Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Your Mamma Wouldn't Like Her: Obsessing About Suzi Quatro

Suziq I bought a buncha records last Saturday morning from independent record outlets, but I was concerned that with it being Independent Record Store Losers Day or whatever, that my purchases would be construed as a political action in support of the survival of independent record stores. So after lunch I hot-footed it to good ol' Tesco Metro where I bought the entire Motown Chartbusters series on CD for £2, downloaded Can's back cat illegally on my Blackberry and then got the train to London and burnt down Rough Trade just to be sure that nobody got the wrong idea. The best thing I bought on Saturday was Suzi Quatro's 'Greatest Hits'. I've been a casual Suzi Q fan fer years, dug 'Can The Can' and 'Devil Gate Drive' as a kid, thought she was pretty hot in Happy Days, and this sleeve was just too good to refuse. Suzi was Class A Cool. Here's for why.

Top 5 Reasons Why Suzi Quatro Is Really Really Cool

.1. Her Dad was resident organist for the Detroit Red Wings. Coolest. Job. Ever.

.2. Her first band was all-girl garage outfit The Pleasure Seekers, who churned out typically trashy Detroit girl-pop records with names like 'Never Thought You'd Leave Me' and 'What A Way To Die' during the mid 60s. The songs are OK, but I bet they were an absolute blast live. The band featured four Quatro sisters at one point, Suzi played bass, and they looked like this, ie: Girls Aloud From Outer Space.


.3. In 1969 The Pleasure Seekers sound was gettin' sorta played out, so they changed thei name to Cradle and went Heavy Rock. Their sound has to be heard to be believed; something like Tina Turner fronting Black Sabbath, a ton of Deetroit funk-rock riffs 'n' breaks, a garage-rock Power Of Zeus. I mean, really, really awesome. I can't even find out if they ever put out an LP. You can hear 'Living Machine' and 'Last Laugh', which I've been playing non-stop for the past 48 hours, here. And they looked like this:


.4. Suzi has one of the all-time great rock voices. She's double-live gonzo, intensity in ten cities, live at Budakon. I mean, she really wails. And screams. And screeches. Check out her run of mid 70s solo hits. Biker-booted mondo-stompo rock and roll killers across the board, real bad-ass chick raunch, pop in the best possible way. 'Can The Can', 'Devil Gate Drive' and 'The Wild One' are songs any contemporary UK glam rock band woulda sold their silver spandex for. And when she cut 'em, she looked like this:

Suzi Quatro

.5. She played biker-chick-with-a-heart Leather Tuscadero in Happy Days. This might be the coolest thing of all. Suzi was so cool in this role that she inspired both the name of a Weezerish mid-90s slacker-pop band (Tuscadero, who put out a great LP called 'The Pink Album' ), and a whole psychological disorder listed at urbandictionary.com, 'The Leather Tuscadero Fetish': "noun: feelings of a man toward a woman who is very knowledgeable about cars and wears black leather." She appeared in seven episodes between 1977 and 1979, and when she did, she looked like this:


All in all, she's a total hero. She's like the entire history of trash pop music boiled down and poured into a leather cat suit. 60s girl-popper. Deetroit punkette. Heavy metal headbanger. Glam-rock superstar. Happy Days returning character. She did it all, had great songs, screamed liked a wolverine, and looked ace while she did it. And now, she presents a really cool show on Radio 2 (Staurdays, 9-10pm), dedicated to All The Best In American Music or whatever, which essentially works out as everything from Alice Cooper to Emmylou Harris. All hail Suzi Q. I'm off to ebay to try and find myself a t-shirt with her name on it.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Good Friday Skate Special: The Christ Air

Couldn't let Good Friday go by without some sorta woefully misjudged Christploitation, so here's a cool-ass photograph of Christian Hosoi pulling his patented inverted-cruxifiction-tastic 'Christ Air'. Hosoi, or 'Christ', led quite a life, pinballing from god-like skating preeminence during the 80s, to incarceration for drugs offences in 1995, and finally to born-again Christianity. I guess there's a sort of cosmic logic to all that. Happy Easter, y'all.

