(born 3 June 1950) is a British-based American singer-songwriter, bass guitar player, and actor. She is the first female bass player to become a major rock star. This broke a barrier to women's participation in rock music.In the 1970s Quatro scored a string of hit singles that found greater success in Europe and Australia than in her homeland. But, following a recurring role as a female bass player on the popular American sitcom Happy Days
, her duet "Stumblin' In" with Chris Norman reached number 4 in the USA in 1979.Between 1973 and 1980 Quatro was awarded six Bravo Ottos. In 2010 she was voted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends online Hall of Fame. Quatro has sold over 50 million albums and continues to perform live, worldwide. Her most recent album was released in 2011 and she also continues to present new radio programmes.Music
Early years and The Art Quatro Trio
Quatro says she was influenced at the age of six by Elvis Presley, whom she saw on television. She also said she had no female role model but was inspired by Billie Holiday and liked the dress sense of Mary Weiss of the Shangri-Las "because she wore tight trousers and a waistcoat on top — she looked hot".Quatro received formal training in playing classical piano and percussion. She is a self-taught player of the bass and guitar. Her father gave her a 1957 Fender Precision bass guitar in 1964, which she still possessed in 2007.She played drums from an early age as part of her father's jazz band, The Art Quatro Trio. Sources vary regarding whether her playing in the band began at the age of seven or eight, and whether the instrument played was bongo or conga drums. Subsequently, she appeared on local television as a go-go dancer in a pop music series.
The Pleasure Seekers and Cradle
In 1964, after seeing a television performance by The Beatles, Quatro's older sister, Patti, had formed an all-female band called The Pleasure Seekers with two friends. Quatro joined too and assumed the stage name of Suzi Soul; Patti was known as Patti Pleasure. The band also featured another sister, Arlene. Many of their performances were in cabaret, where attention was (initially) focussed more on their looks than their music. They sometimes wore mini-skirts and wigs, which Quatro later considered to be necessary evils in the pursuit of success.The Pleasure Seekers recorded three singles and released two of these: "Never Thought You’d Leave Me" / "What A Way To Die" (1966) and "Light Of Love" / "Good Kind Of Hurt" (1968). The second of these was released by Mercury Records, with whom they briefly had a contract before breaking away due to differences of opinion regarding their future direction. They changed their name to Cradle in late 1969, not long after another Quatro sister, Nancy, had joined the band and Arlene had left following the birth of her child.
Work with Mickie Most
Quatro moved to England in 1971 after being spotted by the record producer Mickie Most, who had by that time founded his own label, RAK Records. Most had been persuaded to see Cradle by Michael, the brother of the Quatro sisters who had assumed a managerial role for the band. In common with many in the record industry at the time, Most was seeking a female rock singer who could fill the void that the death of Janis Joplin had created. According to the Encyclopedia of Popular Music
, his attention to Quatro was drawn by "her comeliness and skills as bass guitarist, singer and chief show-off in Cradle." She had also been attracting attention from Elektra Records and subsequently explained that "According to the Elektra president, I could become the new Janis Joplin. Mickie Most offered to take me to England and make me the first Suzi Quatro — I didn't want to be the new anybody." Most had no interest in the other band members and he had no idea at that time of how he might market Quatro. She spent a year living in a hotel while being nurtured by Most, developing her skills and maturing. Most later said that the outcome was a reflection of her own personality.Quatro's first single "Rolling Stone" was successful only in Portugal, where it reached number one on the charts. This was a solo effort, although aided by people such as Duncan Browne, Peter Frampton and Alan White. Subsequently, with the approval of Most, she auditioned for a band to accompany her. It was also after this record that Most introduced her to the songwriting and production team of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who wrote songs specifically to accord with her image. She agreed with Most's assessment of her image, saying that his influence, at which some of his artists - such as Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart - baulked, did not extend to manufacture and that "If he tried to build me into a Lulu, I wouldn't have it. I'd say 'go to hell' and walk out." This was the height of the glam rock period of the 1970s and Quatro, who wore leather clothes, portrayed a wild, androgynous image while playing music that "hinged mostly on a hard rock chug beneath lyrics in which scansion overruled meaning."In autumn 1972, Quatro embarked as a support act on a UK tour with Thin Lizzy and headliners Slade. RAK arranged for her to use Thin Lizzy's newly acquired PA system during this, incurring a charge of £300 per week that enabled the Irish band to effectively purchase it at no cost to themselves. In May 1973, her second single "Can the Can" (1973) - which Philip Auslander describes as having "seemingly nonsensical and virtually unintelligible lyrics" – was a number one hit in parts of Europe and in Australia."Can the Can" was followed by three further hits: "48 Crash" (1973), "Daytona Demon" (1973), and "Devil Gate Drive" (1974). "Can the Can", "48 Crash" and "Devil Gate Drive" each sold over one million copies and were awarded gold discs, although they met with little success in her native United States, where she had toured as a support act for Alice Cooper. RAK artists had generally not succeeded in the US and her first album, Suzi Quatro
