Darrell Vickers: South of the Border, Down Status Quo Way

If you could walk inside your own ear and travel back to the very first sound you ever heard, what would be some of the stops you’d make along the way?  For me, one of those stations would have to be the beneficent and glorious wire racks of used albums at Star Records, in the ever-so-humble town of Oshawa. (Miraculously, the store is still there, so hie on down!)  Oh, the many hours I would spend inside that noble sound emporium, sifting through the aural dross in search of precious slices of black gold, containing cheap, non-scratched-to-shit, auditory feasts of ultimate transcendence.

New full-priced vinyl, alas, was a rare luxury for me back then as my earnings in those halcyon days or yore were even more humble than the factory-dominate hamlet in which I abided.  I owe Mike Shulga’s many stores a huge musical debt though he did receive a hefty purse of my coin for his troubles.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-P6nmX_jl38k/Tat0Fv0ZsII/AAAAAAAAAAM/zZEjfHvhtaI/s1600/starrecords-1.jpg

Massive gangs of penuriously purchased platters from his boppin’ boutique filled the illegally obtained milk crates throughout my festering my apartment.  (The blue ones.  I used the green ones, which were made purposefully too small for albums, to prop up the ideally-sized ones that started to disappear from Macs Milks and Beckers stores once their perfect dimensions were twigged to by record buying fanatics.) I think I may have digressed.

Back to Star Records.  For it was there, one propitious p.m., that I did espy “Blue For You” by Status Quo.  I wasn’t really that familiar with the band.  Who in North America was?  But it was the right price and it more than passed my not-scratched-to-shit test.  Little did I know that these guys were the most successful charting band in British history.  To date, they have over sixty songs that have made the hit parade.  Take that, Fab Four!

I have a feeling for many years that large parts of Spinal Tap were patterned after their career.  Except for the failure part.  Quo started out as a flower-power pop band (“Pictures of Matchstick Men”) and blossomed into a power-chord chugging juggernaut.  Plus Rick Parfitt looks quite a bit like David St. Hubbins.  You decide.

http://media.soundonsound.com/sos/jan09/images/ClassicTracks_01.jpg

http://www.clashmusic.com/files/imagecache/big_node_view/files/images/spinal_tap_wideweb__470x4610.jpg

Needless to say, from the first spin on my trusty Thorens turntable, I fell in love with that album and with the band.  “Mad About the Boy”, “Is There A Better Way”, “Blue for You” and “Rain”.  And that was just side one!  I was hooked.

http://ring.cdandlp.com/picpus/photo_grande/114149112.jpg

And then the years flowed by, like Keith Richard’s blood at one of those exclusive Swiss detox clinics, and I found myself permanently ensconced in L.A.  My fortunes took a turn for the better.  They had to.  As a starving writer, people in fairytales lived better than me.   I could now afford to buy the odd new album, but old habits died hard.  I still found myself picking up Status Quo albums and CD’s second hand at Moby Disc and Phi Beta and Aaron Records (when it was on Melrose).  All gone now, alas.

Each new musical innovation may open up amazing and unforeseen (or unforeheard in this case) worlds but it also destroys treasured old ones.  It is a very bitter sweet process, this whole technology thing.  It seems to me we have traded fidelity and portability for the romance of the turntable and art of the sleeve.  And record stores as now as rare as sober priests.  Sigh.  While I appreciate the former, I truly mourn the passing of the latter.

Am I digressing again?

Back to the story.  So one day, I’m casually flipping through the L.A. weekly  (entertainment magazine and futon ad purveyor extraordinaire.) and I come upon Status Quo playing the House of Blues.  Oh glorious rapture!  After all these years, do mine eyes deceive me?

So I call up Steve B. (my musical partner in crime and avid Quo fan) and we grab ourselves some tickets to three chord coolness.  This was going to be a night to remember.  But we didn’t quite realize just how we were going to remember it.

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The House of Blues is a great place to see a band if you have the spine of a twelve year old.  Standing for four or five hours in the same spot on hard wood floors can make the strongest music lover who has lived past puberty weep with unbridled tears.  But we’re not even in the club and destroying our geriatric vertebrae yet.  We’re out in the parking lot and a little confused.  Milling around us, in pre-concert exuberance, are about 100 or so young Latino guys.  Not what most people would consider to be a major Status Quo buying demographic.  Steve and I discussed this strange happenstance while we waited for the doors to open.  We posited that perhaps Los Lobos or a band of that ethnic ilk might be warming up for our favorite, veteran and venerable boogie woogie practitioners.

