345. ‘Jealous Mind’, by Alvin Stardust

This next number one kicks off, and instantly reminds me of another chart-topper from not so long ago. The chugging, fuzzy guitars that lead us in were last heard on 10cc’s ‘Rubber Bullets’. Musically, this is very mid-seventies soft-glam. It’s nice.

Jealous Mind, by Alvin Stardust (his 1st and only #1)

1 week, from 3rd – 10th March 1974

Then the singing starts, and it instantly reminds me of another chart-topper from much longer ago. Buddy Holly lives! If he’d made it to the seventies, and gone glam, he might have sounded a bit like this. Why is it I must know, The things you’re doin…? A-ah-hu-ho-ho, It’s just my jealous mind…

Seriously, the hiccup is spot on. A-ah-hu-ho-ho… It’s not an easy thing to mimic, the Buddy Holly hiccup – believe me, I’ve tried. For the rest of the record it’s not just Holly that Alvin Stardust harks back to – I get Elvis, early-Cliff and Eddie Cochran. It’s a fifties rock ‘n’ roll hit, set to a glam rock beat. I should love it…

But something’s lacking. The riff is fun, the solo is furious, the vocals are very singable… It’s just a little… gimmicky? Is that it? It’s definitely lacking a special ingredient, whatever that might be, to make this great. It’s not helped by Stardust’s get-up, the black leather and the outrageous quiff. He looks like an Elvis impersonator, before they were a thing. Plus, his name sounds like a rip-off of Gary Glitter…

When you delve into the Alvin Stardust back-story, you begin to understand why. For a start, he was an actual rock ‘n’ roller in the early sixties. He went by his first stage-name, Shane Fenton, with his band The Fentones. Their biggest hit, ‘Cindy’s Birthday’, made #19 in 1962. The big Mersey bands put paid to the Fentones, Fenton slipped into obscurity. Years later, a bloke called Peter Shelley created a persona called ‘Alvin Stardust’, based on David Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’, who was in turn based on the real British rock ‘n’ roller Vince Taylor. All very meta… Shelley cut a record as Stardust, ‘My Coo-Ca-Choo’, then got stage fright when the song took off and started climbing the charts. He needed a new ‘Alvin Stardust’, pronto, and turned to Fenton.

So, seeing pictures of Alvin Stardust Mk II, all leathered and quiffed up, looking old enough to know better, suddenly makes sense. He was well over thirty when he scored his first and only #1. But there’s something romantic about it, this jobbing singer finally making it after all that time. His short burst of fame in the mid-seventies didn’t last too long but, amazingly, Stardust had a third-wind in 1981, with the #4 hit ‘Pretend’ and a fourth one in ’84 with two #7 hits, one of which was aptly titled ‘I Feel Like Buddy Holly’. That’s some staying power: a real rock ‘n’ roll limpet. (Personally, I would have liked them to have kept changing Alvin Stardusts with every album, like a regenerating Doctor Who, as a weird experiment in pop.)

Away from the interesting back-story, though, I still can’t find much to love about this record. It’s another nail in the glam-rock coffin. Watered-down glam, a fifties homage, a last-minute relaunch of a washed up star…. But hey, ho. Worse things, worse people, have topped the charts. Moving on.

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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.