By Ray Shasho
Interview with legendary rocker Suzi Quatro
Suzi Quatro is an internationally renowned renaissance woman. Although most of her extraordinary achievements in the arts were celebrated outside the United States, she has left a momentous impression as the original first lady of rock ‘n’ roll.
The leather clad, bass guitar slingin,’ Motor City- rock ‘n’ roll queen- Quatro, first gained notoriety in the early 60’s playing venues around Detroit in an all-female garage rock band called The Pleasure Seekers. Her sister Arlene became the bands piano player and Suzi’s older sister Patti Quatro their guitarist. Patti would later become epitomized as a member for yet another all-girl rock sensation ‘Fanny’ (“Butter Boy” #29 Hit on Billboard’s Hot 100).
The Pleasure Seekers shared the limelight in those early days with future rock legends Bob Seger, Grand Funk Railroad, Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper and many other acts. In 1965, The Pleasure Seekers recorded two singles, “Never Thought You’d Leave Me” and “What a Way to Die.” In 1968, Mercury Record signed The Pleasure Seekers to a recording contract and the band began touring extensively throughout the U.S. and internationally. Also that year, the band toured with Eric Burdon and The Animals.
-Check out the re-released, “What a way to Die” by The Pleasure Seekers available at CD Baby or amazon.com.
With the music scene rapidly changing into heavier album rock format FM radio, the band quickly shifted gears. They formed a new band called ‘Cradle’ which spotlighted the sensational vocalizations of Suzi and Nancy Quatro. Cradle became an incredible psychedelic/hard rock act that toured with groups like The Jefferson Airplane, Jeff Beck, Santana, Ten Years After, Traffic, Mountain, and numerous other bands. The band broke up in 1973.
-Check out the newly released CD by Cradle entitled, “The history” available at CD Baby or amazon.com. (Never released until now) -Notable track, “Ted” is an incredible tune.
Suzi Quatro’s vivacious performances in Cradle caught the attention of legendary British producer Mickie Most (The Animals, Herman’s Hermits, The Jeff Beck Group, Donovan, Hot Chocolate and Lulu). In 1971, Quatro moved to England permanently and signed onto Mosts’ label RAK Records.
Her first single was called, “Rolling Stone” (#1 Hit in Portugal) and featured Peter Frampton (Humble Pie) on guitars, Micky Waller (Jeff Beck Group) on drums and Errol Brown (Hot Chocolate) on back-up vocals. After modest success from her debut single, Most brought in the songwriting and production team of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman. Quatro immediately hit the road on a UK tour supporting the bands Thin Lizzy and headliners Slade.
Suzi Quatro’s second single; “Can the Can” became a #1 Hit in Europe and Australia in 1973. Quatro followed with a string of hits, “48 Crash,” “Daytona Demon,” and “Devil Gate Drive.” Each sold over a million copies.
Quatro supported Alice Cooper on his ‘Welcome to my Nightmare’ tour in 1975 but couldn’t duplicate the notoriety she earned in the UK and Australia. But in 1979, Suzi scored big in the U.S. with the hit, “Stumblin’ In” (#4 Hit on Billboard’s Hot100) a Chinn/ Chapman penned composition performed as a duet with Chris Norman (Smokie).
Suzi Quatro became a household name in the U.S. as ‘Leather Tuscadero’ on the hit Television sitcom, ‘Happy Days.’ Leather was the leader of an all-girl band called, ‘Leather Tuscadero and the Suedes.’ Her sister in the series was ‘Pinky Tuscadero’ a former girlfriend of ‘The Fonz.’ Garry Marshall offered her an audition after seeing a picture of Suzi on his daughter’s bedroom wall.
Most recently in 2005, Quatro was featured in a documentary film called, ‘Naked Under Leather’ illustrating her life and much-esteemed career. Also that year she recorded a tribute song, “Singing With Angels” dedicated to her lifetime idol Elvis Presley at Emerald Studios in Nashville with Presley’s original backup singers The Jordanaires.
Quatro released her self-written autobiography, ‘Unzipped’ in 2007.
In 2010, Quatro was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends online Hall of Fame.
Quatro released her fifteenth studio album, In the Spotlight in 2011.
Today Quatro hosts a classic rock radio show called, ‘Wake Up Little Suzi’ on BBC Radio 2.
Suzi Quatro will be performing the stage production of “Unzipped,” her one woman show, at the London Hippodrome Casino from October 29th thru November 3rd.
She’ll also be touring in Germany and Russia for the remainder of 2012.
