Alan Lancaster, bass guitarist who underpinned Status Quo’s hard-driving brand of rock’n’roll – obituary
Alan Lancaster, who has died aged 72, was the original bass guitarist with Status Quo, rock demigods in double denim who exported their singular brand of driving, three-chord, no-frills boogie around the world in the 1970s and 1980s; he played on 19 albums and 40 singles before leaving in 1985 and continuing his career in Australia, where he joined the platinum-selling Party Boys.
Alan Lancaster was born on February 7 1949 in Peckham, south-east London, and attended Sedgehill School in Lewisham. There he got to know a fellow member of the school orchestra, Francis Rossi (other musical alumni of Sedgehill include the jazz composer Django Bates and the record producer and engineer Ken Scott, who worked with The Beatles).
The pair formed a band called the Scorpions, and at one of their first gigs, at a sports club in Dulwich, they were spotted by an aspiring pop manager, Pat Barlow, who persuaded Lancaster’s mother to let him look after them. They were joined by local drummer John Coghlan and renamed themselves the Spectres.
They signed a deal with the Piccadilly label, but after three singles failed to chart they changed their name, first to Traffic Jam, and then Status Quo. They got themselves a new label, Pye, and brought on board the guitarist and singer Rick Parfitt, whom they had met a couple of years previously when they were all playing at Butlin’s in Minehead.
With an eye to the main chance they embraced the “psychedelic” pop and rock that formed the soundtrack to the Summer of Love. Pictures of Matchstick Men, released in 1967, reached the Top Ten in Britain and the Top 20 in the US (it was, remarkably, their only American hit), and they had another hit in a similar vein with Ice in the Sun.
But as psychedelia’s bright colours faded, so did Quo’s fortunes, and it was several years before they leapt back to prominence, having ditched the paisley, frills and velvet in favour of double denim.
Their second coming began in 1972 with the album Piledriver and its lead 45, Paper Plane, and a long succession of records, most of them hits, followed, all cleaving to the same workmanlike formula of no-nonsense rock’n’roll.
But by the mid-1980s they were on a downward trajectory, only to be rescued from imminent oblivion by a triumphant appearance at the Live Aid Wembley concert in 1985; they kicked off proceedings – despite their displeasure at being bottom of the bill – with one of their biggest hits, Rockin’ All Over the World.
But Live Aid was Lancaster’s last hurrah with Quo. He had based himself in Australia after his 1978 marriage to Dayle Thurbon, a dancer he had met on tour Down Under, and had been drifting apart from Rossi and Parfitt, partly thanks to their heroic intake of beer and cocaine (he was one of the more abstemious members of the rock community).
After Live Aid he flew back home to Australia, and subsequently discovered that they were recording their new album with a session player (and soon-to-be full-time bassist), John “Rhino” Edwards.
An embittered Lancaster went to court to try – unsuccessfully – to prevent the band from using the name “Status Quo” without him. He told reporters that he would never talk to Rossi or Parfitt again.
Back in Australia he joined the Party Boys, as well as founding a band of his own, the Bombers, alongside John Coghlan, who had left the Quo in 1981. They supported bands like Alice Cooper and Cheap Trick on their tours Down Under, while Lancaster also worked on soundtracks and produced a platinum-selling classical album by the pianist Roger Woodward.
He did eventually link up with Quo again, after reconciling with Francis Rossi, and he toured with the band in 2013 and 2014.
Alan Lancaster, who had been suffering from multiple sclerosis, married, first, Pat, a typist, with whom he had a son. They divorced, and in 1978 he married Dayle Thurbon; they had a daughter and son. She survives him, along with his children.
Alan Lancaster, born February 7 1949, died September 26 2021