How and when did you get into the music business?
SUZI QUATRO: “I began at seven playing bongos in my dad's band. Then took classical and popular piano lessons and drums. I can read and write both instruments. I played as the 'first' chair in the percussion section of the school orchestra. Also, did some solos a featured pianist. Then at age fourteen, I started an all-girl band after seeing THE BEATLES on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964. We were called THE PLEASURE SEEKERS. At this point, I was told I would be playing the bass, so I started and fell in love with it. This is my main instrument today.”
Can you tell us a bit about THE PLEASURE SEEKERS and CRADLE?
Suzi: “THE PLEASURE SEEKERS consisted of myself and my older sister Patti on guitar, the two other sisters, Nan Ball on drums, (who was recently killed in a tragic car accident), her sister Marylou and rhythm and vocals and Diane Baker on piano (whose dad played in my dads band) on clarinet. Keeping it all in the family. We played everywhere from 1964 to 1971, going through changes. Older sister Arlene joined on keyboards, then various member changes. Finally, little sister Nancy joins on vocals (she took opera) and we started to write original material and changed the name to CRADLE. Proceeded to do festivals, clubs, whatever. Both bands had a good following. We released a couple of things; an album on the Hideout label, one on Mercury, then nothing until Mickie Most came along…..”
You were "discovered" by Mickie Most - the British radio producer. How did that come about?
Suzi: “I came to Detroit with JEFF BECK to record with him at Motown and was whisked over to CRADLE's gig. JEFF BECK said to Mickie: “Sign that girl up and forget the rest”. Mickie agreed and invited me to come to England, which I did. Leaving the family band, and indeed the family and came to the UK in Oct ’71. Then waited, recorded, got frustrated, formed an English band and did some touring doing original stuff. Then Mickie hooked us up with Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn. They came to a show, heard our stuff and wrote '”Can The Can” that night, which was to become my first number 1 in 1973.”
Why did you choose to play the bass guitar?
Suzi: ”All the girls had chosen their instruments and the bass was left over, so it came to me. I was told I would be playing that. Fine, I said and went to my dad, who lent me his 1957 Fender Precision. It’s the best bass of its time!”
Do you play any other instruments, besides the bass?
Suzi: “Yes, see previous question.”
[VTB: Suzi is an incredible classical pianist. I had no idea what a gifted musician she was, until one afternoon we were sitting in the living room of her sister Nancy’s house in Dallas, Texas and Suzi starts playing the piano… I was blown away!]
What has become of your EB-2 bass?
Suzi: “I still have most of my basses up in my studio.”
Who are your main influences?
Suzi: “On bass, Jameson of Motown studio's backing band and the bassplayer of CANNED HEAT. Vocal wise my influences are ELVIS, OTIS REDDING and BILLIE HOLIDAY - believe it or not.”
You became famous for your leather outfits and your wild, tough and tomboy style of rock. Who designed your suits? Did you do it yourself or did you have them especially made for you?
Suzi: “I was always a leather clad, tomboy. When it came time for an image, Mickie and I discussed it. I wanted leather and go my way. Mickie came up with the jumpsuit idea. It worked and I had no idea it would be sexy. Just loved the stuff! I had them designed. I still wear them now with slight differences. Although my old ones still fit, which is no mean feat at fifty-three and two kids later. I’m not lucky, it’s just plain hard work!”
You toured Australia in ’74 for the first time. How did that go?
Suzi: “The first Aussie tour was amazing! I was bigger than THE BEATLES there!! I couldn't go out of the hotel room. There’s thousands upon thousands of screaming fans! Something I will never forget. We sold the most records ever, until ABBA came along and beat our records. I have done a total of twenty sell out Australian tours. It’s my favorite place to be.”
Is there a particular show, you have very fond memories about? (not necessarily in Australia)
Suzi: “Lots of shows!! Our first big one in Germany for example. It was the first time thousand of fans packed a hall to see only me. When we came down for the encore, which was a stairway descending to the stairs, I had changed to my 'encore' suit. Mickie pulled back the curtain, and the roar that went up, I will never forget! It took me ten minutes to get to the mic. I was, as they say, ‘enjoying my moment’ and there have been many more since. When I turned fifty, I celebrated it in front of 22,000 fans in Berlin. Fantastic! They brought out a huge cake carried my four men and champagne flowed! If you’re going to turn fifty: do it in style!!!”
In '77, you took your first steps into acting and did seven episodes in Happy Days as Leather Tuscadero. How was that experience?
Suzi: “Happy Days was great! I flew back from Japan to audition and didn't know the show at that point. I got the part, which turned into a regular thing. I was the female Fonz. Everyone was helpful and like a family and I am still in touch with most of them. Happy days indeed and certainly some of the happiest days of my life! I love acting! It comes natural to me and I really hope to do a lot more of it.”
