331. ‘Can the Can’, by Suzi Quatro

I promised you more glam, and is there anything more glam than the ascending drums ‘n’ guitar intro on this next number one?

Can the Can, by Suzi Quatro (her 1st of two #1s)

1 week, from 10th – 17th June 1973

But when the vocals come in, we take a leap forward. For this is rock music… sung by a woman! The girls are getting in on the act! (I hope they finished the washing-up first, etc etc…)

Like all the best glam rock singles, ‘Can the Can’ is about the sound and the attitude first and foremost, with trifling matters such as ‘lyrics that make sense’ coming a distant second. How else to explain a chorus that goes: So make a stand for your man, honey, Try to can the can… Put your man in the can, honey, Get him while you can… Can the can!

According to songwriters, Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who also wrote for chart-topping artists like the Sweet and Mud, it is about attempting the impossible. About trying to snag your guy and hold on to him against all the competition. Quatro sums it up best when she screeches, just before the chorus: Scratch out her eyes!!!! You can picture her, in her jumpsuit, outside the pub at closing time, launching herself at some slapper who’s just looked at her bloke the wrong way…

Meanwhile, the guitar work is pretty great. The lead cries out like the tigers and the eagles in the lyrics, while Suzie’s bass keeps us chugging along. By the end, when the barroom piano is keeping pace alongside, this has become the heaviest, most raucous #1 single since ‘School’s Out’. Forget glam, this is some pretty darn hard rock.

Imagine being a teenage girl in 1973, and seeing twenty-three year old Suzi rock up to Top of the Pops in her leather jumpsuit and tomboyish hair. It must have been thrilling, seeing her rock out like one of the guys. This was her first single to make the charts, so she really would have come out of nowhere. Similarly, imagine being a teenage boy in 1973, and seeing twenty-three year old Suzi rock up to Top of the Pops in her leather jumpsuit and tomboyish hair… There must have been many a, shall we say, ‘awakening’. (You know, man, they say she’s naked under there…)

After repeated listening, and after having it explained to me by the songwriters, I’m still not sure what the hell ‘Can the Can’ means. But I am confident that it does not matter one bit. Any song with the a yelled Scratch out her eyes! as a refrain is alright by me. Plus, Suzi Quatro is the first solo female to top the charts in nearly two years (!), since ‘I’m Still Waiting’ by Diana Ross. From that, to this. You can see why Quatro was an influence on everyone from Joan Jett and Girlschool, through to Goldfrapp and KT Tunstall. And she still has one more chart-topper to come! Yay!


10 thoughts on “331. ‘Can the Can’, by Suzi Quatro

  1. I first saw Suzi as Leather Tuscadero on “Happy Days” reruns and loved her ever since. I was super impressed to find out she’s a real singer with a ton of talent & one of the first women of Rock. She’s still performing today at age 70! She said she’ll only stop performing if she gets up there, shakes her ass, and the crowd stops cheering. She’s really something! 😀

  2. Suzi is still fab and still making new music. She paved the way for women in rock, and it took an American moving to the UK to do it, and battling through innuendo about her sexuality (her hubbie was in the band) and being a bit “butch” in an almost entirely male genre. Outside her best 70’s work, worth checking out her cover of Goldfrapp’s Strict Machine and recent tracks with her son like Macho Man.

    • Just listening to her cover of Strict Machine now, it’s great – especially when it morphs into Can the Can! I knew Goldfrapp were influenced by her but didn’t know she’d returned the compliment. I wouldn’t have described as her as ‘butch’, at all, but I suppose being the first to stick your head above the parapet always gets you stick. Ten years later and rock would be full of women!

  3. Pingback: 343. ‘Tiger Feet’, by Mud – The UK Number Ones Blog

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