July 3rd is the 62nd birthday of a true American rock & roll original, Suzi Quatro. Although many younger music fans may not know her name, the leather-clad, bass-playing singer was a vital influence on Joan Jett and the rest of The Runaways, so most female rock & rollers indirectly owe her a debt of gratitude. [NOTE: I have since found out Quatro's birthday is actually June 3rd. Apologies for the error, and thanks to Steel Town Project for pointing it out.]
Suzi Quatro, "48 Crash" (1973)
She became known in the early '70s with rockers like "Can the Can" and "48 Crash," which became hits in the U.K. (where she moved in 1971), Europe, and Asia, but not so much in the U.S. Ironically, one of her few big hits in America was "Stumblin' In," a duet with Chris Norman that showed a more mellow side of Quatro.
Suzi Quatro and Chris Norman, "Stumblin' In" (1978)
Even more ironically, Quatro is perhaps best known to many Americans as an actress: she played the recurring character "Leather Tuscadero," a singing bass player, on the sitcom "Happy Days" in the 1970s. She later did TV and movie acting in the U.K., and has performed on the stage as well.
Quatro had more success in 1980 when her song "Rock Hard" appeared on the soundtrack of "Times Square," a cult film about two teen girls (Robin Johnson and Trini Alvarado) forming a punk band in New York. (Tim Curry plays a DJ in the film.) Quatro's song was in good company; the soundtrack also included great tunes by Ramones, The Cure, XTC, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, and many other punk and new wave stars. "Times Square" was directed by Allan Moyle, who later did "Pump Up the Volume."
Suzi Quatro, "Rock Hard" (1980)
Note: "Times Square" will be shown Saturday, July 7th as part of the film program of this week's CBGB Festival (at 2 p.m., Anthology Film Archives). It's definitely worth checking out for the great music, and for seeing what Times Square looked like before it became a Disney-fied tourist attraction. (See the "Times Square" trailer below.)
Trailer for "Times Square"
Suzi Quatro continues to record and tour, and for years hosted rock radio shows on the BBC (though I'm not sure if she still is).
So happy birthday, Suzi Quatro. And here's to many more years of rocking.