3. Interview with Bob Young (3.1.2006)
Questions from Quo fans to BOB (January 2006) thanks to Gunter Roder

1. What are your feelings on Bernie Frost, and the success Rossi had with him? And what are Francis’ comments on why he left Bernie and came back to you as a writing partner?

BOB Francis and Bernie wrote some excellent songs during their time together. Our writing styles are very different which reflect in many of the songs we’ve both written with Francis for example Down Down and Marguerita Time.They hadn’t written together for some time and I was nicely surprised and, of course, happy when Francis rang out of the blue and suggested we meet up and see where it would take us. I’d always hoped we’d end up together one way or another. Maybe some things are meant to be and the writing is still, as it always was, just one small part of our relationship.

2. Gerdundula - what were the issues behind Francis and you calling yourselves Manston and James on the song-writing credits? Why these names - did you just pluck them out of the phone book?

BOB The names, if I remember correctly, came out of no-where just as some words or lines in a song do. I can’t really tell you why we decided to use pseudonyms. The song has stood the test of time and been good for the band. I’m pleased to see it’s now become a standard in the band’s live show and has a great entertaining feel-good factor about it. I sometimes wonder where the real Gerd and Ula are now.

3. Rhino has written some great Quo songs recently eg Creepin’ Up and Bella Vista Man with Rick. I'd be interested to see what you and Rhino could come up with – have you ever fancied writing with Rhino?

BOB Yes it might be interesting to write something with Rhino. No two people ever write the same together so it could be an interesting combination. So who knows…?….. With the song ‘Heavy Traffic’, Francis and I had already written and recorded a demo of this before Rhino came up with some new ideas that we worked on with him and these created the final version of this song. The original demo is quite different in many ways. Maybe sometime in the future we’ll get to release an album of original demo recordings.

4. Do you feel that your 'broken' writing partnership with Rossi and Quo after Just Supposin' resulted in Quo becoming more 'poppy' than they would have ultimately been had you continued to write with them, Rossi in particular? What is your take on the route the band took from the mid-eighties and how was it that the magic spark came back immediately on the ‘Heavy Traffic’ album?

BOB I think anyone who’s read Francis & Ricks autobiography ‘Excess All Areas’ will know now that the various changes musically, in the bands line-up, and the people around them came about because of a build-up and combination of many complex issues that had surfaced around the late 70’s and early 80’s and which would eventually set the pattern and tone of the band for the following decade and more. My personal view is that the mid 80’s began a decade of further turmoil and unhappiness and many predicted (once more) the final demise of Quo during this period. Many now suggest that the ‘magic spark’, as you put it, finally came back on the ‘Heavy Traffic’ album. I think most will agree it was another turning point for the band and positive proof (again) that Status Quo were far from finished. As it says on the box ‘ the party ain’t over yet’ (by a long way). It’s impossible to put the reason down to any one particular thing. I believe that, just like other times during the previous 35 years, their backs were against the wall and it was time to prove the cynics wrong yet again. The “tipping point” returned once more. With a new manager, Simon Porter, who knew the band better than most, having worked with them as their PR person for 20 years (prior to David Walker’s death in 2001), their agent Neil Warnock, who continued to believe in them just as he’s done for over 25 years, a core road crew who have stayed with them since the 80’s and early 90’s and, importantly, a complete batch of new songs written not just by Francis and I but also Rick, Andy & Rhino which all worked so well together, it all felt very positive. Every song recorded made ‘Heavy Traffic’ an album that could, if the band chose to, be played 100% live and work well on stage in the same way the songs on many of the 70’s albums had.

5. What is the feeling you get from writing with Rossi in the past couple of years? Do you wish to continue writing bluesy numbers more reminiscent of Quo or are you happy for stuff like All That Counts Is Love?

BOB I get a feeling of satisfaction knowing that we can still write some quite good songs together in a comfortable and emotionally rewarding way. In the past five years or so I think we’ve written and demoed about 35 new songs and have maybe another twenty or so started which we’re working on. There’s a lot of variety in these songs from rock and blues to country and ballads. The one’s which will work for Quo will always naturally come to the surface and the rest will be either for Francis’ solo album, covers for other artists or possible use in films.

