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Baker's Dozen

It's A Silk Sash Bash: Suzi Quatro's 13 Favourite Albums
Ben Graham , October 25th, 2017 09:42

The one-time Leather Tuscadero talks to Ben Graham about the records that changed her life, plus breaking down barriers, seeking new challenges and being snubbed by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

"Creation is what it's all about," says Suzi Quatro down the line from her Essex home, her Detroit accent and irrepressible energy undimmed by the years. "Always create. I've just made a new album with Andy Scott [The Sweet] and Don Powell [Slade] called Quatro, Scott and Powell. We created something out of the three of us; three people from the same ballpark. It already got to number 20 in Australia because they were my support group on my last tour, which is completely nuts: I had to do 27 songs a night. I went out as a bass player and singer for Quatro, Scott & Powell, and then came back for Suzi Quatro. It was great. So I'm still creating, that's what it's all about. You've got to keep creating. I never rest on my laurels, never have done."

Quatro hopes to play live with QSP in the UK soon, but October sees her strapping on her low-slung bass and hitting the arenas on the aptly named Legends tour, in the company of David Essex, The Osmonds and Hot Chocolate. The latter band were labelmates of Quatro at RAK Records, under the auspices of owner, manager and producer Mickie Most. Most paired Quatro with the songwriting-production team of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, and together they produced some of the best-loved hits of the glam rock era, including 'Can The Can', 'Devilgate Drive' and the bizarre '48 Crash', a bubblegum rock song about male menopause aimed at a young teenage audience. The song could have been eerily prescient: I put forward my theory that the 13-year-olds who originally jived to her hit in 1973 would have turned 48 just in time for the stock market crash of 2008.

"There you go; it's kismet!" Quatro laughs. "But you know, Mike Chapman, when he wrote, a lot of times he had nonsensical lyrics. That was one of his things: he always said you had to try to make sense of it. Not all of them: he could also go out and write 'If You Can't Give me Love', which is one of the best songs ever. So he had both abilities: he had the crazy way and he had the poetic way. And we had a perfect relationship, which we still have; the combination of my own songs and his songs which fit together like a jigsaw puzzle."

Quatro was already a musical veteran by the time she arrived in Britain in 1971 at the age of 21: The Pleasure Seekers, the garage band she formed with her older sisters in 1964, were fixtures on Detroit's notoriously hard-edged rock n' roll circuit, gigging alongside The Stooges and The MC5. Years later their two singles, especially the fearlessly nihilistic B-side 'What A Way To Die' would become cult classics among the underground garage rock fraternity.

"Doesn't it just sound like Suzi, though?" Quatro says now. "I was 14 then, and when I hear that back I hear my style that's coming through. It's real ballsy and it's out there and it's in your face and that was just me. No-one said do it this way: I just did it."

'Just do it' could be Quatro's motto. Already an accomplished actor as well as a musician (she was cooler than The Fonz as Leather Tuscadero in Happy Days, and has acted in TV and theatre many times since), in recent years she's branched out to become a published poet, a radio presenter, and has written both an acclaimed memoir and a novel, Hurricane. Now four of her late seventies studio albums are being digitally remastered and rereleased, alongside a new 'best of' collection featuring ten tracks hand-picked by Quatro from across the breadth of her career. But despite having sold over 50 million albums, and undoubtedly breaking down the barriers for women to be accepted as star musicians and not just vocalists, Quatro remains aggrieved that she hasn't yet been acknowledged by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, while another rock & roll loving singer, who arguably took Quatro's style and ran with it, has.

"Everybody seems to think it's a joke that I'm not in there and Joan is in there, who was like my biggest fan," she says. "I can't take it seriously that they put her in there, and it's supposed to be the ones who are like the earliest influences on this and this, and I don't know how she got in there in the first place! I don't begrudge her: I know Joan, she's a friend of mine and I love her to pieces, she did great with her career. I'm very proud to be her inspiration, but I question the organisation. It doesn't make sense to me. If you tell people that, they assume I'm in, and then you say no, and she is, they say what? What would she have been if she hadn't loved you so much? It just doesn't make any sense. They're really stupid, I think. I have a documentary coming out, and maybe eight or nine different famous females come out and say what? How can that be? Even Mike Chapman said what, it just doesn't make any sense. She was probably my biggest fan ever. You can see it. And there's no sin in that, all artists take their influences from whoever, and so she took hers from me, and that's fine, you're there to inspire. But don't leave me out of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame! Give me a break! Nobody else did it before me. So on that note alone, I should be in there."

The Best Of Suzi Quatro - Legend is out now. Click the picture of Suzi below to begin reading through her Baker's Dozen