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Warm Leatherette: Suzi Quatro, ‘The Girl From Detroit City’
10.26.2014
04:12 pm

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Suzi Quatro


 
In her native America, pioneering female rocker Suzi Quatro is best remembered for her role as the leader of “Leather Tuscadero and The Suedes” on Happy Days, but in the rest of the world, Quatro is known as a chart-topping bubblegum/glam-rock superstar who has sold 50 million records.

Her biggest hits came fast and furious, one after another starting in 1973 and although Suzi was not a glam rocker per se, she fit right in with the then-current glitter/glam rock scene and bands like Sweet, Slade, Mud, T.Rex and similar-sounding acts. Pop impresario Mickie Most was her manager and the songwriting team of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman wrote several million sellers for her including “Can the Can,” “48 Crash” and “Devil Gate Drive.” Clad from head-to-toe in black leather like a pint-sized Yankee Emma Peel, and wielding a bass that seemed HUGE compared to her, Suzi Quatro was perhaps the most archetypal musical and style influence on the female rockers who came in her wake like The Runaways, especially Joan Jett who idolized her, and Talking Head Tina Weymouth who took up the bass because she thought Suzi was cool.

This year marks the eternally youthful Quatro’s 50th year in show business (she started when she was 14) and last week saw the release of a new career-spanning four CD box set, The Girl From Detroit City on Cherry Red Records. Most people are only going to know Quatro’s hits, but the set (clearly aimed more at the Suzi Quatro megafan than someone who wants a greatest hits collection) runs the gamut from her earliest recordings, a number of demos, some cheesy synthed-out 80s power ballads and even some Broadway show tunes. The best stuff comes from her hit years, obviously, including an almost Bobbie Gentryish number, “Curly Hair for Sale” which totally blew me away. Here’s a cover of The Normal’s “Warm Leatherette”:
 

 
There’s also a cover of Goldfrapp’s “Strict Machine” that’s pretty good.

Here is Suzi Quatro, at the age of 23, singing “48 Crash”—she was super hot, wasn’t she?
 

 
Suzi’s career began in her teens, in 1964, when the Detroit-born Quatro and her sisters formed The Pleasure Seekers, an all-girl answer to the Beatles. In contrast to her tall, willowy blond siblings and band mates, Suzi was short and brunette. The Quatros were obviously a musical family and their father was a bandleader and talent booker who encouraged their talents. The first single was 1965’s “What a Way to Die,” included in the box set.

The Pleasure Seekers were contracted by Mercury Records in 1968. They were one of the very, very first all-female rock groups to get signed to a major label. This was at a time when you did not not normally see a woman touching an amplified instrument in pop music. They had a slick stage act that included a “Sgt. Pepper’s ” section, as well as several Motown numbers. They played the Michigan nightclub and college circuit alongside acts like Alice Cooper, The Amboy Dukes (Ted Nugent’s band), and The Bob Seger System. A young Iggy Pop dated the group’s drummer.

More Suzi Quatro after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
All shook up: When Suzi Quatro finally made it to Graceland


 
Pioneering female rocker Suzi Quatro was on tour in the U.S. in 1974 when the call came.

She was touring to promote Suzi Quatro, her debut album for Mickie Most’s RAK Records in the U.K., which had been produced by the unparalleled, fabulous, evil-genius songwriting team of Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn the year before. The album contained the well crafted Chinnichap compositions “48 Crash,” “Primitive Love,” and “Can the Can” but also included a cover of “All Shook Up,” chosen as the third single. Quatro had loved and emulated Elvis Presley – strikingly in her trademark black leather – since seeing him on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956 when she was six years old. From that moment, unlike other little girls who went nuts upon seeing him for the first time, she wanted to be Elvis.

She was in a Memphis hotel room when she received a call from Elvis’ “people.” And, bless her heart, she had a panic attack. Talk about being “all shook up”!

Suzi said in a BBC interview this year:

I was on tour in Memphis and he had heard my version of “All Shook Up.” His people got in touch with me in the hotel room. Then he came on the line [open-mouthed shock] and he invited me to Graceland. He said, “Your version is the best since my own. How would you like to come to Graceland?” And I said I was very busy, no thank you.

