School’s out for summer, and I’m feeling antsy. I want to throw garbage cans at mailboxes, drink warm Budweiser in the back of a pick-up truck, and smoke cigarettes in front of the arcade. I want to drive around the neighborhood with the windows down so everyone can hear the brilliance of Suzi Quatro.
It’s no accident that I started this post off with four words commonly attributed to Alice Cooper, the shock rocker that Suzi opened for in mid-70s. Per usual, the boys get all of the glory. Bowie, Bolan, and the rest of the glam rockers twisted and mangled gender roles and embraced androgyny with their excessive gaudiness–red platform boots, smudged eyeliner, sequins on practically everything. Their music was anthemic and over-the-top like their apparel. But, Suzi Quatro was lost somewhere in the glitter whirlwind.
Suzi Quatro played a 1957 Fender Precision bass, a gift from her father, and in 1964, she formed the Pleasure Seekers–possibly the best known all-girl 60s garage band–with her sister Patti (who went on to join the group, Fanny, one of the first all-girl rock bands to sign to a major label). Suzi was 15 when she recorded her first album. 15 years later, she had a greatest hits album. (Take that, Bowie!)
Recently, I’ve become obsessed with Suzi because well, to put it bluntly, she fucking rocks. Like the guys, Suzi was a gender-bender. Instead of the low-cut polyester frocks that the disco divas preferred, Suzi wore black leather jumpsuits adorned with zippers. She had a shag haircut that could out-do Rod Stewart’s any day. She fronted her band with authority while her hair wafted like Farrah Fawcett’s. She audaciously belted out lyrics about boys whose “engines” weren’t ready to go. Plus, she fucking handled one of the heaviest bass models of her time with ease! (See the interview below to hear Suzi talk about her bass and the guy who returned it because it was too heavy.)
Suzi held her own in the rock ‘n’ roll industry. She hired her own backing band and didn’t allow anyone to step on her toes. After she gained fame throughout the UK and Europe, Suzi hoped that she would be the go-to idol for girls who wanted to be different, and she was. Joan Jett carved Suzi’s name into the side of her platform shoe and waited for her in hotel lobbies. (Yea, that’s right. No Suzi Quatro, no Runaways.) Suzi paved the way for girls who want to rock like the boys, no holds barred.
(Oh yeah, Suzi had a recurring role on Happy Days as Leather Tuscadero. What a name!)
At the age of 60 (Happy belated birthday!), Suzi still kicks out the jams today. She’s working on a new album and hosts her radio show, “Wake Up Little Suzi”, on BBC radio. This summer, she’s performing at some festivals in the UK and touring across Germany. Needless to say, Suzi is my summer icon of 2010–Who says you can’t wear a leather jumpsuit in July?