Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Power of the Q! Interview with Patti Quatro by James Nuttall ©

What comes to your mind when you hear the word 'Quatro'? The drink? The car? Or maybe the group of sisters who were some of the trailblazers for women in rock and roll... introducing Patti Quatro.

Patti has had an extraordinary career from sharing the bill with the likes of Chuck Berry, Bob Seger and Pink Floyd, to being a member of the iconic '70s band Fanny. Not to mention being the older sister to the queen of rock, Suzi Quatro, who has sold over 50 million records in her solo career. 

Patti and youngest Quatro sister, Nancy, have recently released two mind blowing CD's: the first of the Quatro sisters's second band, Cradle's electrifying performance on New Years Eve, 1970 opening for the MC5; the second being their original band, The Pleasure Seeker's back catalogue of recorded songs. 

Patti recently consented to an online interview with me via Facebook... and what an interview it turned out to be...

James: What was the first record you ever bought? 
Patti Q: That is realllllllly stretching my memory. It would have to have been one of the groups from Motown, which was kickin' ass in Detroit at that time, as I was just a VERY young teen, going to dance halls to dance, (I was) not in (any) bands yet.

JAMES: What was the first band you saw in concert?
PATTI Q: Peter Paul and Mary (folk era), and right after I moved into rock from influence of the home town musicians we were hanging with.

JAMES: Who first inspired you to become a musician?
PATTI Q: Actually my hometown musician friends....bands were springing up and I went to a concert and watched everyone crying, going crazy around me and I had my moment there and went home, called my girlfriends, and we started a three piece with no direction whatsoever (all of us taking lessons). A couple months later we brought in Suzi and our drummer's sister to round it out and formally started.

JAMES: What was it like being in a band with your sisters?
PATTI Q: Was there a lot of competition? I do not recall any bad infighting in our bands. Us sisters all got along musically very very well. Any fighting was usually about me as leader, trying to rein in Suzi and Arlene (who held up a plane a couple times saying goodbye to boyfriends and got me ballistic). They loved pulling my chain because I was so serious about the bands and business. It kept things interesting. But we got along wonderfully musically, and (we were) never competitive. We all had our roles and things flowed nicely.

Patti (second right) with her first band, The Pleasure Seekers, with sisters Suzi (center) and Arlene (far left)
JAMES: You opened for several big names, and played everywhere in America there is to play; does one particular gig stand out?
PATTI Q: Yes, for me playing with Mountain was just spectacular. They had this wall of sound that just hit you in the gut. Loved them. There were scads of cool gigs and festivals with great talent of era, those were always a blast to do. And (the) New Years Eve gig where we recorded live our Cradle album was a great gig with the MC5. 

JAMES: You were in two bands with your sisters, did you prefer one band to the other, as Cradle was a lot heavier than the Pleasure Seekers?
PATTI Q: Pleasure Seekers was that first swell of excitement doing something you love, and so young...first road experiences...we always had a blast. Starting at 14 and 16 with a record out was just mind blowing to us young girls.
When you evolve to a new sound (Cradle), it is hard, very hard to pick a favorite, because you love both for different reasons.
PS (Pleasure Seekers) was a show band with a light show, we did covers of everything from Motown to the heavy stuff to acid rock to English bands. We performed an entire Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery set, along with also originals we started writing.
We went with the changing times, evolving into the very heavy Cradle in 1969 when that kind of music hit. I loved PS for the showmanship and variety of what we did, changing instruments, etc....full costuming....Nancy was left behind till the last year, and so badly wanted to be in it, and finally was. If PS was my heart then Cradle was my soul. Cradle was the type of music I really prefer (along with Nancy). It was terribly experimental, musically, very satisfying to play with intricate harmonies, even 7th harmonies, relevant lyrics, time changes, and raw gritty heavy musical moods as well as just good rock. 

Cradle was more where I live musically. Also it was the group where I started to explode on lead guitar. I had played rhythm and lead both in PS (sharing with Pami Benford). Cradle was musically far more advanced and that was a real turn on for me... absolutely loved it. it was like breathing oxygen in a renaissance era. The creativity in Detroit was like an explosion with all the urban home bands coming together and jamming, playing gigs, hanging...the energy was sublime; the music raw and gritty; and the new sound of Detroit Rock City infused in all of us. Think Seger, Iggy, MC5, Alice, GFF, so many!!!

JAMES: How did you end up joining Fanny?
PATTI Q: I was playing (with) my MQ Jam Band, and we did a gig together.
Then not too much later, they called me to have a jam in New York I believe, as June was having a bit of a nervous breakdown and wanted to leave. They had tried for four albums to break through and still the gender prejudice was prevalent in the musical community. Jean and Nickey expressed wanting to rock much harder, leaving their more folk oriented tunes behind (which was part of June's influence). I think they felt some of (the) funky Detroit Rock City energy was needed. It went well, and the rest is history. The first gig was on New Years Eve at Whiskey at end of 1973. My brother was quite upset at me leaving, and frankly, I had so enjoyed doing classical rock as a stretch, and he was amazing on keys with a wall of sound. It was a very tough decision for me, wrenching me from my brother but toward my dream of breaking an all girl band finally.

