She’s Edwina Monsoon’s idea of God and for a short time in the ’70s, a lot of European pop fans felt the same way. Detroit native Suzi Quatro blasted onto the U.K. glam rock scene in 1973, armed with her own brand of bubblegum hard rock, plenty of attitude and some seriously skintight leather jumpsuits. Her debut American single, a remake of Elvis Presley’s “All Shook Up” (download) was one of the first 45s I owned, and I spent many hours staring at that Bell Records logo spinning round and round as I played it again and again.
But it was when she teamed with Sweet hitmakers Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman that Quatro become a pop force to be reckoned with, with sugary sweet songs like “Can the Can” and “48 Crash” (download) taking over the British charts. Yet Suzi couldn’t get arrested on American radio — perhaps we weren’t ready for a confident female rocker yet. The Runaways encountered the same resistance, but one member, Joan Jett, definitely took some Suzi cues:
It looked like Suzi’s fortunes in the States might change when producer Garry Marshall spotted a poster of her on his daughter’s bedroom wall and cast her on “Happy Days” as Pinky Tuscadero’s rock star wannabe kid sister, Leather Tuscadero. The character caught on, and Suzi performed many of her U.K. hits on the show. One of those, another Chinn/Chapman winner called “Devil Gate Drive” (download), was a ’50s-inspired doo-wop rocker that fit right in on “Happy Days” — you may remember it as the song that Joanie Cunnigham danced back-up to, dressed in her blue and white cheerleader outfit in the episode where she threatened to leave home to tour with Leather & the Suedes! Horrors! I tried and tried to find a clip from that episode, but no dice:
Leather became so popular, Marshall offered Quatro a spin-off, which she wisely declined. And despite all the “Happy Days” exposure, Suzi never broke thru big in the States until years after when she finally got that American hit with her Adult Contemporary duet with Chris Norman, “Stumblin’ In,” a song 180 degrees away from her usual sound. Not a favorite of mine, but since the boyfriend loves it, I’ve grown to…well…accept it. Suzi continues to record, tour and host her BBC Radio 2 show.
“All Shook Up” peaked at #85 on the Billboard Pop Singles Chart in 1974.
“48 Crash” and “Devil Gate Drive” did not chart.
Get Suzi Quatro music at Amazon or on