We’ve reached the final show of what might be considered ‘Phase 2’ of my existence on this earth: the Evesham years. In the summer of 2001 I was all set for a new life at university and, after a year of stacking shelves with fruit and veg, I could not wait.
Hard as it may have been for anything to raise my excitement levels, the news that Status Quo were paying a big outdoor gig just up the road at Warwick Castle certainly came close. I hadn’t expected to see them again so soon, and with the uncertainty of how often I would get to see them while at uni, it was a welcome surprise.
Two things about this show were strange. Firstly, it was part of the inaugural “Route of Kings” tour, which up until that summer had been a series of summer shows held in London’s Hyde Park, and were presumably named after “Rotton Row”, which runs through the park and is a corruption of ‘Route du Roi” (‘Route of Kings’ or ‘Kings Road’ in French, you’re welcome for the education).
That made some sense, but in 2001 it had been extended to a mini tour of regal (or regal-sounding) locations around the UK. Quo’s route went from Liverpool Kings Dock, to Edinburgh Castle, then down to Warwick Castle before finishing at the original venue in Hyde Park.
Calling it the ‘Route of Kings’ tour makes it sound like kings (plural) often made that very trek, and maybe they did, but I can’t imagine why. It’s like something from Game of Thrones: the king and all his court nipping up to Deepwood Motte, then onwards north of the wall, then back to Kings Landing via Highgarden, but I don’t think that’s what they were getting at somehow. (For the uninitiated among you, in HBO’s Game of Thrones… actually, you know what, you should just be watching Game of Thrones. Come back when you’re up to speed).
The gig being at Warwick Castle was a nice touch, because it fit with the royal theme, but as is often the case with venues like this, the show was actually in a bit of the grounds where you couldn’t even see the actual castle. I remember thinking it might as well have been in a field on the edge of town, where at least the parking would have been easier.
The other bizarre thing about this gig, was that it was advertised as ‘Status Quo & The Beach Boys’! This raised many questions and concerns, mainly because the two bands had collaborated in 1996 on Quo’s Don’t Stop album, for a new version of the Beach Boys’ classic ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ (I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how well that has aged). Were they going to be performing together, covering each other’s tracks on this tour? Would they do separate sets then reconvene for a big finale of ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’? I didn’t really need either of those things in my life to be honest. But I did want to see Status Quo again, so regardless of what bizarre arrangement they might concoct, I bought tickets for me and my parents the very second they went on sale.
To my extreme surprise and excitement, this resulted in me getting ROW A SEATS 1-3, which was completely unheard of and blew my mind for two reasons. Firstly, because for Quo’s annual winter tour, tickets always went on sale initially to fan club members, who therefore owned the front few rows each year, and it was a major bone of contention each time the tour dates came out if anyone in the club was unable to secure seats less than 10ft from the band.
I had only bothered with the fan club for one short year, as there really wasn’t much else other than the early ticket access to justify the cost, so I never expected to get such great seats for their shows. Of course, being a co-headlined tour, they couldn’t exactly give priority to either set of fans, so it was a free-for-all, and I had come up trumps.
The second reason this was super exciting, was that my seats were ‘Rick side’, there being three distinct areas at the front of a Status Quo crowd.
- ‘Rhino side’: stage left, in front of my old friend Rhino the bass player
- Centre: directly in front of Francis Rossi
- ‘Rick Side’: stage right, meaning directly in front of the one true God of rock and roll rhythm guitar, Mr Rick Parfitt.
The knowledge that I would be mere feet away from my lifelong idol was a little too much to bear, and I had to lie down in a darkened room for the next 6 days before I could return to work.
My excitement actually almost turned to blinding rage a few minutes before the show started, as some dopey clowns showed up, claiming to also have tickets to ROW A SEATS 1-3!
My mind was spinning! What did this mean? Had I bought the wrong tickets? Had there been a system error? Did these people have counterfeit tickets bought on the illicit underground Status Quo/Beach Boy black market? Was there about to be a rumble? Knowing my dad was far too timid and not at the required level of front row desperation to fight back, I interjected. “Let me see these ‘tickets’!”, I thought with full sarcasm. “Please may I have a look?”, I said, meekly.
2 seconds of glancing over the tickets and I was mightily relieved but apoplectic with rage. It quite clearly said “Row R”! How on Earth had they mistaken that for an A? Had they really been thinking that they had front row seats all this time without checking the ticket properly? Or were they trying to pull a fast one that they were never going to get away with? Either way, the jig was up my friends, and they were despatched back to the 18th row where they belonged.
Overall, the crowd was an interesting mixture. There were of course lots of people who were excited to see both bands, but there were pockets of people who were clearly only there for one or the other. As a result I saw denim-clad long-haired rockers disappear to the bar for the entire duration of the Beach Boys’ set, while I also witnessed a pair of Hawaiian shirt wearing surf-rock lovers sat on their hands in the second row looking bored out of their brains, while all around them people went nuts as Quo blasted out ‘Backwater’. For my part, I wore a newly purchased Hawaiian shirt over a Status Quo tour t-shirt, because I’m awesome.
