Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Francis Rossi, lead guitar player and singer of Status Quo

'I got thrown out on my last day'
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The Independent Online

Francis Rossi, 57, was a founder member of the rock band Status Quo, whose first hit single was "Pictures of Matchstick Men", in 1967. The "Just Doin' It" tour starts in November, and the DVD of the same name is out on 6 November. Status Quo: the Official 40th Anniversary Edition is published next month

I cried when I left Our Lady and St Philip Neri Roman Catholic Primary School in Sydenham, south London. I had friends at the school and it was safe and lovely. I was quite studious at the time. But there was a nun who came in and started slapping children across the face big time. One guy stood up and read out this blinding thing he had written about how we shouldn't be slapped. She took him out into the cloakroom and hit him so hard she gashed his head against the coat-hooks. She was called away and we never saw her again.

Once, in my second or third year, I kept tearing up bits of paper in order to go and put them in the bin. Every time I went up to do this, I could see a little of the teacher's stocking tops. I didn't know this was sexual, but when she said, "Francis!", I realised it was something I shouldn't be doing.

My parents took me to look round a Catholic secondary school, but it was a bit old and I wanted a modern building. I realised later that If I had gone there, I would have turned out differently and perhaps gone on to higher education. I wouldn't have been Jack-the-bloody-Lad at school.

On the first morning at Sedgehill Comprehensive, I thought, "These are different people to any that I've met before". I was basically a wimp kid and was never going to be physically tough, so I had to get in with these people to survive. There was a Nicholas whom they called "Nichol-arse", and who was the last boy in short trousers; everybody whacked him around the head, even the girls.

I don't remember anybody being much of an achiever, but maybe I was in the wrong stream. In the second year, the French teacher - I loved that teacher! - said to me, as I was sitting there with my feet on the desk, "So, you're going to be a pop star?" (I was already in a band). "Yes, Miss." "So, you'll travel?" "Yes, Miss." "To France? So, you'll need to speak French." And Jack-the-Lad says, "There'll be someone to do it for me".

It wasn't long until that came home to roost. When I was 19 and went to France with the band, there was someone to speak French for me, but I was so frustrated that I couldn't do it for myself. That's when I realised I had screwed up. "I'm screwed up. Don't copy me," I tell my children. I don't think the teachers can be blamed. The greatest thing about school is that this guy or girl is standing there and you can ask them anything - "Please, Miss..." - and they tell you. If you ask questions in later life, people realise you don't know, and won't tell you.

In the third year, there was a guy I liked. One day, people walking behind him really whacked him on the back of the head and I felt I had to whack him as well. He gave me such an Et tu, Brute? look. I wish I could meet him now to apologise.

I remember a guy from quite a well-to-do family who went to school near us in Forest Hill. We were practising swearing. He said, "You bloody fucking bastard", and I said, "Never say 'bloody' and 'fucking' in the same sentence, and there is no 'g' in 'fucking'. They'll know you're not kosher." You would just get whacked because you weren't one of them.

My father got thrown out of school at 13, and I got thrown out at just 15, on my last day, in fact. The pupils would tear and autograph the blazer of anyone who was leaving school. I was just standing there after this had happened to me, and the headmaster decided to expel me at lunchtime. The others all left at four o'clock.

jonty@jonathansale.com

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