INTERVIEW JOHN COGHLAN, 07-08-04
Some things in life are just
too good to be true. Getting invited to come over to England for an interview
with one of you musical heroes is one of them. That doesn't happen often.
It would become a unforgettable experience for us. Although the beginning
of our trip was quite a disaster. We managed to miss our boat to England!!
We couldn't believe it. So there we were at 07:30 in the morning, still
in Holland, no boat and an appointment with John later that day, which obviously
had to be cancelled. The worst part was that we had to call John about this,
and the fact that we had to wait a few hours to call him because it was
much too early for that. So three hours later we finally made the phonecall
and told him what happened. He simply replied that this has happened to
him lots of times before and that we shouldn't be worried. It was no problem
to do the interview the next day. What a relief!!
It would turn out to be a great day with John and his lovely wife Gillie. We did the interview in the morning and they took us out to lunch after that. We also got to ride in John's army truck and had a drink in the local pub with him before we left. As a fan you can't wish for more, can you?
John and Gillie, thank you both for your warm welcome and we hope too see you again soon.
You wanna know what we talked about? Here it is.
John, the obviuos first question from all the fans, what have you been doing over the last few years?
Well, still playing, doing small drumclinics. Been playing with other bands, doing local gigs and stuff and playing in Germany quite a lot. But it's just in the weekends really. I've been also doing some recording. Do you remember the band Fairport Convention? They used to have a guitarist called Martin Allcock. Martin's been doing solo albums and I'm playing on his last album called Serving suggestions. And he's gonna get me on his next album. It's very good.
It's very unusual for me to play rock and folk. I really enjoyed it. I played on four tracks on the album.
You've also recorded an album with The Barrelhouse Brothers.
Yeah, that was supposed to come out. I don't know what's happened about that. It was a shame. I played on five tracks on that album.
It is available.
Is it? You can't get it here. By all accounts I was told that the record company were gonna promote it but they haven't. It's so crazy. There were some good musicians on there. A bit like the Diesel band really. But it wasn't my band. I was just guest to play five numbers. I quite enjoyed doing that.
Diesel was a great band. Why didn't you go further with that?
Diesel was another thing. People were commited to other bands. So I could do two dates, or three, or four. But it wasn't a band that could stay together with that line up. The line up with Micky Moody, Neil Murray and Jackie Lynton was fantastic.
And Bob Young offcourse.
Yeah. I haven't seen much of Bob these days. I don't even know what he's doing.
Well, he's writing again with Francis.
Yeah, after a long time they finally got together again. A lot of songs on Quo's last album the've written together.
It's a good thing. They used to be a good formula in the early Status Quo days. Writing songs like Mystery song, Down down. Classic songs you know. And suddenly everyone's parted their ways and nobody is writing good stuff. Personally, now that I'm not in the band anymore, I feel I can say that I just think the songs are shit and I don't understand why they can't recreate songs like Mystery song. You know what I mean? Because the Quofans are really dying for something good to come out. I mean Marguerita time, I don't know what happened there. And the yellow jackets in the video? What was that? And also what Martin Allcock said on the CD sleeve of Serving suggestions. There's a list of artists on there, and he's got my name John Coghlan on it. It says, John Coghlan was the original drummer of Status Quo before they became a cabaret act.
He said that, not me!
But that was such a statement from him, that he was brave enough to say that. Anyway, that's their problem.
We'll talk about that later on.
What about Micky Moody and Neil Murray. Do you still see them?
No, I haven't seen Mick or Neil since five or six years. I'm not aware of what the're doing now.
I think Micky is still playing with The Snakes or something.
Yeah, he's still playing Whitesnake songs together with Neil and Bernie Marsden.
Bernie Marsden? Great. I did a gig with Micky and Bernie some time ago. Fantastic!!
When was that?
Must have been ten years ago.
How is it for you to play with bands like State of Quo and Counterfeit Quo?
I tell you what happened. Time and time again I play with musicians who think they can play Status Quo stuff. They think it's very easy. But it's not. But these guys can really do it. I mean Paul and Mikey are superb. And Graham play's a mean bass. But a lot of people are saying, John, you're playing in a covers band. Then I say, I know. But if I'm gonna go out there playing Quo stuff and I can't do it with Francis or Rick, then it has to be with them. We only changed the name to John Coghlan's Quo. And it works well. A lot of fans said to me who went to the gig, that they didn't knew what to expect, but they told me that when they shut their eyes and listened, it was just like the original Quo. A lot of musicians can't cut it the way they do.
John, let's go back to the moment you left Quo. Was that a relief for you at that time, or was it something that never should have happened?
It was something that never should have happened. But also at the same time I was relieved. I think what killed it for me was the fact that there was too much pressure on all the time. I know, maybe you're thinking that's part of the job. I've said this many times, if we were not touring, we were rehearsing for an album. And if we weren't rehearsing for an album, we were rehearsing for a tour. Maybe if we'd taken four or five months off or so I could have stayed. I don't know. The first thing that crossed my mind when I was on the plane home was that I don't have to play 4500 times anymore.
You hated that?
Yeah, I never liked it.
It was too long.
Everybody seems to love that song.
Yeah they do, but not many people are playing it anymore. I think every band has probably one song they don't like, or got tired playing it. This was just one of those songs that felt it went on for too long. And it was a shuffle all the time. I'm pretty good at playing a shuffle, but I just got fed up with it.
That's funny, because all the fans who are hoping that the original line up will get together one day, are all saying: if they get together, we will finally get to hear the long version of 4500 times again. But if it's up to you that won't happen.
No. Besides, I think they do medleys now. And that destroys the songs I think. Who wants to hear half a song you know? It's not something I like.
Is it true John, you left the band by kicking in your drumkit in the studio and just walked out?
Someone said that, but I can't remember. I just had enough and wanted to get out. The bad thing was that nobody really sad down. Like Colin Johnson said, there's nobody bothered to sit down and say let's talk this over. They just didn't give a fuck you know. So I got on the plane. What I thought was the most strangest thing was that it took a recordcompany girl, my drumroadie, Iain Jones and someone else to take me to the airport. What's all that shit about? I can go on my own to the airport! And then Alan Crux and Colin Johnson met me at Heathrow and they asked me what happened. I just told them I had enough. Then I got another plane, went to the Isle of Man and went home. I didn't play for about a year or so. I just didn't wanna do it anymore. And that was a shame because what we'd should have done is sat down and discussed it. But they didn't wanna do that. It's just one of those things. Iain Jones called me the next morning and said to me that the band have had a meeting and the're gonna use a drum machine. Which was bollocks offcourse. They weren't gonna use a drum machine at all because Pete Kircher was already on his way over. Dirty tricks you know. Fuck it.
So that was a complete surprise for you at that moment?
Yeah, because I think it was sort of planned more or less. But people should sit down and discuss things. Why didn't they sat down with me and discuss it? Just say John, we think you're drinking too much and let's cool it. Just talk it over. But I think it was just both sides not backing out. That's what happened. That's what destroyed the band I think. Then when Alan left, you lost a good rhythm section. And I don't think that once you replace a drummer and a bass player, that it could sound like it did before, because it won't. We've all got our ways how we play and the chemistry did work for us four. We got chemistry. The proof is in the recordings. And when we were playing live on stage, it sounded just like the records. So to chance that wasn't a good thing. Pete Kircher is a good drummer but I don't think he was right for Quo.
He wasn't. You're right about that.
I did a drumclinic the other day with Jeff Rich.
Yeah, the two of us. I tell you what happened. I went to a drumclinic of Carl Palmer. I used to do these clinics myself years ago so I thought, I can do this. And I was driving home in my car and I thought, what can I do? All of a sudden I thought about Jeff Rich. I don't know why. I thought two Quo drummers playing together will get a lot of attention. It worked very well. Jeff's got all these African drums and he let the audience play on it, and then I came on and did drumsolos. Was great.
How's he doing?
He's allright. He has no hair at all. He's playing very well.
Wasn't it strange, the two of you together?
No, we were friends for many years. Jeff used to play for Jackie Lynton. So when he played with Jackie, he used to invite me up and I played Jeff's drums. And that's when I formed Diesel after that.
John, about Quo, do you think if the band had taken some rest you would still be with them?
I don't know. I think Francis is very set in his ways about things. Jeff Rich and Francis still speak quite a lot to eachother, and Jeff told me that when he left, he asked Francis why don't you get John back? And Francis said no, let's not go backwards. He wants to go forward all the time. So they got Matt Letley. I don't know how Parfitt feels about it. I think it's their pride.
Well Rick has said in an interview that there's no chance of the original line up, or old members getting back together again. It will never happen. It was a bit surprising hearing that from him because you're still friends with him.
