Pat Blythe – The Women of Rock Redux Part 2 – SOOOOOOZZZZZEEEEE…..and music

I seem to mixing up some of this series as I come across various versions from six years ago. I had Suzi with Joan and Chrissie but I’ve covered the latter two already. Beside, Suzi deserves her own column. So….although today’s piece is all about the Suzi Q, Joan and Chrissie are still part of her story.

I hadn’t thought of Suzi in ages…..eons really and surprisingly, out of the three women Suzi is the only one I’ve actually seen live. So, after trolling the internet (still my permanent residence these days six years later) I began to connect the dots and realized that not only she was a contemporary of both Joan and Chrissie, all three were the leaders of their own bands, a rarity for the times.

l-r – Suzi Quatro & Joan Jett

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. The guys pretty much owned the world of rock ‘n roll. Guitar, bass and drums with massive keyboard setups…..long hair, bared chests, tight jeans and bulging crotches, screeching guitar riffs, a wall of amps cranked to eleven, pounding drums, the thumping bass line…..all the pent up frustration and cockiness a guy could muster was displayed on worldwide stages. That was all about to change.

Lick My Love Pump was the order of the day

Suzi, Chrissie and Joan were three extraordinary women 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 didn’t back down. They wrote, arranged AND sang the songs. They hired and fired band members. They were in charge! These women electrified the world of rock, impacting young girls and young women everywhere, paving the way and showing them, that yes, it can be done. These ladies were about to revolutionize those guys right off the stage!

Chrissie Hynde and Joan Jett

First was Suzi, then Chrissie, quickly followed by Joan. What was most striking about these women was they played a real instrument….not just a tambourine or a cowbell or a triangle. They were front and centre… backseats for them.  But a woman who plays bass! Weren’t bass players tall, lanky, brooding guys with long hair and big hands, who frequently kept to the shadows, nodding sagely at the drummer every once-in-a-while. Female bass players were not a common sight in the rock world, certainly not in the 70s (Fanny was the exception), or unless you were a “girl band” of the 80s. Suzi was about to change all that!

Say hello to the Queen of Rock!

The fourth of five children (four girls, one boy) Suzi is a Detroit girl, born and bred. She grew up surrounded by music. He farther Art Quatro was self-taught violinist and pianist and was considered a child prodigy. He worked as an engineer for General Motors by day and performed with his jazz band, The Art Quatro Trio at night. Quatro was also the “home game” house organist for Detroit Pistons and Detroit Red Wings. Suzi had studied both piano and drums, and at the age of eight she sometimes sat in with her dad’s group as a percussionist, playing the bongos for 25 cents a gig.

Suzi c1952

In May 1964 Patti Quatro formed the garage band The Pleasure Seekers along with her sister Suzi, who was just about to turn fifteen. Suzi was told she couldn’t play drums in the band (they already had a drummer) and was told to learn the bass. Suzi’s dad presented with her first bass guitar, a 1957 Fender Precision Bass and Suzi hasn’t looked back. The original members of the band also included Nancy Ball (drums), Mary Lou Ball (guitar) and Diane Baker (piano). A short time later Arlene Quatro joined, replacing Diane on keyboards. All the girls were in their mid to late teens, Suzi was the youngest at 15.

l-r – Nan Ball, Marylou Ball, Patti Quatro, Suzi Quatro and Diane Baker (summer of 1965)

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. They signed their first recording contract with Mercury Records in 1968, partied with The Who and Bob Seger, jammed with Jefferson Airplane, hung out with the Rolling Stones, performed on the same bills as John Mayall, Alice Cooper, MC5, Muddy Waters, Frigid Pink, T-Bone Walker and so many more. By 1969 members had come and gone. The band had evolved and renamed themselves Cradle. It was during a gig with Cradle that Suzi was noticed by British record producer Mickie Most. Offered a deal with RAK Records as a solo artist, Suzi packed up and moved to England in 1971.

l – r – Pami Benford (bass), Arlene Quatro (keys), Suzi, Darline Amone (drums) & Patti Quatro (guitar). The band performed at Campbells in London, Ontario, April 24, 1968. They are pictured here at London’s Storybook Gardens .

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.

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.

Suzi as Leather Tuscadero and Henry Winkler as The Fonz

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.

Suzi and Chris Norman

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.”…..and she did…..four in fact!

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 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

All 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 (now 18) studio albums, 10 compilation albums, one live album and written one book.

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.

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. In 2019 a documentary on Suzi’s life, called Suzi Q, was published and it looks excellent.

Suzi Q – 2019 Documentary Teaser(s)

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 in Italy

Suzi performing in Canberra, Australia, 2015 (photo courtesy Sicily Publicity)

In a 2012 interview Suzi was asked what she thought she had achieved for women in rock. “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.”

Photo by Ian Dickson/Redferns, 1978

Fast forward eight years and in this May 2020 interview with The Current, the question is still being asked. Suzi’s response is much the same. “I say it this way; yes, I kicked down the door. That’s in the history books. But if I’m going to be very, very honest with you…..I kicked down the door because I didn’t see the door. She added;”I don’t do gender as such, I never have. If I want to do something I’m going to do it. I wanted to be in a band; I did it. I wanted to play bass; I did it. If I wanted to wear a leather jumpsuit; I did it. I wanted to lead a rock-and-roll band; I did it. Nobody tells me what I can’t do because you better fucking believe it, that’s what I’m going to do!”

2021 Updates…..

In 2016 Suzi was part of a collaborative effort with Slade drummer Don Powell and Sweet’s guitarist Andy Scott. Calling themselves QSP (Quatro, Sweet and Powell), the self-titled album was released in Australia first early 2017, followed up by England and Europe later in the year and an Australian tour.  As reviewer Ian Fortnam put it, “Boasting a line-up that would have pretty much shaken the pop world to its very core in 1973 – the year they racked up no less than five No.1 hits among them – Suzi Quatro, The Sweet’s Andy Scott and Don Powell of Slade tessellate in so seamless and organic a fashion as to put most preceding supergroups to shame”.

l-r – Don Powell, Suzi, Andy Scott

This one is definitely worth a listen! Circling back to the beginning of this column, to Suzi, Chrissie and Joan, Fortnam has this to say, “Suzi unleashes that unmistakable, multi-faceted voice of hers: the original blueprint for both Joan Jett’s petulant, feral snarl and the cool-’n’- brooding, Detroit leaning of Chrissie Hynde.” 

After the QSP project, No Control was released in 2019. Written and recorded with son Richard Tuckey, the album covers a wide range of genres. Suzi published her fourth book, Through My Words, in March 2020. In November of 2020 she tested positive for COVID-19 and said it was like being hit over the head with a sledgehammer. She has since fully recovered. In March 26, 2021 her latest album and collaboration with her son, The Devil in Me, was released. There is no slowing Suzi, who turns 71 years young in June of this year. Say hello to the Queen of Rock!

The Pleasure Seekers – What A Way To Die

Happy Days – Leather Tuscadero

Devil Gate Drive – Suzi Quatro

Can the Can – Suzi Quatro

Stumblin’ In – Suzi Quatro and Chris Norman

Long Way From Home – Quatro, Scott and Powell (QSP)

Quatro, Scott and Powell (full album)

No Soul/No Control – Suzi Quatro (frm the album No Control)

I Can Teach You to Fly – Suzi Quatro (frm the album No Control)

The Devil in Me – Suzi Quatro (frm the album The Devil in Me)

In the Dark – Suzi Quatro (frm the album The Devil in Me)

This week’s podcast is Hamilton Indie rock band April!



Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

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“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence —  33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto. Together for 34 years, Pat also worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance! 

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