“When they reach their teens, that’s when they all get mean
Down in Devil Gate Drive
When I was sweet sixteen I was the jukebox queen
Down in Devil Gate Drive”
A poster of Suzi Quatro in her leather jumpsuit must of taken pride of place in most teenage boy’s bedrooms in the 70s (I can’t believe it was just me!). A petite streetwise woman, in leathers, singing with attitude, fronting a male band, dwarfed by her bass guitar – what else mattered in life after a hard day at school?
Suzi had quite a musical pedigree in the US before she hit the UK charts in the 70s. Her father was a jazz band musician and she made her debut at the age of 8 playing in the Art Quatro Trio. However with the name Suzi Quatro (shortened from Quartrocchio) how could she do anything but turn towards rock and at the age of 14 she formed The Pleasure Seekers with her sisters. They stayed together for 5 years and achieved some success releasing a number of singles in the US and touring Vietnam to entertain(!) the American troops.
In 1971 the record producer, Mickie Most, spotted Suzi playing in Detroit, signed her and brought her over to the UK. It would be nice to say “and the rest is history” but there was another two years of rehearsing, writing and recording before Suzi reached the charts. The song that made it was “Can The Can”, hitting number 1 in 1973.
Written with Mike Chapman and Nikky Chinn (who were also having a lot of success with the Sweet) this was to be the first of a number of hits as demonstrated by the subsequent “48 Crash” and “Devil Gate Drive”. While the hits continued to flow throughout the 70s the style of song moved away from the rock she is remembered for and included power ballads, such as The Race Is On”, and a duet with Smokie’s lead singer Chris Norman, “Stumblin’ In”. The song with Chris Norman was in fact the only hit that Suzi managed in the US where she was better known as Leather Tuscadero in Happy Days.
The hits dried up after the 70s but Suzi never left music alone. Whilst she kept touring, she also starred on stage in “Annie Get Your Gun” and had bit parts in a few TV series. More recently she has become a DJ on Radio 2 – playing the music that inspired her, has featured on Rock School with Gene Simmons (alongside comments regarding the Gene/Suzi relationship from band members!) and has just released another Album.