Quo's twentieth (Yes, twentieth) UK Top 10 hit since 1968 and one of their biggest to date, 'Army' charted at No. 29 on 30th September and had shot to No.2 by 28th October.I don't think "shot to No.2" is supposed to be an army-based pun but you can't be sure can you? Although Side 3 is obviously supposed to be the "rock" side of the album, there's a bit of a contrast between the different styles. Not that Status Quo don't have a sense of humour - though I think it was less in evidence in the 1980s than it is now - but they're not noted for being subtle or trying to sneak in challenging political ideas. In fact, 'In The Army Now' is an atypically serious song from them, although few in Britain would have noticed that it is in fact a cover of a 1981 single by the Dutch duo Bolland (who were born in South Africa, so there's some connection to the Madness song after all) and if anything the Quo version is a little toned-down in its content: they drop the admittedly dated references to Vietnam for a start. By 2010, they re-recorded an even more pro-military version in collaboration with the actual army, and I'm sure somebody could write a whole thesis about changing attitudes to the armed forces in 21st-century Britain.
The 1986 recording is notable as the biggest Quo hit that deviates from the archetypal sound they discovered in the early 1970s, and a rare example of them covering a song in a style closer to the one it was originally in than to their own. Unfortunately this means it shares the great failing of the Madness track (in that it sounds very dated now) but it's also quite bland and has a pseudo-serious mood it can't live up to, however catchy the chorus is.
When I first started writing this and looked the song up on YouTube, I thought it was actually more interesting than I remembered. It turned out that I'd actually found the video for the 12" mix, which is rather more dramatic and less monotonous. I might have given that version a better review.
Also appearing on: Now 4, 14, 18, 33 (with the Beach Boys), 53
Available on: In The Army Now