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Why Isn't Suzi Quatro In The Rock Hall Of Fame? The First Rock Chick, Then And Now

Icons | July 17, 2019

Left: Suzi Quatro on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1975. Right: On stage at the Hammersmith Odeon in London in 1978. Sources: eBay; David Redfern/Redferns via Getty Images

Trailblazing musician Suzi Quatro is rightly credited with creating a new role for women in hard rock -- essentially, the rock 'n roll frontwoman, like a frontman in every way except gender. Quatro's band dressed like a bunch of bikers, and so did she. They were a four-piece, with Quatro on bass. With hard rock anthems like "48 Crash" and "Can The Can," which were massive hits outside of the U.S., Quatro proved that she could command the stage without having to wear a miniskirt and bang a tambourine. But is something missing from her resume?

Quatro has topped the singles chart in the UK (twice), Australia (three times), Germany, Ireland, South Africa, and Portugal. She's had eight top-ten hits in both Australia and Germany, and she's sold over 50 million albums worldwide. But how does the rock establishment judge someone who utterly failed to crack the U.S. market? Harshly, it would seem. Despite her achievements, Quatro isn't in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, an omission she called "disgusting" in early 2019. She told Billboard:

I'm pissed off that history is being rewritten. I was first, right? I was there before anybody else had a twinkle in their eye -- that's a fact of life.

From the earliest days growing up in a musical family just outside Detroit, Suzi Quatro and her sisters brought the noise. From self-taught bass player to international superstar, Suzi Quatro’s journey showed women everywhere that rock 'n roll knows no gender lines. However, Quatro’s road to international fame and fortune did not come easy.

Cabaret Clubs And Elvis Presley

Left: A late-'60s PR photo of the Pleasure Seekers, featuring Patti Quatro, Arlene Quatro, Eileen Biddlingmeier, Diane Baker, and Suzi Quatro. Right: Quatro and her band as seen on the cover of her first album. Sources: Wikimedia Commons, suziquatro.com

Music was part of Quatro’s life from her early childhood. She idolized Elvis Presley and his sensuous style from watching The King on television. She also played either the bongo or congas in her father’s band, the Art Quatro Trio, while still in elementary school. Eventually, Quatro and her four sisters struck out on their own, becoming the Pleasure Seekers.

The sexy sounding and looking ladies were forced to mostly play in cabaret clubs where their looks earned more attention than their music. Despite her young age, Suzi understood that a little sex appeal was a necessary evil to make it big. 

The Second Janis Joplin Or The First Suzi Quatro

Cradle circa 1969. Suzi Quatro is at left. Source: quatrorock.com

After breaking away from their short-lived record deal, the Pleasure Seekers became Cradle. Made up of three Quatro sisters, along with their brother as the promoter, Cradle earned some fanfare around Detroit. In the first sliding doors moment of Quatro’s life, her brother convinced Mickie Most to see the Cradle play.

Most was an English music producer and top dog at Rak Records. From the moment he laid eyes on sizzling Suzi, he saw a star. However, another music man, Jac Holzman also had eyes for Quatro. Holzman worked for Elektra Records who represented The Doors, The Eagles, The MC5, and other big-name bands. Rak Records, on the other hand, managed comparatively smaller groups.

Each label had a compelling vision for her career path, and Suzi Quatro decided the tiebreaker: “Yes, I had two offers. It was crazy. Jac Holzman wanted me on a solo contract and so did Mickie. Jac said: ‘Next Janis Joplin.’ But Mickie said: ‘First Suzi Quatro.’ I wasn’t gonna be the next Janis Joplin. That wasn’t who I was.”

Off To Europe

Suzi Quatro's style and music hit big in Europe and Australia. Source: Irish Times

Despite Mickie Most’s belief in Quatro’s talent, she struggled to find her footing in England. It wasn’t until she met Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn, who wrote music more in line with Quatro’s leather badass persona, did she take off. 1973’s “Can the Can” rose to number 1 in the UK, Australia, and Germany. She quickly followed up “Can the Can’s” success with “48 Crash” and “Daytona Demon” in the same year. Each of those thumping hits sold over a million copies and cemented Quatro’s place in rock 'n roll lore. 

Happy Days And Pumping Out Records

Left: Suzie Quatro as Leather Tuscadero with Henry Winkler as Fonzie on 'Happy Days.' Right: Single sleeve art for Quatro's 'Daytona Demon.' Sources: IMDB; Discogs.com

Quatro continued to make music and tour all over the world, gaining fans by the boatload. One of those fans just happened to be the daughter of Garry Marshall, producer of one of the most successful TV shows of all time: Happy Days. Marshall decided to hire Quatro for a cameo on his hit TV show after seeing a photograph of her on his daughter’s wall. Quatro's portrayal of Leather Tuscadero led to a variety of roles in television, even theater. In 1986, she played Annie Oakley in a London production of Annie Get Your Gun

Suzi Quatro, Today

Still Rocking N Rolling At 69 (Billboard)

As recently as 2017, Quatro put out a studio album, her sixteenth. These days, Quatro splits her time between England, Germany, and the United States. She’s incredibly proud of her role as leading lady and pioneer in rock 'n roll. Quatro reflected on her role in a 2012 interview:

I was the first to be taken seriously as a female rock 'n' roll musician and singer. That hadn't been done before. I played the boys at their own game. For everybody that came afterward, it was a little bit easier, which is good. I'm proud of that. ... I don't look at gender. I never have. It doesn't occur to me if a 6-foot-tall guy has pissed me off not to square up to him. That's just the way I am. If I wanted to play a bass solo, it never occurred to me that I couldn't. When I saw Elvis for the first time when I was 5, I decided I wanted to be him, and it didn't occur to me that he was a guy.
Suzi Quatro's influence has been celebrated over the years -- although U.S. stardom proved elusive, artists like Joan Jett, Chryssie Hynde of the Pretenders, Siouxsie Sioux, and Courtney Love all benefited from Quatro's innovations and learned from her persona. 

Suzi Quatro Believes She Should Be In The Hall Of Fame

Source: discogs.com

Joan Jett, a Quatro disciple, was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2915, a fact that set Quatro off in a Billboard interview. She said:

(Jett) deserves to be in -- she's an excellent artist -- but it's disgusting that I'm not ... I'm a real stickler for the truth, and I'm pissed off that history is being rewritten. I was first, right? I was there before anybody else had a twinkle in their eye -- that's a fact of life. I'm happy that I opened a door because that door needed to be opened. I'm so proud of that, and I get thanked by everybody -- all the girls, they all say 'Thank you, thank you, thank you...' I said in in very early interviews there would be loads of (women) after me and there were. I'm happy about that, absolutely.
I just don't like being ignored because that's not correct. It's a big fault. I hear from a lot of people -- they say, 'What? You're not in it?!' No -- and my biggest fan is, and that's not right. You can't rewrite history just to suit your organization.
So my feelings are hurt. ... I've been very polite about it for many years, and now I don't want to be polite anymore. It doesn't make sense. The truth is the truth, history is history, the timeline is the timeline. I need to be in that Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Tags: 1970s Music | 1970s Rock History | Hard Rock | Ladies | Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame | Suzi Quatro

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Kellar Ellsworth

Writer

Kellar Ellsworth was born and raised in Hawaii. He is an avid traveler, surfer and lover of NBA basketball. He wishes he could have grown up in the free love era!