Published on June 26th, 2020 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
Suzi Quatro & Director Liam Firmager On The New “SUZI Q” Documentary & Plenty More
A newly-released documentary, SUZI Q is the definitive, unexpurgated story of the girl from Detroit, Michigan who redefined the role and image of women in rock & roll when she broke through around the world in 1973. A singer, songwriter, bass player, author, actress, radio presenter and poet — still touring the world and recording music, COVID-19 pandemic aside — there is only one Suzi Quatro.
From Australian filmmakers Liam Firmager and Tait Brady, SUZI Q positions Suzi Quatro as the trailblazer and inspiration for a generation of women who were to follow after her in the next decade, but whose trailblazing status was not sufficiently recognised by the music industry and contemporary audiences, especially in her native North America. SUZI Q reminds contemporary audiences of her pioneering influence, white-hot talent and string of incandescent rock hits — like “Can The Can,” “48 Crash,” “Devil Gate Drive,” “Too Big,” “If You Can’t Give Me Love,” “Rock Hard” and “Daytona Demon” — which served as the vehicle for her explosion of gender stereotypes in rock, rewriting the rule book for the expected image of women in rock music and reaching millions of people worldwide in the process.
Beyond Suzi Quatro herself, SUZI Q features interviews with Alice Cooper, Deborah Harry (Blondie), Joan Jett, Cherie Currie (The Runaways), Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads), Donita Sparks (L7), Henry Winkler (Happy Days), Kathy Valentine (The Go-Go’s) and KT Tunstall. I had the pleasure of doing Q&A with director Liam Firamager over e-mail, in addition to taping a video interview with Quatro herself via Zoom on May 22, 2020. Both of these interviews were conducted for The Hype Magazine and are shown below, while more on SUZI Q can be found online by visiting www.suziqmovie.com.
How long was it from coming up from the idea for this film to having a finished product?
Liam Firamager: I initially came up with the idea back in 2015 after a discussion with a friend who also had worked with Suzi, and who pointed out that no one had ever done a film about Suzi’s extraordinary life. I immediately recognized to do the film justice, I would need to collaborate with someone with greater experience for the project so I approached Tait Brady.
Thankfully he was a big music fan with a likeminded vision. From concept to the finished product it took about 4 and a half years. The initial filming took about 2 years as we had to organize and sync up all the interviews which can be a long process waiting for the various contributors to be available etc. We spent a further 24 months sorting out financing and licensing which can be a daunting and time consuming process — every frame, every still and every single bar of music needed to be cleared.
What was the hardest part of making the film?
Liam Firamager: The licensing clearance was probably the most exhausting process in the project. Just because it’, say, on YouTube doesn’t mean its either: a) legal, or b) good enough quality for a film. We were dealing with hundreds of archive elements — every frame, every still and every single bar of music needed to be sourced, cleared and paid for. Laborious doesn’t begin to describe it!
Did you learn a lot about Suzi that you didn’t know before making the film?
Liam Firamager: Initially I imagined the film to be an exploration into Suzi’s origins, her career, her success and the difficulties of breaking through in an essentially male dominated world and all the challenges that went with that. Over the journey I discovered her to be very sensitive, sentimental and insecure. There was almost a duality involved in her nature. The tough, no-nonsense ass-kicking rock and roller, and the sensitive, sentimental, and insecure little girl who just wants to be loved.
The other revelation was that Suzi’s place in rock history wasn’t recognized in the U.S. There are even books written about women in rock that overlook her, which astounded us. In the rest of the world Suzi is known as this rock star who played a role in Happy Days, but in the U.S. it seems that despite being on the cover of Rolling Stone well before Happy Days ever happened, the first releases weren’t hits and the mainstream americans perception was that she was an actor who then had a band. So, over time, this desire to redress the history became a driving force in the film’s editorial direction.
Finally, any last words for the kids?
Liam Firamager: I think Cherie Currie summed it up quite nicely in the film: “Unfortunately today, young kids don’t really know Suzi Quatro and that’s a shame, because they should — especially anybody who wants to get into the music business, they should study Suzi Quatro.” Listen to those early hits of Suzi’s , and remember how far ahead she is of the rest of the world at that moment in time.