Urban warrior queen opened gateway

In the age of the single download, Jeff Harford rediscovers the album.

There was always something dark and dangerous about Suzi Quatro. Resplendent in biker-chick black leathers, she stood apart from her sequined glam-rock peers of the '70s, fronting her boganish all-male backing band with all the self-possession of an urban warrior queen.

The first female rocker to chart significantly, the diminutive Quatro wielded a Fender Precision bass that seemed to dwarf her, adding to the sense that this pocket battleship could handle herself just fine on a playground usually reserved for the lads.

Detroit-born Quatro's self-titled 1973 debut long player followed the chart-topping success of second British single Can The Can. Paired up with hit-making songwriting/production team of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, Quatro released a raw and boisterous glam-rock classic that delivered another Top 10 Chinnichap hit in 48 Crash among a clutchof originals and carefully chosen covers.

For what is ostensibly a teen-pop record, the album possesses a tangible air of suppressed malevolence and simmering sexuality. Partly, that's due to the heavily-gated drums and thick tones of the guitars, suggesting but not delivering high volume. Mainly, it's due to repeated lyrical references to revving engines, buffed chrome, glycerine queens and skin-tight leather, with Suzi backed by a chorus of oily oiks who sound like they're jeering from the window of a Mark II Cortina.

The album's centrepiece best captures this sense of urban tribalism. The drums of Primitive Love pound from beginning to end and guitars chug along in support while Quatro sings of rough-tough love and jungle fever, swapping her trademark yell for a conspiratorial purr.

Covers of All Shook Up and Shakin' All Over are unremarkable, but the third is a telling choice. With no sign of tongue in cheek, Quatro belts out a version of Lennon and McCartney's I Wanna Be Your Man, spearing the masculine heart of the British rock scene and opening up a gateway through which other women could pass.


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