We got inside, grabbed a beer and our spot on that back-killing floor.  By 9 p.m., there were 300 or 400 young Latinos and a couple of dozen old white guys like us in the audience.  It was packed.  Luckily, because of our height advantage, no matter where we stood on the floor, we had an unimpeded view of the stage.  I’m digressing again, aren’t I?

So there we stood, these ancient craggy white guys, rising up out of the diminutive crowd, like Ents surrounded by a sea of hobbits and we’re burning to find who this muy mysterious warm-up act is.   Luckily, it’s only two more Samuel Adams ‘til showtime.  But when the band finally did appear, it wasn’t Los Lobos.  It wasn’t even Ricky Martin.  It was a local group called Alcohol Funnycar and the crowd didn’t seem that impressed with them.  Hmmm.

They bash their way through a reasonable set and leave the stage.  The excitement starts to build along with my sciatica and back spasms.  Only another one and a half Samuel Adams before the main event of the evening.  The curtains finally open, and the first power chord explodes and this audience goes apeshit.  Dancing.  Screaming.  Singing along with the songs.  Yelling “Mexico” (Only it was pronounce Mehico!!!) between songs.  It was like a reenactment of the Battle of the Alamo, set to music.  I’ve seen Yes, Deep Purple, John Fogerty, The Doobie Brothers, Alice Cooper, John Mayall, Cheap Trick  at this lumbar-lacerating club and none of those crowds matched these guys for maniacal glee and sheer ape-shitiness.  In short, they were manic Hispanics.

The entire night was pandemonium but a good pandemonium.  As wild as they were, there was absolutely no violence.  One large individual (and there weren’t many) even apologized for spraying us with his celebratory beer as he swung it over his head to the beat of “You’re in the Army Now”.  This was the only night I ever saw stage diving at the old H of B.  Guys would climb on the stage, be grabbed by security, smile and wave and the crowd and then be marched off.

All in all, it was a great evening of entertainment.  The band played a CD’s worth of their hits and kept the party rolling.  I highly recommend these boys, should they wander near your berg.

A couple of years later, I ran into Kip Brown (rocker, owner of Ear Candy Records and L.A. rock and roll tour guide – partnered with Pamela Des Barres!) at the post office.  We often talked music and I knew he had a weakness for 60’s bands, so I mentioned Status Quo.  Turns out, he’s a huge fan of the band and was at that concert.  Kip had consulted the Quo website about the concert and it turns out, the band didn’t understand their audience that evening either.

My theory is that there is a special Quo song played at football games (soccer to you North Americans) in Mexico.  Similar to “We Will Rock You” here in the States.   That is why they were there.  It’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

Below are the boys performing the first Quo Song I ever heard.  It’s just a big fluffy cloud of rock and roll heaven.

http://youtu.be/PAoV9XsRHMI

This is Rain, off the very same album.

http://youtu.be/MDaE3R_QXoI

You can check out the Status Quo Wiki Page here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Status_Quo_%28band%29

And the Quo official Website is here:

http://www.statusquo.co.uk/

The Star Records Website:

http://starrecordsoshawa.blogspot.com/2011/04/record-store-day-star-records-oshawa.html

The House of Blues Website:

http://www.houseofblues.com/

Darrell Vickers is now a Friday Contributor to DBAWIS

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Darrell Vickers started out as one half of Toronto area band, Nobby Clegg.  CFNY fans may remember the cheery song “Me Dad” which still gets airplay.  From there, he valiantly ventured to L.A. and eventually became head writer for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  Since then, he’s created numerous sitcoms and animation shows in Canada and the U.S.  He still writes music and has an internet band called Death of the Author Brigade (members in Croatia, Canada and the U.S.)   Mr. Vickers also had a private music mailing-list where he features new and pre-loved music.  Anyone who would like to be added to my daily mailing list, just write me at Radiovickers1@gmail.com

2 Responses to “Darrell Vickers: South of the Border, Down Status Quo Way”

  1. Welcome aboard Darrell. Have spent about 1/8th of my life at Star Oshawa and the later lamented Scarborough location.

  2. Greg Simpson Says:

    Wow Darrell…I’ve often thought, since I met you, that you were too cool for school, and now I fine out that you’re just as plebeian as I…another Quo fan in intellectual clothing…

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