Fireworks Magazine Online 79 - Interview with Bob Young

Unsung Heroes: An interview with BOB YOUNG

Back In Quo Country


Interview by Steven Reid


Only two men can say they wrote two of the first three songs performed at the most famous concert ever, Live Aid. Those same two men can also lay claim to a number one hit single in the UK and to having contributed songs to ten consecutive top five UK studio albums and a live album that climbed up to number three. One, Francis Rossi, is a household name, having sung on countless hits and even appeared on Coronation Street. The other is Bob Young, the man who co-wrote the majority of Status Quo's best known hits during the seventies, mainly with Rossi, but also with the band's other singer and guitarist Rick Parfitt. However Bob also played harmonica with the band and worked as their tour manager for many a year. Not satisfied with that, he was also half of the band Young & Moody with one-time Whitesnake guitarist Micky Moody, is the author of respected books on Status Quo and beyond and has just had his excellent 1985 solo album, 'Back In Quo Country' reissued through HNE/Cherry Red Records.


Bob Young Interview 1

Music had been important to you since you were a boy, but how did you start working for the likes of Amen Corner, The Nice and The Herd, which of course featured Peter Frampton and a young Andy Bown?

When I first moved to London in 1967 from my hometown of Basingstoke I lived in a five-story house in Notting Hill that was divided into a flat on each floor. Art students in one, various musicians in a couple of others and myself and some friends in another. It was just around the corner from the Portobello Road market where a mate and I would busk and could make enough money on a weekend to eat and pay the rent. I also did some driving for one or two groups and in particular the Welsh band Amen Corner featuring Andy Fairweather-Low who were enjoying their first hit single 'Gin House'. In 1968 I went along with them to the Hammersmith Odeon where they were on the Gene Pitney package tour. Also on that bill was The Status Quo and during their sound check in the afternoon I got chatting to Mike Rossi (as he was then called) and remember him complaining, and us both laughing about, how long their bass player Alan Lancaster took to tune up. He asked what I did and I said I was a roadie for one or two groups. That was pretty much the extent of our first meeting.

I believe that you were lined up to work as a roadie with Jethro Tull after that, so how did you come to hit the road with Status Quo - and did you hit it off with the band straight away?

A couple of weeks later I was in Nottingham driving the gear for The Herd when Quo's then managers turned up at the gig. They said they'd tracked me down and wanted to offer me a job as the roadie for The Status Quo as they'd just sacked the one they had for nicking some gear and 'Mike Rossi remembered meeting you at Hammersmith and liked you and thought it might be worth checking you out'. I told them I'd just been offered a job with Jethro Tull for £10 a week and they immediately offered me £15, the same as the band members, if I could start at the end of the week. It was an offer I couldn't refuse and thought if it lasted a few weeks I'd be very happy and a few quid in. I soon found out that by getting married I could get an extra £5 a week. Sue and I married two months later...

Once you'd started spending time with the band it didn't take you long to start getting involved with the songwriting for their next album, 'Spare Parts'. Initially it was bassist Alan Lancaster that you struck up a working partnership with. What do you remember of working and writing with Alan for that album?

I began with Quo in 1968 as the lone roadie setting up the gear, doing sound and lights, driving the 17cwt Ford Transit van jam packed with all of their equipment, amps, guitars, drums, Vox Continental keyboards, PA and lights (I still have the drawing I did on the back of an envelope on my first day saying which order to pack it in the van and showing how to set it up on stage). They also had a car and a driver/tour manager but one or two of them always liked to travel with me in the van. In fact on the first day I was quite amazed when Rossi and Rick Parfitt jumped in with me to go to my first show as their new roadie in Bristol. On reflection I think this was to find out more about me, what I'd done, who I knew and where I came from etc. At 23 I was three or four years older than them and they maybe saw me as just a little more worldly. It was definitely that first few hours journey together where we bonded, laughed a lot and talked about the various music we all loved and artists I liked and we began a friendship that day that's lasted, along with Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan, for fifty years. Over the course of the next few weeks Alan occasionally joined me in the van and by then the band knew I also wrote poems and songs. On a drive to a gig through the West Country he suggested we write a song together and with him strumming a guitar and me driving, by the end of the day we'd written 'Antique Angelique' which, although very much in the poppy/semi-psychedelic style of their first album 'Picturesque Matchstickable Messages From The Status Quo' (and a long way from the folk and blues I loved) made it onto their second album 'Spare Parts' along with three other songs we'd written together.

However by the time of 'Ma Kelly's Greasy Spoon' it was Francis Rossi that became your main writing partner. How did that come about and did you click as a writing-team straight away?

I was very pleased when their driver/tour manager John Fanning left a year or so later to live in Australia in 1970 and, when we brought in another roadie, Malcolm Kingsnorth, to do my job, I got promoted to tour manager driving the band in their big old red American Pontiac Parisiene car. Money was still very tight and hotels cheap and we all shared rooms. Francis and I roomed together for a few years, and longer than the others even when we could afford better hotels and single rooms, and this meant we would write together pretty much every day and night on the road. After the keyboard player Roy Lynes got off the train we were travelling on up North to a gig and never go back on, the band became a four piece and the music quite naturally harder and tighter. They had started to rebel against the style of music the management felt they shouldn't change and play more of the rockier stuff they would play in sound-checks and back in the Butlins Holiday Camp days. Francis and I, once we started writing together, clicked immediately and found our own way of working in an unforced and enjoyable way (probably helped along by the wacky-backy we'd started smoking). Our songs like 'Spinning Wheel Blues', 'Shy Fly' and 'April Spring Summer and Wednesdays' started to flow as did those of Rick (Parfitt) and Alan (Lancaster). The songwriting and music floodgates for all of us were beginning to open by 1970 when we recorded the third album 'Ma Kelly's Greasy Spoon'. With no money and the frilly shirts and flared colored trousers gone, Quo played any gig that would have them and with any cool band that would let them support them, in by now the only clothes they owned - jeans, t-shirts and dirty trainers. The band and myself had never been happier...

It was at this stage that the signature sound of Quo began to develop and take shape. However that sound and feel didn't just come from you and Francis, with everyone embracing the new direction. Was the change in style discussed and worked out, or was it just a case of synchronicity, where everyone somehow was pulling in the same direction without realising it?

Synchronicity. 'Ma Kelly's...' album is definitely where the real foundations, signature sound and tougher attitude of Quo started to shine through and come together. The sleeve was totally against everything that had been dictated to before by the old management and label, Pye Records. In black and white and with no photo of the band anywhere and the shittiest, roughest looking cover possible. It really pissed off a lot of people but was a statement saying 'This is Status Quo. Love us or hate us. Take it or leave it'. It would be one more album, 'Dog Of Two Head' in 1971, that would continue to cement the sound and direction before the band could, with the help of new manager Colin Johnson, who believed in what we were doing, get out of the awful Pye contract and sign to the very cool Vertigo record label headed up by Brian 'Shep' Shepherd, another believer and very important person in the band's history. He was prepared to take a chance on a band that still had a bit of a hangover around it from the Pop 'Matchstick Men' hit, Top Rank circuit days. He could see the honesty and total belief and dedication that was there and the build up of the live and faithful audiences being gained through the constant touring over the previous couple of years. With a manager, label boss, band and even the road crew that would stay another decade, we were off and running and the non-believers were either left behind or would eventually join the Quo Army. It was also a big plus when DJ's like John Peel, Kid Jensen, Bob Harris and Johnnie Walker started flying the Quo flag. I was very made up when John Peel wrote the foreword to my first book of poems later in 1978.

Some of the tensions between band members during those years have (true or not) become the thing of legend. How challenging was it to deal with the different characters in the band out on the road?