, was criticised by Alan Betrock for its lack of variety, for its Quatro-written "second-rate fillers" and for her voice, described as "often too high and shrill, lacking punch or distinctive phrasing." Writing for Rolling Stone
, Greg Shaw was also downbeat, saying that the album "may be a necessary beginning".Musicians who acted as her backing band around this period included Alastair McKenzie, Dave Neal and Len Tuckey, with Robbie Blunt also being listed by some sources. Tuckey's brother, Bill, acted as tour manager.With the exception of Australia, her chart success faltered thereafter until a change to a more mellow style produced the 1978 single "If You Can't Give Me Love" that became a hit there and in the United Kingdom. Later that year, "Stumblin' In", a duet with Chris Norman of the band Smokie, reached number 4 in the U.S. Both tracks featured on the If You Knew Suzi...
album. A year later, Quatro released Suzi...and Other Four Letter Words
, which she called her favourite album. This featured the hits "She's in Love with You", which made number 11 in Britain, "Mama's Boy" (number 34), and "I've Never Been in Love" (number 56).
Mike Chapman and Dreamland Records
In 1980, after Quatro's contract with Mickie Most expired, she signed up with Chapman's Dreamland Records.In the same year, she released Rock Hard
; both the album and title single went platinum in Australia. "Rock Hard" was also used in the cult film, Times Square
and appeared on the soundtrack album. 1980 also saw the release of Suzi Quatro's Greatest Hits
, which peaked at number 4 on the UK charts, becoming her highest-charting album there.
After Chapman's Dreamland Records folded, Quatro was left without a label.Her last UK hit for some time was "Heart of Stone" in late 1982. In 1983 another single "Main Attraction" was released. It failed to chart but did become a sizeable airplay hit. She commented in an article in Kerrang!
in 1983, after playing a successful slot at Reading Festival on 27 August, that she did not care about being in the charts, but was more interested releasing what she wanted; commenting that she started in 1964, and did not become famous for nine years "I would never accept having my career moulded by other people... I've kept working consistently even though I've not been in the charts." In 1985, her "Tonight I Could Fall in Love"/"Good Girl (Looking for a Bad Time)" single reached number 140 in the UK charts. Quatro also collaborated with Bronski Beat and members of The Kinks, Eddie and the Hot Rods, and Dr. Feelgood on the Mark Cunningham-produced version of David Bowie's "Heroes", released the following year as the 1986 BBC Children in Need
single. "Can The Can"/"Devil Gate Drive" were re-released in 1987 as a single and reached number 87 in the UK charts. She was also part of the Ferry Aid charity single "Let It Be", which was a UK number 1, 13 years and 26 days after Quatro's last UK number 1.In December 2005, a documentary chronicling Quatro's life, Naked Under Leather
, named after a 1975 bootleg album, recorded in Japan, directed by former member of The Runaways, Victory Tischler-Blue, appeared. In February 2006, Quatro released Back to the Drive
, produced by Sweet guitarist Andy Scott. The album's title track was written by her former collaborator, Chapman. In March 2007, Quatro released a version of the Eagles song "Desperado", followed by the publication of her autobiography, Unzipped
. By this time, Quatro had sold 50 million records.On 11 June 2010, she headlined the 'Girls night out' at the Isle of Wight Festival. Quatro was also inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends online Hall of Fame in 2010, following an on-line vote.In August 2011, Quatro released her fifteenth studio album, In the Spotlight
(and its single, "Spotlight"). This album is a mixture of new songs written by Mike Chapman and by herself, along with cover versions. A second single from the album, "Whatever Love Is", was subsequently released. On 16 November 2011, a music video (by Tischler-Blue) for the track "Strict Machine" was released onto the Suzi Quatro Official
YouTube channel. The track is a cover of Goldfrapp's "Strict Machine", but Quatro's version contains two lines from "Can the Can", referencing the similarity of the tunes for the two songs.In April 2013, she performed in America for the first time in over 30 years, at the Detroit Music Awards, where she received the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to her by her sister, Patti.September 2013 Suzi is currently working on an anthology 6-CD box set with her record company CherryRed records in the UK. This will have some new material on it, Suzi has said that Mike Chapman has written her another hit which will be nicely placed into the anthology of hits that he has already written for her with Nicky Chinn. The Anthlogy yet to be titled is scheduled for release in the first half of 2014.
