Oct 07

SUZI QUATRO – “Devil Gate Drive”

FT + Popular59 comments • 5,809 views

#344, 23rd February 1974

Chinn/Chapman confirm their headlock on the charts with a second number one in a row – another bubblegum playback of rock’n’roll. The strengths here are Mud’s weaknesses, a chorus and a lead vocal crammed with snarl and charisma. And the weaknesses are Mud’s strengths – off-the-shelf rhythms and a skinny biscuit-box bottom end. I think Quatro works the breakdown and build-up better here than on “Can The Can”, though obviously the two tracks are very much drawn from the same well. (Great interplay with the slavering gang of “boys”, too.)



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  1. 31
    mike on 11 Oct 2007 #

    Another Quatro oddity is “He’s A Sports PA”: a re-worded version of her 1979 hit “She’s In Love With You”, as sportingly performed for the BBC VT department’s privately circulated Xmas comedy video, in which members of TOTP dance troupe Legs & Co gyrate suggestively around said Sports PAs in the control room. (I have no idea what a Sports PA does, mind.)

  2. 32
    Doctor Casino on 11 Oct 2007 #

    “Devil Gate Drive” is pretty good, but it’s very odd to me to see it getting rated above “Can The Can.” Really? DGD has always sounded relatively muffled and forced to me. It rocks along nicely and isn’t bad at all, but it seems curiously lacking the primal, shrieking weirdness of her previous #1. Oh well.

  3. 33
    intothefireuk on 11 Oct 2007 #

    Listening to it now it doesn’t sound quite as good as it did then. The fact that it had the word ‘devil’ in the title was probably enough to attract me in, however, it’s not exactly demonic rock ala Black Sabbath is it ? The boogie woogie piano is enough to derail it of any real raw potential giving further proof that glam/glitter had moved into it’s second phase. It is, though, a good pop song and Suzi did have her charms, as did her zipped leather cat suit (but I don’t think we can go there) so 7 is probably about right. Stupid dance though esp. lurch on the keys.

    Nestling a couple of places below is Bowie’s 4th track in the space of a year to peak at number 3 this time as covered by Lulu. His own parting shot to glam ‘Rebel Rebel’ would only manage 5.

  4. 34
    Marcello Carlin on 12 Oct 2007 #

    Largely because the video wasn’t ready in time to be shown on TOTP. As a last minute substitute they asked a relatively new group, lurking way down at #45 in that week’s list, to come on the programme instead with something called “Seven Seas Of Rhye.” Emperor Rosko was that week’s compere and waxed lyrically about “this exciting new band.”

  5. 35
    mike on 12 Oct 2007 #

    …about whom the music press were decidedly sniffy from the off. I remember one journalist sighing with relief after “Seven Seas of Rhye” had been and gone: “Now that we’ve got rid of that piece of tacky glam trash from the start of the year…”

    Little did they know.

  6. 36
    Marcello Carlin on 12 Oct 2007 #

    I was impressed but can’t say that I had an immediate, bowled-over, WTF moment when first I saw them on TOTP – that came with a certain Anglophile American fraternity who made their chart debut a month or two later…

  7. 37
    Erithian on 12 Oct 2007 #

    Funny that the band in question should benefit from being a last-minute substitute. It’s getting ahead of the story, but that same band were due to appear on Thames TV’s “Today” programme on 1 December ’76 and had to pull out. As a last-minute substitute publicist Eric Hall managed to get another EMI band on the show. They turned up well refreshed, so did the presenter, and the rest is history.

  8. 38

    not entirely sidestepping SQ’s “charms”, i was very much taken at the time by her BIG GRIN — and i think this is an important part of what she re-engergised in pop; that the re-delving into its 50s roots got to a sense of bash-it-down fun which had got buried in all kinds of earnestness

    this is tricky territory, cz “it’s all just fun” can quickly become a way to step away from and bury in its turn all the stuff in pop that ISN’T just fun — but (even if i’m not sure the SQ songs themselves get reliably at it) there’s a kind of possibility of casual-joy-as-energy hinted at here (or gestured towards) as something to look for, and something to mind abt when it’s not there

    (porbably important: you could say the same abt bolan, but there’s lots of other things going on in bolan, and he totally bought into a weird tolkienesque version of the 60s utopia-programme, whereas w.suzy, no one is going to spend a lot of time thinking there’s other things going on, and these other things are the hook: with bolan you might, and some punksters did)

    (havin sed that: while joan jett bangs on abt the urgency of fun a lot, HER version of SQ is gauntly flight-driven — they were called the runaways bcz of what they were escaping, not what they were runnin towards)

  9. 39

    “all kinds of earnestness” = ie “all kinds of late 60s, early 70s earnestness”

  10. 40
    Tom on 12 Oct 2007 #

    The clue is kind of in the word runAWAYS isnt it? :)

  11. 41
    Tom on 12 Oct 2007 #

    & of course fun can freeze into orthodoxy pretty fast, which may well be what happened with the uncovering of 50s roots.