I defy any band that started out at school, stayed together and became hugely successful as teenagers and then spent at least nine months of the following dozen or so years on the road together as they grew from kids into men of the world, to not have a few tensions along the way. By the mid seventies everyone had changed and I believe mostly for the better. By then we were continually travelling around the world, seeing new places and faces with money in our pockets to support our families back home and definitely having fun in more ways than many can imagine but, importantly, the band had quite rightly earned a reputation for being nice, friendly down to earth people with a great sense of humour....a 'Band of the People'. Basically my job was to be the last to bed and first up and to make sure everything ran as smoothly as possible every day. In 1976 Ram magazine in Australia headlined an interview I did as 'The man who gets them up in the morning, gets them to the gig on time, then writes songs and plays on stage with them...'. They easily could have added 'doing the best job in the world'. Just as it was back then and still is today for Quo and most other artists out there on and off their tours, the importance of having a great road crew and loyal team around you can never be underestimated, which certainly made my job a lot easier.


Bob Young Interview 2

How did your job evolve as the band went stratospheric in terms of success in the UK, Europe and Australia? It must have been night and day compared to those early days?

It was totally night and day. Another of my jobs was playing harmonica on stage every night after my teenage folk and blues playing days came in handy when in 1970 they needed 'harp' on 'Down The Dustpipe'. This was the first single that moved away from the sound and style of any previous releases and gave an indication of the harder edged rock/blues direction Quo were now heading in. It reached Number 12 in the charts and that meant the inevitable television promotion in the UK and Europe and somehow I ended up with the crazy distinction of being 'the roadie with the most TV appearances under his belt'. This carried on for the next decade throughout my time on the road with more songs such as 'Roadhouse Blues', 'Break The Rules', 'The Price Of Love' and others. I think being there from their first taste of success in 1968, I had the unique opportunity to grow with them as friends while learning about writing, recording, the music business and looking after people as I went along. So going from the band playing to twenty people in the Top Rank in Bristol to just a few years later headlining to 30,000 fans in Sydney Australia and arenas around the world wasn't, in fact, such a big leap providing you lived in the Quo bubble. Technically I was a rubbish roadie but immediately became a part of the family by simply getting along with everybody and sorting out any problems that came up and later talking to all of them when they didn't necessarily feel like talking to each other. It was easy because I wanted to be there and not because I had to, which is pretty much a rule I've always tried to follow. Not always easy but worth the effort, add in a slice of good luck and almost anything is possible.

'Paper Plane' from the 'Piledriver' album suddenly took the band back into the top ten in the singles chart. How much of a thrill was it to see one of your songs making such an impact?

Following 'Dog Of Two Head', the last album to be released on Pye in 1971, Shep and Vertigo's faith in Quo was rewarded in 1972 with their first release 'Piledriver', a Number 5 album that many describe now as 'Quo defining'. Containing many of the songs that have well stood the true test of time such as the Doors 'Roadhouse Blues', Rossi/Parfitt's massive 'Big Fat Mama' and three Rossi/Young songs that included the only single from the album, 'Paper Plane'. It was a big thrill for me personally as a writer to see it chart at Number 8. That album and single gave us all such a boost, the band, label, management and crew and was the start of a lengthy series of big hits worldwide which all led to bigger and more successful tours everywhere (other than America which, despite several excellent lengthy tours and gigs throughout the seventies with great bands like ZZ Top, Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath and Aerosmith etc, Quo never managed to crack...but that's another story).

However, with the likes of 'Caroline', 'Down Down', 'Mean Girl' and 'Break The Rules', amongst others, you also had a hand in the writing of a host of songs that established Status Quo as one of the most well-known and successful bands in the country. That must have been quite wonderful for you, but I wonder if it created any friction with some of the other guys in the band, or were they very much as excited with how it was all coming together?

