Status Quo have explored their acoustic side extensively in later years, notably with the 2014 album featuring unplugged versions of many of their previously rocking hits, Aquostic (Stripped Bare). It was so well received that it led to a 2016 follow-up, Aquostic II: That’s A Fact.
Back in 1979, the British chart mainstays were usually loud and proud, and in September that year, delivered another of their good-time anthems in ‘Whatever You Want,’ which cruised into the UK top five. The album of the same name followed a few weeks later. So it was something of a surprise when the second single from the set re-cast Quo in a strumming, reflective mood. That song, written by Rick Parfitt and Bob Young, was ‘Living On An Island,’ which made its British chart debut on 24 November that year.
Parfitt himself took lead vocals on a song that was unusually autobiographical, inspired by his year of tax exile on the island of Jersey. The introspective lyric suggested that he was less than excited by his surroundings outside of the normal rock’n’roll environment (“I’m getting lonely in my empty room”). He anticipates the arrival of friends, “passing time away in blue skies.” Despite some overt drug references, the single was not banned by the BBC or other broadcasters.
‘Living On An Island’ hit the chart at a modest No. 56 and although it couldn’t match the success of ‘Whatever You Want,’ the track had no trouble becoming Status Quo’s 16th UK top 20 hit, all but the first two achieved in less than seven years. It spent two weeks at No, 16 at the end of 1979, giving Quo a Christmas hit and reaching the top 30 in the Netherlands and top 40 in Germany.
The video for ‘Island,’ featuring footage of Quo playing live as well as penguins in the Antarctic (also seen on the single sleeve at the top of our story), was played on Top Of The Pops at the end of November. A further sales boost came on 18 December when the band performed the song on the show in person.
Even though it was already a stripped-down piece, ‘Island’ featured in a new version on that second Aquostic album, which became Quo’s 24th set to make the UK top ten.
‘Living On An Island’ is on Whatever You Want, which was reissued in a deluxe double CD edition in 2016 and can be bought here.