By Patrick Prince
Who would have believed that the British rock band Status Quo would be stars of their own feature film one day? Can Status Quo pull off what the Beatles did in 1964, when they were twenty-somethings completing “A Hard Day’s Night”? Well, hardly. But the veteran rock act manages to entertain with a whodunit farce of its own called “Bula Quo!,” also starring Jon Lovitz, Craig Fairbrass, and Laura Aikman.
The tagline for the “Bula Quo!” poster reads: “It started with guitars … and ended with guns!” The plot is pretty standard for an action comedy but with a rock ‘n’ roll splash. Status Quo original members Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt have a gig to play in Fiji, and somehow the bumbling pair witness a murder, flee with crucial evidence, and become involved in a criminal ring of organ harvesters. The script is not going to win any Oscars. But if you are a rock fan, and especially a Status Quo fan, you will certainly enjoy how original members and guitarists Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt — play themselves — and play off each other. They’ve had 40 years of practice, and now that chemistry is put on film.
Of course, a soundtrack accompanies the film — a 2-CD set with new songs, redone Quo classics, and live performances. The new songs showcase Quo’s unique energy more than anything the band has done in some time. A few songs have a Polynesian flavor as part of the fun, too.
Francis Rossi took some time out to talk to Goldmine about the band’s recent endeavors.
GOLDMINE: Let’s start with the obvious question: How did you come up with the idea for the film, “Bula Quo!”?
FRANCIS ROSSI: We did a famous soap — I think you have it [in America] — it’s called “Coronation Street.” One of the stars of that thing had been coming to see us for quite a few years. He came to see us one night, and I said ‘Why can’t you get us in your show?,’ and he did. There was this script where I get jumped by a fan and get permanent whiplash, and that was quite funny. And as we got to rehearsal to do the stuff on that set, this guy was given to us to help us try to fight on TV, because fighting on TV is different than normal fighting. And he said, ‘I’d like to make a movie with you,’ and [I thought] ‘Yeah, you f**king fool.’ And some time later, a script had come together, which was discarded. It was a bit more violent. It was in Bangkok. Backers wanted it to be more family oriented and kind of silly … silly, English humor. It went away for a few years and came back January before last, and we went to Fiji and did the frigging thing, and now it’s out. There are so many things you do in your career that you think ‘Yeah, Yeah!’ and then a load of them go away and some happen. Now this could be the best move we ever made or could finally finish the band off. You have no idea.
But as soon as we got there and did the first scene — where we are playing ourselves and we have this reputation of having a kind of idiotic humor — the responsibility was on the director all the time, whereas when we’re making records, I have the say. If he said it was good, it was fine. So each time we got through each day’s shoot, the more we got into it. But I think it could have been better with some mild expletives in it, you know. Some of that London sh*t that we do. And because it’s for kids there’s none of that. There’s no blood. Nobody looks like they get hurt or killed. But it seems to be receiving good reviews and such, whether people like it because it’s about a rock ‘n’ roll band that they know about and has been around for years.
GM: You guys do seem like naturals in it.
FR: Well, I think because we’re allowed to play ourselves. They already got us talking about a second [film], and I’ve seen the second script, and there’s a section where it’s gonna be done in India, and I say to Rick: ‘Hey, Rick, they stole all our equipment!’ There’s no way I say that, for starters (laughs). It would be ‘They f**king nicked our gear’ We can’t go that far. Sometimes when we want to swear, we say ‘Ck off,” where the front of the word goes, and that we can use, so it will make us seem even more natural. But it’s very difficult watching yourself. I’m used to listening to records. I’ve done it so long.
GM: Were there a lot of inside jokes between you and Rick?
FR: Well, we tried some, and, of course, the director [Stuart St. Paul] said ‘What does that mean?’ We can talk a lot in rhyming slang.
GM: So why Fiji? Why not, say, Carnaby Street?
FR: Good point, but the main thing is budget — because it’s very low budget, there are tax breaks in that place. But it was interesting because of all the stuff I learned.
GM: Did you learn some comedic timing from Jon Lovitz?
FR: With respect, I think that’s one of the things my partner [Rick Parfitt] and I already have. There are famous comedians from this country from the ’60s called Morecambe and Wise. They’ve always called us the Morecambe and Wise of rock. Which I don’t really think is much of a compliment but … I can’t stop f**king about, nor can my partner. I took to Rick straight away, and we’ve always tried to make each other laugh.
And, it’s like, the slang stuff … Interestingly enough, when I was growing up we were taught in school that slang is bad. But all that slang means is s-language. Secret Language. And it came about from the East End markets, where the East End market guys would want to talk to each other, so the punters couldn’t hear them. And you can just make it up as you go along, and [Parfitt] and I are that good at it. We roughly know, even if we put new ones in, in context of the conversation, what we mean. And we were trying to bring over some of the into the film.
GM: You never seemed intimidated by the camera, you think that’s because of all those years of playing in front of thousands of fans?
FR: It’s funny, people ask us if we get nervous before the shows we’ve done. And only recently have I realized that, particularly myself and my partner, there’s a tension. It’s like this motor’s running in your head the moment you wake up and I’ll do anything to get out of that show, really. And so will he. It’s this ‘Oh, don’t make me go on. It could go wrong.’ And I imagine all the things that might be wrong. I never take any show for granted. But once I’m up there I love it to death. But I still want to get off and finish. And if the show is canceled — ‘Yes!’ And then we get down the road minutes later and I’m thinking ‘I would have loved to have played tonight.’ So I am somewhat like the child who gets his own way and says ‘Well, I’ve changed my mind. I want that kind of thing.’ And at 64. I can’t believe I’m actually 64. I wish McCartney had never written that f**king song, so I’d be fine (laughs).
GM: Think how he feels.
FR: Yeah, I know. I call him Uncle when I see him. I have to call him Uncle. It makes me feel better (laughs).
GM: Does Laura Aikman [the film’s lead actress] personify Caroline of the song — the classic Status Quo song?
FR: She does in the movie. Normally, I write 25 or something songs for a project and use six or seven and because we were doing a soundtrack … to me soundtracks are a load of songs with string filler shit, you know, you can get away with. So I didn’t think we best do something. But I had this rough idea for the Caroline song. And so I spoke to the director and he said ‘Well, what is Caroline?’ She’s Daddy’s girl. She loves her rock ‘n’ roll but she reads the good books. And the whole project, really, it started to develop. There are songs on the album [soundtrack] that the band would have never recorded. There’s a reggae track on there. There’s “Mystery Island.” A lot [of the soundtrack] was developing while we were there.
GM: Do you ever think of retiring or is it ‘rock until you drop’?
FR: I do. Most mornings, to be honest. And I’m not joking. I think that most mornings. Like most people do, I think. And then I get up, the day goes on. And if it’s not a show day, I’m quite happy. But show days, like I said, there’s this motor running in my head. But you take that away from me, I think I’ll be even [worse] … If there’s anything I’ve done in this world, I’ve become that guy in Status Quo. Without that, I’m just some uneducated kid who left school too early. It’s true. I’m lucky to have achieved this and maintained it. So I’m always grateful. GM