Francis Rossi

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Francis Rossi
Francis-rossi-2007-07-18.jpg
Performing with Status Quo in Örebro, Sweden on 18 July 2007
Background information
Birth name Francis Dominic Nicholas Michael Rossi[1]
Born (1949-05-29) 29 May 1949 (age 66)
Forest Hill, London, England
Genres Hard rock, rock and roll, blues rock, psychedelic rock
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instruments Guitar, vocals
Years active 1962–present
Associated acts Status Quo, Band Aid, Graham Bonnet, John Du Cann
Website www.francisrossi.com
Notable instruments
Fender Telecaster

Francis Rossi, OBE (born 29 May 1949) is a British musician and songwriter, best known as the frontman and co-founder of the English rock band Status Quo, in which he sings lead vocals and plays lead guitar.

Early life[edit]

Francis Dominic Nicholas Michael Rossi[1] was born on 29 May 1949 in Forest Hill, London. His father's side of the family were Italian ice cream merchants of the Rossi Ice Cream fame, and his mother was a Northern Irish Roman Catholic from Liverpool.[2][3] Rossi grew up in a household with his parents, grandmother, and "lots of aunts and uncles", and was given a Roman Catholic upbringing, having been named after Saint Francis of Assisi.[4] He attended Our Lady and St Philip Neri Roman Catholic Primary School in Sydenham, and Sedgehill Comprehensive School for high school, from which he was expelled on his last day.[5] It was at Sedgehill where Rossi met Alan Lancaster, with whom he formed the band "The Scorpions" - a predecessor to Status Quo.[6] As a teenager, Rossi was involved in the family business, helping his father and grandfather sell their ice cream from ice cream vans around London.[7] Rossi's desire to become a musician began after seeing The Everly Brothers live on television at a young age, after which he asked his parents to buy him a guitar for Christmas.[4]

Career[edit]

Early career[edit]

In 1962 when Rossi was attending Sedgehill Comprehensive School, he became close friends with future Status Quo bassist Alan Lancaster while playing trumpet in the school orchestra.[8] The two, along with other classmates Alan Key (drums) and Jess Jaworski (keyboards), formed a band called "The Scorpions", who played their first gig at the Samuel Jones Sports Club in Dulwich. Key was later replaced by Air Cadets drummer[8] and future "Quo" member John Coghlan, and the band was renamed "The Spectres". The Spectres wrote their own material and played live shows, and in 1965 they played at a Butlins holiday camp in Minehead. It was here that Rossi met his future long-time Status Quo partner Rick Parfitt, who was playing as part of another band called "The Highlights". The two became close friends and agreed to continue working together. In 1966, The Spectres signed a five-year deal with Piccadilly Records, releasing three singles that failed to chart. The group again changed their name, this time to "Traffic Jam", after embracing psychedelia.[6][9][10]

Status Quo[edit]

Main article: Status Quo (band)
Rossi (far left), with Status Quo in 1978

In 1967, Traffic Jam changed its name to "The Status Quo", but would eventually drop the definite article. Rossi had written a song called "Pictures of Matchstick Men", which hit the charts in both the UK and the US. Shortly afterwards, Parfitt joined the band, completing the original lineup, and beginning an almost 50-year partnership with Rossi that continues to this day. After some years of minor success, the band came to fame in 1972 with their album Piledriver on Vertigo Records with "Paper Plane", a song penned by Rossi and Bob Young, released as a single. With the band's fame, Rossi became famous as their charismatic frontman.[9] "Quo" would continue to enjoy major success in the UK, Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand through the 70s and 80s,[8] perhaps most notably being the opening act of 1985's Live Aid, with Rossi writing and co-writing some of their most famous songs such as "Caroline" and "Down Down". The group continued to be successful throughout the 90s, 00s and 10s, with Rossi remaining their frontman to the present day. He and Parfitt are the only original members in the band, and have remained with the group for its entire duration. In 2013 and 14, Rossi reunited with original Quo bandmates Lancaster and Coghlan for a series of reunion concerts on what would be called the "Frantic Four" tour. To this date, Quo have sold over 128 million albums worldwide.[8]

In 2015, Rossi stated in an interview that after almost 50 years with Status Quo, he was no longer speaking with Parfitt outside of the band, and that he felt that he was "getting too old", and was considering a mutual break-up of the band with Parfitt.[11]

Other projects[edit]