How was it for you to act in the theater play "Annie Get Your Gun", where you played the part of Annie Oakley?
Suzi: “Annie Get Your Gun” was a challenge. My first musical. It got great critics and I enjoyed it every night. I loved the audience element of course and was able to combine all my musical training. I was sorry to leave it after one year. I would do another musical any day! I loved it, loved it!!”
What's your favorite ‘composed’ song, and ‘non-composed’ song?
Suzi: “Let’s see… My favorite composed song, which will be on the new album is called “Free The Butterfly”. My favorite non composed song by far would be “When I Fall In Love”.“
Out of all your songs written, what is the closest to you?
Suzi: “Again, “Free The Butterfly” or from an old album, “I Miss America” or one I wrote a long time ago and did on Happy Days. I think from the first album, “Catsize”.”
Out of all your songs, what is the hardest to perform?
Suzi: “The hardest bass wise is “She’s In Love With You”, because the bass part is steady like a machine and the vocal sits behind it. You must be a gemini (which I am) to manage this singing wise. It would probably be “Tear Me Apart”, which is very high and has so many words and is a high powered rock tune. You need stamina to do this one.”
What song would you never perform again?
Suzi: “The Girl Can't Help It”. I used to open with this, but never again! I don't know why. It would just feel wrong.”
What is the best crowd song?
Suzi: “Devil Gate Drive” and “If You Can't Give Me Love”.“
Have the kids ever been to Detroit to see where you grew up?
Suzi: “Yes, we have visited there many times. I don't know how much they remember, as they were quite young. I would like my second husband to see my 'roots’ and will go soon to film bits for the documentary.”
You’re very good friends with ALICE COOPER, who you met in your hometown Detroit. Do you have any other "famous" close friends?
Suzi: “I have so many, although I am not a real show biz party type person. I guess all the guys I grew up with in Detroit, like TED NUGENT, MC 5 and IGGY POP. Today Andy Scott from THE SWEET, CHRIS NORMAN (ex SMOKIE), lots of sixties guys like DAVE DEE, also some members of the present SMOKIE band. I work with lots of them and recently passed. Also from the early Detroit days, EDWIN STARR, who I have known since age fourteen.”
Is "Back To Devil Gate Drive" ever going to get a release?
Suzi: “Yes, the company went bust, before they could release my new album. I’m working on a new deal now and then all of it will come out. We open the show with this song. It’s a killer!”
[VTB: “Back To The Drive” is used as the opening song to “EDGEPLAY: A film about The Runaways”]
Why do you never tour the USA?
Suzi: “I just haven't been back there and I don't know why. I did lots of acting and t.v. in the eighties and kind of lost touch, but I would love to go again, more than anything in the world. Watch this space.”
What’s your ex-husband Len doing these days?
Suzi: “He is managing SLADE. We are still good friends and together with my new husband of ten years, we attended the funeral of Mickie Most recently. We share two kids, a granddaughter and twenty-two years of pretty good times. This you don't throw away!”
Does your daughter have plans to go into the music biz, besides singing background vocals for you on tour?
Suzi: “I would love my daughter to use the beautiful voice she has. She is truly gifted! I did take her on one tour of Australia, where she came up and did “Wind Beneath My Wings”. She was great! She now has a daughter, but I am hoping, someday she will do it all again.”
How was it for you to become a grandmum?
Suzi: “I was at the birth. Fantastic! I was sick on the day and for the first time since 1964, I had to cancel a show. This was the day my grandchild entered the world and I was there! I think God intended it this way. I always had felt cheated, because my first child, Laura, was an emergency ceasarean and they had to knock me out. Then it all got even, when I saw her give birth to Amy Susan.”
Together with ex-RUNAWAYS member Victory Tischler-Blue you started working on a DVD, called "48 Crash". Can you tell us a bit more about this release?
Suzi: “I prefer you to go straight to Vicki for this question.”
[VTB: “48 Crash” was the working (temporary) title. We’ve since changed it to “Naked Under Leather”. We have shot about half of the film and will resume production within the next month or so. “Naked Under Leather” is not a typical rock documentary. Meaning, there is very little “dirt” on SUZI QUATRO and she is ‘divinely normal’. We spent a week last November in Dallas, Texas shooting interviews with her sister’s Patti and Nancy, as well as their dad. It was an amazing experience to be around such a wonderfully tight-knit, musical family. The level of talent that has come out of that family is seriously astonishing.]
What’s it like working together with Vicki (ex-RUNAWAYS bassplayer) and are you also in touch with some of the other members of this legendary all-female hard rock band?
