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Status Quo’s Francis Rossi takes up veggie smoothies to get back on tour at 71

“Sorry if I interrupt you, I haven’t got long left,” Francis Rossi boldly declares, with a cheeky glint in his eye.

He’s joking, of course.

For, at the age of 71 (he’s 72 in a fortnight, but doesn’t want reminding) the Status Quo legend has adopted a strict health regime to ensure he doesn’t Roll Over Lay Down any time soon.

There’s swimming, stomach crunching, hour-long fitness sessions, walking, fruit and veg super-smoothies, vitamins and herbal supplements aplenty.

This is post-lockdown Rossi, working hard to claw back the years.

But at the same time he’s not afraid to have a pop at his own potential fragility, declaring: “Some of us need to die off. There are too many old buggers out there. I’ve had pneumonia. Old-monia, I call it, because I’ve had it three times.

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Francis Rossi with his wife Eileen Rossi

“If anything will kill me, it will be that. When you go, you go. I realised that when my mother, Annie, died. I touched her skin and she was gone. I don’t care what happens to me after that.”

The fitness crusade is driven by upcoming work with Quo, who have been knocking out hits like Rockin’ All Over The World for five decades.

Francis has been teetotal for years after shaking off a drink addiction in the 1980s. And he quit a cocaine habit that had cost him £1.7million after his septum fell out in the shower

Five years ago he also faced seeing bandmate Rick Parfitt – who he had known since they were 16 – die of sepsis aged 68, after living a life of excess.

Only last year, Francis had a cataract operation after nearly losing his sight.

But as he speaks to the Sunday People, he says he has at least been fortunate enough not to have Covid.

We’re sitting in the garden music studio of his sprawling seven-bed mansion in Purley, Surrey, and it really is spectacular. Guitars line the walls.

Francis is promoting a new compilation CD of famous hits from different bands. It’s called ’80s Rock Down – and Quo features with the hit single from 1986, We’re In The Army Now.

The sun is out, his West Highland terriers play on the manicured lawn. Yet something is niggling Francis.

Status Quo Rock Group Francis Rossi and with Rick Parfitt and other members of the band
Status Quo members including Francis Rossi and Parfitt back in the day

“Coming out [of lockdown] is a problem for me. Going back to work with Quo is a problem for me,” he says, looking genuinely concerned. What on earth does he mean?

“Physically, can I do the Quo gig? I’m fit, but I cannot emulate the lung capacity any more and I have to increase that.

“I’ve been practising in my room at night. I’ve been trying to sing Paper Plane and I get about a quarter of the way through it and it just tires you out,” he says, with a big huff for dramatic effect.

The first lockdown struck last March after a rare family holiday in Cornwall with 20 family members (he has eight kids so it doesn’t take much to fill a house). Francis has been at home ever since.

And he let himself go a little. “There is so much energy you use up in performing. And I got lockdown lazy. I did no exercise at all from December to April.”

Hence the new fitness campaign. At 7am there are 30-length dips in his indoor pool.

“I need to build up to 60 lengths for my lungs,” he adds.

He aims for eight minutes of crunches and 60 sit-ups in between making the beds.

Francis Rossi of legendary rock group Status Quo, at his London home
Francis takes such a long list of supplements that his PA and tour manager has to email it over.

Then there are daily sessions over Zoom with his personal trainer John, who is in Portugal.

Breakfasts include a potent concoction of fruit and veg. “Evening” dinner is at 3.30pm – so his stomach has settled by the time he would be going on stage.

Today his wife Eileen – he lovingly refers to her as Lady Greystone, after the name of the house – is serving lasagne with ricotta and a tomato sauce.

He goes on: “I try to put all my veggies in my smoothies.

“Broccoli, kale, spinach, carrots, raspberries, strawberries. Then I have apple cider vinegar for digestion. I learnt from the road that I feel better performing when my stomach is empty and generally better with sleep, so I have it very early, but I do love to eat. I could be a fat f*** really easily.”

