70s icon Suzi Quatro reflects on her phenomenal career | Music | Entertainment

Suzi Quatro at the Palais Theater in Melbourne (Image: Getty)

“I wanted to see the film with an audience,” says Suzi, 71. “So I snuck in the back and watched it with people for the first time. Debbie Harry, Joan Jett and KT Tunstall all appeared onscreen saying, “We wouldn’t have done what we do without Suzi.” I was in tears!

“The next day I called my friend Cherie Currie from the Runaways and told her that I realized I had given women permission to be different. The phone quieted down and then Cherie said, ” Did you just understand?”.

Suzie laughs. The Detroit-born bass icon, who hit the UK with hits in the 70s, starting with Can The Can in 1973, was the first rocker to lead a band.

“I had no role model,” she says. “All I did from day one was be me. Everything I was trying to do had never been done before. And thank God I did.

His singularity had not gone unnoticed. She remembers her father, Art telling her, “Boy oh boy, Suzi, when they made you, they threw the mold away.”

She adds, “And before I could say thank you, he said, ‘Thank God!’.”

Her Hungarian-born mother, Helen, called her “the savage” and told her “You’ve got the devil in you” – the former giving Suzi the title of a 1974 hit, and the latter for the critically acclaimed album from last year, The Devil in Me.

She had this indefinable X factor. Mickie Most, the 70s equivalent of Simon Cowell, caught her playing in a band called Cradle at a club in Detroit in 1971.

Then he called his wife Christina back to London.

“I found that!” he told her enthusiastically. “What?” she replied.

“I don’t know,” he said. “But I found it!”

Mary McCartney, Sharleen Spiteri, Suzi Quatro and Paloma Faith attend LOVE Magazine's LFW Party

Mary McCartney, Sharleen Spiteri, Suzi Quatro and Paloma Faith attend LOVE Magazine’s LFW Party (Image: Getty)

Most was the second record label mogul to offer Quatro a contract that week. She says, “Elektra wanted to make me ‘the new Janis Joplin,'” she recalls.

“Mickie Most said ‘I’m going to make you the first Suzi Quatro’.”

She went with RAK ​​Records from Most. He put her up in a hotel in London, but it took months for something to click.

“Mickie didn’t ‘get me’ on record,” she says. “I had spent a year without a concert. I told him ‘I need a band; I’m going to be crazy’. Then I formed one and everything gelled.

The band, including lead guitarist Len Tuckey – her future husband – opened for Slade, with Thin Lizzy as the supporting act; and most-recruited glam rock wizards Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn (aka Chinnichap) to “create the magical three-minute single.”

Suzi and Tuckey lived on the top floor of a house in Crouch End when the witchcraft started.

“The phone rang at 8:30 a.m. and the owner of the house called me,” recalls Suzi. It was mostly to tell him that RAK would hire a plane to fly the band to Bristol for their gig that night.

“I hated flying, and he knew it, so I asked why. He said, ‘Because you have to do Top Of The Pops. You’re number one!

It was Can The Can. “The phone rang all day, champagne arrived from the label, flowers. It was like heckling. It was fantastic! I went through a 24 hour ego-trip, walking around like I was Marilyn Monroe.

“The next day I looked in the mirror and said, ‘You idiot! I sat down with my ex for coffee and he said, “Welcome, Suzi.” It went to my head for just one day. I’m so down to earth…”

Lila Ike and Suzi Quatro in Boisdale from Canary Wharf

Lila Ike and Suzi Quatro in Boisdale from Canary Wharf (Image: Getty)

And she still is, 56 million record sales later.

Suzi’s live fees skyrocketed and Chinnichap’s hits kept coming – 48 Crash, Devil Gate Drive, Daytona Demon, Too Big, and more.

“They worked in tandem with me,” she says. “Each song was tailored to my personality” – which is complete.

Even now, Suzi admits, “I don’t like to relax. If I’m watching a movie, I’ll be playing Scrabble at the same time. I can never be still. In Catholic school, I was kicked out of first grade because Sister Inez said I was driving her crazy.

“Impatient is my worst quality. I am now Dr Quatro, Honorary Doctor of Cambridge, so I can say, ‘I am Dr Quatro and I have no patience.’

Suzi was five and a half when her life changed forever. The family was watching the Ed Sullivan Show and Elvis came to play Don’t Be Cruel. Her sister Patti, nine years her senior, started screaming.

“A little light bulb went out in my head; I decided on the spot, I’m going to do it!

Quatro is his real name. She is Italian on her father’s side – her grandfather Michael Quattrocchi [CORR] emigrated from Palermo, Scilly, aged nine, but his surname was shortened by US immigration officials.

Her father worked for General Motors by day and played keyboards by night with his Art Quatro Trio – Suzi was playing bongos on stage with them when she was six years old.

“He also had his own agency; he gave me my work ethic.

The 5-foot-tall tomboy, Quatro, was athletic and an avowed “clever” who enjoyed the company of tough boys. From the age of 14, she played in a show group called the Pleasure Seekers with two of her three sisters.

“Until 1970, I had sung 99% of the songs, I was the show! But then we became Cradle and brought in my little sister to do most of the vocals.

“When Mickie Most came to see us, with Jeff Beck and Cozy Powell, I only did two songs. I took the mic and said ‘Here’s the one I wrote, Brain Confusion’ [the B-side of her first single] – and followed that up with Jailhouse Rock.

Suzi Quatro attends the 2021 Boisdale Music Awards at Canary Wharf's Boisdale

Suzi Quatro attends the 2021 Boisdale Music Awards at Canary Wharf’s Boisdale (Image: Getty)

Yardbirds star Jeff nudged Most and said “the bassist”; he replied, “I already have it.”

Equally impressed, the British rock press later described Quatro as “a tattooed tomboy”, “a hellish cat” and, presciently, in 1973, “the world’s only female punk rocker”.

A hostile NME The reviewer received a box of pig brains in the mail – Suzi blames Mike Chapman.

Adored in Australia and Germany, she didn’t have any US hits until 1978’s Stumblin’ In with Smokie’s Chris Norman, when she was well known for playing Leather Tuscadero on TV’s Happy Days. The character was “the Fonz woman” – typing!

Unwilling to exploit her bubbly sexuality, Suzy only did a Penthouse shoot because they allowed her to pose wearing head-to-toe white leather.

She married Len Tuckey, two years her junior and five times her height, in 1976. They had daughter Laura, a radio host, and musician son Richard, but divorced in 1992. She married the promoter of German concerts Rainer Hass in 93.

Suzi’s career has been eclectic. She writes poetry and wrote a musical about Tallulah Bankhead, but never stopped touring.

“We did 85 shows globally in 2019 and we had 95 in the book for 2020…and then lockdown! Luckily I had built a little demo studio and instead of touring my son and I wrote and recorded The Devil In Me”.

Now a grandmother, she has published three books, is about to publish her second collection of poetry and is working on a cinematic dramatization of her life. His new box set of his 70s albums hit number one on Amazon pre-sale.

Suzi performs at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday [20th] and rehearsed the entire two-hour show in his living room in Essex, including speaking to the audience.

“I’ve always had the work ethic,” she says. “I have always been very focused and very serious in what I do.

“I do everything with total commitment.”

*Suzi Quatro is the headliner of the Royal Albert Hall in London on the 20thand April. Tickets available from https://www.royalalberthall.com/

His 8-disc album collection, The Rock Box Set 1973 – 1979, is on sale now.


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