FOR 20 years drummer John Coghlan was the bedrock of legendary rock band Status Quo. Since leaving in 1981 he’s continued to play and tour - and stops off in June to treat Tring to some classic tracks. Nicola Curtis caught up with the 64-year-old Cotswold based drummer.
What was it that turned you onto drums?
My parents used to take me to Crystal Palace where they had dance bands on, and I’d sit in a corner watching the drummers play. I was told I walked up and started to bang the drums. Then dad bought me a bass drum and I started off like most drummers do with a tiny little kit and listening and watching – that’s how we all learnt in the early days.
Do you come from a musical family?
There are no musicians in the family – just me. It’s all a bit weird but there you are. My parents thought it would be a good thing for me to do as a hobby. Of course they had no idea the hobby would turn into a career.
How did Status Quo get together as a band?
I was in the air cadets at school and we formed a little group in the squadron. We had this idea that we might play in pubs and clubs – that didn’t really take off but two guys kept coming in to watch us rehearse. One was Alan Lancaster and one was Francis Rossi. They said they were looking for a drummer and would I come down and play with them at Forest Hill at Jess Jaworski’s house. He was the keyboard player in the band at the time. And that’s how it all started. We did a lot of rehearsing, we got some little gigs. Alan Lancaster’s dad was in charge of Dulwich Sports Club where we used to go and play – and we got a little following.
When fame hit how did you find it?
It was a bit of a shock really. There were people chasing us about, wanting a piece of us all the time. It was quite weird actually - but we got to love it.
Have you got a best moment from your Status Quo days?
Oh Christ I don’t know. I remember playing around after gigs. We’d do things like climb over balconies, looking in at other people’s windows, banging on them, cheering and shouting. Outrageous - but we were just letting off steam.
What did you do when you left Status Quo in 1981?
I’d had enough. I nearly had a nervous breakdown – overdoing everything. I just didn’t want to do it anymore. I was living on the Isle of Man at the time and I liked it so much the last thing I wanted to do was start rehearsing with another band. I just wanted to go somewhere quiet. So I went and bought a little cottage on top of a cliff by the seaside. We (John and second wife Gillie) stayed a couple of years before buying a house right near the airport – they used to ring me up and say ‘don’t come down John the plane’s been delayed.’ I really enjoyed that life but after about a year I got itchy feet and started playing with other musicians again.
Tell me about the bands you now perform with.
The one I’m playing with at the moment they’re from Reading and they had a band called Predatür. They’re really good. I also play with the King Earl Boogie Band with Colin Earl and Lesley Calvert from Mungo Jerry. I really like playing with them. And my own band John Coghlan’s Quo.
Tell me about your gigs these days.
I’m going away this weekend - playing Sweden, on a big ship with Dr Feelgood and other bands. It’s called a rock cruise. Then we’re going to Grimsby!
In March we played in Lax in France. There are 200 people in the village and 1500 turned up. It was just great - endless food, endless wine. We played in a big barn full of French people just loving Status Quo.
What can the audience look forward to on the 18th?
We’ll be doing stuff that I’ve been in - Caroline, Down, Down, Roll Over Lay down.
Go to www.tringtogether.org.uk/tringsummerfestival/tring_carnival for more information.
Call Tring Brewery on 01442 890721 or Dennis’s on 01442 823020 for tickets.