From heads banging to heads talking, Hello Quo tells the fifty year tale of legendary British rockers Status Quo from humble beginnings to hugging reunions. Director Alan G. Parker has assembled a huge range of talking heads for his documentary including Brian May, Sir Cliff Richard and all the members of Status Quo’s line-up over their five decades in the music industry.
With detailed interviews that cover the origin of the band and their early experiences at holiday camps like Butlins, through to Top of the Pops performances and drug fuelled recording sessions, world domination, break ups, make ups, Live Aid and charity work, it really is all packed in to the over two hour running time. The aging rockers often delight in telling their stories and it is more often than not a joy to hear them discuss their rock star lifestyles. Their rise to fame as rugged rockers is covered in as much depth as their slow slide into becoming part of the establishment.
From number one hits to bust-ups with Radio One, this has whatever a Status Quo fan wants. If you love the band, there may be relatively few surprises, but the access to the main players and the input from other rock stars is invaluable. It arguably suffers from being so fully supported by the band and fails to dig deeper to some of the darkness that lay beneath, but then who wants muck-raking? This is still a candid and detailed look, covering the meltdowns, drug addiction and in-fighting that caused Status Quo to lose some of the appeal that they had in their 70s prime. Their high points may be more prominent than their low points but this is a celebration of the band in all its glory that still finds room to poke around in the unfortunate disintegration of the original line-up.
First you have to get past the opening half hour without sniggering at the Spinal Tap similarities. There’s nothing quite as entertaining as seeing a band lose their way from their dressing rooms to the stage unfortunately but on the plus side, the original members of Quo are great storytellers and their anecdotes are frequently enjoyable and never dull. That said, there is a little excess flab around the edges of many a story and a director and editor less in awe of his subjects may have been able to trim this down more effectively to appeal further to non-fans and casual viewers. However when you have a raconteur as richly rewarding as Francis Rossi, you might be forgiven for indulging him a bit too much.
At two and a half hours, Hello Quo ambles along ensuring no major event or milestone is missed, but it could easily have been leaner, giving less time to its occasionally rambling stars and sticking more tightly to the story. But fans will love it, and though the visuals and techniques used are nothing special, the band and their unique brand of three chord hits are. Francis Rossi particularly revels in telling stories and is fun to watch as he regales viewers animatedly. The early stills and performances are used sparingly; giving the talking heads time to talk and the snippets of music become respite from all the chatter. Seeing Status Quo in their heyday and hearing the hits is a welcome reminder of just why they are regarded so highly by many in the music industry. From early career makers like Pictures of Matchstick Men through the 70s classics including Down Down Deeper and Down right up to tracks off their most recent album, the hits all get heard here. 2011 single Two Way Traffic shows the band have still not lost their distinct charm and the ability to write and perform rocking riffs.
As the years stretch into the later decades of the band’s existence, there is more footage of Status Quo performing from Live Aid to their other increasing charity work for the Princes Trust. Their record-breaking tour of four UK arena gigs in a single day, as well as the health problems that nearly killed Rick Parfitt and even Rossi and Parfitt’s OBE’s are all touched on, meaning there is much to learn, remember or rejoice in whether you are a long-time fan or merely vaguely interested in a British rock institution. Climaxing with a reunion of the original four band members, even fans may be a little underwhelmed by the final performance but it is great to see that even old rock stars can swallow their pride and work out their differences for a rocking reunion. Quo fans will be mesmerized; everyone else will be amply entertained by this exhaustive rock-doc.
HELLO QUO Collector’s Edition DVD & Blu-ray is out 29 October