Bob Young’s archive: inside Status Quo’s unofficial 5th member memorabilia collection
Known by many as Status Quo’s unofficial 5th member, musician, songwriter and author Bob Young has been the band’s roadie, tour manager and harmonica player for thirteen years between 1968 and 1981, co-writing many of the band’s greatest hits and album tracks with Quo lead singer and guitarist Francis Rossi. Down Down, Caroline, Paper Plane are just a few of the dozens of their remarkable tunes and Bob Young has also co-written several other Quo songs with the late Rick Parfitt and Alan Lancaster.
After years of touring with the band, in 1986 Young recorded and released his solo album, In Quo Country, encompassing several songs which he had co-written for Quo and recorded in a country music style with a great band including guitarists Albert Lee, BJ Cole and Whitesnake’s Micky Moody. From the mid-80’s Bob moved into tour and artists management, traveling the world with major artists such as violinist Vanessa-Mae, Richard Ashcroft, INXS, Hank Marvin and others. He’s also written several books and co-written and produced a film documentary ‘Curves, Contours & Body Horns’ on the history of the Fender Stratocaster guitar featuring artists including Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Bonnie Raitt, Nile Rodgers, Mark Knopfler and many others filmed and interviewed in the UK and USA.
In 2000, Young started writing with Francis Rossi again, and since then has now co-written over ninety of the bands song catalogue. He also ended up joining Status Quo on stage to play his harmonica on “Railroad” and “Roadhouse Blues” during the Frantic Four reunion UK and European tours in 2013 and 2014.
In his decades long career and collaboration with Status Quo, Bob Young has amassed an impressive archive, which has been a key resource for his publications such as “Status Quo”: The Official 40th Anniversary Edition and for the recent exhibition hosted at The Barbican Library in London, Celebrating Seven Decades of Quo in May 2023.
Eleonora Andrighetto asked Bob to discuss collecting and to pick out the most treasured items from his private archive and their backstories.
Bob’s first Quo gig
My first gig as roadie to Status Quo was at the Top Rank Ballroom in Bristol on June 4th 1968. It was just me and their equipment in a van with Francis and Rick riding shotgun. The other three came along in their flash Pontiac Parisienne car driven by tour manager John Fanning. The small van was packed solid with gear with not an inch to spare.
Bob Young’s stage set up for Status Quo at the Top Rank Ballroom, Bristol, June 4th 1968, hand written note, photo courtesy of Bob Young
I was told it had to come out and go back in exactly the same way otherwise it wouldn’t all fit in, so I decided the best thing to do was write a list to make sure. I wrote this on the back of an old envelope and on the other side I drew a stage plan of where everything was to be set up every night. Not exactly a Rolling Stones set up but it was early days and I didn’t want to mess up and lose my new £15 a week job. Thankfully a year later I became the tour manager with a £5 raise and got to travel with the band.
Bob Young’s equipment list for Status Quo at the Top Rank Ballroom, Bristol, June 4th 1968, hand written note, photo courtesy of Bob Young
The Bob Young Archive: the On The Level album sleeve
Quo’s eighth studio album ‘On The Level’ was released in Feb 1975 and added to their many albums which made the top spot in the charts. For the album gatefold sleeve it was decided to pull out a whole bunch of (mostly) my photos. The band then selected the ones we thought might work if we cut them up, stuck them on a board the size of a double vinyl album sleeve and photographed it. I think what we were smoking steered us towards our final selection and this is the end result. Very rough, very basic and very silly. I eventually framed that original board and it now hangs proudly in my son Jamies’ office.
On The Level album by Status Quo, 1975, photo courtesy of Bob Young
The Bob Young Archive: the Triple Gold Record Award
Status Quo has sold well over 100 million records worldwide resulting in countless international awards throughout the years. The gold and platinum albums and singles awards came in all shapes and sizes and I thought were often quite beautiful. In 1976 the Australian record company asked if they could fly over there for five days of publicity to collect ten gold album awards (two triples, a double and two singles) for sales of a couple of the albums. How could we refuse a few days in one of our favourite countries? Of course we managed to extend this trip to two weeks of fun and games and this is one of those ten we each received. With the changes in how music is now sold, these actual awards are becoming quite rare. 250,000 plays on Spotify etc do not mean quite the same to writers and artists these days as 250,000 CD and vinyl sales….
Triple Gold Record Award given to Status Quo for their album Blue for you, 1976, photo courtesy of Bob Young
The Bob Young Archive: limited edition prints
In the mid/late seventies I was invited to join the then quite new and small UK fund raising committee of the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Charity. I stayed on this for many years into the late eighties as I watched this wonderful organisation grow. We all came up with various fund raising projects in those meetings and the first I had was to produce and sell original limited edition prints signed by major music industry names. The first one was based on my poem ‘But For The Kids’ with six original sketches drawn and donated by Cat Stevens, Roger Glover, Tommy Steele, Mike Oldfield, Roger Dean and Keith Michell. 100 of these numbered and framed prints were produced and each signed all by all six.