In 1984, the year before Quo would open Live Aid, Rossi and Parfitt appeared on the Band Aid charity single, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" Rossi has also enjoyed minor success with brief projects outside Quo. In 1985 when the band was on hold, he recorded two singles and a (so far unreleased) album – which was provisionally titled Flying Debris – with his longtime writing partner Bernie Frost. The single releases were "Modern Romance (I Want to Fall in Love Again)" (UK No. 54[12]), and "Jealousy". In 1996 he issued a solo album, King of the Doghouse, which was not a commercial success, although it produced a UK No. 42 single, "Give Myself to Love".[12] Some years earlier, in 1976, he appeared on the soundtrack album and film All This and World War II comprising cover versions of songs by The Beatles. Although the album sleeve credits the performance of "Getting Better" to Status Quo, the track featured Rossi's vocals and the London Symphony Orchestra. In 1977, he produced and played guitar on John Du Cann's solo album The World's Not Big Enough. 3 May 2010 saw the release of his second solo album, One Step at a Time, including a re-recording of Quo's 1973 classic "Caroline".

In 2013, Rossi starred as himself alongside Quo bandmate Parfitt in the adventure comedy film Bula Quo!, which followed the duo on an adventure in Fiji, getting involved in local Mafia operations on the island.

Musical equipment[edit]

Rossi's trademark green Telecaster (alongside Rick Parfitt's white model) regularly appears on "Quo" merchandise, such as the cover of the band's 1989 album Perfect Remedy (pictured)

Rossi's guitar of choice is the Fender Telecaster, and he has used several over the years including his trademark green 1957 model with a maple fretboard, which he purchased in 1968 for £70. It was originally sunburst, but was painted green in 1970. Through the years several parts had been replaced with G&L parts, and a third pickup had been installed in a configuration much like a Stratocaster. He also owns two other green Fender Telecasters that are both brighter in colour and feature rosewood fretboards. One is used for the song "Down Down" and the other for "Whatever You Want". Like his main guitar they are both in a three-pickup configuration.

After 46 years of use, in December 2014 Rossi was said to be "heartbroken" when the trademark green Telecaster finally become worn beyond use - the wood having become too soft to be able to properly tune the instrument.[13]

For amplification Rossi uses Marshall JCM800 or JCM900 Lead series amplifiers with 4x12 cabinets and a Roland GP8 to boost his signal. The sound from his Marshall rig is blended with Vox AC30 amplifiers that are kept behind his Marshall setup. He also uses software like Amplitube in the studio.[14]

Style[edit]

Rossi, along with the rest of Status Quo, has often been accused of being "uncool", even by Rossi himself, calling Status Quo circa 1974 "the most uncool band in the world" in March 2013.[15] On stage, Rossi would normally sport a black waistcoat, blue jeans and a pair of white trainers. In a December 2000 review of a Status Quo concert at Wembley Arena, Andrew Gilchrist writing for The Guardian called the white trainers "the only "visual" [the band] really have", referencing their simplistic stage show.[16] In 2012, the Time Out London blog put Rossi in their list of "top five waistcoat wearers", calling Rossi's waistcoat a sign of "trying to maintain standards in an otherwise rather poorly dressed milieu".[17]

One of Rossi's most notorious trademarks was to wear his hair in a ponytail. First sporting the hairstyle in the 1970s at the height of Status Quo's fame, Rossi wore his hair in a ponytail for 35 years, until he cut it off in March 2009, claiming that it "looked ridiculous" due to his thinning and receding hairline.[18]

Personal life[edit]

History with drugs and alcohol[edit]

Rossi is teetotal and stays away from drugs, but not before a long "rock and roll lifestyle" of alcohol and drug habits, which made he and long-time Status Quo partner Rick Parfitt notorious at the height of the band's fame. Rossi has claimed to have spent £1.7 million on cocaine in the 80s.[19] This heavy cocaine use resulted a piece of his nasal septum falling out, leaving a hole inside his nose which he once "pushed a cotton ball through during a TV interview" in order to demonstrate the dangers of drug addiction to young people.[20] In October 2014, Rossi told BBC's HARDtalk that alcohol was the gateway that led to his cocaine habit.[21]

Despite his teetotalism, in 2010 Rossi became chairman of the Glen Rossie brand of whiskey, which the band used to drink whilst on tour.[22]

Recent life[edit]

Rossi (right) and long-time Status Quo partner Rick Parfitt in 2013, at the premiere of Bula Quo!