Earlier this year, while stepping on a flight of steel stairs at Kiev airport the day after a gig, Suzi fell breaking her knee and wrist. She was scheduled to perform in the U.S. for the Detroit Music Awards but unfortunately had to cancel. It would have been her first performance in the U.S.A. in over 30 years. I had the rare opportunity to chat with Suzi Quatro last week by Skype from her home in England about her role as woman pioneer for rock ‘n’ roll, her illustrious music and acting career, and when she might be touring America again.
Suzi Quatro has sold over 50-million records and helped pave the wave for generations of women rockers. Some of the women inspired by Quatro are Joan Jett, The Runaways, Pat Benatar and Deborah Harry to name just a few.
Let’s hope the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame realizes that too.
And just think … it all began when her father gave her a 1957 Fender Precision, her first bass guitar, which she still plays today.
Here’s my interview with singer, songwriter, musician, actress, author, and rock ‘n’ roll pioneer SUZI QUATRO.
Ray Shasho: Hi Suzi, you look fantastic … how are you feeling?
Suzi Quatro: “I’m feeling much-much better and walking unaided now for about ten days. I’m walking pretty straight but sometimes I dip a little bit when I get tired. I’m driving, swimming, going to the gym, and slowly getting back to normal. I have to build up my stamina a bit, but my bass playing even though I broke my wrist is better than ever, this is coming back three hundred percent.”
Ray Shasho: So how exactly did you injure yourself?
Suzi Quatro: “I was in Kiev doing a show and coming home from the gig. It was the following day; I was going to the airplane and had my rolling bag which is heavy by the way, I had everything with me because I try not to check it. Then they took us down those horrible little steel steps that they seem to do now, so I grabbed the handle, my heel got on the step, down I went with all the weight …my hand and the bag which is heavy, I landed on my knee and broke that, rolled and landed on my wrist and broke that, kept rolling and finally came to rest on my chin. So they sent me home because I didn’t want to be there.”
“I was three and half hours on the plane without any treatment, then two and half hours to the emergency room … then of course you wait for them to treat you. Long story short …they misdiagnosed me, two weeks later they discovered that they got it wrong and I had to have the knee cut, bones re-broken, two screws put in … just wonderful! So now I’m suing the emergency room because I didn’t need all that, they shouldn’t be allowed to get it so wrong. I’ve got a scar on my knee that I didn’t need, I’ve missed three and half months work … maybe should have just missed a month. But I don’t like to dwell on it because it’s all over and I can’t change it, so I’m getting myself back together now.”
Ray Shasho: Well you look marvelous, like back in your ‘Leather Tuscadero’ days on Happy Days. I met Henry Winkler about four years ago in Sarasota at a Boys Club function, he had just written a children’s book.
Suzi Quatro: “He’s a sweetheart and one of my favorite people. He, Ronnie Howard and Garry Marshall gave me such nice quotes for my book cover. Henry and Ronnie Howard actually made the book cover for my autobiography. I called Ronnie Howard up and asked him for a quote and he sent me three pages. Typical director … he said, “Well, I wanted to tell the whole story Suzi” (All laughing).”
Ray Shasho: Talk about performing your one woman show on stage in London.
Suzi Quatro: “It’s at the London Hippodrome Casino October 29th thru November 3rd. It’s called “Unzipped,” a walk through my life; it takes you from my childhood to the present day. I wrote the script while I was housebound. So … I’m getting excited because it’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.”
Ray Shasho: Any plans on taking the show on the road?
Suzi Quatro: “I would love to … of course this is six nights at a small place which is very classy. We’ll test it out and see if it’s as good as I think it is, see how the audience responds, and if all goes like I think it’s going to go, I can take it anywhere in the world. Because it’s interesting you know … we’re talking about a whole life in show business. In 2014, it will be my fiftieth anniversary as a professional.”
Ray Shasho: I think it’s amazing when rockers make that crossover into stage, screen or television. I interviewed Michael Des Barres recently who is another amazing story. Do you know Michael?
Suzi Quatro: “He sang on “Woman Cry” and “Ego in the Night” from the Rock Hard album. And I sang on one of his albums when he was in Silverhead. Boy that goes back a long way doesn’t it? But I’ve known Michael for a long time.”
Ray Shasho: I remember when you toured with Noddy Holder and Slade back in the early 70s, and wore those shiny body outfits … I thought you were part of the glam rock scene.
Suzi Quatro: “I did one tour with them before I had hits of my own. I did have kind of a sparkly outfit on but that wasn’t me that was just something to wear so I would stand out at the beginning of their show as a guest opener. Then I came into my own with my leather jumpsuit, it was always my dream to wear that. I never ever saw myself as glam because I didn’t wear makeup … my image is a plain leather jumpsuit which is not glam at all. I’ve always seen myself as rock ‘n’ roll and not glam. I think it got confused because I was the only woman around and it was at that time the glam explosion was happening.”
