Singer, songwriter, musician, actor, presenter, writer, over her career, Suzi Quatro has certainly had the Midas touch to whatever she has turned her hands to. Her smash hits Can the Can and Devil Gate Drive are as synonymous with the 70s era as her daring and iconic leather jumpsuit. But underneath that pop bravado that made her a global star, Suzi is also a highly talented and classically trained musician and a profound songwriter. With 50 years as a professional musician and 55 million record sales under her belt, the aptly named new compilation album Legend is a hand picked choice of songs from across her career. The album not only showcases the hits, but also some of the songs that make Suzi Quatro such a legendary and respected musician Photogroupie caught up with Suzi ahead of her new album release to find out more about those songs and how she has got to where she is today.
PG: DID YOU THINK ALL THOSE YEARS AGO WHEN YOU CAME TO ENGLAND THAT YOU WOULD HAVE A CAREER WHICH WOULD ENDURE FOR 43 YEARS?
SQ: Yes, because I went into it with that attitude. I never went into it as a hobby it was a calling. I take my entertainment job very seriously, I've always been the same. I knew I would do it for a lifetime. That's not all I've done, it was a big part of it. I've done a lot of other things since, acting, radio, poetry and TV – I've got many strings to my bow but rock and roll was the rock I stood on.
PG: YOU'VE HANDPICKED THE TRACKS ON THE ALBUM WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE THE TRACKS YOU DID?
SQ: I wanted to do something special. If we were going to put something out it had to be special. I said to the record company 'how about you let me pick my favourite self-penned songs' and they said 'that's great'. What I ended up doing, although I didn't know I was doing it was pick songs that have all ended up on stage, so that was the real test. They've all appeared in the show in different times over my career. That means that they had that cross over ability – they weren't just an album track, they crossed over live to stage.
PG: HAVE YOU GOT ANY FAVOURITES?
SQ: Of the Chinn and Chapman songs Devil Gate Drive and If You Can't Give Me Love. Devil Gate Drive is an excellent party song and If You Can't Give Me Love is beautiful. Of my own stuff, Don't Do Gentle, but that didn't end up on the album, but 15 Minutes of Fame and Dancing in the Wind.
PG: YOU'RE HEADLINING AN ARENA TOUR IN OCTOBER WITH DAVID ESSEX AND HOT CHOCOLATE WHAT PREPARATIONS ARE YOU DOING FOR THOSE SHOWS?
SQ: We don't have to rehearse because we're working constantly but it's a matter of putting the show together for that particular concert. You have to be aware that there are three other acts on and they all want to get their songs on. It's not my own show, it's not just Suzi Quatro, but you've got to give people what they want – favourite album tracks and hits.
PG: YOU'RE KNOWN ALL OVER THE WORLD, BUT YOU'VE HAD MORE CHART SUCCESS IN THE UK THAN THE USA. WHAT WAS THE MAIN REASON FOR THAT ?
SQ: I started touring in America in 1974 and I did have singles there - Stumblin' In was a million seller. I was on Happy Days for a few years and that was the top show ever. The difference was that Micky Most kept changing the record companies so every release had a different company so you don't get the longevity and there weren't quite so many single releases, but I'm a big name over there to this day and I can tour there anytime, I was just more concentrated over here. This is my base. I'd spend a few years touring Europe and Japan and then over here non stop and then go back and tour again, that's just the way it was.
PG: YOU WANTED TO BE CLAD IN BLACK LEATHER, AND I THINK THAT WAS DISCOURAGED INITIALLY, BUT YOU WERE DETERMINED. HOW DIFFICULT WAS IT TO STAND YOUR GROUND ESPECIALLY AS A FEMALE?
SQ: That's how I stood my ground because I don't do gender and I don't do it now. It never occurs to me that I can't do exactly what I want to do, when I want to do it and how I want to do it, that's just my nature. Micky Most used to say about me that you don't tell me what to do, you suggest. He also used to say that you will listen and I would listen if it made sense. I had to respect the person who was talking to me and agree and if I didn't, I didn't.
