Pat Blythe: Women of Rock – Part Two

pblythe3

Ch-ch-ch-cha-changes

I have been slowly getting to know my fellow writers, conversing with them through Facebook, email and over the phone. A what! Yep, a real live telephone. You know, those devices that allow you to actually hear what the other person sounds like while enjoying honest-to-goodness dialogue. Fingers seem to do more walking and mouths less talking these days. We are no longer an oral society. The world of banter, tete-a-tetes and nattering have gone the way of such foods as pineapple upside down cake. (remember those) Mmmmmm……

Pineapple Upsidedown Cake

……I’m back

During one of those telephone conversations I was asked whether I had considered Suzi (Quatro) in my Women in Rock piece. What an excellent idea!! and thank you for the suggestion Frank.

I hadn’t thought of Suzi in ages, eons really and surprisingly, out of the three women in this article, Suzi is the only one I’ve actually seen live. So, after trolling the internet (my permanent residence these days) I began to connect the dots and realized that not only she was a contemporary of both Joan and Chrissie, they were the leaders of their own bands, a rarity at best. So, Pat will have to wait while I delve in the lives of these three women who, after Janis and Grace, truly paved the way for others to join the hard rock women’s club.

Suzi, Joan and Chrissie

Joan Jett And The Runaways - File Photos

Suzie, Joan, and a very hip looking dude (Rodney Bingenheimer) in the middle

The majority of female performers in the music business were singers — whether they were lead or backup — they were there to lend a voice, a little harmony, be pleasant to look at, maybe even add some sex appeal. Actually playing an instrument, well that was the role of the boys in the band, particularly in rock.

First came Suzi, then Chrissie, then Joan. What was most striking about these women was they played a real instrument….out front….not just a tambourine or a cowbell or a triangle. Come on, really! A woman who plays bass….well….that was definitely a MAN’s instrument. Bass guitars are sizeable instruments meant for sizeable men — tall, lanky and brooding with long hair and big hands, not diminutive five foot nuthin’ girls. Hell, the bass was bigger than the player….damn near anyway. ….and the guitar….only the guys were cranking it up to 11 and attempting to formulate impressive sounds with them….and drumming….putting the words woman and drums in the same sentence was almost an oxymoron. Female drummers were a rare and unquantifiable species although Karen Carpenter was notable for her expert drumming skills. (oh lord, that’s another piece now taking up residence in my brain)

Joan and Chrissie

Chrissie and Joan

The three extraordinary women in this column were in the forefront of hard rock….rebels….they were smart, tough, talented, knew what they wanted and were willing to push for it. They were skilled at playing their chosen instruments. They led instead of followed. They wrote, arranged and sang the songs. They hired and fired band members. They were in charge! They electrified the world of rock, impacting young girls and women everywhere, showing them, that yes, it can be done.

Suzie and Joan Riot Grrrl

Suzi and Joan

Here is a glimpse into their lives and the music that surrounded them. The times they were a’changin’….

Suzi 

Suzie and BassAll leather and bass. Suzi Quatro has sold over 55 million albums, won six Bravo Otta Awards, (the Bravo Otta Award, established in 1957, is a  German accolade honoring excellence of performers in film, television and music), was selected as one of twelve Queens of British Pop by the BBC, has acted in five different TV series and on stage, recorded 15 studio albums, 10 compilation albums and one live album, and written one book….damn this woman’s been busy.

According to one of her biographies, Quatro codified a type of rock & roll woman who didn’t exist before she took the stage, one who looked as tough as the guys and wasn’t merely a singer but also an instrumentalist, the leader of the band who made the noise right along with the rest of the group.” Quatro created a new and powerful image for women in rock — one of strength combined with sexiness.

Suzie Reclining in Leathers

Suzi striking a pose in her leathers

A Detroit girl, born and bred, Quatro’s father was a bass player in a local jazz combo. Quatro had studied both piano and drums and sometimes sat in with the group as a percussionist. She was presented with her first bass guitar, a 1957 Fender Precision Bass, by her father, and hasn’t looked back.

