SOURCE: Yahoo Music – Lyndsey ParkerEditor-in-Chief, Music
Rock fans were rightfully outraged this week when Pat Benatar was passed over by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. This was an especially egregious omission considering that just last year inductee Janet Jackson begged the Hall in her acceptance speech to “induct more women,” that only three female artists were on this year’s Hall ballot, and that women make up less than 8 percent of all Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees to date.
But at least Benatar was nominated. Sitting with Yahoo Entertainment/SiriusXM Volume the day after the Hall’s Class of 2020 announcement, bass-playing glam-rock pioneer Suzi Quatro — who has been very vocal about her displeasure with being overlooked by the Hall — asserts once again, “If you’re an organization that prides itself on doing the right thing by the right people, what more can be right than the fact that I was the first? Shouldn’t that be honored? To me, it’s a no-brainer. I don’t begrudge anybody who’s in [the Hall] whatsoever; whoever gets it, I applaud you, and I am proud of you. But how can you ignore the first? This is not right.”
Perhaps the snub is because Quatro, the first female bass-playing rock star, had a much higher profile overseas, and Hall voters have traditionally been extremely U.S.-focused. While Quatro was a quintessentially all-American rock ‘n’ roll girl, born and raised in Detroit, she racked up many more hits in the U.K. (including two No. 1’s, “Can the Can” and “Devil Gate Drive”) and Australia (five top 10 singles, including three No. 1’s).
“But don’t forget, ‘Stumblin’ In’ was a million-seller here,” Quatro points out. (That single, a duet with Smokie’s Chris Norman, peaked at No. 4 in the States.) “I did lots and lots of tours here. I was in Happy Days for three years [in the art-imitating-life role as badass band leader Leather Tuscadero]. Talk about household name! Give me a break. It’s just plain stupid. Sorry, that’s all I can say.”
Lest she seem bitter, though, 69-year-old Quatro then adds more lightheartedly, with an exasperated chuckle: “How many years before I get too old to walk up and accept my award? Give it to me!”
Quatro may or may not ever get that Rock Hall award, though her new “warts and all” Quatro documentary, Suzi Q, may put a bigger Stateside spotlight on her legacy and increase her chances. Regardless, this weekend she will receive the much-deserved Icon Award at the She Rocks Awards, presented by her devout follower and an icon in her own right, ex-Runaways frontwoman Cherie Currie. An excited Quatro says, “Any honor is an honor. I’m very humble that way. I never take anything for granted, even though I’ve been in the business so long, 55 years.”
But Currie, who contributes the original end-credits song “Rock ‘n’ Roll Rosie” to Suzi Q and whose former Runaways bandmate Joan Jett entered the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2015, still desperately wants Quatro in the Hall. Last year, Currie griped to Yahoo Entertainment/SiriusXM Volume, “You know what? I have to say this: Suzi Quatro is not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I cannot take it seriously, and I don’t want to be a part of it, unless she’s in. Suzi Quatro’s the first. There wouldn’t have been a Joan Jett, and I don’t think there would have been myself, or anybody else in the Runaways, if it wouldn’t have been for Suzi.”
Currie isn’t the only one championing the Wild One. Along with Currie, Jett (who confesses that her bedroom walls were plastered with Quatro posters and pinups), and another former Runaway, Lita Ford, other celebrities who testify in Suzi Q include Blondie’s Debbie Harry and Clem Burke, Alice Cooper, Go-Go’s bassists Kathy Valentine and Abby Travis, Fishbone’s Norwood Fisher, Talking Heads’ Tina Weymouth (who was inspired by Quatro to take up the bass), L7’s Donita Sparks, Quatro’s Happy Days co-star Henry “The Fonz” Winkler, late Happy Days creator Garry Marshall (who once offered Quatro her own Leather Tuscadero sitcom spinoff, which she turned down out of fear of being typecast), and KT Tunstall.
Quatro reveals that she and Tunstall have recorded an entire album together, and that she has another dream collaborator in mind, a dream that actually seems quite plausible: “Wouldn’t it be great for Joan [Jett] and I to do a record together? You know what? I’m putting that out there.”
While Suzi Q will no doubt be viewed in Europe and Australia as a tribute to a chart-topping household name, in America it will likely play very differently, as more of a rediscovery film about an oddly forgotten ‘70s star. Quatro, who says “there was no blueprint” for her career when, as a teenager in 1964, she began playing alongside her sisters in garage-rock girl group the Pleasure Seekers, muses: “When I was first starting to [tour America], it was Eagle country. They weren’t quite ready for me. Then I did Happy Days and introduced a female rock chick to the world on a No. 1 show, which paved the way for it to be OK for a rock ‘n’ roll chick to have a hit. … In my view, everything has its place and its time and its path. I was supposed to open the doors, and I did, and it’s fine. It is what I did.”
While Quatro opened doors for female rockers ranging from Joan Jett to, yes, Pat Benatar, interestingly, she insists she “never did gender.” She credits this attitude to her father, who bought her her first bass (a 1957 Fender Precision, “the Rolls Royce of bass guitars”), encouraged all of his daughters to play music, and never told her “You can’t do that” when as a little girl she declared that she wanted to be the next Elvis.
“My father had four daughters, and I think he wanted not to have four dependent daughters, so he brought us up to be very free-thinking,” Quatro says. “I never did gender. I don’t do gender now. It’s hard for me to even say I was a ‘female rocker.’ I didn’t see myself that way. I always say I’d kick the door down, because I didn’t see the damn door. I just didn’t see it.”
Quatro is still making music, and she’s still keeping it in the family — her latest album No Control, a return to form after an eight-year recording hiatus, is a collaboration with her guitarist son, Richard Tuckey. The album’s “Macho Man” is a timely yet timeless ode to toxic masculinity set to some hard-charging guitar riffage, though a brand-new standalone single, the ballad “Heart on the Line,” showcases her unexpected softer side. “I am so surprised that every time [I perform it], I get emotional, because it’s so deep in me,” Quatro says of the latter track.
It could be said that Quatro, after all she has been through, is ballsy — though that adjective may be inappropriate in this context. “I do have balls. Most women do,” she laughs, before adding more profoundly: “We women, we just keep our balls in our heads — so they don’t kicked.”