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

My Take On 2017 In Rock Music: Part I

Industry news that moved me

I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to believe that another year is coming to an end. Yesterday, when I looked through my blog posts over the past 12 months, I noticed it’s been a quite eventful year on the music front. Between broader industry news, newly released music, concerts and great artists who passed, there is a lot of fodder for a year in music review post.

When I say music, I mostly mean ’60s and ’70s style rock and blues. You won’t find anything about Kendrick Lamar, Kesha, Selena Gomez and Jay-Z, to name a few contemporary artists who are in the charts these days. I don’t want to judge them, I just don’t listen to these guys.

Perhaps not surprisingly, as I started putting together my thoughts, I quickly realized that doing so in one shot would either be very lengthy or not do much justice to the above topics. Since I have to admit I’m not particularly patient myself when it comes to reading long pieces, I decided to break things down into four parts. Here is part I, in which I’m looking at broader industry stories that moved me. Parts II, III and IV will cover new music, concerts and artists we lost, respectively.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame celebrates 2017 and announces 2018 inductees

In April, the 32nd Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony took place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Inductees in the Performer category included Joan Baez, Electric Light Orchestra, Journey, Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur and Yes, while Nile Rodgers was honored with the Award for Musical Excellence.

The induction festivities recognized Chuck Berry, who sadly passed away in March at the age of 90 and who was among the first group of artists inducted in January 1986. In his honor, ELO performed their cover of Roll Over Beethoven. I still haven’t quite made up my mind about this band, which I find weird and intriguing at the same time. No matter how you feel about them, Jeff Lynne certainly demonstrated he can play guitar solos that would likely have made Berry proud. Here is a clip of the spectacle.

Earlier this month, the class of 2018 was officially announced. Bon Jovi, The Cars, Dire Straits, The Moody Blues and Nina Simone made it into the Performer category. Sister Rosetta Tharpe, one of the coolest rock & roll pioneers I know of, will be inducted in the Early Influences category.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2018 Inductees

I won’t get into a discussion about whether the above artists deserve the honor or why others still haven’t been inducted. What I will say is that with an ever-growing pool of eligible artists, the task of selecting the inductees is formidable. You can read more about the class of 2018 here.

Is the electric guitar becoming an endangered species?

In June, a story in The Washington Post declared the electric guitar is dying a slow and secret death. As a hobby guitar player, the article got my attention and triggered broad discussion. The stats cited in the story certainly painted a grim picture. Annual electric guitar sales are down by one-third from 1.5 million to just over one million over the past decade. Legendary guitar makers Fender and Gibson are in debt, while PRS Guitars was forced to lay off people. The largest chain retailer Guitar Center is $1.6 billion in debt and was downgraded by Moody’s in April.

Death of the Guitar

Paul McCartney’s take? “The electric guitar was new and fascinatingly exciting in a period before Jimi and immediately after. So you got loads of great players emulating guys like B.B. King and Buddy Guy, and you had a few generations there. [pause] Now, it’s more electronic music and kids listen differently. They don’t have guitar heroes like you and I did.”

But is the situation really that grim? The Dallas Observer said the death claim may be exaggerated. Nashville guitar dealer George Gruhn, who has sold guitars to McCartney, Eric Clapton, Neil Young and Taylor Swift, was also quoted in the Post story as saying, “What we need is guitar heroes.” But he saw the published article, he was surprised about the Post’s overall take. “I would say that the guitar market is under stress from oversaturation,” he told the Observer. “But by no means is the market for the guitar simply dying.”

While I certainly don’t have the answer, I feel McCartney’s comments are well taken. In a society that is dominated by digital devices and increasingly seems to be looking for instant gratification, I suspect trying to motivate young folks to invest the time and patience to learn the guitar (or other instruments for that matter!) is a tough proposition. Moreover, the guitar is an afterthought in most of the electronic dance music today’s young kids listen to. On the other hand, I’m encouraged by the debate the Post story triggered. Plus, as will become obvious in the next installment of this four-part series, the guitar is very much alive in my kind of music that came out this year, and it’s not only old rockers who released new material.

Jann Wenner gives up ownership of Rolling Stone

Earlier this week, Variety and other media outlets reported that Penske Media Corporation acquired the 51% stake in Rolling Stone that Wenner Media still owned for just over $100 million. This means Jann Wenner, who co-founded Rolling Stone in 1967 with music journalist Ralph Gleason, will give up all ownership in the wake of the storied magazine’s 50th anniversary.

Rolling Stone Covers

“I am so proud of our accomplishments over the past 50 years and know Penske Media is the ideal match for us to thrive in today’s media landscape,” said Wenner in a statement, which also noted his company will retain “majority control and editorial oversight” of Rolling Stone. Variety is part of Penske Media.

Stay tuned for part II, in which I will look at music that came this year, including new recordings and anniversary editions of albums I dig.

Sources: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame website, The Washington Post, Dallas Observer, Variety, YouTube