After dinner, there’s an hour-long power walk of the neighbourhood – a leafy lane awash with picture-perfect houses and sweeping driveways.

A long-term family osteopath, kinesiologist and acupuncturist called Tina McCutcheon helps Francis and his family with any aches and pains.

She’s due to visit in the next fortnight. “I put my shoulder out lifting weights because I’m not good at the warm-up,” he sighs.

Francis Rossi of the legendary rock group status Quo, photographed at his London home for the Sunday Mirror
Over 50 years Status Quo have sold nearly 120 million albums, produced 85 singles and won dozens of awards.

Statins and any sort of prescription medication are out – but herbal supplements are in.

And that’s about as strong as the “drugs” get.

He declares: “Years ago, millions were addicted to Valium. It was a legal drug and people couldn’t get off it. There are alternatives and medication for me is a slippery slope.”

Francis takes such a long list of supplements that his PA and tour manager has to email it over.

There is ProFlora 5 for gut health and mental agility, Omega 3 oils for his joints, magnesium for energy, milk thistle for detoxification and good old Vitamin D.

There is one vice – a single cigarette, between 5.15pm and 6.30pm daily. It’s American spirit tobacco, with no preservatives or additives.

He says: “I light it and the nicotine hits worse than any drug or alcohol. I’ve got to have one vice! I have to have something after quitting the rest.”

When I say he looks fit and lean he starts forensically examining himself. “Look at this,” he says, trying to pinch what he calls “dodgy skin” on his arms with two fingers.

“Look at this neck,” he frowns. “My big Italian couz said when you get to about 63, that’s when it [ageing] starts.

Francis Rossi of the legendary rock group status Quo, interview at his London home for the Sunday Mirror
Francis says: ‘I’d never have surgery though. I don’t want to look like Liberace!’

“He was right. I’ve got a very vain side, and then another side. That’s vain too!

“I’d never have surgery though. I don’t want to look like Liberace!”

And, with a wince, he adds: “You get the face in the wrong light and…”

So does Eileen, the mother of three of his children and wife of 32 years (at least that’s what he reckons – he can’t remember their ­anniversary), get annoyed with all his insecurities?

Tucking into a mid-morning bowl of porridge and berries, he replies: “I always say to my boys, if you find a woman like your mother, you’ll be extremely lucky.

“I’m pretty snappy with her in the mornings and she’s very Little House On the Prairie. She sees the good in everything. I call her my Schatzi – ‘my darling’, in German.

“I may not do what husbands are supposed to do, but I love her.”

So far as work goes, Francis’ mind is constantly whirring.

He’s been hoping to gig with his pals ZZ Top again – but Covid has prevented that.

80s Rock Down (3CD £12.99)
Status Quo feature on the 80s Rock Down compilation CD which is released this month

In June he starts his spoken word tour, named after his autobiography, I Talk Too Much. And next February, Quo kick off a 14-date Out Out Quoing tour.

Over 50 years they have sold nearly 120 million albums, produced 85 singles and won dozens of awards. So he’s going to be busy – and will be grateful for the energy he is building up.

But Francis lets us into a secret before out chat ends. Being lazy in lockdown rather suited him.

He watched plenty of war documentaries on TV, enjoyed his stunning garden – complete with Japanese acers and Chinese handkerchief trees – and painted four sheds brimming with gardening and music equipment.

“I’m a two-faced Gemini. I can’t help my mind racing ahead and wanting to be busy,” he says.

“But the other side of me just doesn’t want to do anything. It’s the yin and yang. I loved the winter here. I love the grey days. I like to light the fire, sit and watch TV, do the crosswords and jigsaw puzzles.

“Perhaps it’s because of all the touring, but it’s been bliss to me.”

It’s Whatever You Want, Francis. And it seems to be working well.

  • ’80s Rock Down (3CD £12.99) is available May 21 and on Limited Edition vinyl in June. The “I Talk Too Much” spoken word tour runs June 29 to September 5. The Out Out Quoing tour is next year, from February 27 to March 18.

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