Aug 07

SUZI QUATRO – “Can The Can”

FT + Popular56 comments • 4,509 views

#331, 16th June 1973

I’m pretty sure that the ‘ideal’ time for a pop songle has been revised up in my lifetime, the “three minute single” granted an unwieldy extra 30 seconds, which would make “Can The Can” a shot at perfection – except it stops, breathless, at two minutes five and has nowhere much to go from there. Quatro uses the breakdown to show her range, climbing from kittenish to kick-ass, and just proves what the first two peerless minutes suggested: nobody needs to hear her do soft and quiet. I’m simply not buying her mewing “can the can, honey” after hearing “SCRATCH OUT HER EYES!”. That moment is the song’s peak – it’s awesomely exciting, partly because the overdubbed Quatro-voices are so sharp and shrill and partly because of the way it barges into the song and just kicks aside the whole eagle/tiger/cat metaphor to show the violence in the glam dance.



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    Tom on 3 Aug 2007 #

    Haha – the new layout/custom fields thing means that people have to click to see the mark. Sorry casual browsers!

    “What new layout?” I hear you ask – check out http://freakytrigger.co.uk/populist/?group=scores – thanks to Alan! You can also order it chronologically.

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    Rosie on 3 Aug 2007 #

    There’s a side to glam that I rather liked at the time and like even more now. The previous entry is a fine example, and there’s one coming up in the not-too-distant future that does even more for me.

    On the other hand, there are things like this one that are inclined to turn me right off. The best thing about it, for me, is the little outbreak of funkiness just after the caesura. It’s something to cling to. Otherwise I hear an atonal shrieking that feels like toothache!

    No more than 4 from me I’m afraid (Wizzard would have been 7, maybe 8.)

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    Tom on 3 Aug 2007 #

    Something for the stats buffs (though not of real interest to anyone except me – allow me a bit of self-indulgence of a summer afternoon)

    The marks for Popular are intended to fall on a slightly flattened normal distribution, i.e. they’re meaningful relative to one another, and it should be (a lot) harder to get a 10 than a 9, then harder to get a 9 than an 8, and so on until 5 and 6 are the most common marks.

    A quick look at the marks so far shows this has been broadly “working” – but also that various accusations of harsh marking are TRUE! After 331 (out of 1059 and counting) entries, we have:

    Tracks getting between 1 and 4 – 34% of total.
    Tracks getting 5 or 6: 36% of total.
    Tracks getting between 7 and 10: 30% of total.

    The first and last of these categories should be equal.

    I’m not going to consciously try to correct this harshness though – I’ll just mark ’em as I hear ’em. I suspect that my growing up in the 80s will mean the odd sentimentally high mark though, so things will even up in the long run.

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    jeff w on 3 Aug 2007 #

    The first and last of these categories should be equal.

    Is that right, though? Given a bunch of pop songs from roughly the same era that might be true. But don’t you have to factor in that you have no context for many of the older songs marked so far? Or, to put it another way, once we get to the 80s isn’t it quite likely that the percentages will be skewed the other way due to the “I was there” factor?

    …tho’ possibly the marks will have evened out once you reach #1059 and grumpy old man-dom prevails ;)

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    jeff w on 3 Aug 2007 #

    (oops, you sort of said that in your last sentence, which I skipped over)

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    Alan on 3 Aug 2007 #

    “Haha – the new layout/custom fields thing means that people have to click to see the mark. Sorry casual browsers!”

    arf. i’ve set it to add the score on the end when you are in the full article only. I think it will be simple to change it so that if the full article appears elsewhere without a “More>>” label it will be tacked on the end. I’ll have a look see.

    Obv, if you prefer ppl having to click through … :-)

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    Rosie on 3 Aug 2007 #

    I prefer having to click through. I like to get at least the gist of Tom’s review before I see what mark he’s given it.

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    Tom on 3 Aug 2007 #

    I agree with Rosie actually – click through to mark is good!

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    Alan on 3 Aug 2007 #

    ok. i’ve reverted.

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    Doctor Casino on 4 Aug 2007 #

    “Can The Can” is great; I think a 7 is fair, because it would leave room for the non-qualifying “48 Crash” to have taken an 8 or a 9. Agreed about the role played by the eye-scratching interjection, also the slightly earlier “AH HAHHHHH!”

    I discovered Suzi in a backwards way – a few years ago I kept seeing her records in the cheapie bin and eventually my curiousity won out: who was this woman with the funny name? Why was she surrounded by all these mutton-chopped guys? Boy, that’s a great outfit! etc. “Can The Can” was probably the first thing I checked out by her and it was enough to convince me to buy the debut record…which turns out to be a really good album, nice mix of glittery single-things and generic but enthusiastic bar-band material. “48 Crash” is the highlight for me, a little more singable, its chorus less woozy… (Woozy Quatro?) You can also pretend they’re saying “Party ain’t crashed” which is fun. Check this great, wind-machine-a-rific lipsynch video!

