Gary James' Interview With
Suzi Quatro

Suzi Quatro. A true pioneer in the world of Rock 'n Roll. She actually paved the way for so many others. And fans will be happy to know she's still singing, writing and performing.

Q - Suzi, the last time I saw you was on May 1st, 1975 at the Onondaga County War Memorial in Syracuse with Alice Cooper. That had to have been a hard gig, opening for such a theatrical act like Cooper. What do you remember about that tour?

A - My memories of that tour are nothing but good. It wasn't a difficult job to do. We are very different kinds of acts, therefore we complimented each other very well. I am a straight forward Rock and Roll act. He is, as you say, very theatrical. Plus, I have known Alice since my teens and a lot of his band were from my hometown, Detroit. We had a ball...did seventy-five shows and could have done another seventy-five.

Q - Since you were born in Detroit, is it very difficult living in England? What is there about England that keeps you there?

A - I didn't plan on staying in England. I came here to record for three months, which turned into thirty-four years. Wow! My first husband was my guitar player...English. And my kids were born here. So, I kind of put down roots. I still miss Detroit though. But, this is as close to home as I will ever feel. I have been in my home since 1980 and it really is a part of me.

Q - Do you think you were ahead of your time? Even in the mid 1970s, it was still unusual to see a woman fronting a rock band.

A - Obviously, I was ahead of my time. I had no role model. I had to make it up as I went along. I only knew I wasn't like any other female, therefore I created "me". It worked and opened the door, well, blew it down actually, for all the rock chicks to walk through. I took myself seriously. I played and still play a mean bass.

Q - You started playing bongos in your father's jazz trio when you were eight. Where did you perform? Not in clubs?

A - Yes. My first instrument on stage was bongos. My Dad used to take me with him to his gigs. I did a couple of songs; "Mack The Knife" was my party piece, for which I received twenty-five cents. I should have been at church. My Mother never knew. Destiny is something, isn't it? Also, destiny again forming the first band. All the girls had shitty instruments. I was given the bass to play. My Dad gave me a 1957 Fender Precision. Stripe up the neck. Sunburst with a gold scratch plate. The Rolls Royce of basses back then. I had no idea. I still have that guitar hanging on the wall at home.

Q - By the time you formed that band with your sister, you played bass. How'd you learn how to play bass?

A - I play classical piano and percussion. I taught myself bass, which is real easy after piano. No one else wanted to play it, so I did.

Q - You actually quit high school to form a band with your sister. Why'd you have to quit? Couldn't you have done both?

A - Since the first moment I stepped on the stage with my sisters in The Pleasure Seekers, I was home. That was it. I left school in the summer, telling my Dad that I had found what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. What was the point of staying in school and wasting precious time, when I knew where I was going? I continued my education on the road and am still doing the same thing. Once a rocker, always a rocker.

Q - What type of material were you playing with The Pleasure Seekers?

A - We were, as all bands before chart success, doing covers. It's a great way to learn. We did early Stones, Beatles, Motown. Everything that was popular. Even attempting to do "MacArthur Park" at some stage. Wow. Ambitious eh? Eventually in around '66, we started to write original material and got "heavy".

Q - You went over to Vietnam to entertain the troops. What was that like?

A - We went to Guam. We played for the soldiers. Also, we went around the hospital ward with the guitar to cheer the wounded up. We didn't realize we would be looking at soldiers brought directly in from the helicopters. Barely cleaned up. So, so sad. It changed my life. I realized there were friends of mine dying in that war. I grew up overnight. I made it through every ward...then collapsed outside.

Q - After the tour, you came back to Detroit, where Mickie Most saw you. Where did he see you? What was he doing in Detroit?

A - My brother, who was managing Cradle at the time, after Pleasure Seekers, found out Mickie was in town recording Jeff Beck at Motown. So, he got him to come to a show. Mickie only wanted me. We were playing at the East Town Ballroom. I was offered a solo contract and off I went. I didn't look back.

