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Suzi Quatro documentary is "everything" the Grosse Pointe rock icon wanted
Suzi Quatro says that "Suzi Q," the new documentary about her career as a musician, actress and writer, is "everything I wanted it to be."
And "everything" is the operative term for the comprehensive film history, which is rolling out this week with an online premiere on Wednesday, July 1, before a wider opening Friday, July 3.
The Grosse Pointe Woods native certainly has a big story to tell. She was part of the burgeoning Detroit rock scene as a teenager during the 60s in bands such as the Pleasure Seekers and Cradle with her sisters and became a pioneering beacon for women in rock after moving to England in 1971. As an actress she logged three seasons as Leather Tuscadero on TV's "Happy Days" turning down a spin-off in order to keep rocking and she's also appeared on British TV and on stage in "Annie Get Your Gun" and "Tallulah Who?"
Quatro, 70, has also hosted radio programs for the BBC and wrote a memoir ("Unzipped"), a poetry book, "Through My Eyes" and an upcoming illustrated lyric book.
"Suzie Q" is a movie that peels back the leather for a full and frank look at its subject.
"I wanted it to be real, and it sure is," Quatro says by phone from her home in England. "I wanted the good and the bad. I wanted to set the record straight. And we did. It's humbling ... but it's exciting."
Here are some of the things we learn about Quatro from "Suzie Q" and from chatting with her about the project.
Full Exposure: "There's maybe nothing I didn't know, but ("Suzi Q') cemented some things. I saw that I'm very, very determined. Everybody's always told me that and I never quite noticed it, but boy, am I determined. (laughs) And I'm tough because I walked through the fire and I survived. But I'm very soft, too. I'm not afraid to hurt. So I'm a real dichotomy of things. I hope people will think they know me. I'd like to be understood."
Family Affair: Quatro notes that "Suzie Q" establishes that "family is extremely important to me and I will always, always, always need approval. I'll probably take that to my grave." The film particularly delves into the acrimony caused by Quatro's decision to go solo particularly with her father, Art, a professional musician and General Motors worker, who gave Quatro her first bass guitar when she was 14. It includes portions of a tape recording the family sent her from a Thanksgiving dinner she missed, in which her sisters were bitterly dismissive.
"That's a cringe moment, for sure," she says. "It's hard to even listen to it now, even though I've had it for all these years. And it's hard to watch on the screen and go through that emotion again. The family issues are always difficult because they hurt, and that's something I will never, ever, ever be strong enough to get past. Being an artist makes you sensitive and vulnerable, and I don't want to lose that, because it would mean I'm not the artist I am anymore."
No place like home: In "Suzie Q," Quatro and some of her sisters return to their childhood home, and Quatro voices some regret about leaving when she did. "That makes me cry every time I watch it. I've always been sort of connected to my first home I grew up in to a ridiculous degree, actually. I wanted to buy it back when it came up for sale. There's something about me that loved that existence. I would have stayed there the rest of my life. I loved that house. I loved that neighborhood. When I left so early and went away from all that, I missed a big chunk of that life. So as much as I Loved what I did and my choices, and I had no choice but to do what I did. That doesn't mean you don't miss what you left. There's a part of me that missed that innocence, and I wish I could go back and be there again. But, of course, you can't."
Rock City: "I was only 14 when we started, and you had these groups like the MC5 and Mitch Ryder and Bob Seger and Sky. Alice (Cooper) was more my age, and you had all the Motown that we just loved. I remember doing a gig with Bob Seger in Saginaw. We were headlining and he came out with an acoustic (guitar) and a piano and was on stage doing his own stuff like that, and I went, 'Whoa! What's this?!' And he was good!"
Hear me roar: As far as being an all-female band in a male-dominated world, Quatro says that, "I was never bothered at all. I just wanted to be in a band; I didn't give a s--- if it was an all-girl band. That was never my focus. I don't do gender never have. To this day, I don't think of myself as a female musician. I am a musician."
You really like me!: Quatro says the assorted testimonials in the film from Alice Cooper, Joan Jett, Debbie Harry, "Happy Days" co-star Henry Winkler and members of the Go-Go's, Talking Heads, Runaways, L7 and more were "humbling." "When people say nice things it makes you cry because it's just beyond ... You go, 'Omigod, they think THAT?!' I didn't know how much I meant to everybody. That surprised me. I knew I was the first one and a lot of women came after and they've thanked me for it, but I didnt know how these girls held me in their hearts. I somehow, without meaning to, gave them permission to be who they are."
Old time rock n roll: Quatro remains fond of her first hits, including British chart-toppers such as "Can the Can" and "Devil Gate Drive" and the Top 5 "48 Crash." "I'm really pleased with all of them. I've been doing my 'Suzi Quatro Bass Lines' on social media during the lockdown and had to address a lot of the old stuff, and I was surprised how good they were. That was a great band. It was innovative, full of energy, full of interesting songs. I'm very proud of that stuff."
But wait, there's more: In the wake of "Suzie Q" and the positive response it's received internationally, Quatro is working on a follow-up biopic. "People approached me and said, 'We'd like to do a movie' and I said, 'Great!' Now we're just finishing up the script. I've got people in mind to play the lead. I don't want to say anything yet, but the money's in place and the movie will be made, and it's on my bucket list."
No idle hands: While the COVID-19 pandemic has scuttled in-theater plans for "Suzie Q," Quatro has stayed busy and has even written a new album with her son, Richard Tuckey, who also collaborated with her on 2019's "No Control." "'No Control' has gotten such superb, rave, rave, rave reviews, and of course all my gigs are postponed or canceled, and my son would've been on the road. So I said, 'Let's write the next album' and we wrote 14 songs and demoed them during this lockdown." Quatro also has put together an illustrated book of her song lyrics that will be published later this year and has been doing a number of social media projects, including bass expositions. "I'm not gonna sit around picking my nose. That's not who I am."
In case you wondered: Quatro has not been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And she thinks it's high time she was. "It doesn't make any sense to me. It's beyond a joke. If you can't honor the first one, who can you honor? I don't even have to say it. Everybody says it for me. People go, 'You're not in it? What?!' Everybody's always shocked."
No end in sight: "I love this profession, as you can see from the film. I love what I do. I love creation. I love entertaining and I love all the different areas that allows you to be in. I like the variety the music, the TV, the musicals, the DJ, the poetry. I love writing songs. I like being ... an artiste. I am a creative, communicating entertainer. That's the only way I can describe myself. I have always believed that the good lord put me this Earth to make people happy."
"Suzi Q" will be released on Friday, July 3, on video on demand platforms and and home video. A special online screening featuring a Q&A with Quatro, Cherie Currie of the Runaways and Kathy Valentine of the Go-Go's takes place July 1 to benefit MusiCares. Tickets and other information via altavod.com/content/suzi-q
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