Suzi Quatro is not a household name. She has lived in the shadows of so many female rockers that she inspired. Joan Jett even tells a story about how many fans come up to her and mention her role on Happy Days. That was Quatro and like Jett says, more people should know about her. Thankfully, the new documentary Suzi Q gives a direct and entertaining portrait of this trailblazing rock star.
Suzi Q is structured much like an episode of Behind The Music. We get the standard interview looking back from the early days to the present. Suzi Q makes a case that this format is ideal for introducing audiences to an important but relatively unknown legend. Suzi's look is part Elvis and part Barbarella. Dressed in head to toe black leather, she stood out when she made her first television appearance on Top of the Pops. However, it took years to get to that. Suzi started in a family band, The Pleasure Seekers. Their 60s sound fell out of fashion when bands like MC5 came along with their gritty Detroit sound. The band disbanded and Suzi jumped into another band playing bass but was left unsatisfied. She soon went out on her own.
This helps to understand why she was so fully formed as an artist on that Top of the Pops appearance. Playing "Can the Can" she rocks out harder than most of her contemporaries and the moment inspired many. We hear from Joan Jett, Kathy Valentine of the Go Go's, Lita Ford of The Runaways, Debbie Harry and Donita Sparks of L7. All of them talk about how Suzi inspired them by rocking out as hard as any dude and looking stylish as hell while doing it.
Suzi and her band would soon go on tour opening for Alice Cooper. Cooper calls Suzi an innovator and clearly was impressed by her. She sees a string of hits internationally but never quite broke it big in America. However, her influence inspired so many.
One of the most interesting strands in Suzi Q is how it traces people's responses to her. She was unclassifiable with her sound and look. In Australia, she was championed but in Britain, she was often harassed or called out for being a male fantasy. The interviews with Suzi reveal the amount of sexism she faced. The film shows one clip of a talk show host spanking her on the butt without care.
Where the documentary falls short is exploring more about what kept her from becoming well-known. People may not have been ready for her but it would have been fascinating to trace that more here. Her family life is very complicated and only lightly explored as well. However, what Suzi Q makes clear is her influence and importance for female rock stars. She was a pioneer and hopefully, this documentary will get her more attention.