Suzi Q: The Mother of Quatro-esque Music

Sit back and put on your favorite Joan Jett, Runaways, or Talking Heads playlist or CD. Revel in the glory of female musicians who stepped up and claimed their place in the world of rock and roll. Listen to emphatic walking bass lines roll over your ears from timeless songs female rock legends produced. Remember that this Quatro-esque Suzi Q sound originated with little known Susan Kay Quatro, or Suzi Q.

What Did Suzi Q’s Music Sound Like?

Quatro began performing as both bassist and lead singer with her sister, Patti before they finished high school in a band called the Pleasure Seekers. They were noticed for their cutting edge lyrics and upbeat music. Hailing from Detroit, they came into the national music scene in the 1960s, welcoming a third member into their band and restyling themselves as Cradle. Cradle created an image that was new to the Quatro sisters. They used their femininity in the branding of Cradle and created a slower, more R&B influenced style of rock.

Quatro attracted attention as a standout bass player and was signed to a record label in London, leading her to write and produce a series of songs that topped charts in Europe and Australia throughout the 1970s. Unrivaled at the time in her openness to try new styles of music, she primarily produced glam rock but has dabbled in pop, Motown, blues and even jazz, according to an interview with the singer. It’s been a long time since Quatro has produced a chart topping song but she has continued to produce music and claims she will until the day she dies.

Suzi Quatro’s Music: Paving the Way

Suzi Quatro was the first female rock musician of her time. Clem Burke of Blondie suggested that people in the United States weren’t ready for a female musician to consistently top the charts with rock and roll music at a time when female musicians were usually around to support men, or produced music with a more feminine sound. Suzi Quatro inspired the likes of Joan Jett, Kathy Valentine, and Tina Weymouth, the bassist in the Talking Heads to not only be rock and roll musicians but to believe they could be themselves in a world that sent them a different message.

Joan Jett admitted that “Suzi was integral to figuring out who I was ” and according to Kathy Valentine of the Go-Go Girls, she had never thought of women as playing instruments in a band-but Suzi did. Suzi Quatro also defied gender norms quite openly in songs such as “I Wanna Be Your Man”. Her early explorations into punk also laid the foundations for future female punk and pop punk groups such as the Ramones. Before Suzi Quatro, a woman had never played hard rock, punk or been so visibly talented with an instrument.

What is “Quatro-esque” Music?

Quatro produced music in glam rock, garage rock, hard rock and punk before any other woman was producing music in those genres, and she showed off her talent unabashedly when it wasn’t normal to do so. Anyone that followed in her footsteps- any all-female band that played any kind of punk or rock- produced Quatro-esque music. Quatro, while not being so well known in America, laid the foundation for all-female bands that would have markedly more success here, such as the Runaways and Girlschool. She was never ashamed to be herself, and never wanted to be branded as anyone else.

Her image as a leather wearing, bass-playing young woman in the rock and roll scene wasn’t always easy to navigate, even in Great Britain where she experienced success. The stance can be taken that she didn’t carve the way for females in the rock and roll industry since there was already a demand for women in rock and roll at the time that she happened to fill. Whether you see Suzi Q as a trailblazer or not, there is no denying she was never a version of anyone else; she was always Suzi Quatro. Her ability to be herself was revolutionary at the time. Next time you’re rocking out to the Talking Heads or the Ramones, remember Suzi Quatro.