Suzi Quatro

A very special Lucky Seven


Go back about thirty years or so and find a musician. Ask them about some of their early influences. Chances are incredibly high that most of the time you will find three names involved in their stories… Ed Sullivan… Elvis Presley… Beatles.

For a young girl in Michigan, this would be exactly the case.

Suzi Quatro vividly recalls watching a television with her family when Elvis performed. She was thrilled… one of her sisters was excited… and her father shut the television off. A few years later, watching John, Paul, George and Ringo inspired her and her sisters to form a band of their own. It has been said in several forums that once Sullivan showed audiences Presley and the Beatles, rock and roll would never be the same. Add the creation of the Pleasure Seekers, an all-girl band based in Detroit, to the list of results from those broadcasts.

At an early age, Suzi learned how to play the piano. Her father was an accomplished jazz musician. And yet for the Pleasure Seekers, it was being assigned to the only instrument left, a bass guitar, that would eventually lead to one of the most defining images of women in rock and roll during the seventies… Suzi Quatro… black leather outfit… a bass guitar that probably outweighed her, and, if stood upright likely had her by six to eight inches in height. She was, quite literally, the first woman of rock and roll. There was no role model… there was no success or failure prior to learn from… there was only her belief in herself and alot of hard work.

She left the United States to realize her ambitions and pursue a career, heading over to England in 1971. After a rough start and struggles with her recording efforts, she smashed onto the charts in 1973 beginning a string of hit songs that included “Can the Can,” “48 Crash,” and “Devil Gate Drive.”

Success followed her around the world… from Europe to Australia… but at home in America it would be later in the decade when she made her most lasting impressions. A duet with Chris Norman called “Stumblin’ In” stormed up the charts in 1978. (Go ahead… I defy you to not start singing the song… “Our love is alive… And so we begin… Foolishly laying our hearts on the table…”) She was also cast as a guest star for one of the most popular television shows in the country. Yes, I’m talking about Leather Tuscadero arriving at Arnold’s to perform on Happy Days.

Over the years she has continued to appear in places that stretched away from her rock and roll image. MinderAbsolutely FabulousMidsomer Murders are just three television programs on her resume, and each was a popular and critically appreciated British production. In 1986 she took the role of Annie Oakley to stage for a production of Annie Get Your Gun. And… oh yeah… she also found time to raise her children, continue recording new material, and still be a major presence with concert tours.

That isn’t to say that the rock and roll world is in the past. She still performs dozens if not more than one hundred live shows each year, traveling around the globe. In the past few years she released a wonderful album (Back to the Drive), a candid autobiography that makes for great reading (Unzipped), and a solid documentary (Naked Under Leather). She also hosts a successful show on BBC Radio (Rockin’ with Suzi Q).

And from all of this comes two incredibly impressive things. First… she was a successful woman in rock and roll when female singers and female musicians simply weren’t the leaders of rock and roll bands. She literally led the charge to the stage for women and paved the way for some incredible performers that followed her. And second… her story is a good one. No… it’s a great one. Suzi is a rare talent, having been successful in diverse environments (as a singer, actress and radio personality). She shares the ups and downs that all of us face at times in life, but she has handled her overall place in the entertainment industry with dignity and a sense of responsibility. Find me a picture of her performing and I can virtually guarantee you she’ll be smiling and having a great time. That’s just as true today as it was years ago. And to hear her tell her story… well… she has a great grasp of life that you can really identify with and appreciate.

Two quick links: You can check out Suzi’s official web site at If you’re interested in her show broadcast on BBC Radio 2, try visiting the site at

It is an incredible honor for me to bring you this edition of my “Lucky Seven” interviews with Suzi Quatro.

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In your incredibly honest and candid autobiography (Unzipped) and documentary (Naked Under Leather), you note several occasions where your pursuit of a career and success came, at times, with a cost of strained relations with your parents and siblings. And yet, considering the longevity of your career… the diversity of your successes… and dare I say it, a fairly sensible personal life when it comes to avoiding the pitfalls that so often seem to destroy entertainers… it seems like you’ve really tried to approach your musical and entertainment endeavors as a profession, or a career, and have some semblance of a normal private life. How difficult is it to be in the public’s sights and still try to have a “normal” existence? (And yet, I saw in one location that your daughter was quoted as saying it was very difficult to rebel against the rules with a mother that thought some of her actions were great.)

Yes, the balance is difficult. Once you have success, everyone is applauding and complimenting you 24 hours a day and it’s all too easy to lose your true self, i.e. little Susie from Detroit.  As in my book… I went through the ego trip right after my first number one… saw myself in the mirror and realised very clearly that I was still the same person… although… lucky enough to have the other part of me, SUZI QUATRO, recognised worldwide as a star… although I hate that word. I made up my mind there and then that I would enjoy my fame but be NORMAL off the stage. It wasn’t always easy, and now and then I lapsed into the other side in private. I guess it was my upbringing.  My dad taught us to be ‘professional’ entertainers and do the job, which is what it is... a job… albeit one I LOVE.

Not too long ago, I saw a documentary on Tom Petty. As I was trying to look around and do some research for my questions for you, a thought struck me. Evidently early on Petty and the Heartbreakers were getting attention in England. They ended up heading over to perform there and around Europe, and this was where they enjoyed the biggest early successes. In a slightly similar fashion, you left the United States to work in England, and in turn realized your first large breakthroughs. And this isn’t too unusual a story. Alot of American performers left the country in the late 60s and early to mid 70s. It’s almost like a reverse British Invasion of sorts… where the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were heading over to America, while rock and roll bands from the States were going in the exact opposite direction. I don’t know the words of the question in here… but I’m just wondering about your thoughts on this.