Ray Shasho: You also toured with Alice Cooper.
Suzi Quatro: I did, with Alice in 1975 … I was the special guest on his ‘Welcome to My Nightmare’ tour.”
Ray Shasho: Suzi, what were those days like playing the huge arenas?
Suzi Quatro: “It was not stop work. You’re always on an airplane; you’re always in a dressing room, you’re always trying to get some more sleep if you can. It’s the double-edged sword, a combination of all your dreams because you made it, so hooray all my homework paid off, but then it’s the graft of keeping it there, it’s not making it, it’s keeping successful. Anybody can have a hit … it’s the second one, and the third one, and the fourth one … I’m up to 55 million records now which is pretty damn good and still going strong. I’d love to get back and tour America again, we just stopped and I don’t know why that is but I’ll get back there.”
Ray Shasho: Weren’t you supposed to be performing at the Detroit Music Awards recently?
Suzi Quatro: “Yes, my injury. I was supposed to receive a longtime achievement award and at the end my sisters did a thing with Pleasure Seekers and Cradle. I was supposed to play with them and then join some other musicians and do my stuff. Of course I had to cancel, that was the first thing I did as soon as I got home from the hospital … after they told me I’ve broken everything. The first person that I called were the people from that show and told them that I couldn’t do it and felt horrible. I hate canceling anything, I’m the show must go on mentality. If you can crawl you can take the stage. But at this point, I couldn’t even crawl, couldn’t even get off the couch without help. So that was not something to play with, it was a serious injury.”
Ray Shasho: You’re actually the second musician that I’ve talked with recently who has been sidelined with an injury. Frank Marino of Mahogany Rush developed frozen shoulder from meticulously editing in his studio. Frank’s an interesting guy, he writes theology.
Suzi Quatro: “He can go talk with Gene Simmons, Gene studied that. We had a long, long debate about it one night. Gene’s a smart cookie you know. I love a good debate and always up for the task. I’m one of those rare breed of rock ‘n’ rollers with a brain, probably because the brains still intact. (All laughing)”
Ray Shasho: So many women rockers have been inspired by you. You’re the original queen of rock ‘n’ roll; some even refer to you as a female Elvis, your biggest inspiration. And you wrote a song recently dedicated to the king?
Suzi Quatro: “Elvis is my whole inspiration … and that’s also in the show by the way. My tribute is called, “Singing With Angels” with guitarist James Burton and The Jordanaires …can you believe it! In the show there’s a film clip of making that and it is awesome.”
“I was the first to have success, certainly not the first female musician by a long shot, but the first rocker/musician to actually go out and say hey … we can do this. I became a benchmark for people… if she can do it, I can do it. I didn’t think I was going to change the world for women; I just did what I did. My big thing was that I didn’t change who and what I was to become successful. I will not be told what to do; I’m a real independent girl. I got lucky that the world was ready for this to happen.”
Ray Shasho: I love Joan Jett, but when I watch Joan Jett … I see Suzi Quatro.
Suzi Quatro: “That is a no brainer. She’s not like me now because I’ve moved my way and she’s moved her way. But she took on the original image and made that more punk. When she first came to the UK and had the hit with, “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” and it was on TV, people called me and said I saw you on TV you have another hit … great! So that’s a little bit spooky. But saying that, I’m very proud of what Joan has done. She took my inspiration, grabbed it, and ran with it. I give her credit … she’s done very well. One of my favorite songs is “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll.”
Ray Shasho: Have you and Joan Jett ever played on each other’s albums?
Suzi Quatro: “No I haven’t and neither has she. I would someday love to do a gig together. That would be fantastic! We’d have to do a few songs together … that would be fun, maybe that will happen who knows. Be careful what you wish for.”
Ray Shasho: You had such an incredible relationship playing with your sisters in those early bands The Pleasure Seekers and Cradle. And your sister Patti would later become a member for yet another all-girl rock sensation ‘Fanny.’
Suzi Quatro: “The Pleasure Seekers was from 1964-1969 and for about a year and a half it changed to Cradle. Then I went to England. We worked nonstop because we were girls, so we got more gigs than the guys because it was unusual. We had the novelty factor going for us. Yea, we go back a long way. The Pleasure Seekers was a cover band, but like most bands are before they have their own hits. In Cradle, we decided to up the ante and started to write all of our own stuff so we did a lot of original material.”
“I preferred Pleasure Seekers, my sister and I debate this all of the time, she liked Cradle. I liked Pleasure Seekers because it was a real tight sort of teenage show band which I liked, more of an entertainment band than a serious band. Both bands were instrumental in making me what I am now. In one band I was concentrating on the show and the other concentrating on my bass. So you get the show woman and the bass guitar.”