The situation was, as BBC producer Mark Hagen later described it, complicated. Elvis was once again a bachelor, but Suzi was already romantically involved with her guitarist and songwriting partner, Len Tuckey (Surely a one-time pass could have been granted so that Suzi could hang out with the King?!)

Suzi discovered that she had been given the part of Leather Tuscadero on Happy Days on the day that Elvis died, August 16, 1977. She was devastated that she had turned down his invitation and would never have another chance to meet him. The regret has haunted her ever since.

During her memorable seven-episode stint on Happy Days from 1977 to 1979, Suzi sang “All Shook Up” and “Heartbreak Hotel” on the show, wearing a $2000 fawn jumpsuit made by Ukrainian “rodeo tailor” to the stars (including Hank Williams, Porter Wagoner, Gram Parsons, and Elvis), Nuta Kotlyarenko, a.k.a. “Nudie” Cohn. Her trademark jumpsuits were actually Mickie Mosts’s idea, not a tribute to Elvis.

[Mickie] came up with the jumpsuit idea, which I thought was a great idea. I wanted leather, without a doubt… I swear to God, I had no idea it was going to be sexy… It didn’t occur to me. I remember saying to him, “Oh, that’s really sensible. I can jump around and nothing will come out and I don’t have to iron it.” And then when I saw the pictures back, I went, “Ohhhhh.”

In 2009 Suzi finally made it to Graceland, when Mark Hagen made the documentary Suzi Quatro’s Elvis for BBC Radio 2. Suzi visited Elvis’ birthplace, all of his homes, talked to many of his childhood friends, and stopped in at Sun Studios on Union Ave in Memphis. It was already an emotional experience before she even reached the front gate of Graceland.

Suzi said:

I was in tears many times as I traced the footsteps of Elvis Presley who was, and is, the reason I do what I do.

She added her name to the stone wall filled with fans’ tributes running along the front of Graceland, thirty-five years late.

Suzi Quatro outside Graceland, below:

 
After the jump ‘Leather Tuscadaro’ gets her Elvis on…

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Leave a comment
7 Inches of Pleasure: ‘The Joy of the Single’

45_singles
 
The first single I bought was “Snow Coach” by Russ Conway. It was at a school jumble sale, St. Cuthbert’s Primary, sometime in the late 1960s. I bought it because I loved winter, and Christmas, and the idea of traveling through some snow-covered landscape to the sound of jingling sleigh bells . I also knew my great Aunt liked Russ Conway, so if I didn’t like it….

I bought it together with a dog-eared copy of a Man from U.N.C.L.E. paperback (No. 3 “The Copenhagen Affair”). These were the very first things I had chosen and bought for myself, with a tanner (6d) and thrupenny bit (3d). I played the single from-time-to-time on my parents’ Dansette Record Player - its blue and white case and its BSR autochanger, which allowed you to play up to 7 singles one-after-another. My brother had a selection of The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks, The Who, Elvis and The Move, which he played alternating one A-side with one B-side like some junior DJ. It meant I didn’t have to buy singles, as my brother bought most of the things I wanted to hear, so I could spend my pennies on books and comics and sherbert dib-dabs. It was a musical education, and though Conway was a start, the first 45rpm single I really went out and bought was John Barry’s The Theme from ‘The Persuaders’, which I played till it crackled like pan frying oil.

As this documentary shows 45rpm singles were an important part to growing up: everyone can recall buying their first single - what it looked like, its label, its cover, the signature on the inner groove - and the specific feelings these records aroused. With interviews from Norman Cook, Suzi Quatro, Holly Johnson, Noddy Holder, Richie Hawley, Paul Morley, Jimmy Webb, Jack White, Neil Sedaka, Trevor Horn, Miranda Sawyer, Brian Wilson, The Joy of the Single is a perfect piece of retro-vision, that captures the magic, pleasure and sheer bloody delight of growing-up to the sound of 45s.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment