And then there was Alan Lancaster being interviewed and John Coghlan who, as ex-members we hadn’t seen for years. It was like seeing long lost friends again. And sharing the laughter with fellow fans and the band was a magical experience.
I’m not going to review the film which charts all their musical achievements over 50 years but I really enjoyed it. For me the most surprising moment was nothing to do with the split back in the 80s, but it was Rick explaining the lengths they went to to cultivate the scruffy denim look by buying other people’s old clothes. I’d assumed it had happened because those were the clothes they normally wore. I was a teeny bit disappointed.
I knew the film would end with an informal jam session of the original four band members, Francis, Rick, Alan and John. I’d been half dreading that in case it was an embarrassing anti-climax. But instead it was a joyous, tender moment which moved me to shed a few tears.
The Q&A was disappointing. The chair, Paul Gambaccini, wasn’t really with us. His mind was racing to get home and watch the Mr Vile story on Panorama. So the less said about that the better. As a photographer, I did notice how amazing iphones are now. The guys in front of me, who were still miles away from the stage, got some great pictures. My poor effort is simply to tell the story of that night. Sigh.
I’ve never felt comfortable asking for autographs or speaking to people I admire. But afterwards, as I was passing through the nearly empty auditorium for the ladies, I saw John Coghlan and his wife again and I found myself going over to speak to him to share the joy of that evening. And I’m very glad I did as I was warmly greeted too. Then minutes later, as my friend and I were finally leaving, I saw the current drummer, Matt was talking to him in the foyer. I thought about taking their photo but it looked like a special private moment. And that was another reason the event was special, the genuine friendly mingling of the band, other key people in their story and the fans. We were all one.
I was buzzing on the bus home with two parallel thoughts; I’d re-met my teenage self and that life is short. I was motivated by re-experiencing that powerful, youthful energy and by seeing these men resolve their differences to enjoy the rest of their lives. Could I do that to? In moments of teenage angst, I’d turned to the Quo and now here they were again, at another difficult time my life bring some joy.
So, at the risk of sounding like Carrie Bradshaw, remembering those youthful passions can be a motivating force when life gets tough. And if nothing else, its fun.
I hope you enjoy the photos in the next gallery.
And a huge thanks to Alan G Parker, Alexa Morris and all who worked on Hello Quo. And of course to all of Quo for being Quo. And to us, the fans for keeping them going.Advertisements