344. ‘Devil Gate Drive’, by Suzi Quatro

Hey, Y’all wanna go down to Devil Gate Drive….!? Well come on!! Or not. I mean, it’s fine. Whatever…

Devil Gate Drive, by Suzi Quatro (her 2nd and final #1)

2 weeks, from 17th February – 3rd March 1974

Suzi Q’s first #1, ‘Can the Can’, properly rocked, properly dripped with spiky attitude, and her second starts promisingly, with that yelled intro and the same glitter-glam drumbeat. A deep voice intones Welcome to the dive… and the anticipation peaks.

It’s a song about a dive bar, a dance hall, a brothel, a strip club… all of the above? There are chugging guitars, a barroom piano and some revving motorbikes for that peak ‘73/’74 sound. Well at the age of five they can do that jive, Down at devil gate drive… And at the age of six they can get their kicks, Down at devil gate drive… Someone call social services, this does not sound like a reputable establishment…

According to Suzie, and the song writing team of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, ‘Devil Gate Drive’ doesn’t refer to an actual place. It’s any place you go to as a kid, to misbehave and piss off your parents… Well your momma don’t know where your sister done go, She goes down to the drive, She’s the star of the show… In which case, my ‘Devil Gate Drive’ was the woods behind my house where we shared cigarettes and bottles of Buckfast.

This is a fun record, a great rocker, extending the pretty long run of decent #1s that we’re on. But… It’s a bit gimmicky, a bit of a pantomime, compared to ‘Can the Can’. I feel that Quatro is camping it up a bit here, playing up her leather-clad image for the cameras. It’s another song in which glam-rock takes a tiny step towards self-parody.

Though, to be honest, glam rock will soon be a thing of the past, and I’ll miss it when it’s gone. What I won’t give for a glam-rock smash when I’m ploughing through the #1s from, say, 2016. Just because this isn’t T. Rex doesn’t mean it’s not still a solid seven out of ten chart-topper.

Similarities can be drawn between this and the previous #1, Mud’s ‘Tiger Feet’. There’s the songwriters for a start – the aforementioned ‘Chinnichap’ team. And then there’s the faux-live feel of the recording. It sounds as if Suzi and her band are performing this live, at the Dive, especially when she announces: Come on boys, Let’s do it one more time for Suzie! and her boys take it home.

Suzie Quatro won’t have any further UK #1s, but she’ll continue to record, perform and inspire pretty much every woman who has picked up a guitar since. She continued to get hits throughout the seventies, as well as scoring a recurring role in ‘Happy Days’ as the fabulously named Leather Tuscadero, which finally gave her some fame in her native US. I’ll leave you with a line from her follow-up to this disc, ‘The Wild One’ (a song that might just be better than either of her #1s): I’m a blue-eyed bitch, And I wanna get rich, Get outta my way, Cos I’m here to stay… And if that isn’t rock ‘n’ roll, then I quit.


19 thoughts on “344. ‘Devil Gate Drive’, by Suzi Quatro

  1. You can tell Joan Jett took a lot of inspiration from her. That drum rhythm was huge in glam.
    Wasn’t her sister on Happy Days Pinky Tuscadero?

  2. She did this one on “Happy Days” as Leather Tuscadero. It’s funny cuz Happy Days was such a goodie-goodie show. For years I thought she was just some actress that played Leather. OMG I can’t believe it took me so long to discover Suzi. She still rocks at age 70!

    • It’s funny, I was the opposite. I knew her as a rock star, and knew her big hit records, but had no idea about the Happy Days connection until you mentioned it. Leather Tuscadero has to be one of the greatest character names ever!

  3. Just watched Pinky Tuscadero on the Paul Lynde (1976) Halloween Special which is every bit as bad as I’d been warned 🙂 Suzi is still a legend, and her most recent rockin’ album was a joint project with her son, from her marriage to her band guitarist Len Tuckey – who you can see in her videos during the chart-domination years.

    I see some professional 70’s rock muso naysayers (who were invariably wrong about everything) have been quoted on Wikipedia dissing her achievements stating it was punk that liberated female rock musicians. Yes, as a movement, it did. But Suzi showed it was possible and was number one in a successful field of one (Fanny were around, but they were never going to get airplay in the UK with that name, and let’s not forget Janis Joplin – who didn’t appeal to teenage pop fans) – the gap between Suzi’s last top 40 rock single before Happy Days aired and the first female-led punk/New Wave top 40 single was a year. The same year female pop rock bands started bursting through, like Clout.

  4. I remember seeing her on Happy Days and thought she was so cool. I loved that shag haircut. I had NO clue she was already a rock star. I was just a kid. She was certainly a trailblazer but, coming from a musical family helps.

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  7. Rating: 5/5

    I’m one of the few people that actually prefers this to “Can the Can”. “Can the Can” is great, but it has two flaws that keep me from really loving it: I don’t think Suzie’s vocal performance compliments the song – it’s too high, thin and shrill and feels overshadowed in the mix by the guitars and drums – and the chorus is a let down from the outstanding verses.

    This song however, it’s more poppy than “Can the Can” and it’s not as much of a statement, but the chorus is fantastic, and Suzie’s vocals are lower and more gravelly and have a growl and hiss to them that suits this type of kickass rock. She sounds totally in command and badass on this track. The song flows better in terms of the transitions between the verses, choruses and bridge, and the 50s-esque piano really adds to it.

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