The year 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of Suzi Quatro as a recording artist! Her first single, “Rolling Stone” was released in 1972. She then shot into the superstar league the next year, based on her hit singles “Can the Can”, “48 Crash” and “Devil Gate Drive”.  Although she started out in the mid-60’s as a member of “Suzi Soul & The Pleasure Seekers”, Suzi made her first solo record in 1972.

Suzi (centre) in her first band, “The Pleasure Seekers”

She’s been labelled – at various times – as the “queen of glamrock”, “the worlds greatest female bass guitarist” and original bad girl of rock ´n roll – Suzi was all that, but so much more!

The first ten years of her recording career laid the foundation for her everlasting star status  in rock music, but it´s not like she stopped recording or performing in the early 80s. She just sought out other directions, and found new outlets for her creative powers. Suzi may be regarded as an out & out rocker, but a closer look at her records will show that she performed many different kinds of music, and that she has an amazing ability to adapt her voice to the different musical styles. Suzi racing through “Can the can” has very little in common with the Suzi that declares “You can’t get a man with a gun”, which again is the complete opposite of the slinky blues of “Southern Comfort” where Suzi simply oozes with lust, but still demands to be in charge.

Susan Kay Quatro was born on June 3, 1950, in Detroit. With her sisters Arlene, Patti and Nancy, she formed “The Pleasure Seekers” in the mid 1960’s. After a couple of years, the band changed its name to “Cradle”. This was the beginning of Suzi’s life in music, and the sister band obviously had an impact on Detroit musically as well: In 2012 the band was inducted into “Detroit Hall of Fame”, an honor bestowed upon them during the annual Detroit Music Awards. Suzi however, had to cancel her appearance there – due to her having had a bad accident just weeks before.

Quatro Quartet! Suzi (left) with her 3 sisters, after the band had changed its name to “Cradle”

British producer Mickey Most discovered Suzi in 1971, and before long she went to England to work with him. The first product of this association was her debut single, “Rolling Stone”, released in 1972. It reached nr. 1 in Portugal, but made little impact elsewhere. Pity, because it’s a very good song, although a bit more on the pop side than some of the stuff she’d record with Most later on…

The year 1973 really put Suzi centre stage in the music world; She burst on the scene like a comet, and forever changed the way female artists were labeled. Petit and diminutive, Suzi and her bass guitar none the less appeared as a giant when she took to the stage. Sure, we’ve had some girls doing rock before her (Wanda Jackson and Brenda Lee, sometimes Connie Francis…) but Suzi as “female artist” brought something entirely new to the scene! Up to this point, most girl singers wore dresses, high heels and hair styles that made them look like they were ready to meet the president. Enter Suzi, complete with bass guitar and dressed in shiny leather!

We’d never seen anything like it! Suzi introduced a brand new kind of music, and showed girl singers a new way to dress!

Her music also introduced something new and fresh, no other female singer had ever done something remotely close to what Suzi did! Her influence is everlasting, and a lot of singers who followed after her, is clearly influenced by what she did back then. Good examples that spring to mind are: Joan Jett, Cherie Currie, Debbie Harry, Tanya Tucker during her most “rocking” moments, Linda Ronstadt during her new wave period, Pat Benatar, Melissa Etheridge and many more. Even today, singers who have recently started out are influenced by Suzi, with Kelly Clarkson being the most obvious example. Norwegian singers also adapted a little of Suzi’s style here and there; when Norwegian actress Tone Senstad had a change of image and became rock singer Chrissie, she included a track called “Jump” on her 1980 debut album “Chrissie” that would have fit Suzi like a glove. A couple of years later, Anita Karlsen recorded a song called “In the long run”, which also has the Quatro influence all over it….

Her break-through hit “Can the can” soared to the top of the charts, and Suzi followed with several other hits in quick succession: “Glycerine queen”, “48 crash”, “Daytona Demon” and “”Devil Gate Drive” are all classics from her first 2 years as a recording artist. A little later, she sang “Too big”, “The wild one” and “Your mamma won’t like me” – all statements that made it clear that this was indeed a new kind of singer, demanding to be an equal to all the guys in the business, never afraid to be considered a “bad girl” while still maintaining her own femininity. Actually, Suzi in her leather suit, with her 70’s shaggy hairdo framing that incredibly beautiful face, Suzi is to me maybe THE most gorgeous looking singer of that entire decade. And it’s not like her beauty has faded, Suzi today looks very much the same, still slim and petite and basically looking years younger than her age.

From 1973 on, Suzi released one strong album after the other, but for some strange reason her two big hits “Can the can” and “Devil Gate Drive” were not included on either “Suzi Quatro” (1973) nor “Quatro” (1974). Both these albums contain a lot of Suzi’s most famous songs, stuff that she even to this day sings at her concerts. 1975 saw the release of her third album “Your Mamma Won’t Like Me”, and later the same year her first compilation album, “The Suzi Quatro Story” which included all her hits up till then, plus one new song, “I may be too young”.

The first hit collection from Suzi came out as early as 1975, and does include her first 45’s “Rolling Stone” and “Can The Can”

A tour of Japan in 1976/77 was recorded, but the resulting album “Live & Kickin'” wasn’t released until years later. However, a new studio album, “Aggro-Phobia” hit the racks in 1977, followed by “If You Knew Suzi” in 1978. Aided by two big hits, “If you can’t give me love” and “Stumblin’ in” this was the first of Suzi’s albums to give her any kind of chart action in the US! Her own favorite album, “Suzi… and Other Four Letter Words” appeared in 1979 and contains the absolute masterpiece “She’s in love with you” as well as “Mama’s Boy”.

