Rick Parfitt

Rick Parfitt dies, aged 68

Rick Parfitt, guitarist with rock legends Status Quo for half a century, has died at the age of 68.

Born in Woking, Surrey, Parfitt learned guitar at the age of 11 and entered showbusiness in the early 1960s, entertaining tourists at holiday camps in the south of England. While performing at Butlins in Minehead, Parfitt met Francis Rossi and was soon invited to join Rossi’s band The Spectres, whose line-up also included bassist Alan Lancaster and drummer John Coghlan. The Spectres renamed themselves Traffic Jam, then The Status Quo, achieving success early in 1968 with the psychedelic Pictures of Matchstick Men and Ice in the Sun. As the 1970s dawned and the band’s success dwindled, they adopted a harder rock sound, returning to the charts in 1973 with Paper Plane. With their instantly recognisable long hair and denim look, Parfitt and Rossi guided the band through huge success in the second half of the seventies with a string of hits in their familiar 12 bar boogie style including Caroline (1973, #5), Rockin’ All Over The World (1977, #3), Whatever You Want (1979, #4) and their only number 1 single, 1974’s Down Down.

Quo’s success carried on into the ’80s with hits including What You’re Proposing (1980, #2), Something ‘Bout You Baby I Like (1981, #9) and Marguerita Time (1983, #3). By the middle of the decade only Parfitt and Rossi remained from the classic line-up and, despite opening Live Aid in 1985, the band’s continued existence seemed precarious, especially after Lancaster launched a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the duo using the Status Quo name. The case was settled in 1986 and Quo continued as before, supporting Queen on their final tour with Freddie Mercury and scoring another number 2 hit with In The Army Now. They reworked one of their earlier hits as Running All Over The World to promote the Sport Aid event of 1988 and scored another top five hit with Burning Bridges (On And Off And On Again) at the end of the year.

By the start of the 1990s Quo seemed increasingly content to trade on past glories, with an endless number of anniversaries to celebrate; indeed, they scored another number 2 hit with 1990’s medley single The Anniversary Waltz (Part One). Burning Bridges was reworked as Manchester United’s anthem for the 1994 FA Cup Final Come On You Reds and became the first single by a football club to reach number 1, although Quo were not credited on the single. This would be their last top ten hit; two years later Radio 1 would – quite reasonably – refuse to playlist Quo’s collaboration with the Beach Boys on a cover of the latter’s Fun Fun Fun. The following year Parfitt suffered a heart attack and underwent a quadruple heart bypass. Nevertheless, Quo rode out the storm and underwent something of a resurgence in the early 2000s, scoring further top twenty hits Jam Side Down (2002, #17), You’ll Come ‘Round (2004, #14) and The Party Ain’t Over Yet (2005, #11). Parfitt and Rossi even landed roles as themselves in Coronation Street, leading to their own comedy action movie Bula Quo! released in 2013. That same year Parfitt and Rossi settled their differences with Lancaster and Coghlan and reunited for a tour.

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In recent years Parfitt’s health had deteriorated: after a throat cancer scare in 2005, he had another heart attack in 2011 which, he said, finally convinced him to stop smoking and drinking. In June 2016 Parfitt suffered a third heart attack, leaving him too ill to continue touring with Status Quo. His intention was to continue to record with the band, as well as working on a solo album for release in 2017, but he was hospitalised again in December 2016 due to complications from a shoulder injury, and died from septicaemia on Christmas Eve at the age of 68.