Directed by Liam Firmager, Suzi Q opens with recent live footage of Suzi Quatro (you can only really tell by her hairdo since she absolutely rocks those trademark black leather catsuits), making her way to the stage to perform in front of an endless sea of devoted fans. Now aged 69, Quatro is an absolute powerhouse and the rampant sexism she had to deal with on her way up back in the early ’70s makes us shudder.
In one scene, Quatro is welcomed on set during a chat show but, before she is permitted to sit down, the host instructs her to turn around and display her “Rear Of The Year”. After she indulges the host, he slaps her firmly on said rear. (Audience members tut loudly during our screening.)
Shot across three continents over four years, and also featuring archival footage that must have made the filmmakers rub their hands together with glee, Suzi Q is broken up by scenes featuring Quatro writing pieces for her first collection of poetry, Through My Eyes, as well as candid interviews with icons such as Alice Cooper, Deborah Harry, Cherie Currie, Lita Ford, Henry Winkler and the trailblazing rocker herself.
Archival footage of The Pleasure Seekers, Quatro’s first band and one of the first-ever all-girl groups – the first line-up comprising two pairs of sisters, Suzi and Patti Quatro, and Nancy and Mary Lou Ball plus Diane Baker – serves as proof that Suzi was born with it. During her time on the road with The Pleasure Seekers, from the age of 14, Quatro says, “I developed a smart mouth, which kept the assholes away”. Through an interview with her sister Patti, we learn that no one would sign Cradle (which The Pleasure Seekers morphed into, developing a heavier sound after a few line-up changes and the addition of baby sister Nancy Quatro as vocalist/percussionist) because “they were worried we would get pregnant or fall in love”.
After Mickie Most went to see Cradle, he only wanted to sign Suzi and this caused a huge strain on familial relations that seemingly continues to this day. Suzi tells of a cassette tape her Dad sent after she moved to London. When she pressed play, it was an audio recording of her family sitting around the table one Thanksgiving. In one section, Mr. Quatro prompted a discussion about his daughter’s bass playing ability, which they uniformly dismissed as sloppy. Who does that!?
Masterful editing splices together footage of different speakers talking about the same event, to the point where (for example) Patti opines, “Suzi will say this, but…” and vice versa – their versions of events are often worlds apart. We learn how much that black leather catsuit crystallised Quatro’s persona, but she always had an abundance of ‘tude and definitely wasn’t “manufactured” (as many UK tabloids claimed at one point). “Ok, maybe I was a pinup, but the pinup was Suzi Quatro,” she clarifies toward the end of this film. When Suzi had her first child, we learn she got as much media coverage in the UK as Lady Di.
There’s some awesome footage of Quatro and band performing unison dance moves during their Top Of The Pops performance of Devil Gate Drive – even keyboardist Alistair McKenzie comes around from behind his console to join in at one point (although a few more rehearsals would have done him good)!
Quatro inspired girls the world over to pick up instruments. After Chris Franz (Talking Heads) showed a picture of Suzi to Tina Weymouth – who played folk guitar, flute and English handbells (!) at the time – guess what happened? Bingo! Weymouth picked up bass and slayed in Talking Heads.
Australia has always been one of Quatro’s biggest territories and some live footage from a 1974 concert at Melbourne’s Festival Hall does us proud.
Quatro’s Happy Days era (she played Leather Tuscadero, was offered a spinoff but turned it down), her musical theatre career (during which her Dad finally admitted he was proud of his daughter after many years) and the fact that commercial success somehow eluded Suzi in her homeland – where she paved the way for her biggest fan, Joan Jett to rule the charts – are all covered in detail.
Suzi Q left Detroit with a dream in her pocket and rock ‘n’ roll in her veins, refusing to ever be “boxed in”.
“All my life I wanted to be somebody – and here I am!
I know what I’ve got and there ain’t nobody gonna take it away from me!” – The Wild One (Suzi Quatro)
You’ll leave the cinema feeling as if absolutely anything is possible.
In cinemas: November 21, 2019
Starring: Suzi Quatro, Cherie Currie, Alice Cooper
Directed by: Liam Firmager