By Jeremy Miles
A FEW eyebrows were raised recently when Status Quo's frontman Francis Rossi lashed out at troubled singers Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty for sending the wrong message to impressionable young fans.
The 58-year-old rocker, who by his own admission spent much of the 1980s lost in a blizzard of cocaine and booze, was particularly angry about Winehouse being named Woman of the Year by music magazine Mojo.
"Amy is supposed to be great but I can't stick her," growled the Quo frontman. "What message does giving her Woman of the Year send to young people? There has to be some responsibility somewhere, surely? She's not a good role model."
A bit rich perhaps coming from a guitarist whose autobiography, XS All Areas, recounted a regime of two bottles of tequila and three grams of coke a day.
Rossi also dismissed Doherty out of hand saying "At least Amy has serious talent. Pete hasn't got anything. He doesn't count."
However it's unlikely his comment will cause much outrage, for try as he might to be a grumpy old man, the ever outspoken Rossi is generally regarded as something of a national treasure.
Together with Quo co-founder Rick Parfitt, after more than 40 years on the road, he is one of middle England's favourite reformed wild men of rock.
The pair, who have been likened to the Morcambe and Wise of the music business, can relate terrible tales of their past excesses with impunity. While the tabloids hover ready to pounce on the younger generation of pop party people at the faintest suggestion of powder or pills, Quo regularly tell tales of extraordinary excess without anyone batting an eyelid.
As their latest marathon UK tour hit the road, Rossi's comments on Winehouse and Doherty caused little reaction. After all it was just Quo gobbing off again and that's all grist to the mill for this band whose heads down no nonsense boogie has delighted fans and dismayed critics for so long that they've become part of Britain's heritage.
Both Rossi and Parfitt have cleaned up their acts considerably since the days when they used to cruise cashpoint machines at every town they played gathering the hundreds of pounds it cost in drug bills just to get them on stage.
Gone are the days when Rossi would need a toot of coke just to get out of bed and Parfitt would wake up and ask his wife why the dining room furniture was at the bottom of the swimming pool before being informed that that's where he threw it the night before.
Rossi told me that he eventually realised that his belief that they were "just like everyone else" was a little wide of the mark.
"Every Friday night people come home from work and hit the town.They get drunk and they get stoned.
"The difference is they don't carry on doing it seven nights a week," he said. "We did it for ten years and that's really not a very good idea."
When Quo arrive at the Bournemouth International Centre on Friday for the final night of their 2007 winter tour it is of course entirely possible, indeed probable, that a large percentage of the audience will be unlikely to have indulged in even a small festive sherry.
For these days a Quo show is family entertainment with the atmosphere of an annual Christmas party.
Indeed after 20 visits to the BIC in 21 years - most of them in November or December - that's exactly what the yearly Quo visit has become.
The fact is the band - particularly following Parfitt's quadruple heart by-pass operation and throat cancer scare - are far more mellow these days than Rossi's waspish swipe at Winehouse and Doherty might suggest.
They even make fun of their detractors' claims that they are three chord wonders.
Indeed the tour, and their latest album, are both knowingly titled In Search of the Fourth Chord. For, whatever anyone says about them, Quo are happy in the knowledge that they are one of Britain's most enduring live acts.
They have sold more than 112 million records worldwide and had more hit albums in the British charts that any band other than the Rolling Stones. In Search of the Fourth Chord is their 33rd, and a recording that has found them reunited with Pip Williams, the man who produced Quo classics like Rockin' All Over World, Whatever You Want and In the Army Now.
Friday night at the BIC will, I'm sure, find them in celebratory mood. Not only because it's the last night of the tour but also because its further proof that they are survivors.