This is why I like doing festivals. You get to stay the weekend, so you get to know everyone, there’s no tension about who’s who or who’s got the right/wrong pass. Everyone backstage knows you, sees you do your thing, knows your working same as everybody else. Except you’re ‘the talent’ so you also get the nice digs and the easy dressing room with the drinks and the… towel. The second night I turned up and I had two towels. Class, like.
Well, yeah. What I enjoyed most about this weekend’s Status Quo Fan Convention down at Butlin’s in Minehead though was the fans. This was a specialist crowd, for sure. They knew more about Quo than anybody else, me included, the band included, and they seemed to know more about how these conventions work, or are supposed to work. They are also extremely nice people. Friendly, not pushy, not needy, they’ve got the whole weekend to rock and they know it and are happy to roll with the whatever-you-wants.
Sitting in my dressing room with Rhino on the Friday night, he asked me if I was reformed alcoholic, because all he saw me drink was coffee. “No,” I told him. “I just don’t drink anymore when I’m working. But later…”
He asked me how old I was. (Five years younger than him.) We talked wives, children, shoes. Rhino knows his shoes. “They’re an expensive pair, aren’t they?” he said, glancing down at my Oxford Brogues. “What are they, Church’s?”
No, I said, I wouldn’t wear my Church’s to a gig. They’re like £300 a pair. The ones I had on only cost about £100. He nodded knowingly. I flashed back momentarily to the years, most of my life, when I only ever had one pair of shoes for everything. I used to spend my money on different things back then though. Now I like to sit there and look at my shoes.
We talked about his new CD, Rhino’s Revenge II. I hadn’t had a chance to listen to it yet but promised him I would play it in the car on the long drive home on Sunday. He told me about the couple of tracks on there where he… not raps, he was quick to insist. But, well, “uses words,” as he put it with a grin. “I like words,” he said. “A couple of the Quo fans I played them to didn’t like it but I do, it’s something different.”
I told him I was all for different. Especially on solo albums. Where else are you gonna try stuff like that out? Besides, as I discovered when I played the CD (very good) in the car, there is more than enough rock on there to please even the most ardent Quo fanatic.
I asked about his time in Dexys. At the Q&A we’d done onstage earlier that day he had been quite self-effacing about his time in the band, even though Dexys were then at their commercial peak with ‘Come On Eileen’. Now away from the crowd, sipping the coffee I’d made him, he told me how much he’d loved working with Kevin Rowland – even though the singer had been the one who sacked him.
“I love Kevin because he’s his own man. He’s got attitude. There aren’t many like that. Not in real life.”
He had to go, get ready for his gig. Before he did he organised for me to have a half pint of real milk in the room, instead of the sachets I’d been given. I hadn’t asked He just knew. Like the shoes.
My other best bits were: seeing State Of Quo, easily the best Quo tribute act going; Black Rose, easily the best Thin Lizzy tribute act going. Hosting the auction for replicas of Francis’ and Rick’s telecaster guitars (Rick’s went for £7850, to a very nice woman named Julie; Francis’ went for £3,600 to a tall drunk bloke from up north who kept swaying into me), and, funnest of all, judging the air guitar competition. Kudos to the viking-like geezer who just took his (Quo) T-shirt off and swung it in the air, but the winners were a father and daughter team with the hair to do a more than passable imitation of classic 75-era Francis and Rick heads down no-nonsense boogie.
Of course there were other highlights. All thanks to event organiser and angel-on-earth, Yvonne Hanvey. And the weather was nice. What more could you ask for? Dwarves with bowls of coke strapped to their heads? Sorry, you must want the bloke in the next dressing room…