I did warn you this wouldn’t be an entirely fashionable list of bands. I’ve probably lost myself a large portion of my potential readers by starting at the start, but never mind.
The thing is, it’s impossible to get across how actually really very cool I was the next day at school for having been to see a real life Status Quo concert as a 6 year old in 1988. Admittedly, what is significantly less admirable is my inability to stop going to see real life Status Quo concerts for the next 28 years, and you should prepare yourself – if you intend on tagging along for the ride – to see them mentioned… [checks spreadsheet]… 21 more times!
You see, while your parents may have occasionally plonked toddler you down in front of an episode of Postman Pat or Thomas the Tank Engine when they needed a glass of wine/brief respite from the torture of trying to keep you alive, my favourite visual babysitters were our VHS recordings of Live Aid and Quo’s ‘End of the Road’ concert from 1984. I’d become utterly hooked on the band as early as the age of two, as a result of listening to my dad’s Quo albums, and it resulted in me watching the two videos over and over, often tunelessly playing along with the band on a tennis racket or, eventually, a toy guitar.
I’m not sure I was ever really aware that the band had ‘split up’ after Live Aid, but I do remember them returning in 1986 with new members, and the In The Army Now album (it hasn’t aged well) becoming the first record I ever owned. I knew that my dad had seen the band live – he had a t-shirt and programme from the ‘End of the Road’ and ‘1+9+8+2’ tours – and there were whispers that if we got the chance we would try to catch the reformed band in action. But it was made clear that I shouldn’t get my hopes up, because they would never come to Torbay. That is, until the day they DID come to Torbay!
Yes, in the summer of 1988 it was announced that Status Quo would be playing at Torbay Leisure Centre, and so Dad and I got in the queue for tickets the morning they went on sale. It’s hard to imagine now how exciting it must have been for 6 year old me to be going to see my heroes just walking distance from my house, or how cool it must have been for my Dad to take his son to see one of his favourite bands.
As a side note: by the time my (as yet hypothetical) children are 6 years and 10 months old (the internationally recognised minimum gig-going age), I’ll be at least 44, and my favourite bands will be getting (even) long(er) in the tooth. What if my son doesn’t like Muse or the Wildhearts!? What if he does like Drake or Ed Sheeran? These are terrifying thoughts!
Dad paid the £10 each for three tickets – mum was coming along too – and I remember my Dad’s disappointment and amazement that the 200 seating tickets had sold out before we got there. Clearly knowing he would have to spend the night with his son on his shoulders wasn’t his idea of a festive good time.
Incidentally: £10!?! A quick Google tells me that’s the equivalent of £26.04 in today’s money, and it sure as hell doesn’t cost £26.04 to go to see arena shows these days, even in Devon. The ever increasing cost of going to see live music is a whole other issue – and it’ll come up again in this blog no doubt – but remembering that the first show I ever saw cost just £10 is a depressing indictment of where we are in 2018.
I recall the build-up to that first show involving absurd levels of excitement, and I’m sure I drove my parents insane in the weeks before the concert. I even wrote to the band (Status Quo, c/o Torbay Leisure Centre – the 1988 version of a tweet) to tell them I was coming, and to ask them to play Burning Bridges, which they did! Possibly they did so because it was their new single, but you can’t prove it wasn’t down to me!
I wish I could remember more of the gig itself, but I was 6, and so my actual recollections can be listed quickly as:
- The queue was COLLOSAL! Around the car park and half way up Penwill Way (which, as those of you Torbay enough to know it will agree, is a ridiculously steep road on which to queue).
- I was allowed a programme, poster and t-shirt to mark the occasion. There were no children’s sizes, so I was bought a ‘small’, which drowned me, and gave Dad the perfect excuse to never buy another one for me at any future gigs! The t-shirt had the album cover on the front (“Ain’t Complainin'” – it really hasn’t aged well), and had the tour dates on the back. Decades later, those tour dates were the reason I was so clearly able to remember that it was December 14th when I first went a-rocking.
- We stood near the back, I had headphones on, and I spent almost the entire show on Dad’s shoulders. This would be the last time I would wear ear protection at any gig, including my own, and that is something I’m pretty sure I’m going to live to regret.
- The support act were really, really heavy, and my Dad did not approve. Despite this early setback, I always try to catch support acts if at all possible, and have discovered some of my favourite acts when they were opening up.
- Perhaps unsurprisingly, I fell asleep before the end of the gig! This is a big reason why my parents had wanted seated tickets, but no, I didn’t last the whole show and had to be carried home before the encore. This would mark the first of only 3 occasions that I’ve left a gig before the end.
And just like that, it was over! I truly was the centre of attention the next day at school, hitting a level of fame only previously attained by smashing my face open in the playground and having stitches in my forehead. It wouldn’t last of course, and it certainly wasn’t helped by still being into Status Quo 3 years later, but that’s for next time.
- Little Lady was wasted on 6 year old me as the second song I ever heard live. It’s one of my all time favourite tracks now, but I doubt I’d ever heard it before this show. Shame, because apart from being absolutely awesome, Quo really nailed it around this time. Then-drummer Jeff Rich’s style of playing everything as fast as possible and hitting every drum like he was trying to make it explode wasn’t for everyone (or every song), but it was perfect for Little Lady, which races along so much that I once heard it was actually sped up on the original recording.
- The 20 minute Roadhouse Medley is definitely what put me to sleep.
That’s it for gig one.
Were you there? (If anyone reading this was at this gig and isn’t also my parent I will be very impressed!).
What are your memories of your first gig?
Leave me a comment to let me know I’m not just talking to myself.
See you next time for, um, Status Quo at Torbay Leisure Centre. It’ll get more varied, I promise.