When you think of rock in the early 70s, it is impossible not to think of little Suzi. She, along with some hit songs delivered by the mighty songwriting duo Chinn and Chapman, made real impact into the charts of that time and a lot of those songs are great to listen to even today.
Going along with the crowd
Interview by Steve Peacock
Self-assured? She seems it. Arrogant? Sometimes. Complacent? She seems it. Together? Apparently so. Successful? What do you think?
Suzi Quatro has, in her own words, carved out her niche as a hit act and it`s giving her plenty of work and plenty of hits. That`s what she wanted, and what she`s doing now is keeping on keeping on: “After the initial rush of getting to number one with “Can The Can” – and I waited ten years for that – getting better is the rush now. Writing a better song, doing a better record, doing a better show…”
And getting a hit in her homeland. While we were talking, someone came in to tell her the new single was 74 with a bullet over there. “Just cut that out and send it to my sisters, will you?” When we`d finished talking she was still thinking about it. “74 with a bullet… hey, that`s great.”
Ten years ago Suzi Quatro started her career in America, in all girl groups. After six or so years Mickie Most asked her to come over here to record, it took them a while to sort out what they were going to do, and then… “Can The Can”. Hits have given her work, and work is what she`s doing. She`s just come back from Germany, America and Australia, next week she`s off again to Italy, America, Scandinavia, Japan, Australia, Germany, Britain – and then it`s Christmas.
When she first came over: “I was getting to know what I was all about and Mickey was getting to know what I was all about, so it took time. I had a lot of growing up to do. You`re in your own environment, and you think you`re great, then someone takes you out of your environment and you find you haven`t got any legs any more. Your lose the silly ego and just keep the stuff that really means something. You learn that just because you`re American doesn`t mean you`re any better than anybody else. America`s so different from anywhere else, and now that I`m away I can see why it is so different. We grow up very fast there. You either love America or you hate it: I think now it`s the greatest place in the world to play music, but I live here. If the taxman`s all right.”
The all-girl band thing… “It didn`t ever make any difference to me whether I played with boys or girls, then when I got this band I realised that I get along one hundred percent better with men musicians.”
It always seemed just as silly to me to insist as dogma on having all women and all men: the only possible reason being gimmick. “It is, but when we first started, we just wanted to prove something. People are telling you all the time you can`t do something so you get a bunch of strong-headed girls and they go right ahead and do it. Then when you get a little bit older you see it doesn`t make any difference.”
From relatively nowhere to number one: did she and Mickey have a Masterplan? “We`ve had one major plan that`s stuck right through our association, which was he said he liked something in me that was a natural thing and I said great, don`t ever change it, and he said he`d never change it and that was our thing. A man that`s smart enough to see the natural talent instead of trying to create something… that`s what`s so great about Mickey. He directed me and brought out what he saw as important things, but they were… well, what I am I suppose.
“I always used to wear, well not the leather jeans because I couldn`t afford it, but a leather jacket. I haven`t changed – a little bit sleeker maybe, but that`s what you do when you make it, don`t you? You dress up a little bit more. If you`re just walking about the streets they`re not paying to see you walk about the streets, if you do a show they want to see a little bit more.”
And material? Hits from the Chinnichap factory? “We were having a really hard time trying to write a hit single. We asked Nicky and Mike to write us a song, and they came down and listened to everything we`d done, went away and came back with “Can The Can”, which I still think is one of our best ones. It worked well, they do our singles. I don`t know what they`re like with their other acts, but Mickey – because he`s got a personal interest in this act – would never let anything go out that was more a Chinnichap song then a Suzi Quatro song. The two singles I thought weren`t really us were the two that didn`t make it so much, which just goes to show that if it ain`t us it ain`t gonna make it. People aren`t as stupid as journalists say they are – very few phoney songs get up there. I think the public know a true song when they hear it.”
A niche: she says she`s found that, and that she won`t put out some things she`s recorded because they`re too far ahead for her audience. “When you`re on the road you progress so fast that if you put out a track – like “Angel Flight” which is 10 1/2 minutes long with strings and all – everybody would be so confused. There`s a danger of progressing too far ahead in too short a time.”
Talk about journalists insulting people – how does Suzi Quatro know that a 10-minute track with strings is too far ahead for her public? “No, the kids are buying you because you put out something that they like, you got a certain sound, so because on a night on the road you might have written something ten years ahead of time, it`s not fair to put it out and confuse them. You`re living a life on the road, they`re not: they`re still at home with their record players and their radios. If I was a kid and I heard that coming from me I`d throw it down the trash can because I wouldn`t understand it. I don`t put myself above – I just live a different life, living it faster than what they`re hearing. We`re four singles and one album old to those people.
“Listen, I`ve been in the business a long time, and you`ve got to be smart enough to know… well, Mickey`s the smart one because he noticed it before we did, because you`ve still got your egos to deal with and you think whatever you do is great. He pointed out that it was too far ahead. We all listen to different kinds of music when we`re home, but when we come together on stage we play one kind of music, and that`s what we`re known for. That`s what we do.”
You don`t find it restrictive? “No. You gotta progress but you gotta do it slowly. You gotta play it cool – look at it as if you were a fan, not a musician, go along with the crowd, nothing to upset them.”
Good for a career I`m sure, but for a musician? “If I did just what a musician thinks I`d been down in a bar in Nashville somewhere singing Billie Holiday songs. And that wouldn`t get me anywhere would it? You ask any musician who`s successful, and I bet they`d tell you if it wasn`t down to that they wanted to have a successful career they`d be doing something entirely different. It`s a stupid artist that pretends they`re in it just for creativity, because it`s a job as well. Don`t you give me that peace/love bullshit.”
I wasn`t going to. But there`s a way of striking a balance. Did she find that a problem? “No I don`t. I`ve been doing this so long that I find it quite easy to look at it as a business and still keep quite happy on the creative side. If I was to die off tomorrow I`d definitely go down to some little bar and sing and get drunk every night – actually it wouldn`t be so different to what I do now, only I wouldn`t be making any money.”
She`d said earlier about roadwork, you go where your work takes you. Does she enjoy it? “I`m a nutcase about it. One day at home and I`m absolutely dying to get back on the road. I like on the road better than off the road because off the road`s boring – you get drunk or try to give yourself a false buzz somehow. Suburban ech, I hate it.”
Surely life on the road is also a false buzz. “Sure – I know it`s a fantasy but I enjoy it and I give other people enjoyment doing it. When Mick Jagger stops I`ll wait till a year after he stops and then I will. Give the next person a chance.”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Bob Marley, Billy Preston, Ronnie Lane, Golden Earring, Ronnie Spector, Duane Eddy, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Andy Fairweather Low, Viola Wills, Mick Jagger, Argent, R. Dean Taylor, Johnny Bristol, Julie Driscoll, Status Quo, Georgia Fame, Vangelis, Greenslade.
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