For a while there, many years back now, I wrote a series of reviews and interviews for an Auckland newspaper under a fake name. I needed a generic-sounding – safe – pen-name. I chose ‘Mark Reid’. A little tribute to Chopper eh? Something like that…In fact it just seemed like a safe/boring name that couldn’t be connected to me. I then dashed out copy weekly – CD reviews, film reviews, profiles, interviews. And I did it in exactly the same way as I did when writing my blog posts and reviews for a Wellington newspaper and website. I didn’t try to write differently. No one ever asked, or guessed, or…cared…
She has a soft purr of a voice. But you get the feeling she’ll strike and claw at any moment – Suzi Quatro is sharp with words, especially when doing the simple greeting and introductions. But get her on to her favourite subject (herself) and she’s away…
“I have a fantastic memory. I remember everything”, Quatro, 57, is talking about the process of writing her autobiography, Unzipped. The book features in her current stage-show. “We do all the hits and new material and I talk about the book a lot, which is just a chance for me to talk about myself of course”, she lets out a chuckle that seems closer to a jewelry-rattling elitist than a leather-wearing biker-chick.
Susan Kay Quatroccio was born in America but made her name in England, then struggled to make a huge dent in the American charts, despite a recurring cameo in Happy Days (Leather Tuscadero). Still, the string of hits, beginning with Can The Can and Devil Gate Drive was, at its time, pretty formidable. For the majority of the 1970s Suzi Quatro was a big deal – the female Marc Bolan. She runs me, at blistering pace and with barely a breath taken, through the chronology.
“Well, you know I started young. My siblings are all musicians. My father was. Very musical family. I played percussion and piano by age 9, and then when we started a family band I played bass. It looked big because I was small. I was 14. My first band [Pleasure Seekers] got me out and doing some playing. Then Mickie Most [record producer] discovered me, took me to England”.
So how did the image come about?
“I just like leather. Elvis Presley was so important to me, growing up. And I was in awe of the ’68 Comeback Special, you know, where he’s in the black leather suit. And I just decided that would be what I would do. And I did”.
Things dried up for Quatro in the 1980s, despite best attempts she relaxed in to a handful of acting roles and became a mother. But the woman with the ferocious memory looks at it a bit differently.
“The only time, in my incredible 43-year career that I took time off was for the months when I was pregnant with my two children [Laura, born 1982; Richard, born 1984]. Apart from that I’ve been on the road”.
She married longtime guitarist Len Tuckey in 1976. In 1993 she remarried, to concert promoter Rainer Haas. Quatro is adamant that she has been a continued success due to “hard work. And talent. When I put on a show I’m all there and I’m out there doing it – I still know how to rock”.
A grandmother now, Quatro laughs about her own children seeing her on Happy Days. “My granddaughter thinks it’s really neat. The children just sorta grew up with it. It is what it is…their mother is famous…no big deal”. She goes on to tell me that the experience of being on Happy Days was “a lot of fun – and you know, I still keep in touch with them a little bit. Ronnie [Ron Howard, “Richie Cunningham”] was so cute; he gave me a quote for the hard-cover of my book. And Henry did too [Henry Winkler, “Fonzie”]. So they’re just gorgeous to me”.
At home, Quatro describes a scenario of returning from eight months on the road and being disoriented – “I picked up the bedroom phone in the middle of the night and became incensed when I couldn’t order room service. I could not work it out!”
There’s another sharp cackle and then she tells me about her “Ego Room”. The personal archive. “It’s a great place to go in to and, you know, pat yourself on the back”.
So you visit it often?