I could have stayed in America but I chose to go with Mickie Most, who is English, and make my first solo record over here. I was supposed to be here for 3 months… that was October 1971… incredible! My thoughts… there was a time in America where they were not open to new things at all. I believe it was my destiny to come over here and break the rules… then it spread out around the world. Although I have enjoyed much success in America it took someone like Joan Jett (my biggest fan by far) to take ‘my’ image… a groundbreaking success as a serious female rocker… into the American charts. Sometimes this happens. But, I maintain my originality. I was the first and remain so.

Along those same lines… you have been not just one of the first women to break into the world of rock and roll, but one of the leaders in that regard (and arguably, the original leader). I know it’s easier to look back now and see where people like Joan Jett… bands like the Bangles… or careers like that of Chrissie Hynde… in a way developed from the barriers you broke down. Was that something you were conscious of when you were starting out? What was it like for a woman trying to lead a rock group at that time?

You say “in a way”… this is not true. The truth is I had no role model. I had to make it up as I went along. I knew I wasn’t like any other female before me… could have easily molded myself to suit the norm, but decided to stick with who I was and hope the world would accept a female rocker. They did… and here I am. And here all the others that came after me are… someone had to do it. But the job fell to me. It’s called destiny.  I was more conscious of being true to myself than breaking down barriers and it’s only in hindsight that I now see this.

I believe your father provided you with a background in jazz. What are some of your influences as far as getting your start in music… during your career… and what types of music draw your attention today? Are their some performers that you think deserve more attention or success than they received?

My first love was Elvis. My second love was Elvis. I also took a lot from Otis Redding and Billie Holliday believe it or not. My father gave me a love of jazz. We were raised on classics too. My tastes are very wide but something happens when I do rock and roll. I guess it’s my most basic instinct. I think music has gone in a downward trend as far as originality goes. This is due to digital recording where everything is made ‘perfect’ in the mix, and the coming of clever videos where talent is not always required. In my day we played every gig that god sent and did our homework. I can go on any stage anywhere for any age audience and ‘entertain’. This is missing today. Also, the records don’t have that ‘dangerous’ sound anymore. There are some good bands coming through now… thank god. Can’t think of anyone who should be more well known. True talent wins out in the end.

I swear… I really, really wanted to be as original as possible with the questions I asked you. I know many things you’ve been asked a million times. But I simply can’t resist… Leather Tuscadero. How did you get the part and what was it like working on the show? Happy Days was one of the first times I had ever seen you. I can still picture you performing “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Devil Gate Drive” on the stage in Arnold’s.

They had the script for Leather for a long time… couldn’t find the girl.  She had to be tough/vulnerable, and could sing and act. The casting lady went into her daughter’s bedroom and saw my picture on the cover of Rolling Stone and went crazy. I got a call while on tour in Japan to fly to America and audition. Never heard of the show, as it hadn’t reached England yet. Wore my leathers of course (Garry Marshall thought I dressed in the part!)… and got the part… which turned into 3 years. A great show to do. I was privileged to be on it. Would love to get my teeth into another sit-com… great experience. I found out years later that apart from the Fonz, I received the most fan mail… what a compliment… Eyyyyyy!

Your performance schedule is usually packed from year to year, with you still getting on stage more regularly than many musicians.  How often do you change your set list from tour to tour?  (Do you change it much during a tour?) Are there any songs you perform with significantly different arrangements?  (I’m just guessing we won’t be hearing about the Suzi Quatro Solo Acoustic Tour.)

I try to keep everything fresh. I have had for several years a 7 piece band including myself with a horn section… they come and go on the stage and give it variety. We stick to the basic hits, but with the horns they sound current. I always update the set. At the moment I am usually doing my show in 2 halves. First half my current album… BACK TO THE DRIVE. Then a costume change (into the jumpsuit)… and we go to DEVILGATE DRIVE. Everyone goes home happy. I also talk to the audience about my life. On one tour we did do an unplugged section in the middle of the show. That was great and it gave me a chance to play things from Annie Get Your Gun… an Elvis tune… etc., etc. Really fun.  This was done on what we in the band call, the ‘broken arm’ tour. I had to hire a bass player for the first time in my life… very weird. But had one of the best tours of my entire career. Funny what a tragedy can do… you either sink or swim… and I swam… one armed.

So let’s see… you tour internationally (especially in Australia, which should be another thought entirely given how many performers don’t want to go through the time and expense of traveling halfway around the world, and yet you seem to be there every year or two to perform)… you’ve acted on stage and for television… you’ve still been writing and recording new material in recent years… you’ve produced an autobiography… and heck, you even host a radio program. What projects are you working on now and what’s next for you?

I am doing a lot of radio. Have had a very popular show on BBC Radio 2 for 9 years, and it’s getting bigger and bigger… actually nominated at the Sony radio awards for music broadcaster of the year… wow. I want to do UNZIPPED 2… a novel. I’m working on a new album idea… a very exciting one. The one thing I haven’t done is to act in a movie… maybe that’s next.

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I want to offer a special thank you to Suzi Quatro for participating in this “Lucky Seven” offering.

Suzi tours regularly, has some great new material out there... music, a book, and a documentary... and hosts a weekly radio program on BBC Radio 2. By using the links here, you can get the latest news on her web site, or check out the details of her radio show.

Suzi Quatro

Rockin' with Suzi Q

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