The Definitive, Unexpurgated Story of Suzi Quatro
Barely standing over five feet, Suzi Quatro is a truly formidable rock and roll presence. Wielding the bass guitar like a machine gun while strutting across the stage in her iconic leather jumpsuit, she commanded the 70s rock scene like few others. Without her, we may not have seen the likes of Joan Jett (who initially modelled herself almost exactly like Quatro!), Chrissie Hynde or Stevie Nicks at all.
While following the standard template one would expect from a classic rock documentary, Suzi Q is an enjoyable look at one of rock and roll’s most unlikely legends. Complimented by a murderer’s row of rock pioneers, including L7, Joan Jett, Alice Cooper, and Blondie, all waxing lyrical about her work, classic archival footage, and a whole host of hard-rocking tunes, it sheds light on her invaluable contribution to 70s hard rock, glam rock and women’s contribution to the scene.
The first woman to come out of the Detroit hard rock scene, and a trailblazer for women punks across the world, Suzi Quatro’s hard rock legacy is often undervalued in comparison to The Stooges, Mc5 and Kiss. But when it came to telling women that it was possible to pick up a guitar and be a success without having to be necessarily feminine or sexualized, Suzi Quatro was a true feminist pioneer (although she would never characterize herself like that).
Raised as a strict Catholic, she was not your usual drugs, sex, and rock and roll icon. Sticking strictly to beers, cigarettes, and monogamy over hard cocaine-and-orgy parties, Suzi Q demonstrates the ways one can be a rocker on stage while remaining relatively conventional off-stage. In fact, the strange turns and twists of her career — including poetry writing, novels, musicals, and a recurring role on Happy Days — show that there is no right or wrong way to be a musician. In this respect, her greatest legacy might be that of staying true to yourself no matter what is expected of you.
Nonetheless, Suzi Q could have gone far deeper into her fascinating contradictions, the awkward, still-lingering tension with her family — who she had to leave in order to achieve solo success —and the fact that she was not the only one to break barriers for white women in music (Carole King, Janis Joplin, and Patti Smith are weirdly ignored here). Australian director Liam Firmager is evidently so enamored with his subject — stressed by endless compliments by her contemporaries — that he feels no need to interrogate any of these things.
That’s understandable though. Listening to the music itself, from the propulsive swing of “Can the Can” to the easy balladry of “If You Can’t Give me Love”, Suzi Quatro’s wholesome music instantly evokes the joys of youth, partying, and summer road trips. Fans will not be disappointed, and the curious are sure to learn a thing or two about the fascinating path of women’s rock in the 70s. If you’re watching at home, put the surround sound on.
- Redmond Bacon