Glycerine queen, forever!
Suzi Quatro talks fame, Fonzie, rock stardom and growing up in Detroit
Published: April 25, 2012
Quatro: That was crazy. None of us could ever understand how I got confused with that, because I didn't wear all these crazy clothes with tons of makeup. That wasn't me. I was just rock 'n' roll. I think the confusion came because I started having my hits in that period. Then they tar you with that brush, but history bears me out that I am rock 'n' roll. My image is timeless. I still wear the black leather. It's simple garage rock. That is who and what I am.
MT: You sound like you have a chip on your shoulder about it?
Quatro: I was taken seriously. It's really only something I have to answer a lot now. It really doesn't bother me. Everything has a rhyme and a reason. That is the era I started having my hits, so whoever was having hits in that era would be called glam rock. Anybody having hits in the late '50s was called rock 'n' roll. It could have been anybody. Pat Boone, rock 'n' roll? Excuse me? I'm still here. Glam has been and gone, I haven't.
MT: Did it bother you that you weren't selling as many records at home as in the UK?
Quatro: I didn't have a lot of time to think about it. I was selling millions everywhere. I'm up to 50 million now. There were a couple of reasons for it. In hindsight, we were living here and concentrating here. That period of music, whether you want to call it, glam, didn't really catch on in the States. Also, Mickie Most, for everything good he did, he kept changing record labels on me in America. I think I had a different label for every single, which is not conducive to longevity. I did a lot of successful tours. Everybody knows me. I just didn't have a lot of hit singles there. I just took it that was the way it was. Then Happy Days came along and changed everything.
MT: Was that the thinking behind Happy Days — to gain success in the States?
Quatro: No, I can't pretend it was. I touring every year in America — '74 to '76. We did two or three tours with bands like Uriah Heep and Grand Funk Railroad. We did the Alice Cooper Welcome to My Nightmare tour, which was 80 shows. We played with everybody. Big gigs. I played Madison Square Garden with Grand Funk twice. I was in Japan, which is one of my biggest markets, and I got a call from my publicist in America. He said that they wanted me to come and audition for a TV show that I'd never heard of. He advised me that I really should do it. I flew over, because I'd always wanted to explore acting because I knew I could do it. I got the part, and it turned into 15 episodes over three years. I didn't have a game plan in mind, it was just something I wanted to do.
MT: Is it true that you turned down a spin-off?
Quatro: I had a lot of talks with Henry Winkler about how he got stuck in Fonzie, and could never move away from it. Leather was a really popular character. I was told by the lady at Paramount who handles the fan mail that I got the second amount of fan mail after Henry, which is unbelievable. I never would have guessed that, but I did. When the spin-off series offer came, I thought, 'Is this really what I want to spend the rest of my life doing?' I'd given enough time for Leather, people still remember me fondly as that. I didn't want to be lost somewhere in TV sitcom land, and that was the one trick that I could do. I was right, I went on to be in lots of other stuff like Dempsey & Makepeace, Midsummer Murders, Absolutely Fabulous, Minder, I've been on the theater stage in Annie Get Your Gun. I've written a show too. I've done different things rather than sticking to one thing. I've proved I could act, but I didn't want that to be all I could do.
MT: Did you ever consider moving back, maybe after the chart success dried up?
Quatro: We were having hits everywhere at that point, and I was travelling everywhere. Touring all the time. I think more now about coming. Probably within two or three years, I will end up back in the States.
MT: What do your children think of Detroit?
Quatro: They love Detroit. I took them there for my 60th. They just thought it was the most amazing, magical city they'd ever been to. Even my granddaughter thought it was fun. She said she wanted to move there. There's a spirit of Detroit that doesn't leave. It's very special.
MT: Your Back to the Drive from 2006 album is fantastic — more people should have heard it ...
Quatro: None of that really bothers me. I believe everything does what it does, and it does it for a reason. I know that that particular album has a lot of legs and a lot of people talk about it. Who knows, maybe my day of big hit singles is over. It doesn't matter. A lot of people love that album. As long as I touch people, I'm not chasing the charts. I'm 61. I'm happy that I'm working all over the world still, that I'm recording, that I'm getting rave reviews for my work, so I shouldn't complain at all.
MT: You still have a strong core following. ...
Quatro: I've always had a loyal following because I've never stopped working. I do get kids at my shows, from six or seven in the front rows. I get families, and I think that's just magic.
MT: There's a train of thought that there'd be no Joan Jett without you?
Quatro: That's not a train of thought, it's a cold, hard fact. Let's not mince words. She didn't even have a band when she was my fan, so how could you see it any other way. She was a huge fan of mine. She would come to all the gigs in L.A., sit in my hotel room and wait for me to come back from the show. Eventually, I heard from my publicist that she'd formed a band called the Runaways. That was excellent because she now has an outlet. I'm very proud of what she's done. I feel quite a part of that.
MT: What do you think you achieved for female rockers in general. ...
Quatro: 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.
MT: What's next?
Quatro: I'm still promoting my new album, In the Spotlight, which is getting unbelievable reviews. I'm riding in the compliments. It's out on Cherry Red, and the fans are saying that it's the album they've been waiting on for years. Back to the Drive was autobiographical, then I wrote Unzipped, which was an autobiography. At that point, Mike Chapman said, "Let me do the next album." I let him take over. If Suzi Quatro was starting today, this is the album she would make.
Suzi Quatro's In the Spotlight album is out now via Cherry Red. The Pleasure Seekers and Cradle, minus Suzi, perform at the Detroit Music Awards at the Fillmore; 2115 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-961-5451.
Brett Callwood writes for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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