In the early seventies, as the band was going through its transition period from one hit wonder pop stars with a dwindling crowd of screaming girls to bona fide 'rock' stars playing to a more critical and discerning audience, it wasn't too important who happened to write the songs so long as they worked live and on record. On reflection maybe at one stage it did feel a bit like Francis and I had a bigger output of songs but we were writing at every opportunity whether on the road, at home or on holidays. Most songs, whoever wrote them, were put forward in rehearsals and everyone would quickly have a good idea as to whether they were likely to work live or not. New contenders were usually road tested before they got to the recording stage and I'm sure that helped a lot as the band tended to pretty much set up too much gear in the studio, plug in and go for it very live. And also producing themselves was definitely the best thing to happen back then and would have helped shape their sound and style. They could break the rules and enjoy the recording process and mostly it worked. Many songs Francis and I wrote became singles but it shouldn't be underestimated the importance and success of the early songs Rick and Alan were also writing. Songs like 'Backwater', 'Blue Eyed Lady', 'Big Fat Mama' and later 'Little Lady', 'Is There A Better Way', and 'Rain'.

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Over the next few years you also had a couple of really successful songs with Rick Parfitt, with 'Mystery Song' and 'Living On An Island', although your partnership with him was never as prolific. Did the writing process differ with Rick from how you worked with Francis?

With the very sad and tragic passing of Rick over Christmas I'm sure everyone who knew him will reflect on the time they got to spend with him whether a fan with a few brief words outside a gig or those of us fortunate to have shared a lot more of his life over the past five decades. Personally speaking I'm glad to have the few songs he and I wrote as a permanent reminder of our friendship and times together. Our writing process differed a lot from that with Francis in so much as it certainly wasn't as frequent, never on tour and there were a lot more distractions in Rick's world. The last thing we wrote together was 'One By One' in 2007 for the 'In Search Of The Fourth Chord' album, a song quite non-Quo in the same way our 'Living On An Island' shouldn't really have worked for the band but somehow it did.

Although Quo have always been anti-heroes in the eyes of the press, during that period from 'Piledriver' to 'Whatever You Want' in 1979, the band could do no wrong in the eyes of the fans. However from there things seemed to change, the dynamic and sound of the band evolving. 1980 also saw you moving on from being the band's tour manager. You've always been quite magnanimous about those events, but looking back now, how did someone who seemed to be right at the heart of the band, both in terms of songwriting and management come to end their association with them and how did you feel about it at the time?

The whole of the seventies was a rollercoaster of events. 'Ma Kelly's Greasy Spoon' and 'Dog Of Two Head' were the springboard and 'Piledriver' the lift off for the massive success of the next dozen or so albums when a million UK, plus the huge rest of the world sales of each release began to feel very normal. After the success of Quo's first live album in 1977, recorded at the legendary Glasgow Apollo Theatre, it was decided for a few reasons that it was maybe time to consider bringing in a producer for the first time in many years. One: to record an album that might be more American radio friendly and two: to have someone in the room to mediate between the band that by now each had there own firm ideas. Pip Williams was brought in to produce with his engineer John Eden for the 'Rocking All Over The World' album, that was eventually recorded in Studio Bohus in Gothenburg and it all worked really well with songs mostly written by Francis, Rick, Alan and myself. The production was certainly noticeably different to the previous band self-produced albums, having knocked off a lot of the rough edges and the certain spontaneity associated with them. The reaction to it was divided with many fans, but there's no denying its huge success, helped in no small part by the title track single and the subsequent massive RAOTW world tour. While we all tried to keep our feet on the ground it became more and more difficult as various casual substances became a regular habit and without doubt this contributed to the bands attitude to all manner of things going on around them. That solid bubble was beginning to show cracks.
In 1979 in Lyon, while on a French tour, I wrote a confidential letter to Francis, Rick, Alan and John expressing my views and displeasure at the state of things going on. The changes in them and their attitude that was not good for them, the shows or their audiences and why I considered moving on to be the best option for me if we were to remain friends. There was management things going on which I didn't agree with and I wasn't enjoying touring in that atmosphere. Nobody else has ever got to see that letter and maybe one day it might see the light of day. I was unhappy and looking back now it was the right thing to do. It gave me the freedom to do many other exciting things with my life using whatever skills I'd learned over the years whether songwriting, recording, tour managing, management, writing books and documentaries and, importantly, seeing the world at my own pace. It would be another year or so before I finally made the move off the road with Quo and soon after my leaving drummer John Coghlan was replaced. Just three years later Alan Lancaster was ousted from the band after Live Aid.