Once the tour had started, news had seeped out that the bands were performing separately, with Quo on last, and there was no ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ collaboration of any kind. This was great news, but it still amazes me to think that the Beach Boys essentially supported Status Quo in the year 2001.
I can only assume the decision was made based on the fact that it wasn’t really the real Beach Boys, as there were no Wilsons present (Brian no longer touring, and Carl having passed away a couple of years earlier). It was basically Mike Love and Bruce Johnston and whoever else they had cobbled together. Some may argue that without Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan it wasn’t really the real Status Quo either, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Whatever the reason, it worked out well, because while a Beach Boys show is quite a fun, relaxed, sit-down event with lots of singing along, a Quo show is much more in-your-face and rock ‘n’ roll, so I guess it made sense for them to go in that order.
Odd combination or not, I really enjoyed the Beach Boys set. Frankly I didn’t know or care who was in the line-up that day, and it was a new experience to see an opening act where everyone knew all the songs.
The funniest thing about their show, however, was that it consisted of these great summer surf-rock numbers but it was played under a torrential downpour that started as they came on and didn’t let up until we were back home. It was hard to get away from the irony, and they played up to the fact that this rain-soaked, grey English evening was not what they had in mind when they’d recorded “Surfin’ Surfari” or “Surfin’ USA”.
Perhaps it was because we were close enough to the stage to be partially protected by its roof, but I felt you’d have to be particularly grouchy not to enjoy their fun, hour-long show, even if it was completely out-of-place with the weather.
When the surfy grandads took their leave, I turned to head to the toilet, but was stopped by our good friends the Taylor family, who had made their way down from the wheelchair section.
My efforts to gently rub in their faces the quality of our seats failed hideously, as they informed me they had only appeared in front of us because Adam was being treated to a meet and greet backstage with ACTUAL F***ING STATUS QUO, and the entrance just happened to be at the end of our row. Through gritted teeth I wished them a fun time and trudged off grumpily to the loo, and then a stop at the merch stand.
When I eventually returned, it was to the desperate faces of my parents, who implored me to explain where the hell I had been. It turned out that, moments after I had left, Adam’s parents had noticed that the queue for backstage was really loosely policed, and that no one was bothering to check the number of people going in with each passholder. They had rushed back to get me to go with them, and I had been in the bogs. I missed meeting my heroes by a matter of seconds!
2 weeks later, while on a lads’ holiday to Magaluf that I had turned down, my friend Lee also met ACTUAL F**KING STATUS QUO and took part in some weird competition with them. F*** my life, right? It was just not meant to be.
Though I was massively frustrated at missing out on meeting the band, it only lasted a few minutes, because as soon as the lights when down and “The Drone” started, I remembered I was front row at the Quo, and things could be a lot worse!
I’d also never been this close to the sound system, and I could feel the earth physically shaking beneath my feet as “The Drone” reverberated all around me. This was about to be insanely loud. But, not for the last time, I didn’t give a sh** about my hearing, I was in rock heaven, as seconds later Rick Parfitt strode casually to the front of stage right in front of my face and blasted out the opening chords to ‘Caroline’, which was now firmly ensconced as the set opener.
I wish I had taken a camera, as I would’ve got some great shots of Parfitt in particular, but it was a pre-camera phone age, and the ticket had quite clearly specified that cameras were not allowed. Blow me then, if some guy with a telescopic lens didn’t come and stand right next to me to take some shots throughout the show. This was not good for my rage. But nevermind, there was rocking to be done, and with Quo in their new, heavier-sounding mode, we were treated to a thunderous set.
‘Rain’ was a particular favourite, for obvious and rather moist reasons, and when the helicopter-like drone effect that announces “Whatever You Want” began, the ground shook so much that second-row Hawaiian shirt guy ALMOST got out of his seat.
Whether it was down to the rain or the Beach Boys overrunning I don’t know, but Quo were in danger of going over the rock ‘n’ roll curfew of 10:30 as they exited for their encore. With my excellent vantage point, I could see them in the wings, debating with whoever decides these things whether they had time to do any more, before eventually coming back on and ripping through ‘Burning Bridges’, which always sent me home very happy.
As we made our way home, Dad commented that “they seem to be getting better with age!”
“Pardon?” I said, and after he repeated himself at a higher volume, I had to agree.
I was already looking forward to seeing them on the ‘Never Say Never’ tour a few months later, adverts for which had been passed around at the show. Unfortunately, it would actually be a year and a half before I’d see them again, but that’s for another time.
- Basically a trimmed down version of the same set as last time, as Quo tours tended to run from the start of the winter tour in October until the end of the next summer’s shows
- That means the curfew spared us from having to hear “Livin’ Doll”, and for that we shall forever be grateful.
That’s all folks. Come back next time as we begin the university years, and I start blowing money I don’t have on going to gigs.