The RunawaysThe Runaways were an all-female teenage American rock band that recorded and performed in the second half of the 1970s. The band released four studio albums and one live set during its run. Among their best-known songs are "Cherry Bomb", "Hollywood", "Queens of Noise" and a cover version of the Velvet Underground’s "Rock & Roll". Never a major success in the United States, the Runaways became a sensation overseas, especially in Japan, thanks to the hit single "Cherry Bomb".
Early yearsThe Runaways were formed in late 1975 by drummer Sandy West and guitarist Joan Jett after they had both introduced themselves to producer Kim Fowley, who gave Jett's phone number to West. The two met on their own at West's home and later called Fowley to let him hear the outcome. Fowley then helped the girls find other members. Two decades later he said, "I didn't put the Runaways together, I had an idea, they had ideas, we all met, there was combustion and out of five different versions of that group came the five girls who were the ones that people liked."
Starting as a power trio with singer/bassist Micki Steele, the Runaways began the party and club circuit around Los Angeles. They soon added lead guitarist Lita Ford, who had originally auditioned for the bass spot; Jett switched to rhythm guitar. Steele was fired from the group, replaced by local bassist Peggy Foster, who left after just one month. Lead singer Cherie Currie was found and recruited in a local teen nightclub called the Sugar Shack, followed by Jackie Fox (who had originally auditioned for the lead guitar spot) on bass.
FameThe Runaways were signed to Mercury Records in 1976 and their debut album, The Runaways, was released shortly after. The band toured the U.S. and played numerous sold-out shows. Their opening shows included headlining acts such as Cheap Trick, Van Halen, Talking Heads, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The documentary Edgeplay: A Film About the Runaways, directed by former Runaway bassist Vicki Blue revealed each girl patterned herself after an idol: Currie on David Bowie, Jett on Suzi Quatro, Ford a cross between Jeff Beck and Ritchie Blackmore, West on Roger Taylor, and Fox on Gene Simmons.
Their second album, Queens of Noise, was released in 1977, and the band began a world tour. The Runaways quickly became lumped in with the growing punk rock movement. The band (already fixtures on the West Coast punk scene) formed alliances with mostly male punk bands such as the Ramones and the Dead Boys (via New York City's CBGB) as well as the British punk scene by hanging out with the likes of the Damned, Generation X and the Sex Pistols.
In the summer of 1977, their booking agent David Libert sent the group to Japan, where they played a string of sold-out shows. The Runaways were the number four imported music act in Japan at the time, behind ABBA, Kiss and Led Zeppelin in album sales and popularity. They were unprepared for the onslaught of fans that greeted them at the airport. Jett later described the mass hysteria as "like Beatlemania". While in Japan, the Runaways had their own TV special, did numerous television appearances and released the album Live in Japan, which went gold. Also in Japan, Fox left the band shortly before the group was scheduled to appear at the 1977 Tokyo Music Festival. She told the Telegraph her relationship with the band deteriorated after Fowley raped her in front of a roomful of people. Jett temporarily took over bass duties. When the group returned home, they replaced Fox with Vicki Blue.
Currie then left the group after a blow-up with Ford in the fall of 1977. Jett, who had previously shared vocals with Currie, took over lead vocals full-time. The band released their fourth album, Waitin' for the Night, and started a world tour with their friends the Ramones. Currie released a solo LP, Beauty's Only Skin Deep, produced by Fowley, and began a separate U.S. tour, which included her identical twin sister Marie. Mercury Records chose not to release Currie's album in the U.S., although it was available as a pricey import via France. In 1980, billed as Cherie and Marie Currie, the sisters released an album for Capitol, Messin' with the Boys, produced by Jai Winding. Featured on the album was Steve Lukather, who later married Marie Currie. Cherie and Marie's single "Since You Been Gone" peaked at number 95 on U.S. charts.
DissolutionDue to disagreements over money and the management of the band, the Runaways and Kim Fowley parted ways in 1977. The group quickly hired new management, Toby Mamis, who also worked for Blondie and Suzi Quatro. When the group split with Fowley, they also parted with their record label Mercury/Polygram, to which their deal was tied. In the Edgeplay documentary, members of the group (especially Fox and Currie) as well as the parents of Currie and West, have accused Fowley, and others assigned to look after the band, of broken promises as to schooling and other care, using divide and conquer tactics to keep control of the band, along with the verbal taunting of band members. The band reportedly spent much time enjoying the excesses of the rock 'n' roll lifestyle during this time. They partnered with Thin Lizzy producer John Alcock, after Jett's future partner Kenny Laguna turned down the job, to record their last album And Now... The Runaways.