Bob Young Interview 3

However you still contributed a co-write with Rick for 'Just Supposin' ('Coming And Going') and with Rick and Andy for 'Never Too Late' ('Falling In, Falling Out'). Were these songs written before you moved on from working with the band, or did you continue to write with the guys during that time?

Because we all remained friends, although not seeing each other on a day to day basis, there was no pressure, but I could still see the way things were heading and the problems inside the Quo camp. Rick would still come over to my house and we'd write and drink and... 'Coming and Going' was written over a couple of long sessions, him on electric guitar, me on harmonica and both of us singing along and was I so glad it made it onto the 'Just Supposin' album.

And, of course, you performed with the band at their 1984 'End Of The Road' show in Milton Keynes. That must have been an emotional time - did you have any inkling that Francis and Rick would reform the band without Alan not long after?

I was totally made up to be asked to play harmonica again on 'Roadhouse Blues' on that show. It was very special to look out from that stage and see that amazing crowd of 50 or 60,000 fans going crazy. And very emotional for them genuinely believing it was their last live show together. Just a pity John Coghlan wasn't in the band and there to enjoy it. I don't think anyone could have predicted they would reform without Alan after Live Aid although there was, as I said before, a lot of tension that had been building over previous years due in no small part to the amount of drugs and alcohol around.

Amazingly while all this had been going on, you found the time to form a formidable writing partnership with guitarist Micky Moody, forming Young & Moody, which went on to become The Young & Moody Band. How did the two of you meet and when did you start song writing together?

Micky and I first met on a European tour in, I think, 1974 when his band Snafu was supporting Quo.
We immediately hit it off with a shared taste in music (blues) and humour (very silly). Soon after that we began writing whenever we had a chance to get together which, because of our separate touring commitments, meant not as often as we would have liked. Deep Purple's Roger Glover eventually heard a few of our songs and demos and suggested he produce an album for us.

You released the self-titled Young & Moody album in 1977, which never quite achieved the success the songs deserved. With your Quo links and Micky's time in Juicy Lucy and Snafu, do you think people were maybe a little surprised by the direction you took with the album?

Maybe one or two people were a little surprised but I think, because it reflected the roots of Quo and the bands Micky was with, it was easier to accept and enjoy than had we done say a jazz, pop or soul record. That album was an absolute dream to write and record. Very bluesy and laid back with just Micky and I, Kokomo drummer Terry Stannard and the multi-talented Graham Preskett on violin, bass, keyboards and mandolin. Roger is quoted as saying at the time "It's most enjoyable and fun album I've had the pleasure of working on". It got a lot of excellent reviews and we spent a very funny and memorable couple of weeks going around the UK on a national radio and press tour. We're both very proud of that album.

Micky was then asked to join David Coverdale's new band, Whitesnake - an offer he couldn't really turn down. Did that scupper the Young & Moody plans for further albums?

No not really as I was so busy anyway on the Status Quo continual world tour and Young & Moody was never meant to be our priority. Whitesnake for Micky was a brilliant move and I loved that band and especially the great songs he wrote with them. David Coverdale is a born star. The three of us even got to write a really nice song together. Micky and I still write the occasional song but it's our friendship that's the most important thing to us. I think we now have a catalogue of well over a hundred songs and are planning to do something live as Young & Moody later this year.

However you continued to release a few singles between 1979 and 1983 - the last one being a 'maxi-single' with Motörhead, Cozy Powell and The Nolans! That's not the most obvious combination. How did that come about?

