Suzi Quatro

May 18, 1975

This piece originally appeared in the Syracuse New Times and was written with Roland Sweet, with whom I happily shared the evening, the work, the credit and the blame.

* * *

We had read the press releases and seen all that leather. The guys on Suzi Quatro’s album covers sure packed razors, but not for shaving. We had interviewed Ry Cooder and Firesign Theatre, but this was gonna be a whole new ball game.

Security was tight for the Alice Cooper concert. (Cooper was the evening’s featured attraction.) At the foot of the stairs leading to Quatro’s dressing room, we were stopped by a suspicious hulk who wouldn’t tell us who he was, but demanded to know who we were.

One of us had a letter containing names we had been assured would open doors, but neither of us remembered which one of us had it. So we both went through our pockets until one of us found it just as security was moving in for the kill. The hulk seemed disappointed there would be no bloodshed. “Okay,” he said grudgingly, “follow me.”

He led us into the dressing room, walked over and whispered something into Suzi Quatro’s actual ear, then told us, “You have 15 minutes.”

Once we relaxed enough to begin, we noticed Suzi Quatro was young — younger than both of us put together. Feet propped up on a counter, comfortably casual in blue jeans and a soft wool jersey, she avoided looking at us by facing bottles of Gordon’s Gin and Seagram’s V.O. that sat in front of the mirror.

“I hate beer,” she said. “I haven’t touched it since I threw up on a blue velvet prom dress when I was 15. It ruined the dress. Now I just do booze.”

The lead guitarist of her all-Brit band, Len Tuckey, came into the room and announced, “I’ve pissed on me boot.” Quatro leaned over the back of her chair and said, “Don’t worry. If it’s a Frye boot, it can take anything.”

She had a spontaneous sense of humor, one indication of her self-assuredness. Quatro was unintimidated and unintimidating. She was not simple, as the recent Rolling Stone cover story implied, but direct, straight-forward and confident — an uncomplicated rock star. When asked her ultimate aspiration, she said, “This is it.”

After the 60-city tour with Alice Cooper, she and her band would immediately begin their own European tour. She took intense satisfaction from concerts, but viewed studio recording as “a job — I can’t get psyched for it.”

Then half of us ran out of things to say and the other half inquired if Quatro liked the British comedy troupe Monty Python. She turned to the band without answering. “Do you guys like Monty Python?” The band, which had been smoldering off in a corner, sharpening its chains and its mumbles, perked up at the attention it was getting. The three men transmogrified from wicked cult murderers into jolly nice lads.

“Say no more,” keyboard wizard Alastair McKenzie impersonated. “Say no more, say no more,” Tuckey and drummer Dave Neal joined in nudgingly, veering off on a recital of their favorite Python nonsense.

“Spam, Spam, Spam,” we interjected, in an attempt to make up for our stupid questions.

“Hey,” Quatro shouted, pointing at us, “the reporters are doing ‘Spam.'” And so the band felt inspired to do the entire Spam bit on its own. This was more like it.

“Well, we’re done,” we announced, going out on a high note, almost bumping into a tattooed Alice Cooper roadie who had stepped in to ask. “Is this a private party?” The Quatro Quartet burst into song, an English pub greeting: “Ere comes ‘arry, ‘arry’s here at last. Welcome ‘arry, you ‘orses ass.” They laughed. We laughed. We left.

On stage, Quatro and her band tore into “All Shook Up,” an early Elvis Presley tune. She strutted, firing up herself and her audience for the heavier tunes to come. Her voice was gutsy and full, and the band provided solid backing for Quatro’s vocals and occasional between-tunes audience provocations. She had said she wanted to do a live album; the reason now was abundantly clear. Quatro tunes “You Make Me Want You” and “Michael” were clearly superior to their recorded versions, and “Shakin’ All Over” gave her room for an extended solo on her mother of a bass guitar, showing her to be a musician as well as a leather-clad Catherine the Great.

* * *

Other memories that didn’t make the article:

While we waited in a stairwell to see Suzi, we were given identification tags. Roland noticed that the bouncers were watching our tags, almost as if they were waiting for them to flutter to the floor so they could pounce on us.

In Bob Lorenz’s photo for the piece, you can see what an angelic face Suzi had. In spite of her rock persona, she was a lovely person. My first question, a mark of my naiveté, was, “Who are your influences?” And as gently as possible, she said, “Oh, I’ve never heard that one before.” “Really?” I said, and she didn’t even roll her eyes. “No, I meant I hear that one often.” We were such cream puffs, but Suzi and the band were very gentle with us.

After the interview, we saw Alice Cooper briefly, leading a group of family friends on an impromptu backstage tour, but we didn’t stay for his show. We watched Suzi for a while, sitting in the wings on packing cases, and then left. Roland and I both had hot dates that night, and preferred them to the python Alice was touring with at the time.

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