If I Could Only Take One

My desert island song by Suzi Quatro

Happy Wednesday with another decision which one tune to take on an imaginary trip to a desert island.

In case you’re new to this weekly recurring feature, the idea is to pick one song by an artist or band I’ve only rarely mentioned or not covered at all on my blog to date. This excludes many popular options like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Neil Young, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Carole King and Bonnie Raitt, to name some of my longtime favorite artists. I’m also doing this exercise in alphabetical order, and I’m up to the letter “q”.

How many bands or artists do you know whose names/last names start with “q”? The ones that came to my mind included Quarterflash, Queen and Quiet Riot. And, of course, my pick, Can the Can by Suzi Quatro. Yes, perhaps it’s not the type of song that would be your first, second or even third pick to take on a desert island, but it’s a great kickass rock tune anyway!

Can the Can, penned by songwriters and producers Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn, was Quatro’s second solo single and her first to chart. And it was a smash, topping the charts in the UK, Germany, Switzerland and Australia. It also climbed to no. 2 in Austria and no. 5 in Ireland. In Quatro’s home country the U.S., the tune fared more moderately, reaching no. 56 on the Billboard Hot 100. American music listeners just weren’t as much into glam rock as audiences in other parts of the world, especially in Europe. Can the Can was also included on Quatro’s eponymous debut album, released in October 1973.

Here’s a bit of additional background on Suzie Quatro from her bio on AllMusic: With her trademark leather jump suit, instantly hooky songs, and big bass guitar, Suzi Quatro is a glam rock icon with a window-rattling voice and rock & roll attitude to spare. After getting her start in garage and hard rock bands, 1973’s breakthrough single “Can the Can,” a stomping blast of glam rock that combined ’50s-style song craft with Quatro’s powerful vocals, made her an international star. She followed up with a string of similar-sounding singles and albums — and made an impression on TV viewers with her role on the hit sitcom Happy Days — before softening her sound and scoring a hit with the 1978 ballad “Stumblin’ In.” While her work in the future would encompass everything from new wave pop on 1983’s Main Attraction to starring in a musical based on the life of Tallulah Bankhead in 1991, Quatro never lost her instincts as a rocker, as evidenced by albums like 2006’s Back to the Drive and 2021’s The Devil in Me.

When I heard Can the Can for the first time in the mid-’70s, it was not by Suzi Quatro but by German vocalist Joy Fleming. While I don’t know much about Fleming except for a 1974 live album titled Joy Fleming Live, I know one thing. She was a hell of a vocalist! Check this out!

Here are a few additional tidbits on Can the Can and Suzie Quatro from Songfacts:

…Quatro is an American who joined Mickie Most’s RAK label roster, becoming part of the glam rock revolution. Most produced her first single, “Rolling Stone,” but it went nowhere, so he asked songwriters Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman to write and produce her next single. The result was “Can The Can.”

When asked what “Can The Can” means, Nicky Chinn replied: “It means something that is pretty impossible, you can’t get one can inside another if they are the same size, so we’re saying you can’t put your man in the can if he is out there and not willing to commit. The phrase sounded good and we didn’t mind if the public didn’t get the meaning of it.”

Suzi Quatro: “I can hear a record for the first time and know whether it will be a hit. And I knew as soon as we had finished recording that we had a big hit on our hands.” (above quotes from 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh)

This was the first #1 UK hit for a solo female artist since “Those Were The Days” by Mary Hopkin in 1968.

Quatro never hit it big in her native America, although she did have a memorable role on the TV series Happy Days playing Leather Tuscadero. She landed several more UK hits, including the #1 “Devil Gate Drive,” and influenced a generation of female rockers, notably Joan Jett.

Quatro wrote many of her own songs, but they tended to be album cuts, with the Chapman/Chinn team getting the singles. In a Songfacts interview with Quatro, she explained: “I was very boogie-based, very bass-based. And they went away and wrote ‘Can the Can.’ We had the arrangement where I could write the albums, and they would write the three-minute single – although I did have singles out myself, like ‘Mama’s Boy.’ I didn’t learn anything from their songwriting, because I always had my own thing. Whatever I did, I did.”

Suzi Quatro, who turned 72 a few weeks ago, continues to rock on. And tour. Her current schedule is here. Here’s Can the Can captured at London’s Royal Albert Hall in April this year. What a cool lady!