'Don't Do That' was just one of the many songs we were writing at that time and it had quite a Quo-ishness to it. When we came to record it we wanted our friend Cozy Powell on drums - and he came on board. I didn't think my voice suited it so we pulled in another mate, Ed Hamilton, who had that rock type of voice we felt it needed. Lemmy was an absolute first choice for bass and he agreed immediately, especially when he knew we'd asked the Nolan Sisters to do backing vocals and we'd be doing a video. It was a crazy idea that worked and another memorable moment in the crazy world of Young & Moody. It's still up on YouTube and worth checking out.

During this period you also published your first book, 'Alias The Compass', a book of poems, ideas and observations on the life you were living. The book was enthusiastically received - what was the thought behind the book and were you pleased by how well people reacted to it?

As long as I can remember I've been scribbling notes, writing words, lyrics and poems and, being a bit of a hoarder, have kept everything. I hit my thirtieth birthday in 1975 and decided it was time to stop dreaming about putting a book of poems together and get on with it. Quo by then were flying high around the world in more ways than one and I thought there might be a few people out there interested in checking it out. Eighteen months later I'd pulled it all together and asked DJ John Peel if he'd write the foreword for me, not really expecting him to agree. I sent him quite a few samples and to my very pleasant surprise he agreed and that for me was the icing on the cake. Several of the poems became the foundations of a few Quo and Young & Moody songs, probably most notable 'Paper Plane', although it's a bit of a misconception that I've always just been the lyricist in any of my writing partnerships... It's taken me another thirty years to put the follow up book together and that's now in the making....

You and Micky also contributed three songs to the excellent 'Line Up' album by Rainbow/MSG singer Graham Bonnet - an album featuring the likes of Russ Ballard, Cozy Powell, Jon Lord, Mel Collins and of course Francis, Rick, Andy and Micky. Were those songs written especially for that album, or did Micky bring them to the project after you had written them previously?

We were with the same management company as Graham and when he was going into the studio to record a new album we were asked if we had any songs that we'd like to put forward. Fortunately we had plenty and three of them happened to suit Graham. They weren't written especially for him but we knew they might work okay as we'd previously used Graham to sing the song 'These Eyes' that we'd written and recorded for a big Levi's commercial and which went on to win us a British TV advertising export award in 1981.

You wrote two books in the 80s, 'Again And Again', focusing on your time with Quo. How was it looking back on your time with Quo - in a way from the outside looking in - at that time?

On the road I've always collected various bits of what we now call memorabilia i.e. old backstage passes, itineraries, photos, hotel room keys, demos etc etc. I'd throw them all into my suitcase as we went along and when I got home at the end of a tour would put it all into boxes and basically forget about it. I was the only one really to do this on a regular basis and I'm glad I did. I've always been the go-to when rare things are needed for tour programs, books, documentaries, re-releases and the like. Putting together books on Quo was a natural progression and always an opportunity to dig out old memories. There's been a couple of excellent coffee table books I've worked on over the past few years too.

And 'The Language Of Rock n Roll' with Micky, a sideways look at the phrases and language musicians use that may not be so obvious to those outside the business. It's a wonderful idea, where did the notion behind that book come from?

That particular book came out of our very silly 'joint' sense of humour. First published in 1985 it soon caught the imagination of a lot of bands and road crews as it was speaking their language. Our descriptions of everything from Backline to Being in a support band: Jobsworths to Japanese Hospitality: Unknown Warriors to Unwinding after a gig. Not much was out of bounds and the sillier the better. I wish we had the time to do a 2017 follow up. Maybe it's time to hand over the baton...

1986 saw you release your, to date, only solo album, 'In Quo Country', where you focused on the more country side of some of the songs you wrote with Quo. Was this, in a way, how you'd always heard these songs as you were helping to create them?