    As for “Can,” the great thing about it, aside from the overdubbed shrieks, is the sweaty, dead-serious conviction of the performance; it’s enough to make an unattentive listener believe the lyrics are something other than continual patent nonsense. In general I have a soft spot for hits that try to capitalize on the fleeting popularity of specific bits of slang – here, Quatro sings like she’s convinced “Can the Can” is or should be slang used by somebody, anywhere…rather than a completely and totally nonsensical phrase. It’s in this gesture that she manages to do something none of these other glammy glittery people have done for me: create the impression of being a “real” “rock” band. Obviously these are loaded terms, and I have nothing personally invested in rock “authenticity,” but I think in terms of showmanship it’s worth noting when someone manages to pull off “the look” – considering how many acts try and fail!

    One time I sang this (badly) at karaoke to no reception at all; some weeks later I sang “Shock the Monkey” and afterwards Blount was mocking the lyrics: “It’s like, ‘Wow!! This noun is also a verb! Fox the fox…rat on the rat…'” (pause) “…can the can…”

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    Doctor Casino on 4 Aug 2007 #

    Trivia buffs may also take note, Suzi is one of the easily-overlooked answers when you’re trying to think of lead singers who were also bassists…!

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    Doctor Casino on 4 Aug 2007 #

    Addendum, I wonder if my preference for Suzi over, say, Slade has to do with not being around at the time – so the burly guys in spaceman suits has a sort of wacky charm to me, but I’m not pressing my eyes to the screen going, “Oh my god, what is this? This is exciting and new!” Suzi Quatro and co look more like what I expect a rock band to look like, so even if their song is considerably less addictive than the Sweet singles by the same team, it somehow holds my attention more? That seems like a sad appraisal of my unexpectedly conservative preferences, so I suppose I’ll have to muse on this some more….

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    Waldo on 4 Aug 2007 #

    I think the world of Suzi and shall always be grateful to Mickey Most for bringing her over from Detroit. The little lady is in addition the ultimate anglophile and you can find her these days doing a late night doo-wop show for Radio 2. Yes, she’s a geezer bird, but she also had a pert little botty (still does), which was only eclipsed when “The Good Life” hit our screens a year later.

    As for “Can”, I think it rocks, a belting little number, but I get the impression that this is a “Marmite Record”. You either love it or you hate it. Spread it thinly, peeps!

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    Marcello Carlin on 5 Aug 2007 #

    I was slightly dreading the entry of Suzi Q (*insert punchline of your choice here*) since to talk about what she meant to me in my youth would I fear necessitate straying into waters (ahem) which are perhaps not appropriate for a public website. Suffice it to say that my response to her and her hits was, and remains, just out of reach of rationalism (although my, um, moment of revelation coincided with her second number one).

    Just as Pete Waterman still moans that Bananarama were the most difficult of all the acts he ever worked with, so Mickie Most’s trickiest customer was Suzi; unsurprising for a Detroitee who once frogmarched Iggy offstage for being a pest – when discussing how she was going to be presented she was adamant about the black leather, Most yawned “It’s been done before” and Suzi retorted “Not by ME!” And with a low-slung bass guitar to boot.

    Her hits were all (or mostly) Chinn and Chapman numbers but the working relationship was symbiotic and there is evidence that both Suzi and Len Tuckey contributed a fair amount of their own musical and lyrical ideas (they didn’t get credited, but usually got the B-sides for their own compositions, so they received the royalties anyway).

    But anyway…”Can The Can” is monstrous and the alternating between stormbursting and sotto voce purrs is of course proto-TANTRIC glam; percussion heavy with the feel that the beat definitely came first and the tune added on later, and it is unruly in a way which goes beyond even Slade and Wizzard; there is a threat or promise of something new here and the final “over the top lads” yelling and shrieking, joined by Tuckey’s top-line lead squeal (so he’s eventually come too!), has been described as proto-punk a thousand times but I will do so again anyway because here begins Joan Jett and the Runaways, here two years before Horses come Women In Rock…

    From my own “marking” viewpoint I find it impossible to escape a tendency to give “routinely” high marks to records which meant a lot to me in specific periods of time I lived through, because of course it’s impossible for me to be objective about them…there is another future year (and it’s not the one you think) where, three clinkers notwithstanding, I would be exceptionally inclined to give all the number ones marks between 8-10.

