Duke of York’s Picturehouse, Brighton

ROCK superstar Suzi Quatro was in town for the screening of feature documentary Suzi Q.

The Duke of York’s was crammed with fans hoping to get a glimpse of rock’s first lady in the live Q and A after the film.

The rock-doc biopic, directed by Melbourne’s Liam Firmager, followed the usual conventions – archived material of Suzi Quatro’s childhood in the Detroit suburbs, the early years performing with her sisters in The Pleasure Seekers and her breakaway to the UK and ensuing solo career.

Nothing groundbreaking in that.

But what this film captures is the grit and authenticity of the superstar from a very young age.

Famously making “eye contact” with Elvis on TV when she was six, she knew what she was predestined to do – be a rock star.

She claims she didn’t notice Elvis’s gender and it didn’t occur to her that girls couldn’t play guitar or front a band. Playing clubs at the age of 14 must have taken some sass, but she is unsentimental about that, she did what she had to do.

And that included getting the hell out of Detroit.

Interview footage with her sister Patti, who went on to form now-cult band Fanny, shows how the family responded to her abrupt departure and solo contract.

Another sister denounces any preference for Suzi’s music, remarking she’s my sister, I’m not a fan.

Resentment from the family ripples through the film in a sad and private narrative. Suzi Quatro attempts to piece together the abandoned simplicities of a childhood lost – sleepovers, parties, usual stuff.

On another level, this film works purely for fans, there is some excellent footage of her early performances with number one hit Can The Can on Top Of The Pops.

She was hugely successful in the UK, Europe and Australia during the 1970s and many will remember her trademark leather catsuit, styled on Barbarella.

Covergirl for Rolling Stone magazine, rock goddess and pioneer, she paved the way for other female musicians in the late 70s and 80s.

A cast of these appear in the documentary. Joan Jett of The Runaways, Wendy James from Transvision Vamp and of course Debbie Harry, who recalls in awe a petite Suzi playing a much too-big Fender Precision bass.

But it takes something extraordinary to last more than 50 years in the music business and it’s Suzi Quatro’s incredible pragmatism that shines through. When the music starts to wane, she rekindles the childhood magic of 1950s rock n roll and TV.

Starring as the Leather Tuscadero on American sitcom Happy Days alongside Henry Winkler as Fonzie. Now she is the girl in the TV staring back at the audience.

After the film Suzi Quatro appears on stage to much applause in an I love Detroit T-shirt. She is down to-earth in conversation, with none of the affectations of fame.

In the film she speaks of the importance of turning out a good show for the fans every single night and it’s clear she intends to do this now.

Taking questions from the floor, she is candid, sincere – she feels genderless she says, she wasn’t afraid, she played the boys at their own game. When quizzed about her musical taste, she enthuses about Billie Holiday, the Shangri-Las, Bob Dylan.

One audience member shouts “you still look hot” and the crowd hiss. Somebody asks what Can The Can means, she dodges it, and with a chuckle says what you really want to know is what 48 Crash is about.

It’s about the male menopause, we never talk about that. As ever, a great comeback.

Karen Goodwin