Like most Brits I first saw SUZI QUATRO on Thursday evening — Top of the Pops — performing her “Can the Can.”
To be honest I didn’t really like her style — she had a scrawny body, looked a bit too much like my sister for comfort, and she wore black leathers (way-too butch) and was surrounded by a bunch of hairy-looking greasers.
But all the other guys I knew admitted to dream-time fantasies about Suzi and her song was really catchy. Not long after I found out that the girls liked Suzi too! She was the first rock ‘n’ rolling lady to scream, pant ‘n’ whimper for the girls as well as the guys…
In fact, “Can the Can” was Quatro’s second solo single but the first to be released in Britain and the first of a string of hits that followed the successful Chinnichap formula that worked so well for The Sweet and Mud.
Like other songs, the number featured the talents of The Nashville Teens musician Len Tuckey, the beefy guitarist (one of those hairy greasers I mentioned) who was the huge man Suzi would later marry and have kids with.
But Detroit-born Quatro was a successful musician from a young age. She played drums in her father’s jazz band, and taught herself bass guitar. She joined her sister ( Patti Pleasure) in the garage band The Pleasure Seekers (later known as Cradle) and went, back then, by the name of Suzi Soul. The Pleasure Seekers recorded three singles before the band dissolved and Quatro moved to England, in 1971.
Actually, she was discovered by Mickie Most (RAK records) shortly before that move, lured by the impresario who had produced the Nashville Teens greatest hit “Tobacco Road” (1964 ) and who was associated with a host of household names such as the Animals, Herman’s Hermits, Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart.
This was the start of the glam rock period in Britain and Suzi and her manager (brother Michael) didn’t need much convincing to go down that succesful route. Most and Rak Records wanted her to wear skin-tight black leather pants and portray a wild thing. So she gave them what they wanted…
“Can the Can” was followed by three further Chinnichap hits: “48 Crash” (1973) “Daytona Demon” (also 1973) and my personal favourite “Devil Gate Drive” (1974). Quatro also played bass on “Dance With the Devil” — the Cozy Powell single.
In 1980, Quatro’s contract with Mickie Most expired, though her career had been in decline for some years anyway. Glam rock had to be cleared away to make room for Punk. And that was cleared for post-punk.
At about this time we saw Suzi performing live. This was the during the “Rock Hard” period [released on Dreamland.] We found her show to be metallic, frenzied and thundering loud. It made us realize how restrained she must have felt during the RAK years. Is that what “Suicide” is all about? Perhaps! Yet even Rock Hard was a Chapman produced album and (largely) Nicky Chinn written. It was also, notably the last Quatro album to chart for twenty-six years.
But this September, for the very first time, Suzi’s four studio albums — originally released between 1975 and 1979 — will be digitally remastered and available to download and stream across all digital platforms.
The four studio albums include “Your Mamma Won’t Like Me” (1975), “Aggro-Phobia” (1976), “If You Knew Suzi” (1978), and “Suzi… and Other Four Letter Words” (1979.)
Suzi says, “I’m excited about my new compilation, it not just this hits, which I love… but it also features favourite and important tracks from my albums, with an extensive Track By Track on the liner notes. Enjoy one and all.”
Starting with trailblazing school-girl fave “Can the Can” the compilation also includes the chortling good “Shine My Machine” the bikers favourite “Devil Gate Drive” [also known in Britain as “Down in Dimbleby Drive” — just listen] and the swinging folkster “Michael.”
One of our favorite numbers is the delicate & Smokeyesque “Suicide” song — about all of us living as prisoners in society, technology and trade. Incidentally, George Gershwin lived in 72nd Street as did John Lennon. Among the bankers and financiers
“Your Mama Wont Like Me” is basically the Beatle’s “Come Together” with the same chattering rhythms as the influential “You Can’t Catch Me.” But the funky groove and occasional squelches help raise it to another level. The love-song “Stumblin’ In” with Smokey’s [or Smokie’s, if you prefer] Chris Norman is wistful without being maudlin. It was a favourite disco-duet in 1978 and sold over a million copies on its release.
Suzie was not really glam rock: Too much leather and biker-friendly axle-grease.
Neither was she properly pop: You only had to go to one of her shows to learn the truth. Just one song-in and your ear-drums would melt…
No, the truth is that Suzi was her own creation: The cultural embodiment of genuine androgyny and a true rock ‘n’ roll grafter… She was the first bass-playing front-woman and the first sexually ambiguous rock-symbol of power and hardness. God bless Leather Tuscadero!
Seek out these sounds and treasure them…
Chrysalis Records “The Best of Suzi Quatro: Legend” is a 20 track compilation album personally curated by Suzi and features digitally remastered versions of all her biggest hits including “Can The Can”, “48 Crash”, “Devil Gate Drive”, and “Stumblin’ In”.
Released on Friday 22nd September, the album will be available on Gold Coloured Double Vinyl, CD and digitally. Pre-order via Pledge – https://SuziBestOf.lnk.to/Pledge