Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock – Q

Suzi Quatro 

Michigan’s Suzi Quatro, part of a very musical family including her father Art, brother Michael and sister Patti (she was in Fanny), moved to England in 1971 to find her fame and fortune. Standing just five feet tall and playing a bass that weighed half of what she did Suzi found a new musical family, Mickie Most, Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman. Most was a well know record producer with credits that included The Animals and Jeff Beck and Chinn/Chapman were writing hit after glam rock hit for the likes of The Sweet and Mud. It was a match made in heaven.

In 1973 she released the “Suzi Quatro” album and had top ten UK hits with “Can The Can”, “48 Crash” and “Glycerine Queen”. In her one piece leather jumpsuit, unzipped to the tipping point, and surrounded by a three-piece leather clad all-male band, she was the epitome of the total rocker chick. The sound was more metal than glam and would pave the way for a myriad of other woman to get in to the rock game and front their own bands, Chrissie Hynde and Pat Benatar to name but two.

It is rumoured that “Happy Days” creator Garry Marshall saw Suzi’s  1975 Rolling Stone cover shot on a relatives wall and offered her the part of Leather Tuscadero on the hit show. Luckily for her she took the part, and equally lucky she only appeared on a few episodes and did not take the offer of a Leather sequel, although she was a lot more bearable than Pinky Tuscadero.

When Alice Cooper brought his “Welcome To My Nightmare” tour to Toronto in 1975 Suzi was the opening act. She rocked, I was smitten. Suzi still keeps making records and the occasional TV performance and still lives in England. Although she had a few other great musical moments (“Devil Gate Drive”) it was the 1973 album that stood the test of time and would provide the inspiration for more of my teenage pin-up girls ……….

Queens Of Noise  – The Runaways

This was the second, and final,  studio album from the original line-up of the Kim Fowley concocted Runaways. Although it didn’t have a “Cherry Bomb” hit single like their first album, it was the coming of age album for Joan Jett. Joan was writing and co-writing a lot more of the material and it was becoming apparent she was wrestling control away from both Fowley and lead singer Cherie Currie. After the massive Japanese tour in support of “Queens Of Noise”, Currie quit the band and Jett would take over lead vocal duties, but not before Fowley managed to squeeze a live album, featuring Currie,  out of the deal.

The entire story is told in Cherie’s book “A Memoir Of A Runaway – Neon Angel”. It’s a good rock’n’roll read and doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the girls being manipulated by the infamous Fowley. The book was the inspiration for the highly-underrated 2010 Floria Sigismondi directed feature “The Runaways”. Dakota Fanning did a decent job as Cherie Currie but the two performances that shined were Michael Shannon as a spot-on Fowley and Kirsten Stewart as a near double for Joan Jett.

Decent album, good movie, great book.

Queen II

“Queen II” for the first Queen album that I owned. I was somewhat aware of the band, and hoping to see them  in May of 1974 on the Mott The Hoople tour that was coming to Massey Hall. The UK press were being both unusually cruel and kind to them and I was curious. They had to cancel the Massey show due to illness (they were replaced by Kansas) and their debut album was still a very pricey import. “Queen II” was released domestically later and I took a gamble. The Mick Rock cover shot was pretty cool and it was hard to imagine what they were going to sound like. More on that picture later.

This is Queen at their proggy best. Freddie was still rockin’ the long hair (and no moustache), they were singing about Ogres, Queens and the Seven Seas Of  Rhye and the album consisted of a black side (written by Freddie) and a white side (written by guitarist Brian May, with one Roger Taylor penned tune). In some strange Tolkienesque battle between the good White Queen and evil Black Queen, the band, and producer Roy Thomas Baker, used every studio trick in the book (No Synths!) to create this often overlooked masterpiece. Hell there wasn’t a hit single hiding anywhere on this album, and , in fact, it is the only album not to place a song on the first Queen Greatest Hits album. What there was, in spades, was innovation, technical prowess and a flagrant disregard for musical convention. From the first sounds of “Procession” (how did Brian get those sounds – playing with a coin and a custom built guitar we would find out later) to the last notes of “Seven Seas Of Rhye”, which appeared as a short instrumental on their debut album, this was a very adventurous record for 1973 let alone 2012. One listen to “The March Of The Black Queen” will let you in on the foundations of “Bohemian Rhapsody” which would not appear until their fourth album “A Night At The Opera”. You can also hear a little  some of the influences on Guns N‘ Roses “November Rain” in the guitar tones.  Somehow, in the span of under two years, they managed to release “Sheer Heart Attack”, and break through on commercial radio with the single “Killer Queen”, and “A Night At The Opera“.  “Bohemian Rhapsody” would pay homage to Queen II by using the concept of the cover shot in the video as the opening sequence.

The band did not play Toronto until February of 1977 and by that time had released five albums and had more than a few hits under their belts. Most of Queen II was ignored on that tour as it was just two complex to perform live and the band had streamlined their sound. I did own a vinyl bootleg around this time called “Sheet Kickers” that was recorded live in England in 1974 and had early performances of some of the “Queen II” material. They were so successful at this point that they returned to Maple Leaf Gardens (boy I miss the look of those ticket stubs) in November of 1977 as part of the tour for their latest album “News Of The World”.  In 1978 they returned to the Gardens yet again on the “Jazz” tour but by that point Freddie was a little too over the top and the little secrets that were “Queen” and “Queen II” we now news of the world.

If there is one album that totally defines everything Queen was, or should be, it was “Queen II”.

Queen Of Hearts – Dave Edmunds

Although it was Juice Newton who would have the worldwide hit with the song in 1981 the definitive version of the song belongs to the man who first recorded it (but did not write it) Dave Edmunds. On his 1979 classic album “Repeat When Necessary” Edmund’s first recorded the Hank DeVito song with an arrangement that Juice just went and lifted.

Also included on this little gem of an album are covers of Elvis Costello’s “Girls Talk”, Graham Parker’s “Crawling From The Wreckage” and an early Huey Lewis song “Bad Is Bad”. Huey was in Clover at the time and part of the British pub rock scene.

Quick Bits

Band and film submissions for the 2012 edition of NXNE close at the end of this month. Please go to www.nxne.com. The  NXNE Film Festival is proud to report that we will be premiering the new Irvine Welsh film “Ecstasy” and Mr. Welsh will be in attendance. More details later.

We have now confirmed Amos The Transparent vinyl release show for the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto on Saturday February 25th. There will also be shows in Kingston, Peterborough, Ottawa, Waterloo, Hamilton and Montreal. You can check their website for details www.amosthetransparent.com.

And if you are in Toronto and looking for a cool rock’n’roll diner please visit our friends at Shanghai Cowgirl 538 Queen Street West. It is right beside the world famous  Bovine. and around the corner from Cherry Cola’s.

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com.

Cameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener,  The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.


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