small world

Proof positive that the world of rock ‘n roll is indeed a small one was evident in a new documentary film I watched last night about veteran rockers Status Quo.

Either that or my rather sad ability to connect assorted members of the rock fraternity is still in decent shape.

For instance, you wouldn’t have thought that Paul Weller would turn up in an 80-minute trip through the career of the Quo.

Hardly natural musical bedfellows.

But there he was, warmly remembering that the 12-bar boogie merchants were his first proper gig, witnessed from the back row of the Guildford Civic Hall at deafeningly loud volume.

Paul also mentioned that the early steps of his fledgling band the Jam were aided by equipment borrowed from the Quo’s Rick Parfitt, whose dad was a Surrey card school colleague of Paul’s dad, John.

I’d forgotten that the wonderful John Weller, now sadly departed, had told me about this Parfitt connection when interviewed for a radio documentary I made on the Jam.

But that’s showbiz – everyone, whatever their musical prejudices, heading for the toppermost of the poppermost as fast as their legs can carry them and with whatever breaks you can make the most of.

Queen’s Brian May was also in the documentary castlist, sprinkling his considerable stardust on Quo, amid comments on the difficulty of keeping it simple.

Not far behind was Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, whose 1983 US tour I witnessed as a rookie newspaper reporter for the Sheffield evening paper, ‘The Star,’ when the band flew in their parents to see a show at the Forum in Los Angeles.

The second of the two Forum concerts saw the very same Brian May guest on stage with the Leps, an event I managed to miss, but the Elliott/May axis on stage and in music documentaries is a tried and tested one.

Now this is where the connections start to move off into slightly rarified territory.

But that’s what years and years of reading music inkies like the NME, Melody Maker and Sounds and latterly magazines like Mojo and Q has done for me.

In the mid-1980s, by which time Status Quo had shed their original rhythm section, Parfitt and Rossi hooked up with drummer Jeff Rich and bassist John ‘Rhino’ Edwards.

At the time, I was a regular at Judie Tzuke concerts with my dear wife, who was the real fan, and I knew Rich and Edwards as the rhythm team in her then excellent touring band.

Edwards was, if memory serves, responsible for an unfortunate incident in which Tzuke caught a bass guitar full in the face during a particularly energetic stage performance.

But as I watched the Quo doc, it’s Rich whose connections came to mind in alarming detail.

From a previous ‘Classic Albums’ documentary about the making of Def Leppard’s ‘Hysteria’ album, I recalled that Rich had appeared on stage alongside Lep Rick Allen in his first gigs after losing an arm in a road accident.

Allen was then using a new specially-designed electronic drum kit, but wasn’t totally confident in the new technology, so Rich was there to play along and provide the drum sound if the new kit didn’t deliver.

One of these gigs in Ireland was dependent on Rich arriving hot foot from a Status Quo somewhere in Europe.

But, you guessed it, he didn’t make the plane and Def Leppard were faced with ‘either Rick plays alone or the gig gets cancelled.’

As in all the best stories, the gig went ahead, Allen delivered and has played hundreds of Def Leppard gigs since with that pioneering electronic kit.

Finally to bring this post full circle, this past week I actually met Brian May in the flesh.

He gave a lecture at De Montfort University in Leicester about Diableries, a stunning mid-19th century form of 3D photography.

Being a photography lecture and my studying at DMU for an MA in Photographic History and Practice, I didn’t feel it was the right moment to venture down some of the paths with him that I’ve explored in this blog.

But I thought you, dear reader, might enjoy a few links that connect all this together.

Hello Quo – BBC iPlayer


Status Quo – Down Down

Brian May – Diableries: Stereoscopic Adventures In Hell

Diableries: Stereoscopic Adventures In Hell – Amazon orderlink

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