Suzi Quatro is another of those “I’ve heard of her but never listened to her” artists. Which is a bit surprising, because I always liked Joan Jett, and the two have a bit in common as quasi solo performing female rockers (yes, Joan Jett had the Blackhearts… but it was still JOAN JETT & The Blackhearts, really). But Suzi’s peak was a bit before my musical time, charting her biggest hits in the early 1970s and with only a few rock releases in the early 80s, whereas Jett had her big hit (“I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”) in 1982, and her sort of comeback Top 10 song (“I Hate Myself For Lovin’ You”) in 1988, both of which were more in my zone, as it were. But listening to 1973s Suzi Quatro a couple of times today, there’s no doubt that Quatro was an influence on Jett at some level.
One thing struck me right away about this record was the number of songs on it not written by Quatro – six of the eleven tracks have authorship outside Suzi and her band. Producers/songwriters Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn contributed three songs, including the pair of Top 3 UK hits “48 Crash” (#3) and “Can The Can” (#1), and the album also includes works by Elvis (“All Shook Up”), Johnny Kidd (“Shakin’ All Over”), and Lennon-McCartney (“I Wanna Be Your Man,” previously recorded by the Stones and the Beatles). Oddly, to my ears the non-chart topping Chapman & Chinn song “Primitive Love” is the best part of the album, with its sort of jungle-like rhythm, and an honorable mention goes to the Elvis cover. Quatro’s best penned work is “Skin Tight Skin,” a solid rocker.
It’s interesting to me that Quatro had a number of songs written for her, as well as a number of covers, on her debut. The same was true of Jett seven years later, with her self titled release including a few songs written together by Gary Glitter and Mike Leander, as well as covers like the Isley Brothers’ “Shout” and even “Wooly Bully.” It’s probably the case of not trusting a couple of young performers to write all their own material, and like Quatro, Jett’s first big singles were written by others – “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Merrill & Hooker, and “Crimson & Clover” by James & Lucia. I even see parallels in the ways the two dressed, going with the leather jacket and jeans look, and even similar hair styles.
Suzi Quatro is some good, old fashioned, straight forward rock ‘n’ roll. Quatro’s voice seems a little strained to me at times, as if she’s really pushing it hard and hitting what may be a higher register than her normal singing voice, reminding me more than a little of Sarolta Zalatnay, though the later doesn’t spend nearly as much time singing so high. I’m not quite sure these are “eleven hot and heavy non-stop tunes” as is touted on the jacket, but in the end it all works pretty well and there are some enjoyable numbers.