Ray Shasho: Being from Michigan, you shared the spotlight with some of the greatest rock bands of all-time.
Suzi Quatro: “You name it we played with them, we’re all old friends. Bob Seger, Mitch Ryder, MC5, The Rationals, The Underdogs, Grand Funk Railroad, Brownsville Station. In fact, I’m going to Detroit in August, because this is another thing I had to cancel, I’m doing a big documentary on Detroit for my radio show on BBC Radio 2. I love Detroit and very proud of being from there.”
Ray Shasho: I always believed that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame belonged in Michigan.
Suzi Quatro: “Definitely and when are they going to put me in it. Sometimes they make you wait forever; I don’t want to die for them to put me in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I want to get in before that. (All Laughing)”
Ray Shasho: What was the trigger that had you leave the United States and move to England?
Suzi Quatro: “I was in Cradle and we were looking for a deal, Elektra Records came to see us and Jac Holzman offered me a solo contract. The very same week … Mickie Most came to see us and offered me a solo contract, so it was obvious that it was my time to go, two offers in one week. Jac wanted to take me to New York and make me the next Janis Joplin. Mickie Most wanted to take me to England and record, and turn me into the first Suzi Quatro, so that was a no brainer … I’m no Janis Joplin and never would be, she is who she is.”
Ray Shasho: “Stumblin’ In” brings back wonderful memories for me because I was a rookie on Top 40 Radio when that song was released, and I played the heck out of that song.
Suzi Quatro: “It was a great song! I had people telling me from America that they heard it nonstop on the radio. I think it was one of Chinn and Chapman’s best compositions, that one and “If You Can’t Give Me Love.”
Ray Shasho: Your album, Back to the Drive was produced by legendary guitarist of The Sweet Andy Scott. I’ve been trying to set up an interview recently with Andy but our schedules haven’t been kind. How did you like working with Andy?
Suzi Quatro: “He’s a friend … I love Andy. We made a very-very good album. A lot of fans think it’s my best album ever. It’s autobiographical, takes you through fifteen years of my life without it being planned, just ended up being that way. And it actually led me into writing the book when I noticed the reaction it was having. People loved hearing the stories so I thought; okay, now it’s time to write the book. But Andy also produced, “Singing With Angels” the Elvis tribute. Working with Andy was great we were always on the same page. Andy and I may do something again in the future.”
Ray Shasho: Why did you choose the bass over the guitar?
Suzi Quatro: “I started on bongos when I was seven, then played piano for quite some time, played percussion in school, and when we started the all-girl band nobody took the bass. So I took the bass. My dad gave me a 1957 Fender Precision ... and I still have it. It was like an epiphany, when I put it on it was completely natural.”
Ray Shasho: Who were some of your favorite bassists?
Suzi Quatro: “Probably James Jamerson is number (1) from Motown. Number (2) is probably Larry Taylor, Canned Heat’s bass player, he was really good, and number (3) is ‘Flea’ from The Red Hot Chili Peppers.”
Ray Shasho: Suzi, did you write your autobiography yourself or had a little help?
Suzi Quatro: “Every single phrase and punctuation mark, I wouldn’t let them change a thing. I said its ether my book or it’s not. If you read it, it’s just like you’re talking to me. I sat down and luckily I’m a great typer, and I just let it flow and started to type.”
Ray Shasho: “In the Spotlight is your latest album, talk a little bit about that.
Suzi Quatro: “It’s gotten probably the best reviews that I’ve ever received in my life and I was humbled by them. The reviews young and old are just unbelievable. I’m very proud of that album. Mike Chapman has done a good job,”
Ray Shasho: How about a message for all your fans in America?
Suzi Quatro: “Get me back to America … the campaign is to get me into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and let me do some gigs in America.”
Ray Shasho: You certainly deserve to be in the Hall and we do miss you performing in America. Suzi, thank you so much for being on the Skype call with me today, but more importantly for all the great music that you’ve given to the world throughout years.
Suzi Quatro: “Thank you Ray, maybe we’ll see you soon.”
Suzi Quatro official website www.suziquatro.com
Order Suzi Quatro’s latest release- In the Spotlight at amazon.com or on her website.
Hippodrome Casino London official website www.hippodromecasino.com
Suzi Quatro’s autobiography "Unzipped" available to purchase on amazon.com
Coming up… recent interviews with Lou Gramm, Steve Hillage, Johnny Winter and Annie Haslam.
Contact classic rock music reporter Ray Shasho at firstname.lastname@example.org
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