Suzi Quatro is for some a rock and roll icon. She was one of the first women in rock to play bass and be the front person. Before Deborah Harry or Joan Jett (both of whom we hear from), there was Suzi. But at least in North America, her fame is a bit tempered. Suzi Q, a new documentary from Australian director Liam Firmager, follows her career from growing up in Detroit to continuing to record and tour today as she enters her 70s.
She came from a pleasant suburban home in Grosse Point, Michigan. She and her siblings were all encouraged musically and given a good amount of freedom to do the things they liked. In the aftermath of the Beatles, her sisters and friends noted the lack of female bands. With an older sister and friends, she became part of The Pleasure Seekers. Even as a teen, Suzi was on the road with the music she loved.
When an English producer chose to sign Suzi, but not the others, her life changed. She was off to England alone to establish herself in the music industry, but it was not without resentment from her family.
One of the interesting things we note as we see Quatro’s career expand is that while she was a great success in Europe and Australia, her music failed to gain traction in the US. Even when she would come home and tour as an opener for Alice Cooper (another of the interviewees), she wasn’t able to find the key to radio play that is so important for US musical success. She is perhaps better known in North America for her TV role of Leather Tuscadero on Happy Days.
The film effectively chronicles Quatro’s career, focusing mostly on the music. It brings in comments from a number of her contemporaries in the business to make clear that she was a talent that deserves recognition. Quatro eventually branched out into other areas, including musical theater and her own television show, but those parts of her career are only touched on briefly. I’d have been interested in a bit more time on those, and how she dealt with the successes and failures she encountered there.
The films also gives us enough of her own reflection on her music and her life to add a bit of depth. The most notable examples of this deal with her relationship with her family. There were clearly resentments on both sides. Those feelings may have softened through the years, but at times we can still hear the echoes of past pains.
Suzi Q is available on Virtual Cinema, DVD and VOD.
Photos courtesy of Sicily Publicity