Blue left the group due to medical problems and was briefly replaced by Laurie McAllister in November 1978. Laurie McAllister was referred to the band by her neighbor, Duane Hitchings, who played keyboards on And Now... The Runaways. Before joining the Runaways, McAllister played with Baby Roulette and the Rave Ons, who had one song released on a Kim Fowley compilation LP called Vampires From Outer Space. McAllister appeared onstage with the Runaways at their final shows in California during the last weeks of December 1978 and she quit soon after in January 1979.
Disagreement between band members included the musical style; Joan Jett wanted the band to take a musical change, shifting towards punk rock/glam rock while Lita Ford and Sandy West wanted to continue playing hard rock/heavy metal music. Neither would accept the other's point of view. Finally, the band played their last concert on New Year's Eve 1978 at the Cow Palace near San Francisco and officially broke up in April 1979.
Jett went on to work with producer and former Shondell Kenny Laguna. After being rejected by 23 record labels, they formed their own label, Blackheart Records, in 1980. In doing so, Jett became one of the first female recording artists to found her own record label. The label continues to release albums by the Blackhearts, and also other new up and coming bands. Jett went on to have massive success with a cover of the Arrows' song "I Love Rock 'n' Roll", as well as other hits such as "Crimson and Clover", "Bad Reputation" and "I Hate Myself for Loving You". Jett also co-starred in the 1987 film Light of Day with Michael J. Fox, and appeared in the 2000 Broadway revival of The Rocky Horror Show as Columbia. Jett is also on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". In 2013, she released a new studio album titled Unvarnished which charted number 47 on U.S. charts. In 2015, she and her band The Blackhearts were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She continues playing and touring all over the world to this day.
West continued her association with John Alcock once the group disbanded. She and Ford attempted to record some music, but nothing materialized. She formed the Sandy West Band and toured California throughout the 1980s and 1990s, sometimes with Cherie Currie. She also did session work with John Entwistle of The Who and became a drum teacher. West was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005 and, after many treatments, succumbed to the disease in October 2006. A memorial tribute concert was later held in Los Angeles, featuring the Sandy West Band, Cherie Currie, The Bangles, The Donnas, and Carmine and Vinny Appice, among several others.
Steele joined the band The Bangles in the early 1980s and went on to success with songs such as "Manic Monday", "Walk Like an Egyptian" and "Eternal Flame".
Upon leaving the Runaways, Currie released a 1978 solo album titled Beauty's Only Skin Deep and a 1980 duet album with her sister Marie Currie, Messin' with the Boys, in which the duo was backed by most of Toto. Cherie and Marie Currie's song "Since You Been Gone" charted number 95 on U.S. charts. She also appeared in a number of films, most notably Foxes with Jodie Foster. Throughout the 1990s, Currie worked as a drug counselor for addicted teens and as a personal fitness trainer. She married actor Robert Hays; they have a son together, Jake Hays, but the couple divorced in 1997.
Currie still performs and records but her current passion is chainsaw carving. She has an art gallery in Chatsworth, California where her works are currently on display. She is also currently under contract with Jett's Blackheart Records label.
In 2012, she has been recording songs co-written with her son Jake, produced by Steve Lukather. Lukather suspended the project for summer 2012, to go on tour with Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band. In the meantime, Currie announced plans to perform and possibly record new material with Lita Ford.
In 2013, Cherie recorded two songs with Alexx Michael for the Munich-based hard rock-glam metal supergroup Shameless, which were released on the album Beautiful Disaster on October 2, 2013.
Ford returned as a solo artist to Polygram in the 1980s, where she released several albums before pairing with manager Sharon Osbourne. She also had success with songs like "Kiss Me Deadly" and "Close My Eyes Forever" (the second a duet with her manager's husband Ozzy Osbourne). She was married to Chris Holmes of W.A.S.P., and to former Nitro singer Jim Gillette, with whom she has two sons. After a long hiatus, Ford staged a comeback, performing at Rock The Bayou, and other hard-rock festivals during the summer of 2008. She released Wicked Wonderland, her first studio album in 14 years, on October 6, 2009. During 2009, Lita toured as a special guest during many shows of the American Soldier tour for the progressive metal band, Queensrÿche where she performed two songs from Wicked Wonderland and reprised her duet "Close My Eyes Forever" with Queensrÿche lead singer, Geoff Tate. Ford is also currently making her rounds on television, appearing on VH1's Rock 'n Roll Fantasy Camp, That Metal Show, and recently filmed a guest spot on the Nickelodeon show Big Time Rush.
In early 2012, Ford announced that she would likely be touring, and possibly recording new songs, with Cherie Currie.
