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  • Writer's picturePhilip Bryer

Whose Band is it Anyway?

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

Whose Band is it Anyway?

So keen was Steve McQueen to impose himself on the screen in his first big film role that his scene-stealing antics during the making of The Magnificent Seven tipped co-star Yul Brynner into a rage. The two were often in shot side-by-side, and, according to the website “McQueen constantly did what he could to distract attention so future audiences would look only at him: he took off his hat, played with his gun, checked his bullets, twisted in the saddle, any bit of business possible. When the camera was rolling and he was crossing a stream on horseback behind Brynner, he swung out of his saddle, scooped water into his cowboy hat, and doused himself”. Apparently, an exasperated Brynner enlisted the help of an aide who was tasked with counting how many times McQueen touched his cowboy hat while Brynner was speaking on-camera.

Even so, McQueen’s stunts were as nothing compared to what we witnessed at a concert given by a well-known group, who haven't spent much time basking in glory since the sixties. The band contained a few notable faces, and more than the average number of original members that bands engaged in reunion tours usually feature. On this occasion, we were treated to not only the original lead singer, but also the bloke who replaced him. Onstage together. Great idea, eh? You know, to be honest…not so much. While one was taking the lead vocal, the other would be honking away on a harmonica, and, when the mike was on the other larynx, the other one would leap around playing an imaginary saxophone. Or enacting an exaggerated stand-to-attention complete with flamboyant, elbow-twanging salute. Anything, it seemed, was fair scene-appropriating and spotlight-hogging game, and I suspect I would have enjoyed the post-gig dressing-room debriefings more than I did the concert itself.

There’s a famous film of The Who playing Won’t Get Fooled Again, which, tremendous performance of the song aside, is really notable for Daltrey and Townshend’s mike-swinging, arse-shaking, Battle of the Egos. Similarly, to name but three out of thousands, Jagger and Richards; Plant and Page; and Simon and Garfunkel. I saw the latter duo at Wembley Stadium in the early eighties, and the biggest roar of the night came when Artie G sang the opening lines of Bridge Over Troubled Water, and quite frankly I’m not surprised that apparently Paul S spends much of his time seething over his ex-musical partner. Well, I am surprised at the apparent level of the rancour.

Whose band is it anyway? I used to think The Who was Pete’s band, because he wrote all the songs and did much of the talking. I know now that it’s accepted that The Who was always, and still is, Roger’s group. Or maybe, hmmm, that’s what Townshend wants us to think..? The Beatles was John’s group, then it was Paul’s, then it belonged to the lawyers, and now – if the keeping-the-flame-alive concert set-list is anything to go by, it’s Paul’s again.

We come then, as we must - and if it pleases the court - to Status Quo. I gleaned from Francis Rossi’s autobiography that bass-player Alan Lancaster always considered the group to be his. (The bass-player, indeed, but we must remember that Paul McCartney is always the exception rather than the rule.) However, when it came to adopting legal control of the Status Quo name, the brand, and the denim waistcoats, the judge sided with Mr Rossi and Mr Parfitt, although I understand that Mr Lancaster received a handsome pay-out. As big-name tour promoters and record label executives made plain after Live Aid, there was huge demand for the band to reform properly. But the only Status Quo which could turn the heads of the ticket-buying public was the one with Rossi and Parfitt at the front, and nobody gave even a solitary hoot about who might be on bass and drums. No further questions, your witness...

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