Acting and radio hosting
Quatro is known in the United States for her role as female bass player Leather Tuscadero on the television show Happy Days
. Show producer Garry Marshall offered the role without an audition after seeing a picture of her on his daughter's bedroom wall. Leather was the younger sister of Fonzie's girlfriend, hot-rod driver Pinky Tuscadero. Leather fronted a rock band joined by principal character Joanie Cunningham. The character returned in other cameo roles, including once for a date to a fraternity formal with Ralph Malph. Marshall offered Quatro a Leather Tuscadero spin-off, but she refused, saying she did not want to be typecast.Other acting roles include a 1982 episode of the British comedy-drama series Minder
(called "Dead Men Do Tell Tales") as Nancy, the singer girlfriend of Terry (Dennis Waterman). In 1985, she starred as a mentally disturbed ex-MI5 operative in Dempsey and Makepeace
– "Love you to Death". In 1994, she made a cameo appearance as a nurse in the "Hospital" episode of the comedy Absolutely Fabulous
. She also was filmed in the 1990 Clive Barker horror film Nightbreed
, but the studio cut out her character. In 2006, Quatro performed the voice of Rio in the Bob the Builder
film Built to Be Wild
, and appeared in an episode of the second season of Rock School
, in Lowestoft. She also appeared in the episode "The Axeman Cometh" of Midsomer Murders
in the role of Mimi Clifton.Quatro has also performed in theatre. In 1986, she appeared as Annie Oakley in a London production of Annie Get Your Gun
and in 1991 she performed the title role in a musical about the life of actor Tallulah Bankhead. Entitled Tallulah Who?
, this musical was co-written by her and Shirlie Roden, adapted from a book by Willie Rushton. It ran from 14 February to 9 March at Hornchurch, England, where it was billed as "You’ll be amazed how Tallulah did it, and to whom –— and how often!" The show received favourable reviews.More recently Quatro has hosted weekly rock and roll programmes on BBC Radio 2. The first one was Rockin' with Suzi Q
. Her second programme was called Wake Up Little Suzi
.SongwritingShe started writing songs alone, then collaborated with other songwriters (such as Len Tuckey and Shirley Roden), and now once again mainly writes songs alone.Quatro's early recorded songwriting was deliberately limited to album tracks and the B-sides of singles. She said in late 1973 that "... album tracks are a very different story from singles. The two-minute lo-and-behold commercial single will not come out of my brain, but ain't I gonna worry about it."She describes creating a new song: "From sitting at my piano in my front room, writing down a title (always first), picking up my bass, figuring out the groove, going back to the piano...working on the lyrics, playing electric guitar...and finally I type out the lyrics. Only then is it officially a song. Next it goes down on my tiny 8-track, me playing everything...this is the version all muso's use to get into the tune...then into the studio and we go from there."Quatro is currently working on an anthology with her record company CherryRed records in the UK which should be released in the first half of 2014. It will be a 6-CD box set and it will feature material from her very early days up until 2014 where there will be a few new tracks one written by the legendary song writer and producer Mike Chapman. Heaps of great photo memorabilia of Suzi throughout the years.Views of journalists and reviewersIn August 1974, Simon Frith spotted a problem with the formula that was working outside the US, saying that
Suzi's facing a bit of a crisis: Chinn and Chapman, having proved their point, are losing interest in her. She's never had their best material (they don't play many games with her) and each of her singles has been less gripping than the one before. Unless they suddenly imagine a new joke, she's in danger of petering out and she lacks the resources to fight back. None of her own musical talents has been needed and so they've been ignored (except on the throwaway B-sides) and while Sweet and Mud have their histories and themselves to draw on for support, Suzi's present has nothing to do with her past and her group was formed only to play Chinnichap music. Mud may become a top cabaret act and Sweet a respected rock group, but Suzi will only be a memory. Mickie Most's skill in the '60s was to make pop music out of British blues and R&B and folk; Chinn and Chapman's skill in the '70s has been to make pop music out of an audience. As this audience ages and changes, so will its music and Suzi Quatro will have been just an affectionate part of growing up.
