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…