Few musicians hope they will be in the spotlight for fifty years and even fewer expect to spend that long with the same band. For guitarist Rick Parfitt, of course, this was pretty much the case. The young Richard Parfitt joined the fledgling Status Quo (previously called The Spectres) in 1967. His friendship with Francis Rossi now more than cemented, they both became committed to the band, which from 1967 scored hits across the bulk of the next five decades.
Although the band’s late sixties hits were enjoyable fare, it was in the seventies when Status Quo mastered their art, settling upon an instantly recognisable boogie rock sound, driven by Parfitt’s incessant rhythm guitar work and a dual vocal. In terms of songwriting, Parfitt wasn’t shy in contributing his talents, (co)-writing a handful Quo classics during that decade – ‘Mystery Song’, ‘Rain’, ‘Living On An Island’ and ‘Whatever You Want’ included. His tone during the intro of the latter remains brilliantly pure – a fantastic sound. He was also responsible for a few superb, deeper album cuts including ‘Little Lady’ from 1975’s ‘On The Level’ – regarded by many as the essential Quo disc – and his input into 1973’s ‘Quo’ long-player was pivotal in that album’s broader style.
In the 80s, Parfitt continued to write and tour with Quo, but also wrote and recorded a solo album ‘Recorded Delivery’ during a band haitus in 1985. The album was shelved and remained unreleased at the time of Rick’s death in 2016. However, various tracks from those sessions were re-worked into b-sides for the ‘In The Army Now’ singles. When eventually released as bonus tracks on the expanded ‘In The Army Now’ album some years later, it showed Parfitt to be more than just a wielder of a four-chord six stringer. Here was a writer with an affinity for a more commercial style, a man who could have had a parallel career in the late 80s with more AOR rooted material. Sadly, it was not to be.
Quo may well have fallen in and out of fashion with the press and various albums throughout the 90s and early 00’s by they endured and while the better part of two decades’ work might not have captured the true essence of what made the band so appealing at their best, but they were always a popular fixture on the live circuit. Even when promoting arguably weaker material, in live performance terms their no nonsense approach to a chorus and riff was a solid as ever. Let us not forget, it wouldn’t ever have been as tough without Rick.
In later years, Rick’s health was often a subject of news. He underwent a quadruple heart bypass in 1997 and suffered subsequent heart attacks in 2011, 2014 and 2016 but, surprisingly, it was not his heart that would have the final say. Rick passed away on Christmas Eve 2016, as a result of a severe infection whist in hospital having suffered a shoulder injury.
He’ll be remembered forever for his mastery of four chords, double denim and for steering the good ship Quo through good and bad waters for half a century.
Real Gone takes a brief look at Rick Parfitt’s much-loved career below.
Read an in-depth piece on the classic ‘On The Level’ here.