6. I'd be interested to know what your take was on the Rossi/Young (writing) partnership ‘break-up’? Francis mentioned in the ‘XS All Areas’ book about the 'rift' that actually never existed, and years later you both discovered it was just manufactured rumours that broke you and him up.

BOB When we got back together five or six years ago after a long period of not writing together it all soon fell back into place and I think one of the reasons is that we were under no pressure to come up with anything. Once we realised, through the days and weeks of just talking, that much of what had happened between us all those years ago was set up to suit one or two other people in the organisation then we were quickly able to resolve a lot of unanswered things and the songs just naturally started to come. We soon realised that, above all else, the friendship was still there and that's what mattered most. We’d missed out on a lot of years but it was now a time to look forward. There’s no bitterness or anger about anything that’s happened in the past. The good stuff easily outweighs any of the bad and what really matters is we’re in a good place now.

7. Who inspired you to start writing and which artists/groups or even poets/writers, are your influences?

BOB In my home-town of Basingstoke in the early sixties they held regular Saturday night dances at the local girls school and all the new popular UK and American artists would come and play there. I was about 15 and couldn’t wait to get dressed up and go along and try my technique with the young ladies. Trouble is the bigger blokes always seemed to do much better than me. The first artist to make a lasting impression on me was the old American blues singer/harmonica player Sonny Boy Williamson. He came to town in around 1963 with a British backing band called John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. In that band was a very young Eric Clapton on guitar (with Mick Fleetwood on drums and John McVie on bass who both later became Fleetwood Mac). Sonny Boy played the harmonica, sang the blues and drank from a bottle of Jack Daniels and from then on the blues became a first love of mine (followed soon by the much older woman who lived along the road). This music, along with the amazing new folk singer BOB Dylan and his unique songs and style, completely took over my musical tastes and with the poems of Dylan Thomas in my pocket, they were exciting, inspirational and learning times (along with the much older woman……)

8. When and what made you learn the Harmonica and can you play any other instruments?

BOB I first started playing harmonica when I was about 14 years old. My first real musical influence was my Uncle Cliff, some years earlier, who played guitar and sang in a skiffle group every Saturday in the local pub in Basingstoke. My Parents would take me along and sit me in the corner with a lemonade to watch and listen to him. I think I would have been about 8 or 9 years old. I loved it and when I later got my first guitar I knew that music what for me. I play guitar now as badly as I did back then. When I was 14 years old I auditioned to play in a band but they said I was too young and I didn’t get the gig. ( I think they were just being nice to me because I was so shit….). I went on to play in a local band called ‘The Crack’ and also a in a folk/blues duo with my mate Giddy Goddard. We ran a quite successful weekly Folk & Blues Club until, at the age of 21 years, I left home and soon after met Quo. The rest, as they say, is history (or a mystery…)

9. When writing with Francis, who does the lyrics and who does the tunes? Is it a mix between both of you?

BOB It’s a mix of both. We have a way of writing that works for us and hasn’t really ever changed in almost 40 years. We just seem to hang out and chat, watch television doing nothing in particular. Francis always has a guitar on his lap. He strums and I hum…. we seem to know when we’ve actually started a new song and it’s a good feeling when something really starts coming together. Francis has such great ideas and rhythm and licks. We’ve always first recorded the ideas onto a really battered old cassette player and will eventually know and decide when enough of a song is written to take it into his studio and put together a decent demo. The ones we’ve recorded over the past few years I reckon are pretty special. One or two of them actually sound like they could have been recorded 35 years ago for the ‘Ma Kelly’s’ album. We’re feeling good about a lot of the new unheard songs and there’s still so many started and waiting to be finished.

10. Are there tapes of you singing recent Quo songs during the demo stage?

BOB You’ll probably be pleased to know that I’m not singing on any of them although there’s some mean harmonica on a couple of tracks.