JAMES: Do you have a particular favourite Fanny album?
PATTI Q: Actually I like the first couple....liked the young rawness of it and they were well produced by Richard Perry. I actually hated the last one by Todd Rundgren. Just left me cold, don't know why. (I) didn't care for the tune selection or anything. These were all before I joined. I also loved the one we did, Rock and Roll Survivors, because it took them in a different direction and the remaining members expressed such a high desire to do that. 

JAMES: What would be the highlight of your career?
PATTI Q: Wow that is tough too, as there are high moments you remember...
*Pleasure Seekers: Getting the first single out at such a young age was major
*Being held over 6 weeks to tour with The Animals 
in 1978. 
*Cradle: Jamming with Page and Plant backstage on their U.S. tour to Stairway to Heaven; same with Jeff Beck and jamming with him in Toronto.
There were many high moments as our home was a jam place for groups in town. Invariably we were lucky to jam with many top musicians of the era, both at our home and on the road; that was gold to me as we moved into such a heavy direction musically. It was for me a serious highlight to be able to trade licks and ideas with such a stellar group of top musicians of that classic rock era.
*Whenever your record gets on charts, that is always a high moment also. 
*For women in that era, it was a real highlight to get signed by the gender prejudiced executives...
*Trivia inserted here: many do not know this but Jerry Nolan, drummer of New York Dolls was (the) only male to play with the sister bands at the very end.
*Fanny: Having two of the highest charted Fanny singles while I played with them in 1974. I've Had It  and Butter Boy (banned in Boston as (it was) too racy for radio, and a tune written about David Bowie, whom we were close with and Jean was seeing.)
*Also doing the ELO album (studio vocals) and Keith Moon's final album....great fun. 
And as an odd footnote, I have to add that a huge highlight of my career was when Suzi hit the cover of Rolling Stone. For us sisters we had kicked down doors our whole careers in PS and Cradle.....that was carrying on the flame of kicking down the FINAL door for women who had a rough journey in a man's musical world. As I was touring and playing when that happened, it was an enormously proud moment for our family and all that came before to feed into that kind of success for Suzi. Loved it.

(The) last highlight was playing in a huge female orchestra for Frances Gall, and doing a live album and tour in Europe... very thrilling to play with the top female musicians of that time from every corner of world. Very very cool.

Patti and Suzi Quatro, 1974
JAMES: Your sister Suzi went on to have an extremely successful career. You also featured on her 1975 album, Your Mamma Won't Like Me. Which of her songs/albums would be your favourite?
PATTI Q: I love the hits of course, but my soul is more into for instance the funky Your Mama Won't Like Me (I sang on that one), and by far and away, my favorite albums are her last current two (In the Spotlight and Back to the Drive). I love: Strict Machine, Breaking Dishes, Rosie Rose, Rockin in the Free World, and Back to the Drive. 

JAMES: Who is the most influential person you've met in the music business? 
PATTI Q: John Lennon, who was at Fanny's Whiskey Debut in 1974. Jeff Beck, Page, Plant, Hendrix (who my brother brought in to Detroit as the first big rock concert promoter in Hendrix's beginning days), Roger Daltry and the Who, really a list of who's who from (the) classic rock era. It was a smaller community and everyone wanted a girl band (it was unusual), so out of the box we were touring the country and invariably met, played and jammed with the top names of the era. The list is quite endless really; different cities, different acts on bills.

JAMES: How did the release of the new Cradle: The History, and The Pleasure Seekers CD's come about? 
PATTI Q: We have been asked for years to document the family history of the earliest of the rockin' female musician groups. When I moved to a new home I came upon a box of two track reel to reels, amazingly that had survived time. Jim Frye, our amazing engineer, worked hard to preserve the raw grit live sound of the era, removing only ambient noise as (best as) he could. We were lucky enough to have much of our material represented on the tapes, and extremely excited to have that classic rock era we lived and played in finally documented and available.
The two albums are available at major outlets, as well as our distributor CD Baby. 
Footnote: Cradle, released in 2010, has been consistently on their "top albums", "top 70's", "top songs", and "editor's pick" and still is.
Pleasure Seekers has had the same good fortune since it's release last May. 
We owe a heartfelt thanks to the fans and friends who enjoyed who and what we did, playing and pioneering in those early days. Many tell us it is amazing this music is finally documented for historical context of female musicians/bands. It's been quite a ride, and a very fulfilling past two years on these projects.

JAMES: Given the opportunity would you like to ever work with Fanny or your sisters again?
PATTI Q: There is talk afoot of PS doing a reunion gig....can't say more because it is not setup yet. We sisters love getting together when we can and it is appropriate to perform. Nancy and I toured Germany with Suzi back a few years, having a blast singing backup for her. Also performed at her 60'th birthday in rocking' Detroit. I love performing with my sisters and would do so in a heartbeat.
Fanny also would be a blast to play again with. Who knows what will happen in future.
I would kill to have all these amazing women who helped forge history for females to rock... have a huge event and all play and jam together. THAT would be some damn gig.

'Nuf said.

Many thanks to Patti for giving such an in-depth interview.

The Pleasure Seekers and Cradle albums can be purchased at:

Follow Patti and the Quatro sisters at: 

Patti's sister Suzi can be followed at: 
The Cradle CD (From left to right: Suzi, Nancy, Patti and Nancy Rogers)

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