But for the kid, Nordoff Robbins’ limited edition print, photo courtesy of Bob Young
The Bob Young Archive: limited edition prints
The second idea I had was The Silver Clef All-Stars, an original print by Rob Fletcher of the first ten artists to receive the prestigious NRMTC Award from 1976 to 1985 who were The Who, Cliff Richard & The Shadows, Genesis, Elton John, Pink Floyd, Status Quo, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Queen and Dire Straits. Again 100 were produced and all signed by those artists. I have one each of these on my office wall.
Silver Clef All Stars, Nordoff Robbins’ limited edition print, photo courtesy of Bob Young
The Bob Young Archive: original lyrics and demos
From day one, whoever I’ve been writing a song with, I’ve always been the one to scribble the lyrics down while the other plays guitar. That probably started because I’m a shite guitarist! With Quo’s Francis Rossi or the late Rick Parfitt or Alan Lancaster it always worked that way as we weaved our way together through the start of a new song idea.
Writing cassettes and demos, image courtesy of Bob Young
Before technology gave us a big helping hand, we would stick ideas down on a heavy old cassette player which each of us had and carried around everywhere on tour. I’ve kept all of those cassettes and still find some crazy ideas we would start and never get to finish. With ‘Down Down’ I remember Francis and I writing the first ideas in our hotel room in the Travel Lodge Motel in LA and eventually finishing the song back home in London. Rick and I wrote ‘Living On An Island’ in our hotel room on the island of Jersey in the Channel Islands. This was on one of my visits as he spent a part of each year there. The lyrics are about our time together on the island and there’s still certain magic about some of those first writing ideas and rough demos.
Status Quo’s Down Down handwritten lyrics, image courtesy of Bob Young
The Bob Young Archive: the 40th anniversary Fender Stratocaster
In 1994, to celebrate the commercial launch and 40 year history of the Fender Stratocaster guitar, I co-wrote and produced a special book, film & TV documentary, Curves Contours & Body Horns with Ray Minhinnett which was screened worldwide. The film features many of the legendary Strat players including Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Keith Richards, Bonnie Raitt, Richie Sambora, Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy, Hank Marvin and Nile Rodgers. A limited edition of 40 guitars were built in the Fender Custom Shop, California to commemorate this 40th Anniversary and many of the guitarists in the documentary became the owner of one of these exclusive instruments. I have number 3!
Bob Young’s 40th anniversary edition Fender Stratocaster, n.3, photo courtesy of Bob Young
The Bob Young Archive: the 40th anniversary Fender Stratocaster
Number 1 of 40 sold at auction in aid of Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Charity for £32,000 and Eric Clapton included his Number 11 in Christie’s New York 1999 charity auction of his own 100 favourite guitars. It sold for US$35,000. In 2004, to celebrate its 50th Anniversary, I co-organised the Strat Pack concert at Wembley Arena in aid of the Nordoff-Robbins charity which raised £250,000 for the charity. It featured David Gilmour, Joe Walsh, Ronnie Wood, Amy Winehouse, Gary Moore and others.
The Bob Young Archive: the tour manager’s briefcase
The is my tour managers’ briefcase from the early/mid-seventies. My travelling office, decades before everything important on tour could go on a laptop and iPhone. How everyone back then moved around the world, gig to gig and without mobile phones is still a bit of a mystery but one shared by many I imagine! After a great gig and a very late night, various band members headed off into the night with new, temporary friends! With an early flight the next morning it was every tour managers nightmare. But somehow it all worked – it had to! We knew no different.
Bob Young’s briefcase, photo courtesy of Bob Young
The Bob Young Archive: Quo and the Chelsea Bridge coffee hut
For over several decades and until quite recently, there had been a popular coffee hut on London’s Chelsea Bridge. It was open 24 hours, 365 days a year and frequented by all kinds of people imaginable. It was also well known to the many famous and not so famous musicians and road crews traveling home after long, tiring overnight drives from their gigs in most places in the UK north of the River Thames. Status Quo was just one of those ‘not so famous’ bands in the late sixties and early seventies that regularly stopped there for a welcome coffee and a burger. It was run back then by a grumpy, but lovely old chap called Dave who we got to know well and who we deliberately called either Ron or Tony as we competed to see who could be the first to make him smile. He didn’t sell alcohol or cigarettes so our orders always began with ‘Twenty Number 6 ciggies and a beer please Ron’. His reply was always the same, ‘Fuck off and where have you been tonight boys?’
By 1972 Quo were becoming reasonably successful in the UK and by 73’ had begun touring more overseas in America, Europe and Australia but we never forgot Dave and that famous and now iconic, red coffee hut on the Bridge. We’d send him the occasional postcard on our travels and recently, out of the blue, one of those cards managed to find its way back to me after fifty years via Dave’s niece. I remember writing and posting this one from Atlanta in the middle of one of Quo’s very early USA tours.
Postcard written by Bob Young and Status Quo during the first American tour, photo courtesy of Bob Young