  12. 42
    Marcello Carlin on 12 Oct 2007 #

    Those other ’74 chart debutants, Showaddywaddy, for instance.

  13. 43
    Tom on 12 Oct 2007 #

    Precisely – I think pink s is dead on about SQ, though.

  14. 44

    JABOF is the Great Peril in any era of pop — but it also always contains the glint of a better unbothered post-revolutionary world [/adorno] [“just a bit of negative dialectic”]

    haha the original version of my 3500-wd essay on control (the joy division film) for f!lm qu4rterly — have to wait till jan foax, it’s a quarterly! — began with a (c.7000-wd) disquisition on the runaways, escapism, pop’s commodification of teen sex, flight-as-lure vs flight-as-fight, and how JJ negotiated all this and pushed on out the other side in time to encounter punk rock and actual real escape

    (based round a comparison of JD’s “transmission” and lou reed’s “rock n roll”, which the runaways covered on their first LP)

  15. 45

    not insignificant that westwood and mclaren began touting the fashion end of the 50s rocker-revival: in fact, i *think* i recall that they togged out showaddywaddy, but maybe that’s a bit too perfect

    also important: the nexus linking commodity fetishism, sexual fetishism, revolt-as-puritanism and revolt-as-libertinism

  16. 46
    Caledonianne on 12 Oct 2007 #

    I have a fondness for Devil Gate Drive, which I much prefer to Can the Can. The former has a sort of engaging amiability (I think it’s the piano) that just makes me smile.

    I was slightly too old (and serious) to really buy into the Chinnichap thing but, despite being a girl, I always had a sort of sneaking affection for Suzi. I suppose I liked the way she was out in front of the guys, tiny girl with the big bass. I also rather liked the fact that she was an American (so with that extra pzazz) who was choosing to major on the UK market; think back over the UK/Irish women who’ve had #1 records so far in the 70s – Dana, old Hilda in Lieutenant Pigeon, Diane Lee, Eve and Lynn from the New Seekers (both of whom looked to me as if they could have happily inhabited an episode of 1975’s Surbiton-set The Good Life, or any other suburbia-fest) – and Suzi seemed to come from another, deliciously riskier, planet.

    Anytime I’ve seen her interviewed she always seemed like a good ‘un, no pretensions, a twinkle in the eye and just committed to having fun, whether it was in this sort of leather-clad candyfloss, or in the later Annie Get Your Gun era.

    And the “one more time, for Suzi”, was pretty cool, too.

  17. 47
    Marcello Carlin on 12 Oct 2007 #

    Historical note: by ’73 Viv and Malc’s Let It Rock shop had become Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die and they had more or less abandoned the fifties stuff in favour of introducing biker stuff and, gradually, the bondage stuff which led to Sex – possibly influenced by the stall that some guy called Freddie had at Kensington Market. I don’t recall their kitting out Showaddywaddy but they were certainly responsible for the costumes in the film That’ll Be The Day.

  18. 48
    mike on 12 Oct 2007 #

    JABOF [Just A Bit Of Fun] is the Great Peril in any era of pop.

    Peril for whom? For the critic? For the integrity of the art? Not, surely, for the listener?

    Certainly not for me; that kind of energising, all-enveloping rush of uncompromised joy is one of the elements of pop music (and dance music) that I require, respond to and value the most of all. Maybe it defies fresh creative analysis. Hell, maybe it transcends it…!

  19. 49
    Tom on 12 Oct 2007 #

    The “just” and “a bit” are what’s compromising the joy though Mike!

    In daily conversation, “just a bit of fun” as a shorthand has ended up meaning “not actually fun at all for some” – it’s a phrase bullies use when people point out that they’re boring or cruel: fun as an excuse, a way of driving out minority voices.

    This is a bit harsh on Showaddywaddy possibly!