Sources: Wikipedia; Suzi Quatro website; YouTube

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26 thoughts on “If I Could Only Take One”

  1. I like Can the Can but I never knew what it meant before. Same thing with 48 Crash. I used to think, What the hell does that mean 48 Crash?? And I STILL don’t know. I think Stumblin’ In was her only other hit in the states and I used to always hear it on oldies radio when I was a kid and I really liked it.

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    1. Based on what I read about “Can the Can”, songwriters Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman didn’t seem to care much whether or not people could figure out the meaining of the lyrics. They thought the words sounded good.

      I suspect the same may have been the case for “48 Crash”. “Crash” rhymes well with words like “flash” and “bash”. I wonder whether that drove the song’s lyrics in part.

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  2. Suzi Quatro. I can’t say I’ve ever given her much thought one way or the other. (Apart from her role as Leather Tuscadero on ‘Happy Days’ that is. As you indicate, glam was a minor event here in the States but some of us liked it. Anyway, catchy tune but not something I’d pack up and take with me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Frankly, Suzi Quatro wasn’t exactly on my radar screen either. It was simply the prompt of the letter “q” and that I didn’t want to cover Queen since I already done so.

      That being said, Qatro had some pretty good rockers. In addition to “Can the Can”, other tunes I like are “48 Crash”, “Glycerine Queen” and “Shine My Machine”. On the other hand, I’m kind of lukewarm about “Stumblin’ In,” which was Quatro’s only U.S. hit.

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      1. I think Can the Can and 48 Crash were minor hits in the U.S. You know, like not quite top 40 but only top 100 or something like that. They must have been for me to even know them, because I never had any of her albums but I knew those songs somehow . Stumblin In is kind of Easy Listening music but I like it anyway cuz it’s got a good tune. I’d be happy to hear it anytime, and if it happened to be playing somewhere I’d probably start singing along. Heh heh.

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  3. I looked up the song 48 Crash to see what it means and it either refers to the 1848 US economic crisis , but most people thought it was about Andropause, which is like male menopause. The same two guys wrote it who wrote Can The Can. I guess they wrote most of her songs.

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  4. Das Debütalbum war eigentlich ganz gut. Ich meine, so wie Suzi Q und die Boys „48 Crash“ oder „Can The Can“ zum Rocken brachten, liessen sie ein paar von den alten Hasen weit abgeschlagen im Feld zurück.

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  5. I remember Suzie Quatro from Happy Days…that is when I found out about her. This is a good catchy song. Fleming does have a great voice on this!

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    1. Frankly, I hadn’t even known about Quatro’s acting until I read a bit about her background for the post. Except for “Stumblin In”, her duo with Smokie lead vocalist Chris Norman, her music didn’t gain any traction in the U.S.

      Quatro definitely was much more successful in Europe. Though as I noted in the post, it was thanks to my sister’s Joy Fleming LP that I learned about “Can the Can”. From a strictly vocal perspective, I actually prefer Fleming’s version.

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      1. She was a cutie also….every boy I knew liked her after the Happy Days appearance.
        She was very good at what she did…I really think Joan Jett was influenced by her.
        I agree with Fleming’s vocal!

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      2. Early Joan Jett is a total imitation of Suzi Quatro. Her entire style was based on 48 Crash. Actually it was the style she had for her entire career. If you don’t believe me go and compare them and you’ll see what I mean.

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      3. Cool song! I never heard that…yea I agree. The leather pants and image also. I never gave it much thought until I watched that video again today…Jett came to mind…and it makes sense.

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  6. an OK song that obviously Europeans loved… I have long found it odd she did so well there but had almost no career here (one obvious exception, ‘Stumblin’ In’ which was deservedly a decent-sized hit). I thought of Q’s and my list was pretty limited too – Queen, Queensryche, Quarterflash and Quatro. If I had to take just one, I’d probably go for something by Queen . I kind of lean towards the slightly quirky ‘Radio Gaga’ but if I was going to be there a LONG time I’d go with ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’… a brilliant record but one I’m kind of tired of hearing right now due to it being one of the seemingly “17 songs we play all day, every day” on most radio stations.

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    1. While I wouldn’t call myself a Suzi Quatro fan, I like some of her rockers like “Can the Can”, “48 Crash” and “Glycerine Queen.”

      “Stumblin’ In”, which I’m now largely indifferent about, was a big hit in Germany. I think in part, this may have reflected the huge populatity of English band Smokie. That group’s vocalist, Chris Norman, was Quatro’s partner for the duet.

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