Q - When you were backstage after your set, I would imagine the guys in your band had girls that were around..."groupies". But for you, did you have guy "groupies" hit on you?

A - Of course I had groupies...girls and guys. But, I was in a relationship, so it was no go. Maybe I missed out on quite a banquet. I will never know.

Q - You went to a Beatles' concert in Detroit when you were fourteen. What do you remember about that? Did you have a favourite Beatles? Did you ever get to meet any of The Beatles?

A - All I could hear was noise. I didn't have a favorite Beatle. I met Paul a few times and had dinner with him and Heather. I met Ringo. I didn't meet George or John. Apparently, and this is from Kiki Dee (of "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" fame with Elton John), she did a show with John Lennon and afterwards he pulled her aside and told her "You have to be more like Suzi Quatro!" What he meant, I will never know.

Q - What was it like having dinner with Paul McCartney and Heather? What did you talk about? Where did you meet Ringo?

A - Paul, Heather and myself went to a vegetarian Chinese. We had a great night of conversation. Paul and I connected on a deep, soulful level. I don't know why. We just seemed to have a lot in common and a lot to talk about. He is a special man. Heather was very pleasant, intelligent, ballsy and much, much prettier than she photographs. Also, very honest. I met Ringo briefly at a party. Just said hello and again at a restaurant. Not a long conversation.

Q - You told Robert Hilburn of the L.A. Times in May, 1974, "When I was a kid, I was never, ever in the popular crowd of girls. I was always cast out. I don't know why. It made me lonely and I used to turn to singing." For a girl being an outcast, it was probably a lot tougher than being a guy.

A - Yes. I never did fit in. Not outside or inside the home. I think I was just too different...still am. I still only have a couple of friends. Lots of acquaintances. But, I am better one to one. I think there were just too many kids at home. It left me with loads of insecurities, which is a good thing. It keeps my feet firmly on the ground. I still say "thank you" to the audience and mean it. I can't believe they love me so much.

Q - You saw Elvis in concert? Where was that?

A - I saw him at age seven. I never forget it. That is who I want to be. End of story. I have written him a tribute song called "Singing With Angels", which I recorded in May of this year (2005) in Nashville with The Jordanaires and James Burton. I was so excited I could hardly stand it.

Q - Suzi, why didn't you enjoy more success in the US? What was the problem? Why couldn't you break through?

A - Mickie Most always put our product out on inferior record labels in the States. I don't know why. We just didn't have the support we should have. We did and do have a very big cult following though. I did many successful tours and sold a respectable amount of records. Of course, "Stumblin' In" was a million seller in America and of course Leather Tuscadero in Happy Days. I dearly want to come back home and do some shows again.

Q - You starred in your own TV specials in East Germany, New Zealand and Australia. Were they musical variety shows?

A - I have done many, many things. Obviously Happy Days. Some series in England, including Minder and Demsey and Makepeace, which was released around the world. I had my own talk show on TV for a year. I did West End, Annie Get Your Gun and Talullah Who, a musical I co-wrote about Talullah Bankhead and played the starring role. I have my own BBC 2 radio show which has been going for six years now and continue to play concerts all over the world. I completed a twenty-one sold out (concert) tour of Australia in February this year. (2005)

Q - Are you recording?

A - I have a new album coming out on EMI world wide in February 2006. Sooo....maybe this is the chance again. The album will be called "Back To The Drive". I'm very excited about it. It's all self-penned except for the title track which was contributed by Mike Chapman.

Q - What are you writing about?

A - I am writing Rock and Roll, as always, but, a little more mature, still edgy and some heartful ballads thrown in. I have always written by honesty, even more so now. My heart is definitely on my way sleeve. I write about all the things that have happened to me in my life, which is an on-going journey. Just when you think you have it all together, someone or something, even yourself sometimes, fucks it up. I am comfortable in my skin. You will love the album.

© Gary James. All rights reserved.

* "Stumblin' In" was Suzi Quatro's only Billboard Top 40 hit, reaching number 4 in 1979.