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Suzi Quatro stays in creative overdrive with latest album

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Sunday, March 28, 2021

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Suzi Quatro is not one to stop for much of anything.

Even a pandemic.

The Grosse Pointe-raised rock 'n' roll icon and actress (best-known as Leather Tuscadero on TV's "Happy Days") has been on a roll since 2017, when she released a trio album with Sweet's Andy Scott and Slade's Don Powell. Her own "No Control" followed in 2019, while the documentary "Suzy Q," taking stock of her 57-year career including hits such as "Can the Can," "Devil Gate Drive" and "48 Crash" rolled out last year along with a lyric and poetry book, "Through My Words."

Quatro's new album, "The Devil in Me," was in motion when the global lockdown hit during March 2020. She and son Richard Tuckey, who also collaborated on "No Control," had started writing songs together for the project, and they decided not to be curtailed by having to stay separate.

"I said to my son, 'Rather than get depressed about this lockdown, we now have the opportunity to write this album' so this is the silver lining in the pandemic cloud," Quatro, 70, says via Zoom from her home in London, where she moved in 1971 to launch her solo career.

"I embraced it and so did he, and we have turned out what I consider to be my finest work."

"The Devil In Me" is certainly a prototypical Quatro work, a wide-ranging 12-track set whose leather-clad rockers such as "Hey Queenie," "Motor City Riders" and the title track blaze alongside soulful odes like "My Heart and Soul" and "In the Dark," the slinky R&B of "Loves Gone Bad" and the New Wave-flavored "You Can't Dream It." In "Isolation Blues," meanwhile, Quatro voices what the past year or so has been like for anyone, rock stars or not.

"There's very few types of music that I can't lock into and feel part of it," says Quatro, who started out playing percussion in her father's Art Quatro Trio jazz band when she was a youngster, before moving on to play bass with her sisters in the Pleasure Seekers and Cradle. "I can do a great imitation of Billie Holiday, even in fact, I channeled Billie Holiday when I did 'Love's Gone Bad.' Richard kept saying, 'Just pretend you're in a speakeasy,' and I went, 'Yeah, I got ya,' and I was in there."

Stuckey, according to Quatro, also made an even greater contribution in making "The Devil in Me" than he did for "No Control."

"He's said to me for many years, 'Mom, I know what your album should be now. I know what music you should be making. Trust me.' And all of a sudden, I trust him," Quatro says of her 36-year-old son with original Suzi Quatro Band guitarist Len Tuckey. "Before I'm looking at this whippersnapper, and he's telling me this and that and I'm going, 'What the hell do you know?' But something within me was being lit. He was lighting a fire. I didn't know I needed my fire lit, 'cause I was rolling along.

He's young and he brings all the energy and fire that younger people have which I still have, but he's breathing fresh air into it. And he's doing it for me. He's said 100 times, 'I don't care if I earn a penny out of this. I'm doing it for you.' Now you gotta trust that, don't you?"

The mechanics of recording "The Devil in Me" were challenging, of course. Quatro and her son both had home studios to work in, then moved to a studio in London where the musicians could set up on opposite ends of the room, with plexiglass around them, and come in at different times. "Everything was masked and distanced," Quatro recalls. "And then we found another studio near my house that was also distanced, so everyone came and sang and did their bit, and it was all very safe."

She's been buoyed so far by positive advance reviews for the album, and she's hoping her hometown in particular will gravitate to "Motor City Riders."

"If that doesn't become an anthem in Detroit, then I'm not Suzi Quatro!" she declares. "I wanted to tell the story of what it was like growing up in that city, and I worked very hard on the lyrics because I didn't want to waste a word. It tells my story of Detroit."

With "The Devil in Me" out, Quatro who also goes back and forth to Hamburg with her husband, concert promoter Rainer Haas is anxious to get back onstage. A number of planned spring concerts in Europe have been postponed, but other dates, starting in mid-May, are on at the moment. In the meantime, she and her son are taking a page from their pandemic experience and have started working on her next album already.

"We've got six songs done already," Quatro says. "I can't stop writing. I'm so inspired by everything now. I think 'No Control' started it, and this one cemented it. Everyone's loving it I mean loving it. So the benchmark is way up there now, and that just makes me want to push even harder than ever and I've always pushed pretty hard."

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