SUZI Q. Australia, 2019. Directed by Liam Firmager. 98 minutes. Rated M (Coarse Language)
Suzi Q is Suzi Quatro. Well, that was unnecessary. Who else should she be?
This is a journey back into the history of the Rock ‘n’ roll Hall of Fame. Actually, this is only partially true – Suzi Q’s journey is ongoing, interviews in 2019 and the scenes of her last concert which, in fact, was in early 2019. Hers is definitely an ongoing story. And, interestingly, this is an Australian-made documentary.
Back we go to the city of Detroit in the 1960s, Suzi is one of four sisters, plus a brother, Catholics in the city of car manufacture. Even then, she was more than a lively presence. She didn’t continue at school, but led a band, with her sisters, The Pleasure Seekers, and made their mark. And, this documentary has quite a number of testimonies to Suzi and her abilities, her leadership and success – Joan Jett, Debbie Harry, Alice Cooper, Henry Winkler and many, many others.
It would seem a pity to reach one’s peak before the age of 20 but that was a danger for Suzi. However, out she went, going solo, attracting a great deal of attention – especially, as many note, the large electric guitar that she was given, almost as big as herself. There is frequent comment throughout the film that she was a pioneer, a female rock ‘n’ roll star before others, offering strong leadership to succeeding singers.
The film takes an interesting linear perspective on her life and career, getting her established in the US in the early 1970s, the various musicians that she was associated with. But, it was a visit to London, feeling quite lonely there as she explains, that she collaborated with a range of song writers and managers.
It should be noted that Suzi Quatro herself is a very genial interviewee, especially in more recent years, lots of observations, lots of commonsense, lots of appreciation for the past – but, while her sisters are interviewed and sing with her in those early days of The Pleasure Seekers, she feels that she was cut off from them in many ways, that they, and the rest of the family, could not talk any words of loving bonding, words of appreciation for her life, her talent and her skills. They can do this about her, but not to her. Yet, towards the end, there she is on stage singing and playing with them.
She was quite a hit in the 70s and there are scenes of her many tours, including her first visit to Australia. She toured the US but did not achieve the popularity there that she might have imagined. Throughout the film, there are excerpts from many of her songs and statistics coming up on screen indicating where the particular song landed on various national charts.
One of her main experiences of these years was several seasons on Happy Days – and a great variety of comments but, principally, affirmation from Henry Winkler. She found that she could act and enjoyed performing – but, ultimately, felt that it was taking her away from her concerts and tours.
In the 90s, she had a new venture, on stage in England, as Annie Oakley, to very good reviews, in Annie Get Your Gun and playing in several pantomimes. She also co-wrote and performed in a musical about the 1930s and 40s American actress, Tallulah Bankhead.
No lack of variety in opportunities in her life. And, there was a marriage, two children. While it didn’t last, she is very proud of her children with one of them, Richard, pressuring her so that he could write a song for her.
So, a re-visit for the fans – and some opening up of Suzi Q’s life and career for those who are on the periphery of rock ‘n’ roll or perhaps for many who have not even reached the periphery.
Label distribution Released 21st November
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
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