My friend and major STATUS QUO Fan Alex Gitlin looks at the career and highlights of the band’s founding bass player.
RIP Alan Lancaster, the original bass player of Status Quo, the British blues-boogie institution, and the irreplaceable 1/4 of the Frantic Four
He passed away from multiple sclerosis on 26th September 2021 in Sydney, Australia, aged 72.
During their incredible run between the first album in 1968, Picturesque Matchstickable – Messages from the Status Quo, and his somewhat acrimonious split from the band in the mid-80s (he’d relocated to Australia in 1977), he performed on 12 top 10 UK albums and 17 top 10 UK singles.
Alan’s last gig with Quo, prior to the reunion in the 21st century, was opening the Live Aid at the Wembley Stadium in London.
In 2013-14, the original Frantic Four reunited for one last fling, touring the UK, Germany, Holland, Belgium and France. Each gig was greeted emotionally by fans who’d been waiting for this reunion since 1981, the year drummer John Coghlan departed.
Although by now there were signs of his debilitating disease beginning to show (at one point there were rumours of the pick being taped to his hand), he soldiered on with the “no time like the present” attitude, giving the fans exactly what they’d come for. His bass, alongside Coghlan’s drumming, was the locomotive engine that was the classic Quo rhythm section.
It was around 1970 when Quo had disposed of psychedelic frills and kaftans, replacing them with denim and growing their hair long. For the band’s third album, Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon, which tentatively pre-defined their to-be trademark sound, he wrote Daughter and Is it Really Me/Gotta Go Home.
The following year’s Dog of Two Head, the wheels were fully in motion, and here Alan contributed Umleitung (a co-write with keyboardist Roy Lynes), Something’s Going on in My Head, and Someone’s Learning. This was also their last album for Pye, in 1972 Status Quo were signed to Vertigo.
On their breakthru 1972 Piledriver album, Alan co-wrote A Year with Bernie Frost and All The Reasons with Rick Parfitt. He also sang lead on the cover of the Doors’ Roadhouse Blues, which became a live staple for the band.
On the 1973 stone-cold classic, Hello, the entire band wrote Roll Over Lay Down, UK No. 9 and top 10 in many countries in Europe; on Blue Eyed Lady, co-written by Alan and Rick Parfitt, the vocals were shared by Alan and Francis Rossi. And also he had a hand in writing Softer Ride (sung by Rossi).
On 1974’s Quo, he handled the lead vocals on four tracks, Backwater, Just Take Me, Drifting Away, and Don’t Think It Matters, and co-wrote six.
As the band was in the middle of a purple patch of hit singles and albums, 1975’s On The Level, considered by many as the finest in the band’s entire catalogue, he wrote Broken Man (also singing lead) and Over And Done. And he handled the lead vocals on another cover, Chuck Berry’s Bye Bye Johnny, also a great live favorite.
1976’s Blue For You has Alan on lead vocals and writing contributions on the opener, Is There a Better Way, the seminal and bluesy title track, Rolling Home and Ease Your Mind.
By 1977, the tide was turning, Quo were a mainstay on the European rock circuit, selling out arenas in Germany, but their sound became a bit softer, although the writing quality remained steadfastly top-notch. Here on Rockin’ All Over The World Alan contributed Let’s Ride, You Don’t Own Me, co-written with Mick Green [of The Pirates], and Too Far Gone.
They continued to pursue the same direction of commercial British pop-rock with a boogie edge in 1978, with If You Can’t Stand the Heat…, here Alan’s contributions are Gonna Teach You To Love Me and Stones. By this time, Alan had moved residencies to Oz, while the relationship between the dynamic duo Rossi-Parfitt had soured due to the out-of-control use of drugs.
In 1979, Whatever You Want (the album) reached No. 4 in the UK, and here Alan contributed Who Asked You and High Flyer. And the following year, on Just Supposin‘ – Over the Edge (a co-write with Keith Lamb), The Wild Ones and Name of the Game (co-written with Rossi and the band’s keyboardist Andy Bown).
1981’s Never Too Late also had two of Alan’s songs, Mountain Lady and Don’t Stop Me Now (once again a Bown co-write). And the following year’s cleverly titled 1+9+8+2 (equals 20, commemorating the twenty years since the band’s inception in 1962) had Alan’s I Love Rock and Roll, I Want The World To Know (another one co-written with Lamb) and Big Man (once again co-written with Mick Green).
Back To Back in 1983 became the final album for Alan Lancaster, who contributed Ol’ Rag Blues (co-written with Lamb) and Your Kind of Love, while he was reportedly distraught over Rossi’s Marguerita Time betraying the band’s classic heads-down no-nonsense boogie sound. When they appeared on BBC’s Top of the Pops to mime to the single, his place was taken by Jim Lea of Slade. Elsewhere on other television appearances, he was replaced with a cardboard cutout.
R.I.P. to the diamond geezer and the seminal part of classic Quo. Whether it’s his singing, bass playing or songwriting, he didn’t do things by halves, putting his heart and soul into what’s now regarded worldwide as the British rock legend.
09 / ’21