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The Fureys – February Banner

The Night Status Quo Came to Town – A short story by Fionnuala McNicholl

Status Quo (Image: Getty)
Status Quo (Image: Getty)

THE ANNOUNCEMENT was made across the airwaves: Status Quo would play The Venue in June, all part of Derry being United Kingdom City of Culture for 2013.

‘Oh I’d love to go,’ I turned to my husband and said. He looked at me with that ‘you must be crazy’ look on his face.

Alas, that didn’t stop my mind drifting back to 1975 when our venue was the Parochial Hall near Strabane, Co. Tyrone. Not the stylish type of halls we find in many parishes today, ours was more the ramshackle type, but it was our ramshackle and we loved it.

After all, this was Northern Ireland; the Troubles were at their height with very few places for teenagers to socialise.

Few bands were travelling north to play in the remaining entertainment venues that hadn’t succumbed to the bombings, but our little parish hall remained with its brick base, green clad wooden walls, corrugated tin roof and well-trodden wooden floor.

Having put my socially reserved mother through the red-faced embarrassment of having to go into a men’s outfitters in town to purchase a purple shirt with white tartan sleeves and collar for her youngest daughter, it was now time for it to be sported at the Friday disco

Excitement would mount on Fridays travelling home from school wondering what to wear to the disco.

‘Think I’ll wear my new Bay City Rollers shirt,’ I was able to boast one day; mind you it was weeks after I had begun pestering my mother about the need for this attire, after all you couldn’t be crazy about a band and not be wearing their iconic symbolism.

Then, having put my socially reserved mother through the red-faced embarrassment of having to go into a men’s outfitters in town to purchase a purple shirt with white tartan sleeves and collar for her youngest daughter, it was now time for it to be sported at the Friday disco.

Fashion didn’t seem to bother the boys in the same way, they all appeared like clones only with different coloured hair – denim parallels worn above the ankles and denim jackets with brogues or Doc Marten boots that clattered like a stampede when they walked up the floor of the hall.

They would congregate by the stage to be out of sight of the vigilant, scanning eye of the curate who would take his stand at the back of the hall, hoping to prevent any boy and girl venturing outside for a sneaky kiss.

Our disco music blasted from a square, red-and-cream Bush record player sitting on top of a chair, with one of the boys acting as disc jockey for the night, selecting music from a cardboard box of single records.

(Image: iStock)
(Image: iStock)

When the music got going not everyone would have got up from their seats around the wall to dance, but for some reason as soon as Status Quo’s intro was heard it was like a swarm of bees onto the floor.

No one felt they had to be dancing with any one person in particular. Everyone danced around, heads jerking up and down to the ‘Down down da da da daum’ beat, with the boys clumsily playing air guitar with flexible fingers ascending and descending an imaginary fretboard.

Yes, this was Status Quo music and even the tone deaf among us were up rocking to the beat, Caroline, Paper Plane and Wild Side of Life all evoked the same response.

Status Quo back in the 1970s (Image: Getty)
Status Quo back in the 1970s (Image: Getty)

But I digress, that was forty years ago. And yes, like Cinderella, I did go to the ball, well to The Venue to be precise. Off my husband and I went, joining the four thousand people of all ages who had turned out to see the stalwart rockers perform.

There were lots of shiny-headed men, others with receding locks, but with a fifty shades of grey pony tail, sadly lacking in volume, dangling from the nape of their necks. Many were wearing denim jackets and waistcoats but equally as many were sedately dressed in woollen jumpers and flannel trousers, and the ladies in staid dresses.

With the first chords of Caroline the audience erupted and just like all those years ago. Heads started shaking to the music, soon arms were swaying in the air and everyone joined in as the band played all the old favourites.

They played their heart out non-stop and by the time Down Down and Rockin’ All Over The World were played, the floor was bouncing.

By the end of the night the denim clad and woolly-jumper-clad fans were head banging and arm swaying and dancing side by side. It was fantastic to see a band we had all grown up listening to actually perform in our local city.

I guess at the end of the day, we’re all old rockers at heart.

Fionnuala McNicholl is from Greysteel, Co. Derry. Her memoir is her first time being published in the Ireland’s Own Anthology of Winning Short Stories. The 2016 collection, edited by Phil Murphy, features 39 stories selected from over 500 entries. Published by Three Sisters Press at €14.99, it’s available through bookshops or online at www.irelandsown.ie

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