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"Pictures of Matchstick Men" is the first hit single by Status Quo, released on 5 January 1968.[citation needed]

"Pictures of Matchstick Men"
Pictures of Matchstick Men by Status Quo UK vinyl.jpg
A-side label of the UK vinyl release
Single by The Status Quo
from the album Picturesque Matchstickable Messages from the Status Quo
B-side"Gentleman Joe's Sidewalk Café"
Released5 January 1968 (1968-01-05)
LabelPye (UK)
Cadet Concept (North America)
Songwriter(s)Francis Rossi
Producer(s)John Schroeder
The Status Quo singles chronology
"Almost but Not Quite There"
"Pictures of Matchstick Men"
"Black Veils of Melancholy"

Status Quo versionEdit

The song reached number seven in the British charts, number eight in Canada, and number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming their only hit single in the United States.[3][4][5] Francis Rossi confirmed on DVD2 of the Pictures set that it was originally intended to be a B-side to "Gentleman Joe's Sidewalk Cafe", but it was decided to swap the B-side and the A-side of the single.

There are two versions of the song, a stereo and mono version, with significant differences: the mono version, which was the original single, has the trademark wah-wah guitar in the breaks between lyrics, but the stereo version omits it.

The song opens with a single guitar repeatedly playing a simple four-note riff before the bass, rhythm guitar, drums and vocals begin. "Pictures of Matchstick Men" is one of a number of songs from the late 1960s which feature the phasing audio effect. The band's next single release, "Black Veils of Melancholy", was similar but flopped, which caused a change of musical direction.[6]

Rossi (living in a prefab in Camberwell at the time)[7] later said of the song:

I wrote it on the bog. I'd gone there, not for the usual reasons...but to get away from the wife and mother-in-law. I used to go into this narrow frizzing toilet and sit there for hours, until they finally went out. I got three quarters of the song finished in that khazi. The rest I finished in the lounge.[8]

The "matchstick men" of the song refers to the paintings of Salford artist L. S. Lowry.[8]

The song was reprised, in 2014, for the band's thirty-first studio album Aquostic (Stripped Bare). It was featured in the 90-minute launch performance of the album at London's Roundhouse on 22 October, and was recorded and broadcast live by BBC Radio 2 as part of their In Concert series.[9][10]


  • 1968: Pictures of Matchstick Men / Gentleman Joe's Sidewalk Cafe [Promo] 45 rpm Vinyl 7"; Pye / 7N 17449
  • 1969: Retrato de hombre con bastón / El café del caballero Joe 33 rpm, Mono Vinyl 7"; Music Hall / MH 31.101 Argentina
  • 1973: Pictures of Matchstick Man / Ice in the Sun 45 rpm Vinyl 7"; Pye / 12 746 AT

Camper Van Beethoven versionEdit

"Pictures of Matchstick Men"
Artwork for UK release
Single by Camper Van Beethoven
from the album Key Lime Pie
GenrePsychedelic rock
Songwriter(s)Francis Rossi

In 1989, Camper Van Beethoven scored a number-one hit on the American Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart with their version from their album Key Lime Pie. One of the instruments played in this version is a violin.[11] This version is played in the end of the Ray Donovan episode, "If I Should Fall from Grace with God" (2017; season 5, episode 7).[12]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ DeRogatis, Jim (2003). "Ten Great Psychedelic Rock Songs". Turn On Your Mind: Four Decades of Great Psychedelic Rock. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 162. ISBN 0-634-05548-8.
  2. ^ Prown, Pete; Newquist, Harvey P. (1997). Legends of Rock Guitar: The Essential Reference of Rock's Greatest Guitarists (4th ed.). Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 113. ISBN 0-7935-4042-9.
  3. ^ "BBC - Music / Profiles - Status Quo". BBC. British Broadcasting Corporation. 2006. Archived from the original on 10 October 2006. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  4. ^ "The enduring appeal of Status Quo". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 9 December 2005. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  5. ^ staff (12 November 2008). "Cue The Quo". Aberdeen Press and Journal. Aberdeen, Scotland: Aberdeen Journals. OCLC 29379669. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  6. ^ Rawlings, Terry (1 November 2002). Then, Now and Rare British Beat 1960-1969 (illustrated ed.). London, England: Omnibus Press. ISBN 9780711990944. OCLC 50272043. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  7. ^ "Prefabs - Camberwell Borough Council". Retrieved 21 January 2017.
  8. ^ a b Headon, Tanya (17 December 2002). "Songs About Laurence Stephen Lowry". FreakyTrigger. Tom Ewing. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  9. ^ "Status Quo Concert Setlist at Roundhouse, London on October 22, 2014 -". Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  10. ^ "Status Quo - Acoustic". Radio 2 In Concert. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  11. ^ Akamatsu, Rhetta (11 February 2014). "Music Review: Camper Van Beethoven – Key Lime Pie [Reissue]".
  12. ^ Tallerico, Brian (24 September 2017). "Ray Donovan Recap: Confessions". Vulture. Retrieved 15 December 2017.

External linksEdit