In 1983, journalist Tom Hibbert wrote that Quatro may have overstated her role as a leading light among female rock musicians. He said that
... it was in the wake of the 1977 punk revolution that the traditions of rock were turned upside down and female musicians truly came to the fore. But Suzi Quatro, with her tomboy sneers, her bass guitar and her stompingly persuasive teen-tunes, had at least laid down a challenge to the male-dominated rock orthodoxy. On stage in the Eighties, Quatro was still conveying energy and excitement – and she still lacked class."
Views of scholars
In his 2008 paper Suzi Quatro: A prototype in the archsheology [
sic\] of rock
, Frank Oglesbee writes that "The rebellion of rock music was largely a male rebellion; the women—often, in the 1950s and '60s, girls in their teens—in rock usually sang songs as personæ utterly dependent on their macho boyfriends...". He describes Quatro as "... a female rock pioneer, in some ways the
female rock pioneer, ..., a cornerstone in the archsheology of rock." He said she grew up to become "the first female lead singer and bassist, an electric ax-woman, who sang and played as freely as the males, inspiring other females."Philip Auslander says that "Although there were many women in rock by the late 1960s, most performed only as singers, a traditionally feminine position in popular music". Though some women (like Quatro herself) played instruments in American all-female garage rock bands, none of these bands achieved more than regional success. So they "did not provide viable templates for women's on-going participation in rock". When Quatro emerged in 1973, "no other prominent female musician worked in rock simultaneously as a singer, instrumentalist, songwriter, and bandleader". Auslander adds that in 2000 Quatro saw herself as "kicking down the male door in rock and roll and proving that a female musician
... and this is a point I am extremely concerned about ... could play as well if not better than the boys".
People and bands influenced by Quatro
Quatro has influenced various female musicians. Examples are:
- Chrissie Hynde, the founding member and lead singer/guitarist of The Pretenders, cited Quatro as a major influence. In 1999, Hynde appeared on Quatro's episode of This is Your Life and recalled interviewing her, in a toilet, when she was an NME journalist. Quatro then took her to see her gig in her van and Hynde was impressed by Quatro's energy and personality.
- Tina Weymouth is a founding member and bassist of the New Wave group Talking Heads (formed in 1975 in New York City, USA) and its side project Tom Tom Club. Talking Heads was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. When Chris Frantz was unable to find a bass player interested in joining the group, he encouraged Weymouth to learn to play bass by listening to Quatro albums.
Quatro had a direct influence on The Runaways and Joan Jett.Scottish singer-songwriter and guitarist, KT Tunstall, commented in a 2008 interview that the cover photo of her studio album Drastic Fantastic
(2007) is based on Quatro.On 24 October 2013, Suzi received the Woman of Valor Award from the organization Musicians for Equal Opportunities for Women (MEOW) for her role inspiring and influencing generations of female musicians. The award was bestowed by Kathy Valentine (formerly of The Go-Go's) at a dinner in her honor in Austin, Texas, at the Austin Renaissance Hotel. Suzi performed five songs with a local band that included her sister Patti and Tony Scalzo of the band Fastball on "Stumblin In".
A Spanish rock band called Suzy & los Quattro released two albums on No Tomorrow in 2006 and 2008; in the tradition of Ramones and the Donnas, all of the bandmembers except for Suzy Chain list their last name as Quattro.A Danish band called Suzi & Quadratrødderne released two CDs: Glimrende
(Excellent) and Absolut Nødvendigt..!
(Absolutely Necessary ..!). Suzi was played by Ricky Rocket. Unlike Quatro and her band, Suzi & Quadratrødderne dressed in glam rock style.
Quatro's music covers several genres. Her primary genres are hard rock and female cock rock. (Auslander analyzed Quatro's live performances of "Can the Can" plus "Breakdown" and concluded that she performed as a cock-rocker. He writes that "she has appeared on occasion just as a bass player, not a singer, and [also\] demonstrates her instrumental prowess with an extended bass guitar solo during her own concerts. By foregrounding her status as a rock player, not just a singer, Quatro declares ownership of the symbolic rock cock.")More of Quatro's genres are: Rock, pop rock, garage rock, country rock, psychedelic rock, Motown sound, and musicals.