Yeah. Gillie was sitting by the river thames with some girlfriends when this boat came along. She thought who's that? It looked like Rick . So she waved and it was him with Patti. They came over to her and had a chat for about an hour. They really got on well. He said, give John my regards and come out on the boat one day. We still haven't done it cause their always away. But yeah, he's got nothing against me and I got nothing against him. It's not up to me to make a decision. But I think it would be great to do some kind of anniversary and play a gig.
What do you think about the albums they have made after you left? Have you listened to them?
Not really. I felt detached from it. I listen to the singles on the radio. I did actually listen to one album at home one day, but it did nothing for me.
You feel it's not Quo anymore? A different band.
Yeah, that's right. The songs I do hear on the radio just don't have the magic I'm afraid that the earlier stuff had. You know, songs like Caroline and Down down. There's something magic about that. Then there's Marguerita time.
The first single they released after you left was called Dear John. What were your thoughts about that?
I thought "what the f**k! I don't know if there's a message in there. Do you think it was.
We really don't know but it was a bit strange though. Did you actually did some rehearsing or recording for the 1982 album?
I can't really remember, but I don't think there was any recording because we would start with the sessions when I left. There might be some stuff down there, I don't know.
We know you saw Quo live in 1999 at the Oxford Apollo. How was that?
It was quite strange. Because I've seen the band before at the Apollo, cause Rick always invite us down, and I stood behind the stage watching them. It was strange. And watching the drummer and thinking, he doesn't do it like I play it. Francis didn't know I was coming and when he saw me he said f**king great too see you. How are you? And gave me a big hug. Next thing was that they all shook hands, walked to the stage and I walked around the back and watched the gig. Interesting. And signing autographs on the way out. That was quite weird. And everyone asked me why I didn't got up on stage and played. But that wasn't up to me. I would have done it. Life goes on.
How is Alan doing?
He's doing allright. He still got problems with his hand. That has got something do to with stress he says. He just can't play at the moment. But I said to him we should just get together one day and record some stuff anyway. Me and him.
There were some rumours last year or so that he was coming over to England and play some gigs with you.
That's right. Paul and Mike wanted him to get over and play. I said yeah, that should be fantastic. And Graham, the bassplayer, he's really a Alan Lancaster fan and he said I'd love to. Just watching him play, meet him and say hello. But then he got that problem with his hand and couldn't come. It's a shame because it would have worked very well. But I think he's getting better now.
A lot of fans are still hoping that the original line up will get together someday. Only if it's just for one gig. How are your feelings about that?
I think it will be fantastic.
But do you think it can still work? Because it will be fantastic to see you all on stage together, but we're not sure if it will capture the same magic after all these years.
We will need a lot of rehearsing to recapture what we had before. But I think it will be interesting. If it ever happens it should be recorded straight away for a live album or something. I think it would work. It will take time and a lot of rehearsing to do it right. I would like to think it would happen for the fans. I think they know that I would do it. But maybe they also know that they have a problem with Alan coming to terms with them. But it would only work if also Alan's involved in it and not just me. It have to be the original four. I think that will sell tickets. One show in England, one in Holland, one in Germany and one somewhere else.
What were the highlights?
Doing Wembley with Elton John, the Albert Hall with Leon Russel. In one of the Quo books there's a picture of us on stage at eleven o clock in the morning in Los Angeles in a baseball stadium. That was fab. The biggest gig I've ever played. We played there with Fleetwood Mac and Peter Frampton. Playing Rock and Roll at eleven o clock in the morning! I think we did the Albert Hall twice. Important gigs. Offcourse the Marquee club has always been one of my favourite gigs. That closed down, which is a shame because it was a really good gig to play. Everybody has played there. I'm sure there are some other fantastic gigs around the world that I forgot about. There was another gig at Wembley where Joan Collins came to see us. And we would all slaver. And me and Parfitt stood there thinking, f**cking hell it's Joan Collins.
Was she a fan?
I think it was Colin Johnson who got her along for the P.R. you know. It was a good move. She stayed until the end of the gig. In fact, Cliff Richard came to see us. Cause Cliff was a friend of Rick Parfitt. Had a chat with him before the gig and he seemed to like the band. A lot of good things happened. I phoned the office to ask who's on the guestlist that night and they told me John Bonham's coming. And my mum and dad were also there and were sitting in front of him. My father turned around all the time saying that's my son up there, but didn't know it was John Bonham he was talking to. I think he was quite proud. We used to get quite famous names to see us. A lot of people said to me it's good music to play in the car. It's good driving music. Other good venues were Palais des sports in Paris, the Glasgow Apollo was always fantastic. It had balconies and you could see the balconies moving when we played there from people jumping up and down.
