The cover of Status Quo’s On The Level album has record-breaking flared trousers. Were Quo the worst dressed rock band?
With my first record under my belt – ZZ Top’s “Eliminator” – I bought Status Quo’s “Back to Back” album, and quickly started a pattern I have continued ever since: truffling out the rest of the back catalogue. “Twelve Gold Bars Vols 1&2” on cassette from WH Smiths was swiftly followed by Live at the N.E.C. bought in Parrot records, then “On The Level”, “Hello” and “Blue For You”.
As mentioned previously Quo were massively, massively unfashionable in 1985 (let’s be honest, they were massively unfashionable in 1975) and their mid-70’s album covers did not seek to airbrush over the fact. “On The Level” has the drummer wearing an extraordinary leather waistcoat and knee length boots in which he looks comically uncomfortable / embarrassed.
Look at his face. It’s like he’s been caught passing wind at the Queen’s garden party, or passing deep fried mars bars and Happy Meals to Jamie Oliver’s kids. Or merely been photographed for an album cover looking ridiculous. If he had written the word “Help” on his forehead he couldn’t have communicated his thoughts more clearly.
On “Blue For You” they are all unapologetically wearing double and triple denim plus luscious bell-bottomed flares, comedy 70’s moustaches and bad hair. It was a look that simply ignored the fashions of New Wave, Punk, New Romanticism, Power Dressing, Miami Vice, Madonna and Michael Jackson. Perhaps they had a point after all.
My friend Stuart was a bit older, and noticed my enthusiasm for Status Quo. He came over with a couple of albums he thought I might like to borrow: a couple by Rush including “2112” and “The Best of Rainbow”.
If I had ever had misgivings about Quo’s fashion sense, then 2112 soon made me realise I was fretting over mere detail. Leaving aside the scary, satanic pentagram motifs, the scarier pictures were inside: The members of the band were sporting handlebar moustaches and Kimonos. My sister noticed the records, looked them over and looked at me with a sad and disappointed look on her face. “Oh Steve, don’t get into all that” she said, as if I had been poring over a copy of Watchtower magazine, Cliff Richard Monthly or something equally unacceptable.
I didn’t listen to the album properly, and as a result didn’t like it much – too many quiet bits I thought, incorrectly as it would turn out. I told Stuart that I thought Rainbow were a bit like Status Quo and were alright, also not entirely accurately. Time would pass before I listened to Rush again. Whilst I liked Quo’s straight forward rock, Rush just seemed too strange. That photo made them look like they came from another planet. Planet Kimonostache – where people wore handlebar moustaches and dressed like girls. I wasn’t having it. I also wasn’t happy to just listen to someone else’s old records. I wanted to discover something for myself…
Luckily, Live Aid was coming up – Status Quo were opening the show – and who knows, maybe there would be someone else worth watching. Who knew? Perhaps Adam Ant would steal the show….
Or what about Queen? They might be good. At least Freddie Mercury didn’t dress like a girl and have a daft moustache…
Record #9 – Status Quo – Down Down – from On The Level