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Suzi Quatro Rocks Hard in Times Square

April 30th, 2007 · 2 Comments · Culture, Film, Journal, LGBT, Music, New Wave, Video

Times Square DVD coverAh, another thrilling YouTube find!

Some of you will know Suzi Quatro as the most prominent female glam rocker of the early 70s, racking up a string of hits with Chapman-Chinn numbers like “Can the Can.” Some will know her only from her soft-rock duet “Stumblin’ In” with Chris Norman, which you have to have a soft spot for 70s Top 40 to love. Another large group will only remember her from her role as the feisty rocker-girl Leather Tuscadero on Happy Days.

But a few old New Wavers like me will remember her most fondly for her New Wave/Punk phase at the turn of the 80s, which produced the fun and feisty anthems “Lipstick” and “Rock Hard” — the latter of which featured prominently in the infamously studio-butchered New Wave film epic Times Square.

Times Square tells the story of a couple of young misfit runaway girls who call themselves The Sleaze Sisters, and create a sensation by staging impromptu punk concerts on rooftops dressed in trash bags, dropping television sets onto sidewalks all over New York, stealing ambulances to escape from hospitals, and baiting the father of one of the girls, a conservative politician who wants to “clean up Times Square” about a decade before Rudy G and Mickey Mouse got around to actually doing it.

They’re assisted in this campaign by the always fabulous Tim Curry, playing a radio DJ who likes their moxy and brings them into his radio studio for live improv broadcasts in which they issue foulmouthed tirades over smokin’ guitar riffs, directed at daddy and other grownups who are hacking them off.

If you’ve never seen it, you can watch a trailer here that’ll give you a feel for it.

We’ll never know how good a movie Times Square might have been if the studio hadn’t decided it was too long — and maybe a little too queer — and cut it to shreds over the protests of its director, Allan Moyle. The final edit was so barely coherent that despite avidly watching it half a dozen times on HBO during my high school New Wave heyday, I never twigged to the fact that the girls were having a lesbian romance along with their punk rock and guerilla art happenings. I only figured that out when the movie finally emerged on DVD a few years ago and I got to read up on the behind-the-scenes drama.

Despite the studio’s mangling, there was a lot to love about Times Square — not only its romantic public-art-as-rebellion manifesto, the culture-jamming sensibility of its TV-tossing and rooftop concert scenes, and the aforementioned Tim Curry, but also probably the best New Wave movie soundtrack of all time.

In addition to a couple of Sleaze Sister originals, it came glittering with cuts like Roxy Music’s “Same Old Scene,” Patti Smith’s “Pissing in a River,” The Cars’ “Dangerous Type,” The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated,” The Pretenders’ “Talk of the Town,” Gary Numan’s “Down in the Park,” Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” and of course Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime.” The scene of the girls skipping down a city sidewalk to that song in the wake of a boom-box carrying fellow pedestrian is forever lodged in my mind as the epitome of life-in-the-big-city cool.

The soundtrack came as a big gatefold double album that filled cut-out bins for a while in the early 80s, and almost everyone I know had a copy they’d nabbed for $2.99 even if they’d never seen the film. Sadly, it’s never been issued on CD, although if you have a fetish for it like I do, you can round up most of the songs on other collections.

Among the few holdouts is Suzi’s “Rock Hard,” one of the two or three best songs she ever recorded (in my biased opinion), and one of the key tracks from Times Square because it’s the song that Tim Curry’s DJ character dedicates to the girls over the air.

I’ve never been able to find this track on CD except for a re-recorded version from many years later, which lacks the punch of the original. But at least, courtesy of YouTube, you can now see and hear Suzi performing the original version of the song. This one goes out to The Sleaze Sisters.

Bonus: Suzi performing her UK Top 10 hit “If You Can’t Give Me Love,” which has a nice jangly Nick Lowe kind of sound. (I’m bummed that the video for “Lipstick” doesn’t seem to be on YouTube at the moment, because that’s Suzi’s all-time best cut in my opinion, and the video is way fun.)


2 Comments so far ↓

  • Aaron

    You can’t even find “Lipstick” on iTunes…I tried a while back…and it’s not on her anthology, either. It seems like every other song is on there except that! (And “Stumblin’ In,” which was sort of an unfortunate song, really…)

    I remember Robin Johnson from “Times Square” because she was on “Guiding Light” a few years later playing a female gang member. With a voice like Lucille Ball and a short, spiky haircut dyed bright red. God, she was mean. I was in love–I tuned in every day just to see her! (In fact, I came across a fragment of an episode on one of my old tapes not long ago. Took me back!)

  • Aaron

    Oh, and I think I remember Suzi Quatro most fondly as the singing nurse in “Ab Fab.”