This album had long been something I'd wanted to do and it took coming off the road with Quo to actually get on with it. I'd left with quite a list of ambitions and objectives and fortunately, with time now being my own, have been lucky to tick many of them off along the way while always adding a few more dreams to chase. A lot of the co-writes with Francis were usually started on acoustic guitars and some would have a bit of the country blues thing about them such as 'Claudie', 'Caroline' and 'Dirty Water', as have one or two of the ones with Rick Parfitt such as 'Living On An Island'. I've always felt there's more than one way to arrange and produce just about any song and the idea I had for 'In Quo Country' was not to try and better the originals, because that's not possible with definitive Quo tracks, but to re-record and arrange some of those I'd been involved with using musicians and friends I thought would work well together in a studio and record a selection of my songs but with a bit more of a country flavour.

The album also features a host of respected, talented musicians. Can you share your memories of recording the album and the people involved?

With much help and enthusiasm from Micky Moody, who co-produced the album with our producer friend, the late Stuart Taylor, we pulled together a very special bunch of musician friends all of who we believed would work well together. They didn't take too much persuading and we soon moved into Phonogram Studios in Marble Arch, and the first thing we did was hire in several eight foot tall cactus film props. That immediately set the tone for the week and we were off. With guitarists Micky, Albert Lee and Billy Bremner, BJ Cole on pedal steel, Kokomo drummer Terry Stannard, Graham Preskett on violin and keyboards and Mo Foster on bass, plus various other musicians in and out it to add their bits, it couldn't have gone better or been more fun. A really memorable week...

The album has just been reissued under the title 'Back In Quo Country', featuring eight bonus tracks. What can people expect to find on this new expanded edition?

The 'In Quo Country' ten tracks have all been re-mastered and I've added several songs written and recorded in and around the same period as the originals and which I felt were in keeping with everything else on this re-release. There's three Rossi/Young songs, three with Micky and a steaming version of the Charlie Daniels song 'The Devil Went Down To Georgia' with Micky's slide guitar replacing the violin solos featured on the original and Francis on backing vocals. There's also a rare recording of Francis and I writing 'Down Down' in our bedroom in the Travelodge Motel in Hollywood in 1973. The whole CD package is completely new with photos, biog, info and track listing etc. There's been a lot of enquiries about also releasing the album on vinyl and I'm really hoping that works out.

Since coming off the road with Quo you've turned your attention to a variety of different things, as well as managing bands and artists like Relish, Leya and Joe Echo. How much did you enjoy going back to the start with bands to help them build from the ground up?

My very good friend Marc Marot who was MD of Island Records for many years started his own management company for artists including Paul Oakenfold, Richard Ashcroft and Cat Stevens.
He invited me to work with him and as well as helping develop new artists one of my roles was looking after Richard Ashcroft on a day to day basis on and off the road. We got on well, there wasn't really a dull moment and I really enjoyed those three of four years with him. I liked one of the nicknames he called me...WD40 because he reckoned I could get anything moving. He also called me plenty of others names too... Prior to joining Marc I did a lot of what I've always enjoyed doing and that's looking after artists. I tour managed violinist Vanessa-Mae all over the world for a couple of years and also did a couple of really nice ones with the legendary Hank Marvin. Over the past few years I've also done several tours of China, Japan, and Korea with Croatian classical pianist Maksim, in fact all over Asia where he has superstar status. And for fifteen years now I've guided the career of the hugely talented singer songwriter Ciaran Gribbin who became the singer of INXS and now lives in Australia and has written songs for movies, Madonna and Al Pacino amongst others.

And of course, you continued to write books on both Quo and the history of the Fender Stratocaster, and you also were one of the driving forces behind the TV documentary, 'The Story Of The Fender Stratocaster'. That must have been a really great project to be able to bring into being?

