I have an article contained within the pages of a tatty 1970’s periodical called Music Week that pigeon-holes a certain female bassist/vocalist as “bubblegum”. With the benefit of hindsight, I would postulate that “bubblegum” is not an epithet one would use about the girl in question, Suzi Quatro, and most certainly not one you would use to her face, unless you were looking for a quick nose-job.
Suzi Quatro’s assault on the British charts in the early 70′s, leather cat-suited, a tiny thing grasping and spanking a frankly huge-looking Precision is remarkable for a number of reasons. The fact that she refused to adopt the smaller Mustang bass spoke volumes for her desire to be taken seriously in what was then predominantly a male domain.
There was your Sandie Shaws, your Olivia Newton-Johns, all vaseline-lensed and wistful, and then there was Suzi, implausibly inviting you to “Can the Can” and insisting that the 48 Crash was a “silk sash bash” delivered in a tough, caterwauling hell-cat scream that took no prisoners. It was magnificent.
A prodigy of Mickie Most, whose pop touch destroyed Terry Reid, Suzi made it her own with a string of hit singles. Although LA bands such as Fanny and Birtha were making some waves in America, their brand of girly rock never quite made it to UK shores (despite Suzi’s sister Patti joining Fanny in its later incarnations).
She clearly paved the way for countless female bands, and guess what? She could play!! This was much in evidence as she took to session work when her career suffered a dip in the mid to late seventies. Giving credence to the saying “a prophet is never recognised in his own town”, Quatro never really achieved musical recognition in her native America though her character from Happy Days – Leather Tuscadero, is remembered fondly.
I’ve had the pleasure of touring with Suzi in the 90′s when I was with Christie – she borrowed my Phil Lynott Precision one time AND we appeared on the same CD once, a German Christmas album!
Her live shows were always gutsy, and when she took her solo on bass, it just screamed “this is what I do, it’s not a gimmick”. A feisty character, one of the guys backstage, she is now married to our old German promoter, Rainer Haas, and continues to tour.
Given the state of play nowadays with simpering pop from the likes of Sugababes and Atomic Kitten, God knows the world needs another Suzi on the scene!
Recommended listening: Can the Can, 48 Crash, Devilgate Drive,Take me in your Arms (Suzi’s Doobies cover, from O, Suzi Q)
Keep following the series folks – A few off-the-wall choices coming up!