The_Pleasure_Seekers_(band)

First Band – The Pleasure Seekers

In May 1964 Patti Quatro formed the garage band The Pleasure Seekers along with her sister Suzi. The original members of the band also included Nancy Ball on drums, Mary Lou Ball on guitar and Diane Baker on piano. A short time later Arlene Quatro joined, replacing Diane on keyboards. All the girls were in their mid to late teens, Suzi being the youngest at 15.

pleasure-seekers-main2

After only a few weeks practice they talked their way into debuting at a popular teen night club, The Hideout, in Detroit. That was just the beginning. The Pleasure Seekers quickly became very popular in the local Detroit music scene, eventually playing concerts with Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, Bob Segar and others. By 1969 members had come and gone and the band had evolved renaming themselves Cradle. It was during a gig with Cradle that Suzi was noticed by British record producer Mickie Most. She was offered a deal with RAK Records as a solo artist and in 1971, Suzi moved to England.

The Pleasure Seekers – What A Way To Die

Quatro’s first single for RAK Records, “Rolling Stone” b/w “Brain Confusion”, was released in 1972 and featured Peter Frampton on guitar. Portugal was the only country where the song was a hit.  Her next shot was a song called “Can the Can”. That one hit a home run in Britain and Australia. It is a “stomping, glam-inspired number with silly lyrics but an unstoppable rhythmic tune.” However, despite her growing popularity in the U.K., Europe and Australia, Quatro would have to wait a few more years before finally scoring a hit in her home country.

Suzi Quatro – Can the Can

In 1977, Quatro was cast to play Leather Tuscadero in the sitcom Happy Days. Originally asked to appear in two episodes, Quatro proved so popular with the viewers she was asked to return for several episodes during the 1977/78 season.

Suzie and The Fonz

Suzi as Leather Tuscadero and The Fonz

Suzi Quatro as Leather Tuscadero: Performances from Happy Days

It was during this period that Quatro finally got her break and recognition in the U.S. releasing her fifth album, “If You Knew Suzi”, in 1978. The album rose to 37 on the U.S. charts and the single, “Stumblin’ In”, a duet with Chris Norman of Smokie, reached number four on the U.S. singles charts. I listened to this one over and over and over….and I still love it. Their voices blend beautifully. Norman has the perfect rasp to Quatro’s clear mezzo-soprano. They are clearly enjoying themselves in the video.

 

Suzie and Chris Norman

Suzi and Chris Norman

Suzi Quatro and Chris Norman – Stumblin’ In

Commenting on the 1970s (Quatro) said: “My feet never touched the ground. Lots of good groups with crazy and unique images. It was wild. I spent all of my time doing gigs, TV appearances, interviews, or recording. I could write a book — and probably will.”

Quatro signed with Dreamland Records in 1980 and released one album — Rock Hard — before Dreamland crashed and burned. By the late 80’s Quatro was reinventing herself, delving into several different “careers”. She has starred in a number of West End plays, hosted a TV chat show (Gas Street) and also served as at DJ for BBC radio. Quatro penned her autobiography, Unzipped, in 2008 and starred in a one-woman show about her memoirs. She continues to record and release music and in 2014, celebrated her 50th anniversary of her career in rock ‘n roll. Quatro has made England her home base since moving there in 1971 as the majority of her fan base is, and has always been, Europe, Australia and The U.K.

Influence and inspiration

Suzie Rolling Stone Mag

Quatro was at the forefront, the first female bass player to become a major rock star breaking down barriers to women’s participation in rock music. Chrissie Hynde noted Quatro as a major influence, appearing on Quatro’s episode of This Is Your Life and recalling her interview with Quatro, in a toilet. Tina Weymouth, a founding member of Talking Heads, was asked to learn to play bass by listening to Suzi Quatro albums. K.T. Tunstall’s album cover, Drastic Fantastic is based on picture of Quatro.

Drastic_Fantastic

K.T. Tunstall – Drastic Fantastic

Quatro received the Woman of Valor Award from Musicians for Equal Opportunities for Women (MEOW) in 2013 at a dinner in her honor in Austin, Texas. She was recognized for her “role inspiring and influencing generations of female musicians.”

Suzi Quatro now….