Thursday, 9 April 2009


Watching Cobra (1986) on FiveUSA. Appears to be ticking every box in the 80s Action Movie playbook with a vengance and I gotta say it's pretty enjoyable shlock so far. Infact, the genre cliches are being hammered so hard I'd almost say it was meant to be parodic, except I don't think it is and don't really want it to be either. Stallone is 'The Cobra', an outlaw, plays-by-his-own-damn rules LA cop who works for a department called The Zombie Squad. Wow! He drives a car with the license plate 'AWSOM50', has a gun with a picture of a cobra on it and lives at the beach by himself and eats cold pizza. The film is set at christmas (see also: Die Hard & Lethal Weapon), the dialogue is exceptionally hard-boiled stock stuff, and when some psycho threatens to blow up a mini-mart, Stallone says "Go ahead. I don't shop here." Which is a pretty good line. As I write this there is a music montage happening which features a v. 80s modelling shoot with robots, soundtracked by a sub-Phil Collins ballad apparently called 'Angel Of The City.' Really, this is a great movie.

Ringo Deathstarr: "That's not a moon, that's a shoegazing band from Austin Texas".

Everybody knows the most important thing about being in a band is choosing a kick-ass name. This band's name is so kick-ass that I was compelled to check out their myspace page based purely on the supreme kick-assiosity of their name. Turns out they're a pretty rockin' noise- pop, My Bloody Valentine-ish sorta outfit dealing in the contemporary brand of updated late 80s whitenoise indie that I believe The Kids are calling Nu-Gaze. With A Little Help From the Force, anybody?

The Pink Floyd Panther

Having worked at HMV for three years in my early twenties, (Oxford Circus & Doncaster branches) I sorta get The Fear when I enter a branch now. I find myself wandering around in an agitated mild panic, automatically re-sorting the A-Z racks and putting artist's most recent albums at the front of their 'pockets'. It's like an acid flashback, with a Ting Tings soundtrack. It's horrible. "How did I work here for three years? This is brutal. It's so loud. Why are the T-Rex albums under Marc Bolan? They don't put The Beatles under Ringo Starr do they? How can they only have one Public Enemy album? What sort of record shop is this? This sticker is on wrong. Maybe I should tell somebody. Wasn't this Ting Tings song on already? I need to get out of here."

But a visit today paid off, when I landed a DVD box set of all 120+ original Pink Panther shorts for a tenner. They're wonderful. They're not hilarious - though there is a peristant daftness which produces the odd out-loud chuckle, but they're gently off-kilter and exceptionally hip, plus Henry Mancini's score is of course flat-out beatnik cool jazz brilliance. Of particular interest are those episodes which lampoon some contemporary fad, and I imagine the cod-Filmore poster acid kelidoscopia of 'Psychedelic Pink' is a favourite amongst Pink afficionados. You can dig our rinky-dink hero's journey into his third-eye, here.

My B-Movie Life: Over The Edge With Jonathan Kaplan

I have a bit of a thing for late 70s - early 80s dystopian / urban breakdown / teen rampage / post-apocalyptic wasteland sorta flicks. Assault On Precinct 13. Mad Max. The Warriors. Escape From New York. I just read about 'Over The Edge' from 1979. Looks pretty great. Turns out the guy who directed it, Jonathan Kaplan, has built a whole career on knocking out blunt, punchy exploitation movies. My kinda guy. He seems like a smart cookie, a B-Movie director in the classic sense, able to turn his hand to whatever genre was doing box office business at any time, like:

THE EARLY 70s SOFTCORE SEXPLOITATION MOVIE a la Russ Meyer: 'Night Call Nurses'(1972)
THE MID 70S BLAXPLOITATION ACTION MOVIE a la Shaft: 'Truck Turner' (1974)
THE MID 70s TRUCKER ROAD MOVIE a la Convoy: 'White Line Fever' (1975),
THE LATE 70s SOCIAL URBAN BREAKDOWN MOVIE a la The Warriors: 'Over The Edge' (1979)
THE MID 80s TEEN ADVENTURE MOVIE a la War Games: 'Project X' (1987)
THE EARLY NINETIES SEXY THRILLER MOVIE a la 'Basic Instinct': Unlawful Entry (1992)

So here's to Jon Kaplan: doing it second, and with a smaller budget.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Glam Rock Revivalism

