“Suzi Q,” a documentary about Suzi Quatro, who preceded Joan Jett onto the scene in the early ’70s as a leather-clad rock pioneer, has been picked up for North America by Utopia. The company will give the rock doc a one-night theatrical release July 1, followed by digital and DVD distribution two days later.
A U.S. premiere has been set for the Sonoma International Film Festival on March 29, where Quatro will make an appearance. The film already opened last fall in the UK and Australia, two territories where Quatro, a Detroit native, had her biggest chart successes.
Besides interviewing Quatro herself, filmmakers Liam Firmager and Tait Brady also sought out contemporaries like Alice Cooper and female musicians who felt Quatro’s impact, including Deborah Harry, Joan Jett and Cherie Currie of the Runaways, Kathy Valentine of the Go-Go’s, Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads and Donita Sparks of L7.
“Over the four-plus years making the film,” said Brady, “the idea that Suzi’s status had been forgotten in the USA slowly dawned on us — because in the rest of the world, everyone knows that she is the first and one of the most important trailblazers in rock ‘n’ roll. And that then influenced the direction the film took: it became our mission to redress history.” Brady added that while its release in the rest of the world was “a celebration” of someone still remembered and revered, “the film should play like a rediscovery story” in the still slow-dawning States.
Quatro became a sensation of the British rock press in 1973 when her hard-charging single “Can the Can,” produced by the hitmaking team of Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn, sailed to No. 1, followed to the top in ’74 by “Devil Gate Drive.” She was a harder sell in her native America, outside of a lot of intrigued young male Anglophiles who saw her as a sex symbol and a cult of budding female musicians who recognized her as a nascent role model. The music scene didn’t quite know what to do with a brash, bass-playing woman at a time when the Runaways had yet to be invented and most of the public had never seen a female rocker playing an instrument before.
Quatro finally made the top 10 in the U.S. in 1978 with “Stumblin’ In,” a duet with Chris Norman that was much softer than her seminal English smashes (and which, ironically, was a bust back in the UK). Eventually she found her real fame as a cast member on “Happy Days,” keeping the leather, which became a kind of period drag as it matched the signature wear of Henry Winkler — another personality interviewed for the film.
Others appearing in “Suzi Q” include the late Garry Marshall, DJ and ’70s club operator Rodney Bingenheimer, singers KT Tunstall and Wendy James, and Len Tuckey, Quatro’s former husband and guitarist.
As a music documentary, “Suzi Q” follows the old-time fiddlers convention documentary “Fiddlin'” on Utopia’s slate. The barely year-old sales and distribution company co-founded by Rooney singer Robert Schwartzman also recently released Errol Morris’ “American Dharma,” about Steve Bannon, as well as “Mickey and the Bear” and the Lynn Shelton-directed, Marc Maron-starring “Sword of Trust.”