It also had a very high stage.
Yeah, really dangerous. If you were in the front row you couldn't see a thing.
The U.S.A. never happened for Quo.
No it didn't. We should have lived down there. Like Fleetwood Mac did. Because it's such a big country. And to promote yourself, you can't get over for two weeks and go home again. You've hardly been anywhere then. We were a bit spoilt though because we were so big in Europe, that it was better to go home, sit back and be famous.
Which Quo albums and songs do you like the most?
I always get asked that and I always used to say the last one was the best because that's all new. But I think all the Quo albums are very good. What do you think?
Well, the early seventies albums, up until Blue for you, are certainly the best from a musical point of view.
Yeah, that's right.
Because after the live album something changed.
You really think so? I thought that Living on an island was a classis song.
Yeah, that's from the Whatever you want album and that's a fantastic album. But the first two records after the Live album were Rockin' all over the world and If you can't stand the heat and those albums are certainly different. With lots of keyboards, horns and other stuff.
Yes, that was Pip Williams. I think he changed it. A lot of fans didn't like it. Because the fans like the raw guitars, don't they? It sounded all too nice. I didn't like what I played on Rockin' all over the world. But when you get producers in, they start telling you what to play. Instead of leaving it to the musicians. They know how it should sound like.
So who's idea was it then to bring him in?
That's a good point. I don't know. The record company probably. I like Pip though. He's a great guitarist. He's got some great ideas, but maybe he wasn't right for Quo.
Well, he also co-produced the Whatever you want album and that sounded great. But in 1995 he produced the Don't stop album and that was horrible. That wasn't Quo!
I do like the idea of them covering stuff. I must be the only one who likes In the army now. I thought that was great. A lot of people don't like it, but I think it's a great song.
Are there any songs you can't stand?
I don't think I have a least favourite song. I think probably 4500 times. If we ever get back together again we have to play it offcourse and maybe I might enjoy it and change it around a bit. But I don't think that if I go thru all the albums, I can't think of a song I don't like. I think the're all good songs. I always thought Accident prone was fabulous. I didn't like what I play on it, but I think it works. It was a fantastic song.
What happened to the long guitar intro from Rick on that song?
The only thing I remember when we heard it after it's was mixed and edited, was Rick saying f**k, where's the intro? It used to have this long intro by Rick, on his own. That was fantastic. And they cut it off. So there was this very, very short intro left. But still a great song. Actually, my favourite is Mystery song.
You've also worked with Phil Lynott. How was that?
It was OK. Phil Lynott, Chas Hodges and Roy Wood. It was allright. It wasn't about playing gigs, but just recording songs. I didn't really enjoyed it that much. Too many egos around and all that crap. It just died on it's arse really.
It looks like next year will finally see the release of all the old Quo albums in a remastered form on CD. Are you involved in that in some way?
No. Nobody phoned me about that. I've got some CDs at home that have been remastered, not Quo stuff, but I just don't like it. The remastered stuff changes the whole sound.
Well, the remastered CDs from the Pye era sound great. Ma kelly's greasy spoon and Dog of two head sound fantastic!
Really? You like it? I must admit that some of the drums on some of the Quo stuff was a bit burried with the guitars. I think the drums should have come out more to the front. You can here the drums, but it's not kicking arse like it should be. But I would love to listen to some of this remastered stuff. Interesting.
Are there still songs somewhere that haven't seen the light of day yet?
Not that I know. I don't have anything at home.
So all the songs that have been released on albums and singles were the only songs that were recorded?
Well, I'm not involved in it anymore so I haven't got a clue what they do with it. It's possible that Rossi's got some stuff at home. Maybe I should phone him and ask him.
What about the live shows. Did you recorded them?
The only recording I know of is the recording of the Glasgow Apollo. There must have been some other ones but I don't know.
But it's so strange that you've made so many studio albums and just one live album. Because you were a live band.
Yeah, that's right.
John, next month your book will be published. What can we expect?
It comes out october the first. It's called Coghlan & Quo and it's about what we've been talking about really. About the past. Including photos and a load of bollocks. I hope it will be out in Holland also. No doubt it will be.
Which other drummers do you admire?
