Suzi Quatro – Back To The…Spotlight


Back in 1972 this writer had his first real musical epiphany when he first heard Slade for the first time. Twelve months later and ‘Can The Can’ made Detroit singer-songwriter Suzi Quatro in her leather catsuit his poster girl of choice with songs like ’48 Crash’, ‘The Wild One’ and the afore mentioned ‘Can The Can’. By 1975’s third album Your Mamma Won’t Like Me Suzi Q’s star was already in the ascendency. Although continuing to be a force to be reckoned with on the live front it wasn’t until 1978 and If You New Suzi… and it’s follow up Suzi… And Other Four Letter Words that she witnessed something of a renaissance when the tracks ‘If You Can’t Give Me Love’, ‘The Race Is On’ and ‘She’s In Love With You’ saw her back in the UK singles charts. When she found herself out of contract in the early 80’s Quatro continued to release new material and tour on a regular basis alongside building a very successful stage acting career in shows like Annie Get Your Gun. The two albums whose titles are mashed together to give this set it’s moniker, Back To The Drive and In The Spotlight, were released some years later in 2006 and 2011 respectively as the pop queen tried to raise her profile once more.

First up Back To The Drive which finds Andy Scott of Sweet fame onboard alongside his later day Sweet colleague Steve Grant. At the time it was 18 years in waiting for her leather clad fans (now in their 40’s) to hear this new material. So, was it worth the wait? At the risk of upsetting any Suzi aficionados despite the promise of its title and hard rocking cover image Back To The Drive suffers from very much the same issues as many of her later albums… lack of consistency. Sure, there is one classic pumping Chapman tune in the title track with its ‘Devil Gate Drive’ intro but things soon settle down into the middle ground of ’15 Minutes Of Fame’ with its electronically altered vocal and ‘Quality’ which both have something of the Slade ‘Far Far Away’ about them albeit with a sprinkle of Scott/Sweet glitter. ‘I Don’t Do Gentle’ hands us some not to shabby straight ahead doo wop rock ‘n’ roll before things head into the comfort zone. Much of the remaining material finds Suzi heading into Bonnie Tyler territory (‘Sometimes Love Is Letting Go’ being a prime example along with the best ballad featured ”Free The Butterfly’) only lifting her head above the average for a pretty good cover of Neil Young’s ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’, ‘Dancing In The Wind’ and closer ‘Born Making Noise’ with its Quo intro licks, boxing match voice over and “Make no mistake about it, I ain’t no shrinkin’ violet” chant which sees her back near her rocking best. This re-release also sees four bonus tracks added but other than a rather good Eagles cover ‘Desperado’ with Jeff Beck on guitar which proves Suzi can do laid back there is nothing else of real interest here.

As if to try and compensate for the fact that Quatro doesn’t have the strength or depth of a Holder/Lea or Connolly/Priest/Scott/Tucker writing team on 2011’s In The Spotlight most of the non-Chapman (who also produced most of the album) writes/co-writes are covers from mainly more contemporary artists. Opening in true Chapman 70’s glam style with pumping rocker ‘A Girl Like Me’ before the lighter ‘Whatever Love Is’ a Chapman co-write with Holly Knight of ‘Love Is A Battlefield’ fame. Unfortunately, this track doesn’t reach those heady heights. Before the covers kick in we have ‘Spotlight’ which proves that Chapman can do ballads as well as full on pop hits (or misses). On the whole the covers really are the thing which lift this release above the norm and first up is ‘Strict Machine’. The electronic duo Goldfrapp tune sees Suzi combining a Muse riff with her trademark ‘Can The Can’ beat it even features an inset from that very chart hit. I’m still undecided whether I like the Quatro take on Rihanna’s ‘Breaking Dishes’ and I’m not sure I will ever will be 100% sure… I’ll leave that one for you to decide (cop out). Chapman returns once more for the darker ‘Teen Spirit’ mimicking ‘Rosie Rose’ before in total contrast ‘Hurt With You’ supplies a slice of reggae shuffle. A Juliette & The Licks track returns us to rock and supplies the next cover ‘Hot Kiss’ which is followed by the acoustic Yeah Yeah Yeah song ‘Turn Into’. Quatro returns to her roots with a straight run through of Elvis Presley’s ‘Hard Headed Woman’ before paying further tribute to her idol on the self-penned ‘Singing With Angel’, cramming as many Elvis references into the tune and proving that isn’t necessarily the best way to build a quality tune. This is one of two tracks produced by Andy Scott and the second is the disc’s bonus track (only one this time) ‘Does Your Mama Know’ which turns out to be a very good if a little carbon copied version of the Abba Voulez-Vous era #4 UK hit.

For completist’s I’m sure this will be a welcome addition to their horde, but for most people who own one of the many very good greatest hits packages available from her career they will find these discs somewhat confusing as Suzi Q sweeps from one style to another and rarely comes close to her 70’s highpoint. On the whole glam rock this ain’t.

Quatro will be soon be performing a career spanning set list live on stage at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall venue on 20th April 2022 of which she says: “How honoured I am to be doing a show at such an iconic venue as the Royal Albert Hall in April 2022, by which time I will have clocked up 58 years in this business! I’ll be doing my solo, two-hour-long show, so get ready to be royally rocked and royally entertained. I can’t wait!”. She may not have had quite the success of some of her other glam rock contemporaries but having sold over 55 million records worldwide she has certainly proved that you don’t have to be one of the boys to rock hard.

Track List:

Disc 1: Back To The Drive

1. Back To The Drive

2. Minutes Of Fame

3. Duality

4. I Don’t Do Gentle

5. I’ll Walk Through The Fire With You

6. Wasted Moments

7. Rockin’ In The Free World

8. No Choice

9. Sometimes Love Is Letting Go

10. Dancing In The Wind

11. Free The Butterfly

12. Born Making Noise

Bonus Tracks:

13. Desperado

14. No Choice (Demo)

15. Free The Butterfly (Demo)

16. Dancing In The Wind (Demo)

Disc 2: In The Spotlight

1. A Girl Like Me

2. Whatever Love Is

3. Spotlight

4. Strict Machine

5. Breaking Dishes

6. Rosie Rose

7. Hurt With You

8 Hot Kiss

9. Turn Into

10. Hard Headed Woman

11. Singing With Angels

Bonus Track:

12. Does Your Mother Know