PG: YOU'RE NOW VIEWED AS A PIONEER OF FEMALE ROCK AND ROLL. DID IT FEEL LIKE THAT BACK THEN OR WERE YOU JUST DOING YOUR OWN THING?
SQ: I can't pretend that I thought to myself that I was going to change the way girls are in the business because I don't do gender, but what I was sure of was that I had to stay with me. I couldn't change for anybody. I couldn't put on a dress, I had to be me and that's why I made it. That's why it fell on me to do so; it had to be someone who was being who they are and not somebody who was trying to show the guys what she could do, that was never who I was. That's why it fell on me to be the first one because it was a natural thing.
PG: HOW DID COMING FROM A MUSICAL BACKGROUND AND PLAYING MUSIC FROM A YOUNG AGE KEEP YOU GROUNDED AND GIVE YOU THE CONFIDENCE TO BE WHO YOU WANTED TO BE?
SQ: When my father spoke to us I took everything that he said at a deep level, I felt like he was just speaking to me – he wasn't but it felt like he was. He always said that this is a profession, he drummed that into my head, so I've always treated it that way and I'm a professional. He always told me that if you go out there and give 300% you have no business being on that stage – it's your job to make those people smile. I took all this to heart.
PG: YOU HAD A GOOD STARTING POINT DIDN'T YOU WITH BEING CLASSICALLY TRAINED?
SQ: Yes I did. I play the piano as well as bass and I read and write for both instruments. I would recommend learning an instrument to anybody. I had the grounding, I can sit here and play you classical music anytime. I can play percussion, I'm a good percussionist too.
PG: CAN WE EVER EXPECT A CLASSICAL ALBUM?
SQ: Well, there's a track on the QSP album called Broken Pieces Suite and it's my masterpiece; it's got a classical base, it's going to surprise a lot of people.
PG: WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO LISTEN TO?
SQ: I'm a complete mood person. I can go anywhere from Bob Dylan to Johnny Cash to Adele to Motown, the 50s or 60s hits. It's the same as when I put on a movie if I want to cry I put on a weepie.
PG: DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVOURITE ARTISTS?
SQ: Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, Adele, Otis Redding, Billie Holiday, Tony Bennett – it goes right across the board, It goes in line with my upbringing. I grew up with the songs on my father's knee, I learned everything from the ground up. That's the only way to learn.
PG: DOES IT BOTHER YOU THAT THERE'S THIS DUMBING DOWN OF THE INDUSTRY WITH REALITY SHOWS AND THAT MAKE EVERYBODY THINK THEY CAN BE A POP STAR?
SQ: It's so crazy, stars are not found that way. You can't remember half the people that won these reality shows. They have none of the tools to deal with it, you could run them over with a freight train! I think you've got to pay your dues, learn your chops and play every gig. I always say that's half the thing that's missing nowadays is the actual thing of going out and learning your craft. I can go out and entertain a drunk at a bar that doesn't want to hear me and that's just training. In the old days we used to do five shows a night: 45 minutes on, 15 off and a lot of them there were more people in the band than the venue. I can jam with anybody, I can jam with an orchestra, a jazz trio and that's just training, that's because I learned it. It never leaves you.
PG: 'ALL MY LIFE IVE WANTED TO BE SOMEBODY AND HERE I AM' IS A LINE FROM THE WILD ONE – DID YOU EVER WANT TO BE FAMOUS?
SQ: You hope you reach a huge audience, anybody does. I wanted to be known, let's put it that way: known and appreciated and play to as many people as possible.
PG: YOU'VE DONE A LOT IN YOUR CAREER WHAT WHAT OTHER AMBITIONS DO YOU HAVE?
SQ: I have a bucket list, but I am doing things all the time. I released a poetry book last year called Through My Eyes. I released my first fiction novel at the end of May called The Hurricane. I got made an honorary Doctor at Cambridge and my radio show on Radio 2 is still going since 99. There are still things I want to do. In want to get QSP on the road because so far we've only played Australia, but that was great. I'm working with KT Tunstall at the moment, we're going to do a song together. I'm a creating girl, I need a project to keep me happy. I need to communicate.