11. What about the proposed Francis/BOB album?

BOB We’ll continue to write and record songs when we can. Some will be demos and some completely finished Masters for Francis’ solo album. There are already certain songs written which we know will be specifically for the solo album. Because of Quo’s many plans and commitments over the next 18 months, it’ll probably come out sometime in 2007. I know he also has a couple of other artists he’d like to produce before the band go back out on tour this year so, as you can see, the first part of 2006, is still going to be a busy time for him.

12. Who’s idea was it to change the musical direction from pop to blues?

BOB At Butlins Quo was basically a Rock & Roll band and the pop thing came along more when record companies and publishers got involved and it was important to find a ‘hit’ song. So they recorded all kinds of stuff until eventually (and fortunately) Francis wrote ‘Matchstick Men’ which was to give them the recognition everyone was desperate for. It would also give them an image and style that was going to be hard to shake off a little later when things turned from good to bad to worse. The music changed when it seemed like times couldn’t get any tougher and the band had nothing to lose by playing the kind of music they wanted play and not what they were told to play and so, much to the horror of Pye Records, ‘Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon’ album’ was written, recorded and released in 1970. It was to be their last recording for the label. At last they had made an album of songs that would to set them off in the direction of the next 35 years. It may have coincided with my writing with the band but the fact is that at that time we all had the same blind faith in the material and direction the band was going in.

13. Tell us more about the hotel demo of "Down Down". Who spoke the words on "Paradise Flats" on the first album?

BOB I have a tape of Francis and I writing this song in the Travel Lodge Motel in Hollywood during the first American tour although I think we started it a week or two earlier in the UK. Again this is another piece of archive material that will hopefully one day go onto a collector’s CD. I’ve just checked the first album and it’s Rick singing lead vocals on ‘Paradise Flats’ and definitely me speaking the words in the middle although I can’t remember doing it.

14. When will you be back on stage with Status Quo?

BOB There are definitely no plans for me to go back on stage with the band. Who knows though maybe one day they’ll let me squeeze in a quick guest appearance on Roadhouse Blues before I’m far too old. I have to say that Andy plays an exceptionally good harmonica (and guitar, and bass, and keyboards, and writer, and singer – smart-arse…) and is one of the best additions to Quo ever.

15. How did you get to know Micky Moody?

BOB Micky was in an excellent band called SNAFU (the initials stand for an old wartime saying – Situation Normal All Fucked Up). They supported Quo on a bunch of dates in the mid seventies and Micky and I just seemed to hit it off right away and kept in touch after the tour. He then went on to form Whitesnake with David Coverdale and toured with them for several years co-writing many of their songs. He’s a great guitarist and I’m very pleased that we’ve stayed friends for over 30 years and written a lot of songs and recorded a couple of nice country / blues albums along the way. I’d like to think that one day we might get around to recording a new ‘Young & Moody’ album. Its only 30 years since the first one was released. In 1985 we wrote a silly book called ‘The Language of Rock & Roll’ and this year we’re releasing ‘The NEW Language Of Rock & Roll’, an updated version we’ve been writing and which will be even sillier than the original.

16. Apart from writing with Francis, what else are you up to these days?

BOB The past few years have been incredibly busy including a couple of years looking after and touring with ex-Verve main man Richard Ashcroft. I also spent most of 2004 co-organising a very successful concert at Wembley Arena ( The Strat Pack ) to celebrate 50 years of the Fender Stratocaster guitar and in aid of Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Charity. ( www.nordoff-robbins.org.uk ) As always I’m currently working on several (and probably far too many) different things. This includes managing a new young Irish band called ‘LEYA’. They’re starting to do very well and you might want to check out their website www.leya.info I do some consultancy for two friends in Liverpool who own the legendary Cavern Club (where the Beatles first started) and other associated businesses. In January 2007 it's the Clubs 50th Anniversary and I’m helping them put together the celebrations for this which will include a TV documentary, book and album and also a series of concerts involving several major bands and artists playing in The Cavern with each concert being filmed and webcast live around the world. I’ve also been working for some time now on a big, new special ‘coffee table’ book that takes in the 40 years of Quo. It’ll be packed full of great photos, memorabilia and much more and out in 2006. All will be revealed very soon…… ___________________________________