  20. 50

    it’s the “just” that renders it perilous i think — and the peril is that it’s a GREAT THING (for the reasons you say) which therefore always threatens to turn into a REDUCTIVE TRAP, so that you end up with artists playing down to fun, which can become very formulaic (as in dreary and oppressive and unsurprising) as opposed to formulaic (as in OMG AWESOME!)

    peril isn’t something to be avoided — all great quests require large amounts of it — but it isn’t peril if it didn’t mean that things CAN go horribly wrong (smaug eats all the dwarves AND the hobbit the end)

  21. 51
    mike on 12 Oct 2007 #

    OK, I’m with you now, thanks for clarifying your position. Yes, I do accept that the quest for Fun For Fun’s Sake can become reductive, especially where it’s being explicitly chased rather than instinctively found, and especially when it’s being used as a cover for creative decline. Plenty of examples of that to be found along the way…

  22. 52
    Snif on 13 Oct 2007 #

    Just an extra note about Queen – in January 74 they played at the Sunbury Rock Festival in Victoria, Australia. As recalled at milesago,com….

    “Queen were famously booed off the stage after their performance (although Mick Fettes once told us that that the crowd were not really against Queen, they just wanted to see Madder Lake, who were the next band on). According to one source, the announcer came on just after Queen had performed and asked: “D’you want anymore from these pommie bastards or do ya want an Aussie rock band?” Queen quit the stage to boos and calls of `go back to Pommyland, ya pooftahs!’ but Freddie Mercury bravely responded by saying “When we come back to Australia, Queen will be the biggest band in the world!”

    He was right!

  23. 53
    rosie on 15 Oct 2007 #

    In 1975, I think, I went with a bunch of people to see (please avert your eyes, those of a punkish disposition) Santana at the Hammersmith Odeon. The support act was Earth Wind and Fire, who clearly thought they should be in charge. At the end of their set, they didn’t exactly get booed but any applause they got was distinctly unenthusiastic. All the same, they insisted on their right to play a lengthy encore.

    It’s not that EW&F were bad. It’s just that they were playing for an audience who wanted to hear Santana, and they weren’t going to be terribly impressed by pyrotechnics, revolving drummers, and other pyrotechnics.

    When Carlos Santana eventually came on, he was stupendous. No need for histrionics. He more-or-less just stood there playing, with scarcely a nod to introduce a change of tempo, or a solo from another band member. TRhe audience were on their feet at the end; he could have played all weekend for them.

    The really strange thing is, I looked up the review of the gig in the Melody Maker afterwards. The reviewer began by asserting that, if this were America, Santana would be supporting Earth Wind and Fire, and then proceeded to review EWF, all but ignoring Santana.

  24. 54
    Marcello Carlin on 15 Oct 2007 #

    Sounds like a Steve Lake job to me.

  25. 55
    S.A. on 18 Dec 2007 #

    1st heard of Quatro back in ’71 while in VN. Saw her in 75? when she opened for Alice Cooper. This chick tore it up. Hard-corps rock n’roll Storm-Trooper she was [still is].

  26. 56
    Phil O'Malley on 27 May 2009 #

    The uncompromising order from Suzi Quatro to “Can the Can” was kind of genius..as if it was something we knew how to do. It was fun here in America. We got the tough chick image and it melded perfectly with her look. “Devil Gate Drive” was fun but lacked the garage feel of “48 Crash” and also the aforementioned “Can the Can”. I think it all went from kind of hysterical rock chick to fun stuff in “Devil Gate Drive”. I always imagined Suzi kind of inviting everybody to a drag race a la James Dean, what with her “motorcycle chick chic” in tact. Fun song…but we wanted more of the first LP…really raunchy, unrelenting and very cool. Still, all in all, Suzi was going to be remembered for the tough chick thing…so while her second LP is not nearly as slick, tough and genius as her debut, it had several shining moments…and “Devil Gate Drive” is among them. Now go put on your leather jacket, call some friends, and “Let’s Hear it One More Time for SUZI!!!”.

  27. 57
    lonepilgrim on 29 Jun 2009 #

    You can listen to SQ playing this song, and others, live in ’75 here:


  28. 58
    Larry on 2 Nov 2014 #

    I would give it 9. Rock & roll revival mixed with T. Rex. And that chord change on “drive” (second time in the chorus) is so 70s.

  29. 59
    lonepilgrim on 20 Oct 2019 #

    it’s the half-hearted ‘doo-wop’ backing vocals and lumpy boogie-woogie rhythm that sink this for me. Suzi is as cheerfully committed as usual but everything else sounds half-arsed – 48 crash is far superior

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