The ones I've always admired really. Steve Gadd, he played with Eric Clapton. The late great Buddy Rich. I was lucky enough to have met Buddy Rich before he died. John Bonham. I've met Bonzo before he was with Led Zeppelin. There used to be a theatre or studio in London where a lot of recordings were done for the radio. He was there with a bassplayer and a keyboard player, can't remember their names, but I thought he was amazing. Then all of a sudden this band appears called Led Zeppelin. F**king hell. Amazing drummer. The feeling you used to get from that sound you know. It's every drummers dream to get that sound.
What about Cozy Powell?
Yeah Cozy! In fact, one day we were having a meal at the Indian restaurant here around the corner. There was Cozy with a girlfriend and Gillie and me. Then two days later we got a phonecall from this girl that he died. Nice guy Cozy, he was a great drummer. He was great cause he said he'd never practise. I said I'm not either. He just plays the song. Another drummer I like is Simon Phillips. I knew him when he lived here.
He's left ánd right handed.
Yes he is. I play right handed but I'm actually left handed. I can play left handed but it doesn't seem right. But there's loads of good drummers out there. I like drummers like Buddy Rich, who was one of the best drummers in the world.
You've recorded the albums If you can't stand the heat and Whatever you want in Holland. Do you remember anything of that?
I remember a thunderstorm and the thunder hitting a tree. There was this tree outside and it got hit. All the lights went out. We came outside and all this smoke was coming from this tree. So we had to stop recording for a day cause all the fuses were blown. But it was a great place.
And going to the studio by bike.
Yeah, we used to ride bicycles. I remember were going along one day and I crashed in to Bob Young. We were lying there when this police car came along. This officer asked us what we were doing and kept pointing to the road. He said you cycle on there, not on eachother.
John, because of your departure from the band, you missed two very important tours. First there was the 20th anniversary tour in which you should have been included offcourse, and then the End of the road tour in 1984. Were you aware of those tours back then?
Not really, because there was no contact between them and me. A lot of fans were saying if there's a tour coming up, would you do it? I said I doubt it. I still think, like I said earlier, that Francis has still got his pride and I don't think he wants to step down and say come back and play. Because I think he thinks that the band now is obviously how he wants it. He doesn't wanna change that. And he doesn't want Alan to come back and play. But like I also said, it will be fantastic if it could happen because I think it will still sound like it did.
I think it would. But it's up to them to make the move. They know I will do it. But I'm not sure about Alan. At the moment he can't play anyway until his hand gets better. You never know. Rossi did actually say once that it might happen but that it depends on how much money there's involved. Which makes it sound like he's only doing it now for the money.
Matt Letley is a good drummer. Do you know him?
I've met him twice, but he's very quiet and shy. Maybe he's scared of me. But he plays well.
In 1985 you played a legendary show at the Marquee with Diesel, because you were joined on stage by Rick and Alan. How was that?
That was fantastic although there was still an edge there, because of the split. I think we didn't do much afterwards. I think they just went off. It was quite a strange night because there were still some bad feelings. I did ask Rossi once to come out and play with the Diesel band when we were still together and he said no I won't, cause I will take the spotlights away from you. I said don't worry about that. Like I care.
After Quo you've made an album with Partners in Crime, which was totally different from a musical point of view. How do you look back that?
God yeah, That was a fantastic album. There's a song on there called Fools which Noel McCalla sang so well. A ballad type thing, a very moving song. And CBS did nothing with it and I got really pissed off cause there was a lot of money put into these projects. They wanted us to tour with some band that was seriously heavy metal. Can't remember their name. Maybe we should have done it, but I think we wouldn't have gone down very well. It's like putting a support band on for Status Quo you know. Nobody really wanted to see the support act. They just wanna see Quo. That's what would have happened. This happens such a lot with bands. You get a deal, but when the recordcompany don't get a bite on the first week they will drop it. It would have been a big band I think. Because Noel McCalla has such a class voice. He's a bit like Lionel Richie. And offcourse, no promotion no band you know. He's now singing with Manfred Mann.
The Flexible Friends album is pretty good. Why didn't it get a proper release?
The recordcompany in Sweden f**ked that up. It was sort of released in Sweden. But I don't think it's a very good album. It was made too quick. It was rushed. There were a few egos in there.
What can we expect from you in the future John?
Promoting this book now. That will be my next job. And I like to do some more drumclinics. Maybe with Jeff Rich. And I'm always looking round to play. Maybe I put the Diesel band back together with Micky Moody.
Now that's something to look forward to.
Thanks for your time John.
Always a pleasure guys!
Arjen en Fred.