Two other very good albums came out in the early 1980’s. First off was “Rock Hard” (1980), which includes the fabulous “Glad all over” and the title track that was also used in the movie “Times Square”. “Main Attraction” (1982) signalled a definite change in Suzi’s musical direction – this record shows a softer side to the singer, and a couple of the songs are country-influenced. It does also feature the new waveish “Oh, Baby” which is completely stunning! After this, Suzi seemed eager to explore different directions altogether, and branched out into acting and finding new ways musically. She played Leather Tuscadero on TV’s “Happy Days”, she recorded an entire album that went unreleased in 1983, but which now is available – “Unreleased Emotion”. It’s as good as anything else she’s done, so why it was shelved at the time is hard to say. As bonus tracks on the CD, you’ll find 2 songs that did come out as a single in 1985, the gorgeous ballad “Tonight (I could fall in love)” b/w “I go wild”.

Does Broadway Queen Ethel Merman and Suzi have anything in common? The answer to that would be something like “No, at least not musically….”??? Wrong again – at least good ol’ Ethel could never have sung “Can the can”, but Suzi proved that she indeed was able to take on a role identified with The Merm and make it all her own. Scene: London, Center Stage: Suzi Quatro in “Annie Get Your Gun”! While vocally not very similar, Suzi managed to make the score sound as if it was written for her, and handling every challenge that comes with starring in a musical that has been staged and performed for 40 years. The cast album proves that if anything new was to be found in playing Annie Oakley, the solution was named Quatro!

Original 1986 Cast Album, with Suzi as Annie. The cover looks like this! Might be hard to find sometimes, as it’s not listed among Suzi Quatro albums…

Having proved that she could indeed succeed in other fields of entertainment, the obvious question would be “what’s next?”. Where could an artist like Suzi make a new impression? After a hiatus of a couple of years, she was back musically and on record in 1990. Working with the Dutch Bolland brothers as producers & writers, she made a very nice album called “Oh, Suzi Q” that saw a limited release. That’s a shame, as the album is very good indeed and shows off a very versatile singer doing a lot of excellent songs. As a whole, this album has stood the test of time remarkably well – much more than a lot of the other drum-machine infested junk that came out during the same period.

The most obscure of all Suzi Quatro albums! “Oh, Suzi Q” (1990) is well worth searching out!

She does a wonderful cover of Kim Weston’s old hit “Take me in your arms”, glides through the slow and sexy blues of “Southern Comfort” and gives an utterly outstanding performance on “Love Touch” which has “Hit Single” stamped all over it. It’s maybe the only one of her records that seems to have fallen under the radar, but it’s well worth searching out – it’s that good!

Suzi did more acting during the 90’s and early 2000’s – guesting in an episode of British Mystery series “Midsummer Murders” as well as starring in a self-written musical play based on Tallulah Bankheads life. In her autobiography, “Unzipped” Suzi presents a photo of herself as Tallulah, where she looks very much like the old movie star! Quite incredible really, as Suzi herself has no resemblance at all to Miss Bankhead – so the makeup artist must have done a marvellous job!

Suzi released a one-off single in 1993, titled “Fear of the Unknown”. The song places her in a very radio friendly context, and the song also had great potential to be a hit, but that did not happen this time either.

Another record came out in 1995,  “What Goes Around – Greatest & Latest”. I’m always a little apprehensive when singers re-record their old hits, but this record gave me nothing but pleasure. Suzi re-interprets rather than merely re-records these songs, thus presenting “If you can’t give me love” as a torchy night club ballad, while also offering some of her older hits in a new way. She covers Bruce Springsteens “Born to run” to great effect, and adds a new song as well- “What goes around”. This song may be the strangest one in her entire discography, sounding like a camp fire sing-along-tune with a slightly Caribbean flavour! Sounds crazy, but it’s the only description I can think of – AND it’s a very nice song!

New songs, old songs done in a new way + a couple of covers. That “What Goes Around” (1998) consists of

A couple of years later, Suzi made an album that in many ways falls outside of any of her usual musical references; she made a New Age album, consisting of meditations and music together with Shirley Roden. Called “Free The Butterfly”, the 2-disc record urges you to get in touch with the elements and explore yourself aided by nature. The 15 tracks follow a certain order, with a spoken introduction or meditation, then a musical track that symbolizes the given topic like water, fire, earth, air, wood, stone and gold. It’s not really a Suzi Quatro record, but rather a record of Suzi Quatro doing something artistically very different. As a New Age record though – it works perfectly!

Suzi & Shirley Roden “releasing their potential through songs & movement” in 1999…

Since then, Suzi has made two albums of new music, and they both see her returning to the style of rock that she started out making in the 70’s. The first one came out 2006, called “Back To The Drive”, followed by “In The Spotlight” in 2011. On both albums she sounds remarkably fresh and up to date, her voice is still the same and judging from the covers, so is her appearance. Rather than saying “she has aged well”, I would stay she has managed to stay young. Being one of my childhood idols, I personally am very happy to see & hear that my first rock ‘n’ roll love is still very much alive & kicking, and that her new records are as good as the ones she made almost 40 years ago!

Suzi had a bad accident while boarding a plane in early 2012, breaking both an arm and a leg. She keeps the fans updated on both Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – and we are all happy that she seems to be recovering well and is soon walking unaided once more. Hopefully she’ll be back on stage in good shape soon. We know she’s been practicing playing her guitar even when her arm was in a cast, so she’s a true trooper who still has only one goal: to give the audience 100% Suzi when she’s on stage!