“I’M a strange gypsy,” Suzi Quatro tells me by phone from Spain as she reflects on her mixed origins.
You know Suzi Q – one of the rock world’s hard-rock tomboys and one of the first female rock stars to make it to centre seriously on her own talents. And what titles for her early hits – “Devil Gate Drive”, “Little Bitch Blue”, “Your Mamma Won’t like Me” and “Shake My Sugar”. They don’t make ‘em like that any more.“I come from Detroit, it’ll always be my home town,” she says, “but then, England is where I raised my children and I travel so much I leave little pieces of me behind wherever I go.”
As well, she’s an American citizen, but her lineage is half Italian and half Hungarian.
This is Quatro’s 50th year on stage, and she’s determined to go out rocking with a blockbuster final tour.”
Hers is a multi-faceted career that began in 1964 performing in her sister’s band The Pleasure Seekers before heading to England in 1971 for a huge UK reputation.
Quatro adamantly denies that she was just a natural.
“No, no, you’ve got to learn the craft… I had a nine-year apprenticeship before 1971, but in those reality shows on TV, people seem to come from nowhere,” she says.
Raised in a musical family, she played the bongo drums, classical piano (“I still play now, I love classical music”) and percussion in the school band, until her older sister told her she’d better play the bass and her dad gave her “the best long-necked bass ever”.
“That was when I discovered my instrument – it was absolutely correct,” she tells me, “I was always a little tomboy, a bit of a rocker with a high level of energy.”
Nothing has changed.
“I am blessed with a lot of energy… I was the most energetic of the kids in my family and the family doctor said: ‘Don’t ever give her vitamins’,” she says.
“My children find it hard to keep up with me and my husband says I’m exhausting.”
Readers may not be aware of Quatro’s considerable acting career on TV and in film, in series such as “Happy Days”, “Minder”, “Ab Fab” and “Midsomer Murders”. She’s even played Annie Oakley on the West End.
“I’m a jack-of-all-trades girl,” she says, “and I call myself a real artist… I like acting, hosting TV and radio shows and writing poetry.”
Quatro has had a long association with Australia, describing it as “a very big part of my heart,” so wanted to do the first concerts in her last tour ever in this country.
She laughs when I tell her how Dame Edna Everage asked audiences to return for her next “last ever” tour, and says that won’t be the case with her.
But since it’s her final show, she’s been “toiling” over a commemorative four-CD box in the hope that it will be very special for the audience, “with lots of hits and other nice things… I want to leave my mark – oh, I can hardly say it, I hope there won’t be a dry eye in the house, including mine”.
Suzi Quatro, at the Canberra Theatre, 8pm, February 12. “VIP Meet and Greet” available to 40 only. Bookings to canberratheatrecentre.com.au or 6275 2700.