Rossi currently resides with his wife Eileen in Purley, London.[23] He has eight children (from oldest to youngest): sons Simon, Nicholas and Keiran from his marriage to his first wife Jean which lasted from 1967 to 1979; daughter Bernardette from girlfriend Liz Gurnon in 1979; and sons Patrick and Fynn, daughter Kiera Tallulah, and youngest son Fursey from Eileen.[1][24] Bernadette, who resides in Ontario, Canada, is also a musician, fronting her own band Bernadette and The North. After being estranged from Rossi for seventeen years after his relationship with Gurnon broke up, Bernadette and her father were reunited in 2007, and Bernadette and The North supported Status Quo on that year's tour.[25] Patrick made the news in November 2012 when he was unable to pay a £100 fine for driving whilst banned.[26] In a 2011 interview with The Guardian, Rossi described himself nowadays as a "lapsed Catholic", and "generally anti-religion". When not touring, he enjoys spending time at home with his family.[4]

Rossi was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 New Year Honours for services to music and charity, along with Parfitt.[1][27]

Due to his family's, and his personal history in the ice cream trade, in 2013 Rossi publicly supported The Sunday People's campaign to save British ice cream vans, which urged British people to purchase from an ice cream van whenever possible in order to save dwindling profits.[28]

In April 2015, it was revealed that Rossi and Parfitt were no longer speaking except for business purposes. Insisting that they were interviewed separately for the Daily Mirror on the subject of breaking up the band, Rossi said that they were "pals" but didn't meet socially.[11]

Discography[edit]

For a more comprehensive list, see Status Quo discography.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 59282. p. 11. 31 December 2009.
  2. ^ "Interview: Status Quo's Francis Rossi". Nottingham Post. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  3. ^ "Francis Rossi, a man's man". The Independent. 20 July 1996. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c "Francis Rossi: My family values". The Guardian. 11 June 2011. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  5. ^ "Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Francis Rossi, lead guitar player and singer of Status Quo". The Independent. 28 September 2006. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Young, Bob (2000). Status Quo: Just Doin' It! (1st ed.). London: Cassell Illustrated. p. 27. ISBN 1-84403-562-X. 
  7. ^ "Status Quo's Francis Rossi used to sell ice cream - now he backs Sunday People campaign to save ice cream vans". The Mirror. 10 July 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c d Parker, Alan (2012). "Hello Quo". BBC. 
  9. ^ a b Roberts, David (1998). Guinness Rockopedia (1st ed.). London: Guinness Publishing Ltd. p. 417. ISBN 0-85112-072-5. 
  10. ^ Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 927–929. ISBN 1-84195-017-3. 
  11. ^ a b "Status Quo reveal break-up plans as Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt rarely speak anymore". The Mirror. 18 April 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  12. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 471. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  13. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: Quo star Rossi forced to ditch guitar he's played for 46 years". Express. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  14. ^ "Official Rossi at the official Status Quo website". Retrieved 20 September 2014. 
  15. ^ "The Making Of… Status Quo’s Down Down". Uncut. December 12, 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  16. ^ "Quo do the hokey cokey". The Guardian. December 18, 2000. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  17. ^ "The Chap Magazine’s top five waistcoat wearers". Time Out London blog. November 30, 2012. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  18. ^ "'I've decided to stop clinging to my youth,' says Status Quo rocker Francis Rossi as he snips off his ponytail after 35 years". Mail Online. March 10, 2009. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  19. ^ "Francis Rossi: 'I spent £1.7m on cocaine in the Eighties'". The Telegraph. 17 June 2013. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  20. ^ "Status Quo Singer Washed His Nose Off During $2.5m Coke Habit". MusicFeeds. 17 June 2013. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  21. ^ "Alcohol led me to cocaine says Status Quo's Francis Rossi". BBC News. 30 October 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  22. ^ "Status Quo star Francis Rossi to head Glen Rossie whisky". The Scotsman. 26 April 2010. Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  23. ^ "40 YEARS OF STATUS QUO: EVERYTHING IN LIFE WINDS ME UP SAYS FRANCIS ROSSI". The Mirror. 19 September 2005. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  24. ^ "Interview: Status Quo reveal break-up plans as Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt rarely speak anymore". The Mirror. 18 April 2015. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  25. ^ "Meeting Dad strikes a chord". Daily Echo. 30 October 2007. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  26. ^ "Son of millionaire Status Quo frontman Francis Rossi pleads poverty when fined £100 for driving while banned". Mail Online. 16 November 2012. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  27. ^ "Status Quo stars and Formula One champion honoured". BBC News. 31 December 2009. Retrieved 31 December 2009. 
  28. ^ "Francis Rossi backs ice cream campaign". Express. 22 June 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 

External links[edit]