Review: SUZI Q Rocks and Rolls the Male Establishment
Directed by Liam Firmager, the documentary charts the trail-blazing career of influential rock 'n' roll singer, songwriter and musician Suzi Quatro.
Diminutive in physical size, her sterling reputation among fellow musicians stands tall.
The film will be released on VOD and DVD on July 3, 2020, via Utopia Distribution.
Her name stirs memories across the decades, especially for those of us who came of age in the 1970s.
Directed by Australian filmmaker Liam Firmager, the documentary Suzi Q charts the long rise of Suzi Quatro to musical stardom, at least outside the borders of her native land.
Born in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., Suzi Quatro was raised along with her three sisters in a loving family by her strict mother and her musically-inclined father. Thus, it was no surprise that she took to music like a duck to water, joining her sisters in a rock band when she was just 14.
As the young women endeavored to develop their careers in the mid-1960s, they faced numerous obstacles. Their conservative appearance sometimes undercut the edgier music they favored, and because they did not fit into industry or audience expectations for a 'girl group' of the time, they kept facing an uphill battle to gain recognition.
Finally, Suzi Quatro seized an opportunity to go solo in 1971, but that meant she needed to leave the band, her sisters, her parents, and the U.S., behind in search of the musical stardom she felt compelled to achieve by moving to London, England. Eventually, she gained the stardom she wanted, even though, as she concedes in a new interview for the film, she definitely paid a big personal price to get it.
While Suzi Quatro broke through in a big way in Europe, Australia, and other territories, she did not make a big dent in the U.S, for reasons that are analyzed by a number of contemporary musicians interviewed for the film, including Deborah Harry, Alice Cooper, Joan Jett, Cherie Currie, Kathy Valentine, Tina Weymouth, Chris Franz, and KT Tunstall. There's no doubt that rampant sexism in the music industry and the culture played a large role, which reminds me of the challenges documented in the film Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, which I reviewed for another site last year.
She may not have become wildly popular among mainstream audiences in the U.S., but her leather-clad fashion, confident stage presence, and uncompromising musical integrity influenced a large number of female artists, who saw for the first time that a woman could be a rock star, too, without having to rely upon a provocative image to sell herself. Because Suzi Quatro played bass guitar, she also showed that women could aspire to become musicians as well as vocal artists.
Featuring a wealth of interviews with family members, musical collaborators, creative associates, and fellow musicians, Suzi Q starts very strong and keeps up a welcome momentum as Quatro begins to explore other types of creative endeavors, including acting (TV's Happy Days, followed by many more), performing in stage musicals, and writing prose and poetry, in addition to motherhood and her musical projects.
Admittedly, the film begins to lose steam at that point; it almost feels like that segment either needs to be expanded or reduced, in order for its rhythms to fit better with the more tightly-paced initial 60 minutes or so. Even so, Suzi Quatro's forthcoming personality wears very easily as she talks frankly about herself, her family, and her career.
On a personal note, though I was aware of Suzi Quatro during the mid-1970s, I'm sorry to say that the only song that strikes my own memory chords is "Stumblin' In," her 1979 pop-rock duet with Chris Norman, which became her top-charting song in the U.S. This film gives me ample reason to remedy my ignorance of her hard-rock songs, post-haste.
Utopia Distribution will host a Suzi Q virtual event on July 1, featuring the film and an exclusive Q&A featuring Suzi Quatro and Special Guests TBA (available for 24 hours only) in advance of the film's traditional release on VOD and DVD on July 3, 2020. To buy your ticket for the event on July 1, powered by Altavod, visit the official site.