Quatro now

In a 2012 interview, Quatro was asked what she thought she had achieved for female rockers in general. She replied: “Before I did what I did, we didn’t have a place in rock ‘n’ roll. Not really. You had your Grace Slicks and all that, but that’s not what I did. I was the first to be taken seriously as a female rock ‘n’ roll musician and singer. That hadn’t been done before. I played the boys at their own game. For everybody that came afterward, it was a little bit easier, which is good. I’m proud of that. If I have a legacy, that’s what it is. It’s nothing I take lightly. It was gonna happen sooner or later. In 2014, I will have done my job 50 years. It was gonna be done by somebody, and I think it fell to me to do because I don’t look at gender. I never have. It doesn’t occur to me if a 6-foot-tall guy has pissed me off not to square up to him. That’s just the way I am. If I wanted to play a bass solo, it never occurred to me that I couldn’t. When I saw Elvis for the first time when I was 5, I decided I wanted to be him, and it didn’t occur to me that he was a guy. That’s why it had to fall to somebody like me.

Suzie Unzipped book

Suzi Quatro – Unzipped

One book reviewer wrote, Suzi Quatro’s story is the Zelig-esque history of pop music in America. She is a scrappy, old-fashioned, hard-working, cornball style pop star, for better and for worse, and this book is so unselfconscious and sweet. She even includes her terrible poetry and little shout-outs to friends. “Hey Tom Petty, you were awesome when I saw you play at the Troubador in 1979.” “Alice Cooper, we were such good buds!” Etc. (I’m paraphrasing). Anyway, this is a text book about how to be a rock star and not be a jerk.”

Chrissie 

Chrissie-Hynde

Best known as the lead singer for The Pretenders, Chrissie Hynde‘s name has become synonymous with the band as she has remained the only sustaining original member through their lifetime.

Her life epiphany, watching Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheelers at a fairground in Akron, Ohio in 1965 or 1966.  After listening to Ryder’s howling vocals and watching two dust-ups between a couple of members of the band, she decided then and there “that’s got to be the life.” First, she had to be in a band and second, “rock guitar-playing was one of the high points of the culture I was in”. 

Hynde studied art at Kent State University where she witnessed the massacres by the National Guard in 1970.  She eventually quit university and headed overseas.

Mary Ann Vecchio screams as she kneels over the body of fellow s

Hynde moved back and forth to the U.K. a couple of times, first in 1973 as a music critic for the New Musical Express, and again in 1976 where she found herself in the middle of the punk rock revolution. A self-taught guitar player, she played in bands with early members of the Clash, The Damned and the Sex Pistols. After several rocky starts, and with the support of Dave Hill from Real Records, she finally formed The Pretenders in 1978. The band’s moniker was inspired by the Sam Cooke version of The Great Pretender.

Sam Cooke – The Great Pretender

The Pretenders were her band — she wrote the songs, she played the guitar and she was the frontwoman. However, Hynde has always considered it a collective endeavour and herself as “one of the boys”. David Wild, Contributing Editor of Rolling Stone Magazine stated, “Chrissie Hynde redefined female sexuality in rock and roll. She didn’t dress to any sort of male vision of female sexuality, she basically was the closest female equivalent to Keith Richards. Just a total rock and roll chick….badass….tough.”

Keith RichardsChrissie_Hynde

Chrissy and Keith

The Pretenders released their first self-titled album in the spring of 1979, followed by an EP called Extended Play, later that summer. After losing two members — Honeyman-Scott died of heart failure in 1982 and Farndon drowned in his bathtub 1983 — The Pretenders were down to two people. Band members came and went in subsequent years but The Pretenders went on to release eight more albums before folding for good in 2008.

The Pretenders

The Pretenders

Hynde has a very languid style of singing, almost casual. Her distinctive contralto captures you the minute she opens her mouth. Perfect for the times, the songs and The Pretenders.

