Stumblin’ In by Suzi Quatro and Chris Norman (RSO, 1979)

How did a hard rocking leather clad glam rock star turn into a cool glass of milk? Chinnichap. That is the brand of music created, written or produced by Mike Chapman & Nicky Chinn that was so huge in the late 70s and early 80s. And it was that team that finally helped Suzi Quatro break onto American radio in 1979 all the way up to #4.

Suzi had been tearing up the UK charts with her bubblegum glam pop, but couldn’t break over in her homeland of the US. She had a kick ass rock name, which was real, wore black leather, sang and played bass – what more did she need to do? I guess, work her image on middle America, which meant, get on TV. Legend has it that Happy Days producer, Garry Marshall saw a poster of her on his daughter’s wall and decided that she wanted her to play Pinky Tuscadero’s sister, Leather Tuscadero on the show. Her character was pretty much Suzi Quatro, looking like Suzi Quatro, playing in a band like Suzi Quatro, and being awesome like Suzi Quatro. Who can forget the way she would leave Arnold’s with two leg slaps and two finger guns – pow, pow – the only one who could break Fonzie’s heart and still get an ‘AAAAAYYYY’. She first showed up in 1977, so by early 1979 when this 45 was released, people could finally put a face to the name.

I’m sure at the time this duet made sense. Both Suzi and Chris Norman of Smokie had worked with Mike Chapman and were looking to break into the US market. But the pairing of voices is nearly a disaster. Suzi definitely holds her own, but Chris sounds like barbed wire ripping through a raccoon. Suzi’s music went from whiskey to a cup of hot tea. She even tried to change her image a bit by wearing shiny blouses tucked into tight corduroys. She looked a chic you would see milling outside of Jeans West at your neighborhood mall.

That being said whenever I hear this song I think about how cool I thought she was, how I wanted to hang out with her and play music, tag along with her like she was my older sister. And when I hear Chris sing I just laugh. I also have a memory of being in a Woolco which was going out of business and checking the Top 20 and learning for the first time that Leather Tuscadero was singing something so soft and sweet that even my mom would like it, or Grandma for that matter.

Today also happens to be Suzi’s birthday and she still looks great at 61. Happy birthday, Suzi!

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