Fox returned to using her birth name of Fuchs and graduated from UCLA summa cum laude, with a B.A. in Linguistics and Italian, and received her J.D. from Harvard becoming a lawyer, focusing on entertainment. She co-wrote "Delilah's Scissors" with Tischler-Blue and executive-produced and appeared in Edgeplay, Tischler-Blue's 2005 documentary about the Runaways. She also writes an L.A. cat care column for Examiner.com and is an occasional contributor to Listverse.com. Fuchs has a popular website and blog at www.myspace.com/jackiefuchs and was the first guest blogger for the Environmental Working Group’s Pets for the Environment website. She is the author of The Well, an unpublished work of young adult historical fiction, and is currently working on her second novel. In December 2018 she won four games on the game show Jeopardy!
In July 2015, after Fowley's death, Fuchs revealed publicly that Fowley raped her on New Year’s Eve 1975 at a party after a Runaways performance at an Orange County club. Sixteen years old at the time, she was reportedly given Quaaludes by a man who she thought was a roadie and raped while she was incapacitated. Currie said she spoke up against Fowley's actions, then stormed out of the room when he refused to stop.
Vicki Blue is now known as Victory Tischler-Blue. After leaving the Runaways, she shifted her focus to film and television production eventually becoming a producer/director for several reality- and magazine-based television shows, including Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood and Real Stories of the Highway Patrol—receiving an Emmy nomination along the way. She went on to form Sacred Dogs Entertainment Group—a motion picture production company and released a documentary on the Runaways called Edgeplay: A Film About the Runaways. Edgeplay went on to win numerous awards and became the highest rated rock documentary film on the Showtime Networks. In 2005, Tischler-Blue directed Naked Under Leather, a documentary about fellow female rocker Suzi Quatro, which was selected for the Santa Cruz Film Festival in May 2004 but in the end was never released. Focusing on music driven productions, she was tapped to executive produce a network special: The Bee Gees "Unbroken Fever"—The 30th Anniversary of Saturday Night Fever. Additionally, Tischler-Blue and Ford have teamed up together with Ford recording music for El Guitarrista, an animated series that Sacred Dogs Entertainment Group is producing.
Laurie McAllisterMcAllister joined another of Fowley's all-female bands, The Orchids, who released a single LP in 1980. The original Orchids members were Laurie Bell on drums, Jan King on vocals, McAllister on bass, Sunbie Sinn on rhythm guitar, and Sandy Fury on rhythm guitar and vocals (later replaced by Che Zuro on lead guitar). Laurie retired from the music industry and worked as a veterinarian technician in Eugene, Oregon. McAllister died of complications from an asthma attack on August 25, 2011. She was 54 years old.
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Use in media
InfluenceThe Runaways' success paved the way for many successful female artists and female bands over the past 30 years, including the Go-Go's, Sahara Hotnights, L7, the Donnas, and Vixen to enter the male-dominated arena of rock music. They are named as influences by several male and female artists, including the Germs, Courtney Love, the Adolescents, Taylor Momsen, White Flag, and Rhino Bucket who acknowledged the Runaways' influence on their music during their performance at the December 2006 tribute concert honoring Sandy West.
A biographical film about the band inspired by Currie's memoir was released in 2010. Jett was one of the executive producers for the film. Actresses Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning starred as Jett and Currie, respectively. Michael Shannon played Fowley. None of the band's former bass players were featured in the film; Fox did not want to be involved in any part of the film, and requested that her name be changed in the story. The fictional replacement is named Robin Robbins. The film was written and directed by Floria Sigismondi, and was released to limited theaters on March 19, 2010.The film reviews were generally positive, and , The Runaways holds a 69% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
New Runaways (1987)In the early 1980s, Gayle Welch, an ambitious 13-year-old girl from Kaitaia, New Zealand, wrote a song "Day of Age", and recorded it in Mandrell Recording Studios in Auckland, New Zealand. The resulting tape found its way to Fowley's desk. He played the Welch tape for colleague and Los Angeles deejay legend Rodney Bingenheimer who played the song on his show on radio KROQ and included it on his annual compilation of his most-liked music for the year. Also on that compilation was a song that featured Chicago-native guitarist Bill Millay.
It did not take long before Fowley, who still owned the Runaways trademark, was putting together a new Runaways band built around Welch. Missy Bonilla was recruited from the typing pool of CBS records, Denise Pryor came from Compton and Kathrine Dombrowski ("Kathy DiAmber") was also added. Welch was present only on tape and only on the first song on the CD, "I Want to Run With the Bad Boys". Millay played guitar, David Carr played keyboards and a drum machine rounded out the team. Glenn Holland, also from New Zealand, a friend of both Bingenheimer and Fowley, facilitated. The album, Young and Fast was released in 1987, and was a minor hit.