The Pretenders – Brass in Pocket

The Pretenders – Don’t Get Me Wrong

The Pretenders – Chain Gang

Through the years, Hynde has managed to transcend the success of the Pretenders, even recording a duet, “If Luck Be A Lady” with Frank Sinatra. She continues to carry the “punk rock attitude” forward, merging it into the wonderful pop/rock music she creates today. Hynde has continued to record, releasing her first solo album, Stockholm, in 2014 which debuted at number 36 on the Billboard 200. It includes contributions from Neil Young and John McEnroe.

Chrissie Hynde – You Or No One

Joan 

Joan-Jett

Frequently referred to as the “Queen of Rock ‘n Roll”, touted as the “Godmother of Punk” and the “Original Riot Grrrl”, Jett’s passion for music began at the age of 14 when she was presented with her first guitar. After  moving to southern California Jett began frequenting Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco, a popular youth club . She drew her inspiration from the glam rock stars of the day. “I learned to scream from Marc Bolan of T. Rex,” Jett explained to Esquire.

At the age of 15, Joan was one of the founding members of her first serious band, the Runaways. The all-girl, hard rock group found it tough going during the height of the disco days. The Runaways released their first album The Runaways, in 1976. It did not impress the critics let alone the record buyers. However, the song “Cherry Bomb” had a rebellious, raw edge and eventually became a punk hit.  Jett wrote the song with friend Kim Fowley. The Runaways did not do well in North America, however, they were a hit in Japan scoring three gold albums there.

Joan - Runaways 1977

 The Runaways 1977

After The Runaways disbanded in 1979, Jett formed her new band, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts releasing their first album, “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” in 1981. This was followed by Album in 1983 and Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth in 1984. A further seven studio albums were released, the most recent is Unvarnished in 2014.

Joan - leaping

Joan Album

Jett is still very much a part of the entertainment machine and continues to perform while building a long list of credits acting in movies and TV productions.

In 1987 she starred in the movie Light of Day with Michael J. Fox and Gena Rowlands. In the movie, Joan and Michael play brother and sister, lead performers in a rock band, The Barbusters, in Cleveland, Ohio. Bruce Springsteen wrote the title track (Just Around the Corner to the) Light of Day for the film and Joan performed it. Roger Ebert said of Joan’s acting “Jett matches to Rowlands’ inspiration in the most surprisingly good performance.”

Joan and Michael J Fox - premier Light of Day

Joan Jett and Michael J. Fox playing at the Light of Day premier

She recently fronted the remaining members of Nirvana for a performance of Smells Like Teen Spirit when Nirvana were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. Initially I gave my head a shake. But when I stopped to think about it for more than 10 seconds, I actually started to consider ….maybe….possibly it could be a good fit. My assumption was confirmed when I watched the performance. Only Jett could front Nirvana.

JoanJett_Nirvana

Joan Jett and Nirvana

Nirvana with Joan Jett – Smells Like Teen Spirit

I’ve lost count of how many times I have sleazed across a dance floor to this one. I love the grit in Joan’s voice. ….and the guy by the record machine, he doesn’t stand a chance. The girl takes control …and yes, she does love…

Joan Jett – I Love Rock ‘n Roll

This is every women’s song at some point in her life. A cross between “fuck them all”, who needs ’em anyway and “I can’t help myself, I just want to crawl up your pant leg”. Why DO we always love the bad boys? Our mommas warned us….

Joan Jett – I Hate Myself For Loving You

She still rocks my socks….

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – TMI

Jett is the first woman I picture when I think of truly bad-ass women in rock. The Blackhearts was an accurate name for her band.

There’s more to come. Next up…..Interlude

Cheers!

Sources include Wikipedia, AllMusic, Biography.com/bio., The Guardian, my mind, the ubiquitous YouTube, Facebook, GarageHangover, various bios

=PB=

Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-buttonIn “real” life Pat Blythe has spent the past 32 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry. After an extended absence Pat is now heading back to the GTA clubs, immersing herself in the local music scene, tasting what’s on offer, talking to people and writing once again — sharing her passions and her deep love of music. Together for 34 years, Pat also worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who shot much  of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda Little Red-headed dancing girland the Imps, Plateau, Buzzsaw, Hellfield….) as well as national and international acts,  Currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, Pat is currently compiling a photographic history of the local GTA music scene from 1975 to 1985. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance….

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