Suzi Quatro

If You Knew Suzi

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Suzi Quatro's fifth album took its title from one of her earliest U.K. press interviews, a mouth-agape appraisal of the leather-clad vixen whose headline, "If you knew the tattooist knew Suzi," seemed to sum up every ounce of the image that the glam scene's most glamorous newcomer exuded. Five years later, however, the second half of that statement wasn't simply forgotten, it was all but meaningless to the majority of her audience, so thoroughly had she reinvented herself. Gone was the leather, gone were the guts, gone was the violent threat that Quatro once posed to passing manhood, to be replaced -- as the album's cover made clear -- by a demure, cord-clad lass in a pastel blouse and a look of such winsome vulnerability that, when she sang "Don't Change My Luck," it was enough to break your heart. Five years earlier, she'd probably have cooked it. Still working alongside songwriters Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, of course, guaranteed Quatro a clutch of classic songs. Their own bodyswerve away from the glam trappings of old was just as remarkable as hers -- and, like hers, it was wholly successful. Indeed, of all the duo's attempts to "mature" musically, as they put it, Quatro remained their most convincing vehicle, and they rewarded her with two bona fide classics, "The Race Is On" and the hit "If You Can't Give Me Love." Quatro never left all her eggs in one songwriting basket, however. "Suicide" and "Non Citizen," written with longtime partner Len Tuckey, are hard-edged ballads that embrace the downtrodden side of life, while versions of Tom Petty's "Breakdown" and Rick Derringer's "Rock'n'Roll Hoochie Coo" are both comparable with the originals -- an achievement which is almost as surprising as the stripped-down, then smokily redesigned take on Ray Davies' "Tired of Waiting for You." A year later, Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders would earn a generation's undying gratitude for rediscovering the Kinks via "Stop Your Sobbing." Had "Tired of Waiting" only made it out as a single, how different history might have been. There are other moments, too, that make one wonder precisely what Ms. Hynde was listening to as she formulated her own band's debut album, a discovery that makes a mockery of the hip critical claims that, ultimately, Quatro had little impact on the future course of "women in rock." Joan Jett and the Runaways made no secret of their admiration -- add Hynde to that same equation, and the entire 1980s lay down at Quatro's feet. And so they should.

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