Story of trailblazing American rock singer-songwriter Suzi Quatro, who helped redefine the role of women in rock ‘n’ roll when she broke out in 1973.
Cast: Suzi Quatro, Cherie Currie, KT Tunstall, Alice Cooper, Joan Jett, Debbie Harry, Henry Winkler
Directors: Liam Firmager
Suzi Quatro has always been an anomaly to me. I’ve heard her music growing up a lot, I’ve met plenty of people who are massive fans, in fact, one of my managers years ago was obsessed with Suzi Q as if she was The Beatles I missed out on. The odd thing to me was that she didn’t actually seem that popular; I never heard any mass media talk about her in any big way and it honestly seemed like to Americans she didn’t exist. She certainly didn’t pop up on any big rock ‘n’ roll fame shows I’d seen produced out of Hollywood. The bluntly titled Suzi Q documentary from Australian filmmaker Liam Firmager confirms many of my preconceived notions of Suzi while unravelling an icon I knew little about.
Although born in America, Suzi Quatro didn’t make her stamp until she moved from her hometown of Detroit to England where she eventually makes a name for herself as this kick-ass leather-wearing bass player, singer/songwriter. This film makes it clear several times that her success was big in the UK and other European locations; massive in Australia — which explains why I knew of her from a young age — but she never broke the American market. Time and time again as successful singles released the film will flash the billboard charts on screen for each location and as songs like ‘Can the Can’, ‘Devil Gate Drive’, and ‘48 Crash’ charted in the top 10 in UK, Europe and AUS, she’d barely scratch the bottom of the top 200 in the U.S. This is an important fact for the story of Susan Quatro as her lack of U.S breakthrough has a huge impact on where her career took her as an artist.
Suzi’s rise to musical success in the mid-’70s isn’t quite as visually bombastic as you’d expect from a rockstar in the ’70s, especially when compared to those that were chart-topping in the UK at the time alongside her. Alice Cooper notes in the film that Suzi was never seen doing any drugs or hard-drinking, “she’d just grab her beer” he notes. Suzi herself in the film explains that she was never into that rockstar lifestyle, that it never attracted her at all.
The story I found most interesting in Suzi’s life is semi-glossed over in the film and that lies with her family, particularly her sisters and father.
Patti Quatro, Suzi’s older sister got the idea to start an all-female band in the ’60s after seeing The Beatles – a real “if they can, we can” attitude. Suzi joined the group called the Pleasure Seekers that eventually added another Quatro sister, Arlene. They enjoyed decent success in the Detroit music scene at the time, but eventually, Suzi was spotted by record producer Mickie Most and was persuaded to move to England to start work on a solo career. It was a move that caused a split in the Quatro family that hadn’t existed before.
It was more than a simple family squabble over Suzi moving away from home, or leaving the Pleasure Seekers group though – it was a family abandonment on a higher level that Suzi’s father took personally and in sickening ways. He sent his own daughter a tape of his family being prodded to talk negatively on Suzi’s musical abilities and it’s with this reveal early in the film you begin to wonder what would drive a father to do that? What could make a man send his own family such an evil thing? However, this storyline isn’t digressed on for long and although Suzi’s relationship with her sisters and father are brought up again briefly as the film progress to explain where it stood at certain points in her career, it’s hard not to see there’s something deeper here that wasn’t explored.