For the first time in my whole life, I'm going through a bit of a Glam period. Not wearing stack-heeled silver space boots, glitter eye shadow, or Bowie/Eno-ish mullets yet, but heavily digging into T-Rex's back cat after chancing upon the mind-blowing bongos/acid rock guitar/sirens insanity of 'Calling All Destroyers' (1976) on some old Mojo magazine comp, and hearing Bowie's awesome 'Moonage Daydream' (1971) twice in one week on Radio 2. Never quite got Bowie to be honest, infact still don't really, and it will shock many to learn I'd never heard this song in my life before last week, but...yeah, great song, and I've been inspired to put a bit more effort into my Bowie education. Kinda remember a cool looking glitter-rock Nuggets type comp coming out a few years ago collecting together the some of the scene's less-appreciated acts...but I'm struggling to recall what it was called, and Google ain't helping. Any ideas?

Skateboarding And Selling Pop Culture

It seems to me that the history of US pop youth culture is the history of its ever-more rapidly executed commodification, of teenagers developing something of their own, surfing or rock and roll or comics, and subsequently having that thing taken away from them by Big Business and sold back to 'em, gutted, rebranded, and at a profit. Once upon a time, at the dawn of teen culture, this process might take years. Now Top Shop seems to sell the fashion before the fad has even been invented.

Sakteboarding culture would seem to me the perfect example of this process. I'm currently re-reading The Answer Is Never, Jocko Weyland's sparky, personalised potted history of the sport. What I dig about skateboarding, is that it really is the Local Summer Fad That Took Over The World. I mean...everybody has those games they invent over the summer holidays and play to death with their buddies, some mutation of baseball or hacky sack, the rules becoming ever more complex, the vocabulary expanding, limits and challenges met and exceeded, new records set and broken. Pop music, drinking and soft drugs may be involved. Truth be told, me and my pals have never really grown out of this impulse. Last summer three of us spent hours playing Egg In Glass, a 'sport' which initially involved taking it in turns to throw a small egg-shaped percussion instrument into a pint glass from a distance of roughly two meters. When this eventually resulted in a successful attempt shattering the pint glass, it transformed into Egg In Boot, which was basically the same, only with the glass replaced by - get this - a Boot. As the evening progressed, the rules solidified, points systems were put in place, successful throws led to bitter arguments about whether the thrower was 'far enough' away from the Boot, claims were made for particular styles and angles of trajectory, and ever more impressive levels of Egg In Bootery were attained. By morning, we were the 1992 Olympics US Basketball Dream Team of Egg In Boot, and my friend Stephen Ward was able to land The Egg in The Boot from halfway across a hotel car park, which was really something to see.

Despite its obvious appeal, Egg In Boot has not become a world-conquering phenomenon enjoyed by kids across the globe, nobody is internationally famous for it, no multinational sporting goods company has produced technologically advanced Eggs with names like The Boot Blaster 4000, Sky Sports 4 doesn't show The World Egg In Boot Championship Live From The Budokan at half 2 in the morning, there are no cash-in Egg In Boot movies, pop songs, comics, saturday morning cartoons, pinball machines, trucker caps, video games or Happy Meals, me and my friends have not become the world's first Egg In Boot billionaires, Barack Obama hasn't been 'pictured' playing Egg In Boot at some photo-op, and infact nobody has heard of Egg In Boot anywhere ever, until now, and I figure maybe about 6 people read this regularly, and one of them is one of the dudes who helped invent Egg In Boot in the first place.

But...this is essentially what did happen to skateboarding, or at least to the Dogtown, modern style of skateboarding, skateboarding as we understand it today, the style of skateboarding which turned into a multibillion dollar industry. At some point in the mid 70s, a buncha punk drop-out kids from Venice California ('Dogtown'), a ragbag of young freaks digging on Led Zep, Sabbath, beers and reefer, take a sorta lame, kiddy, faddy sorta enterprise, and get so insanely good at it that the world is forced to take notice, and the big money starts rolling in, and allofasudden..its a big deal, and it's here to stay. The Z-Boys, as the team were known, didn't plan for this. They were, as they say, Just Doin' Their Own Dang. For their own pleasure. Inventing ever-more insane stunts. For kicks. Taking it to the next level, within their own frame of reference. And it became something else. It Blew Up. Imagine that. Imagine the stoopid-ass sport you and your pals invented one summer becoming a bone fide world-wide Big Fuggin' Deal.*

(*Of course, this is simplifying The History Of Skateboarding to a ridiculous degree, but there's some truth to it.)