Suzi Quatro: The girl from Detroit
It’s hard to believe that Suzi Quatro is celebrating 50 years in the music this year, possibly because this side of the pond we didn’t become aware of her until 1973 when she burst through our TV screens on a Thursday night’s Top Of The Pops, a little girl with a bass guitar that looked too big for her, so powerful a performance that everyone was talking about her the following day, and her single ‘Can The Can’ quickly shot all the way to Number 1.
Since then not only has she had a string of chart hits, but proved herself to be a comedy and dramatic actress on TV both sides of the Atlantic, been a leading lady in a West End musical, written her acclaimed biography ‘Unzipped’, poetry, song-writing, currently one of Radio 2’s leading DJ’s, also performing her own one-woman show‘Unzipped’ whilst working with Cherry Red Records on ‘THE GIRL FROM DETROIT’ a career spanning 4CD compilation beginning with her Pleasure Seekers recordings from 1965 capturing every stage of her journey up to this year, a full fifty years.
Once I saw the presentation of the box, I couldn’t wait to talk to Suzi about it, and we began with the early days.
‘I wanted to reach this milestone before doing the box as it’s such an important milestone, we go right back to 1964 when I first entered a recording studios with my sisters as ‘The Pleasure Seekers’ it was at Golden World Records in Detroit, and the first song we did was ‘The Long White Line’ an original plus another girl group song, I wanted to include it on the box, in fact I even spoke to John Reese, who used to run the label but he couldn’t find it, but it must be there somewhere.’
I’ve spoken to friends, who are Detroit fanatics, after our previous conversation and they haven’t heard them, but they know Ric Tic and Golden World vaults both have boxes of un-named, unidentified tapes that would take a lifetime go through. I’ve read the text and the detail about each track is incredible.
‘I wanted it to be really comprehensive and representative of my professional life, have you heard the single ‘The Girl From Detroit City’? It’s really good, Mike Chapman wrote it for me and it’s so good.’
The collection goes a lot further than just the Chinn/Chapman productions. ‘We go from The Pleasure Seekers 65/67, my hits, album and live favourites, covers, collaborations, ‘Annie Get Your Gun’, etc, right up to the current day.’
The book is also packed with great photos and memorabilia. ‘I’ve always tried to keep copies of everything I’ve done, and been written about me in my ‘Ego’ room.’
You’re also doing your ‘Unzipped’ show for the BBC. ‘I am, I’ve just finished taping my latest series of ‘Quatrophonic’ and then we record ‘Unzipped’ a specially adapted version of my stage show, and because it’s for the radio I asked for it to be extended to include the show, one hour twenty-five long, which has music but it’s more unplugged, and then a mini-concert of my hits, to fill the two hour slot, which will end with ‘Girl From Detroit City’, and I’ve just heard it’s going out on Radio 2 on Christmas Day.’
I thoroughly enjoyed your last ‘Quatrophonic series. ‘Thank you, that is the real me, you know I had all the ideas around twenty years ago, I wrote them down, and now I get to do them, which is really terrific. Even the name ‘Quatrophonic’ there’s no mistaking that’s mine.’
The Detroit series was also brilliant. ‘I loved doing that, when I spoke to Lamont Dozier I was actually drooling, I said to him ‘You’ve written my life’ and he was so sweet, I mean I was brought up in Detroit, I’m a Motown freak, we were raised on their music. Did I ever tell you my husband put on a show where I was appearing with Dennis Edwards and The Temptations, I went to the side of the stage, hid behind the PA stack to watch them, and started doing all the dance steps with them, having a grand old time, and when I came off everybody started saying ‘Did you realise you were on camera being shown on the big screens?’, I was absolutely humiliated, I didn’t know, I was just enjoying myself, I got a big round of applause, how embarrassing, I was living the dream, remembering all those steps.’
You’ve just done a gig with Bonnie Tyler in Denmark. ‘Yes, it was great,I know Bonnie well, we get along great, she’s a fellow Gemini, one of the good ones, she’s got a terrific voice.’
You’ve done quite a few festivals in Europe this year, with Australia on your horizon. ‘I’m already trying to get on a couple of festivals for next year that I couldn’t fit into the schedule this year, I’m already booked solid until April, we have the single coming out, followed by the box set, and at the start of next year I have my 30th, and final, Australian tour, 23 dates, some are already sold out which is great, because I thought if I could reach that 30th milestone it would be fantastic to do my final one there first.’
I can never understand why you don’t get more bookings in the UK. ‘I don’t either, I just don’t get it, I work all around the world regularly, but very little here, maybe people think I don’t do live gigs anymore but I’m hoping to do some next year.’
You have a poetry book due soon. ‘Yes, I’m so excited about that, we’re bringing it out for the Australian tour and it will be on sale at the gigs, we’ve already sold 2,000 copies and it’s not published yet, it’s called ‘Through My Eyes’.’
Are they poems or song lyrics without music? ‘No they are poems, but not your traditional ‘June, moon and croon’ in fact some are quite shocking, people who have read the book say it’s everything good poetry should be, it’s open, raw, exposed, before it went to the publishers I sent a copy to a good friend of mine in York, who tells it like it is, and after a week I called him to see what he thought, and he said ‘ Don’t bite my head off, but I think it’s the best thing you’ve ever done’ I said ‘What better than my singles? Why?’ and he said ‘Yes, there are five poems that I’m convinced are about me.’ I’ve sent it to others who have come back and said ‘Is that one about me?, so there is something within the book that people relate to, it gets inside the reader, it’s like I know your life, a very valuable book, I didn’t set out for it to be that way it just happened, and now I’m in my 50th year it’s the right time to release it, in fact everything I’m doing now is exactly what I’ve always wanted to do, my one woman show, my radio show, my poetry, I could not be happier.’
When do you think you’ll quit performing, if ever. ‘I’ve said it before ‘When I go on stage, turn my back on the audience, shake my ass, and there’s silence, that’s when I stop!’
I don’t think that will ever happen.
Since the interview I’ve received the box which is exactly what I expected, excellent essay by Phil Hendricks, great photos and picture covers from every stage of her career, her guitar and Ray-Ban collections, all of the hits, duets with Reg Presley (Wild Thing),‘Desperado’ with Jeff Beck,unreleased tracks, including covers of ‘Sweet Nothin’s’ and ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ and her own gem ‘Singing With Angels’ plus the exciting title track.
If there is one thing I’ve learnt from watching Suzi’s career over the years, that is she doesn’t do things by halves, the initial goal is the only one acceptable, and she will not tolerate less. Suzi has said she is very proud of this set, and for me that sums it up.
The 82 track box is now available, and for all things Suzi checkout www.suziquatro.com