Yes that was great to work on with Frankie Miller guitarist Ray Minhinnett. We had this idea to write and produce a documentary on the forty years history of the Stratocaster. We started by drawing up a big list of all the guitarists we'd like to include in the film - Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Mark Knopfler, George Harrison, Keith Richard, Bryan Adams, Nile Rodgers - the list just went on and everyone pretty much suggested we'd be lucky to get a quarter of them and that's if we could ever raise the money to do it. But never say never and eventually EMI decided to give it a shot and provided us with the funding and an office in Manchester Square. It took us two years to not only pull it off but also interview and film both here and in America, all of the players and people on our original list.

However the call of Quo was never all that far away, drummer John Coghlan asking you to be part of his band Diesel in the late 80s. How was it getting back together with John after so many years - and are you disappointed that those songs remain largely unreleased?

John's Diesel Band actually did their first gig in 1977 at the Marquee Club in Soho. The band included myself, Micky Moody, Jackie Lynton and Andy Bown and over the years various other members came in and out such as Alan Lancaster, Rick Parfitt (who particularly loved coming out to play), John Gustafson and loads more. A lot of fun which is why Diesel formed in the first place.... We recorded an album in Sweden and the band by then was John Coghlan and I, Ray Minhinnett (Frankie Miller), Phil May (Pretty Things), Chrissy Stewart (Spooky Tooth/Frankie Miller Band) and Hilly Briggs on keyboards. It was never released as the record company went bust - not our fault! - although it's likely to be out now sometime this year.

Out of the blue, Francis got back in touch with you prior to Quo's 'Heavy Traffic' album. Was that a big surprise to you and was it easy to put some of the things from the past behind you? It must have been good to rekindle that old friendship?

Yes it was an unexpected call from Francis seventeen years ago to suggest we get together and see where it took us. We'd never actually fallen out, just hadn't spent much time together for many years even though we've always lived very close to each other. So we did get together and started talking pretty much every day for the next three months and slowly, quite naturally the old writing habit started falling back into place and we've carried on where we left off and have since written around fifty new songs.


Bob Young Interview 4

Were you surprised at how quickly your song-writing partnership clicked back into place with Francis? After such a long time not working together, you must be very proud with the songs you two have contributed to the albums 'Heavy Traffic', 'The Party Ain't Over Yet', 'In Search Of The Fourth Chord', 'Quid Pro Quo' and 'Bula Quo'?

I'd say we were pleasantly surprised as we had no game plan other than getting together and chatting as old friends do, but I do know it felt good to talk about many things that had happened over the years and maybe work out just why some of them had happened. Eventually seven of those first new songs made it onto the 'Heavy Traffic' album in 2002, produced by Mike Paxman and really well received by both critics and fans, which was very satisfying. On reflection yes, very proud to have contributed and played a small part in those albums.

However, would it be fair to suggest that one of the highlights of recent years must be getting back on stage with the Frantic Four during their reunion tours. Those must have been some really special moments?

I'm so glad those two recent very successful re-union tours with Lancaster and Coghlan came together and that I was asked to play harmonica with them again on the road and particularly now in the light of Rick's recent tragic death. The fans really loved it, having always hoped but never actually thinking it could happen. There were some really special moments on and off stage. Hammersmith Odeon (Apollo) for me was one of the many highlights. Standing on that stage I really did think back to first meeting them almost fifty years earlier on that very same spot on the Gene Pitney tour.

And finally, in what has been a long, fruitful and eclectic career, what's lined up next from you Bob?

I'm currently helping put together a big coffee table book on the 60 years history of the world famous Cavern Club in Liverpool. For over twenty-five years I've been what you could call their music industry consultant and have been involved in many of their interesting and rewarding projects including organising, on their behalf, the Hillsborough Justice Concert at Liverpool's Anfield Stadium, which raised over £400,000 to help the Families continue their fight for justice. I'm working too on my 'autobiographical scrapbook' that tells my story through letters, poems, lyrics, stories, photos and memorabilia. Francis and I will probably get to write a song or two this year and I'll continue to do lots of travelling to places around the world I haven't been to and to places in my passports I can't remember going to before. That should keep me quite busy...


Bob Young Interview 5

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