Suzi: “Vicki and I are good friends - heart to heart, and soul to soul. We understand each other. Although Joan followed me around for years before she joined THE RUNAWAYS. I can't say I know her that well. She used to take a cab from her gig in Japan and come to my show, stand at the side of the stage and study me. It was kind of spooky, but hey, she found a healthy outlet, so that’s good!”
Maybe you can tell our readers a bit more about the CD you made together with sound healer SHIRLIE RODEN; "Free The Butterfly"?
Suzi: “After going through a divorce, the death of my mother, mother in law, father in law, and brother in law, I had to do some serious soul searching. Lots of crying, lots of time spent alone, when I emerged from the other side. I felt like I should help other people on this journey, so I got together with my friend Shirlie and did this self hep album. We also did the festival of Mind, Body And Spirit here in England and Aussie to do workshops with people. Most enlightening and most satisfying. Therapeutic for both sides… I would do it again.”
How are your sisters doing, especially Patti who played with FANNY for quite some time? Is she still active in the music scene?
Suzi: “My sister Nancy and Patti joined me in Berlin doing backing vocals. It was great to have them on stage with me. Neither of them are really involved anymore, although I wouldn't rule them out of doing it again for me.”
What’s it like having your own radio show on the BBC radio, and how long are you doing this?
Suzi: ‘I love the radio show. I can talk and play music, which is nirvana for me. I will continue doing this! I am told, I have a great radio voice. We are in our eleventh series and it is very popular.”
There never seems to be a dull moment in your life. What's the real highlight been so far?
Suzi: “I’ve had many highlights. First number one hit, first big concert, first acting role, first theater, first written musical (Tallulah Who) and starrring in role as well, a TV chat show for a year... I could go on and on and the good thing is I've only just begun!”
Maybe you can give us an update on the things about to happen for you in the (near) future?
Suzi: “Check out my web site…”
[VTB: We are just finishing up a live DVD, entitled: “Leather Forever – The Wild One LIVE”, which was from a show taped in Stuttgart last year. It should be released by Christmas 2003. It will be available through www.suziquatro.com and also, www.sacreddogs.com.]
Who’s in your band right now?
Suzi: “Andy Dowding (drums), Tim Smith (guitar), Ray Beavis (sax), John Meaney (keys), Toby Gucklehorn (trombone), Dave Spence (trumpet) and Gaynor Shaw and Lynn Fudge (backing vocals). It’s a great band and I am going to add another guitarist soon: big, heavy, hot and rock and roll!”
Unfortunately, we missed your show in Middelharnis at the sixties revival festival. How was it and is there any chance you will return to Holland again soon?
Suzi: “The Dutch show was good and I hope to come back soon.”
The last words are for you, Suzi...
Suzi: “I think, all is talked out. I hope this is okay for your needs. Love, Suzi.”
Interview by: Toine & Rita van Poorten/courtesy of Metal Maidens, Oct. 2003.
[Our thanks goes out to Victory Tischler-Blue (SACRED DOGS ENTERTAINMENT), who added the comments to this interview].
QUATRO (RAK 1974)
YOUR MAMA WON'T LIKE ME (RAK 1975)
AGGRO-PHOBIA (RAK 1977)
LIVE'N'KICKIN' (EMI Japan 1977)
IF YOU KNEW SUZI (RAK 1978)
SUZI AND OTHER FOUR LETTER WORDS (RAK 1979)
ROCK HARD (Dreamland 1981)
MAIN ATTRACTION (Polydor 1983)
SATURDAY NIGHT SPECIAL (Biff 1987)
ROCK 'TIL YA DROP (Biff 1988)
OH, SUZI Q (Bellaphon 1991)
WHAT GOES AROUND: GREATEST & LATEST (CMC 1995)
UNRELEASED EMOTION (Connoisseur 1998)
THE SUZI QUATRO STORY - GOLDEN HITS (RAK 1975)
THE BEST OF SUZI QUATRO (R.S.O. 1989)
SUZI QUATRO'S GREATEST HITS (RAK 1980)
THE WILD ONE (THE GREATEST HITS) (EMI 1990)
ORIGINAL HITS - SUZI QUATRO (RAK Australia 1992)
GREATEST HITS (EMI 1996)
SUZI QUATRO GOLD COLLECTION (EMI GOLD series 1996)
PREMIUM GOLD COLLECTION (EMI Germany 1996)
SUZI QUATRO 20 CLASSIC TRACKS (Boots Chemist UK 1996)
THE WILD ONE - CLASSIC QUATRO (Razor & Tie USA 1996)
ESSENTIAL SUZI QUATRO (EMI Australia 1998)