    But yes, I lived through 1973 as a boy and in pop kept hearing and seeing things, ideas, people I could never possibly have imagined before, and so the year has always retained a high reputation in my mind. As I say, Suzi opened up things of another kind in me, so I’d give this an 8, two marks away from perfect because of (a) Alastair Neal’s slightly superfluous electric piano and (b) “48 Crash,” her number three follow-up, redefining the male menopause as apocalypse, and hey, hello Lydia Lunch…

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    Rosie on 5 Aug 2007 #

    I guess Suzi Q must be a teenage boy thing…

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    Brian on 7 Aug 2007 #

    I have a foggy ( or fogey ) recollection that Suzi Q appeared on ” Happy Days “….or was it Pat Benetar.

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    Brian on 7 Aug 2007 #

    Foggy recollection confirmation : she was on Happy Days. Her character was ” Leather Toscadero ” !

    That do anything for you , Marcello :-) ?

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    Marcello Carlin on 7 Aug 2007 #

    Sad to say, Suzi had been superseded in my affections by others by that stage, but she was very good in that show, directly before the Fonz indeed jumped the shark…

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    Billy Smart on 7 Aug 2007 #

    Suzi Quatro is also very good in a 1982 episode of Minder, ‘Dead Men do Tell Tales’. She plays a rock singer who goes out with Terry, until (Terry never has any luck with his girlfriends) he is appalled to discover her smoking cannabis.

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    Doctor Casino on 8 Aug 2007 #

    She sure seemed to have a knack for playing people’s rock singer relatives and girlfriends. Ironically enough, she refused a Leather Tuscadero spinoff show for fear of being typecast…

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    Snif on 8 Aug 2007 #

    She was also pretty good in an episode of “Dempsey And Makepeace” as a loopy ex of Dempsey’s.

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    intothefireuk on 8 Aug 2007 #

    I find myself in the position of concurring mostly with Marcello on this one. Suzi was radically different from other female artists of the era. Her ‘Girl on a Motorcycle’ image & primal shriek certainly spoke to me in more ways than an ONJ country girl next door in a flouncy dress type possibly could. Prior to Suzi (and pretty much for some time after) it was more usual to see pop princesses veer off into (or start in) TV variety show hell. I’m thinking Cilla, Lulu, Petula, Olivia, Dana, Hopkin etc. Although there were other women in rock (Joplin, Sonja Kristina etc) they were more hippy chic. Suzi provided a new blueprint which was simultaneously sexy & threatening and almost certainly influenced the likes of The Runaways & Siouxsie Sioux.

    Having said all that Can the Can isn’t my favourite Suzi single, I still prefer the next few releases to this. A 7 from me.

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    “hippie chic” is a bit unfair on janis joplin, who pretty much invented her own style wholecloth (hippies copied her) — and tho koganbot seems off-radar currently, he will probbly on his return front for grace slick at this point, who wz also hard-as-nails (and proto-siouxsie-ish) in the early years, but the larger point is unarguable i think — SQ rocked the tomboy style before anyone else i can think of

    semi-acknowledged proto-glam sexual fantasy as it coloured my pop love in these years:
    i. bolan’s hot goblinism
    ii. suzy’s grin and boyish figure
    iii. SLADE — as an ultrabookish middleclass kid, i wz frightened of and excited by the idea that if i liked their gang too much they would come round and “visit” me :o

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    Marcello Carlin on 8 Aug 2007 #

    The irony was that she did eventually end up in West End musicals doing exactly the kind of song and dance routines that Lulu, Cilla &c were compelled to do at that period.

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    Marcello Carlin on 8 Aug 2007 #

    I can sympathise with Mark’s fantasy but the age difference meant that I was too young to appreciate Bolan that way, though even at seven I knew there was something “different” about his attraction; as for Slade, I confess to a thing (of sorts) about Dave Hill because he was girly and gormless but the mutton-chop faction never appealed to me in that sense.

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    Marcello Carlin on 8 Aug 2007 #

    no i associated it with bernard manning frilly shirts ugh. holder top man and top voice but yeuch i’ve just eaten my breakfast twice.

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    Waldo on 8 Aug 2007 #

    Ah, Dave Hill! – Who can forget the scene from “Slade in Flame” when the goofy simpleton emerged from the place “Flame” were staying at in order to mingle with a crowd of girl fans outside? This was clearly supposed to be a treat for these young women but I could never see it. The inference, of course, was that Dave was the “cute” one, which is rather like trying to pick out the white guy in The Four Tops.

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    Marcello Carlin on 8 Aug 2007 #

    The late NME writer Tony Tyler once said that he was put off rock music for life after he saw an especially naff publicity photo of Mr Hill. Not sure which since there are so many to choose from…

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