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The Runaways

Often dismissed during their existence as a crass marketing gimmick, the Runaways have grown in stature over the years as the first all-female band to make a substantial impression on the public by playing loud, straight-up, guitar-driven rock & roll. Since all of the members were teenagers (some of whom were still learning to play their instruments when they passed their auditions), the band's music was frequently raw and amateurish, but it neatly combined American heavy metal with the newly emerging sound of punk rock. In the media, the Runaways were victims of their own hype, supplied by maverick promoter/manager Kim Fowley. Fowley's insistence on a sleazy jailbait image for the group made it easy for the press to dismiss them as nothing but a tasteless adolescent fantasy -- an impression bolstered at the time by the admittedly erratic quality of their music. But in the end, the Runaways' sound and attitude proved crucially important in paving the way for female artists to crank up the volume on their guitars and rock as hard as the boys; plus, they produced one undeniably classic single in the rebel-girl manifesto "Cherry Bomb."

The genesis of the Runaways can be traced to a 1975 Alice Cooper party, where Fowley met teenage lyricist Kari Krome. Fowley was impressed with Krome's streetwise perspective and set about putting together a female band. Krome's friend, guitarist Joan Jett (born Joan Larkin), had been forming a band of her own with drummer Sandy West (born Sandy Pesavento), and Fowley quickly had a trio on his hands. However, it soon became apparent that Krome was not much of a singer, and she was replaced by vocalist Michael "Micki" Steele (born Sue Thomas), who also began learning the bass. As a trio, this lineup recorded a demo titled Born to Be Bad in late 1975; shortly thereafter, guitarist Lita Ford successfully auditioned through a trade-paper ad, and Steele left the group (she would later join the Bangles). Cherie Currie became the new lead vocalist, and after an extremely brief stint with a bass player known only as Peggy (which lasted just a few weeks), the band settled on Jackie Fox (born Jacqueline Fuchs), who switched to bass from guitar in order to join the band.

Thus constituted as an entirely teenaged quintet, it didn't take long for the Runaways to score a record deal; Currie's stage wardrobe (lingerie) and Fowley's well-established contacts made sure of that. After signing with Mercury in February 1976, the band began recording their self-titled debut album, which was released just a few months later. However, it was not greeted well. Fowley was preceded by his reputation for overhyping gimmicky acts, and the sheer number of roles he played in guiding the Runaways' career made him appear a manipulative, Svengali-like figure. Moreover, regardless of whether or not the Runaways were simply a cheap exploitation act (an endlessly debatable question), the entire concept of the band -- teenage girls playing their own instruments and singing frankly and enthusiastically about sex, booze, and life on the streets -- was simply too discomforting for much of America. Fowley's extensive involvement (some called it near-total control) made it easy for journalists and radio programmers to dismiss the group out of hand as a male-concocted sham; it was also a convenient way to ignore the myriad cultural buttons the Runaways were pushing.

Despite a wave of publicity on Fowley's part, The Runaways just barely scraped the bottom of the charts in the early fall of 1976, around the same time the band played their first gig at the legendary New York punk club CBGB's. The second Runaways album, Queens of Noise, was released in early 1977 and fared little better on the charts than its predecessor, thanks to radio's continued reluctance to program the group's music. However, when the Runaways mounted a tour of Japan in June of that year, they were greeted with sold-out arena gigs and rabidly enthusiastic audiences who didn't consider them a joke ("Cherry Bomb" had, in fact, topped the Japanese charts). A concert record, Live in Japan, was culled from the tour, but wasn't released in the U.S.

Despite this taste of success, relationships between some of the group members had begun to fray, thanks partly to substance abuse problems and partly to unconcerned negligence on the management's part. Upon their return to Los Angeles in July 1977, Jackie Fox departed the group; a story circulated that she had attempted suicide on the Japanese tour, though it was later discredited. Before the year was out, Currie too had left, spurred in part by consistent disagreements with Fowley. Jett took over as lead vocalist, and new bassist Vicki Blue was hired for the group's third album. Waitin' for the Night was released at the end of the year, and failed to even hit the U.S. charts. By this point, Fowley had lost interest in the band, and quit as manager early the next year. Jett's unofficial leadership role within the group became more serious, but unfortunately, musical differences were beginning to arise (Jett's punk and glam rock influences clashed with West and Ford's love of straight-up hard rock and heavy metal). One more album, And Now...The Runaways, appeared toward the end of 1978, but it was released only in the group's core markets of Europe and Japan (it later appeared in America with a different running order under the title Little Lost Girls). Blue quit the band after their New Year's gig and was replaced by Laurie McAllister, but to no avail; Jett left the group in April 1979, and the Runaways officially disbanded not long after.

Currie released a solo album in 1978 titled Beauty's Only Skin Deep, and then teamed up with her twin sister Marie for 1980's Messin' With the Boys. Jackie Fox went to law school and became an attorney. Meanwhile, West and Ford formed a short-lived outfit of their own, after which Ford went solo and scored several hits as a pop-metal artist during the '80s. An even better indicator that there was more to the Runaways' music than met the eye was the success of Joan Jett's solo career. Jett formed her own band and record label, landed an enormous number one smash with 1982's "I Love Rock n' Roll," and continued to produce albums of tough hard rock into the 21st century. The heavily feminist riot grrrl punk movement claimed Jett as a major inspiration, prompting a re-examination of the Runaways' output divorced from Kim Fowley's marketing tactics. Rumors of a full-band reunion surfaced periodically but never resulted in an actual gig, although the release of a summertime biopic in 2010 -- one that starred Kristen Stewart as Jett and Dakota Fanning as Currie -- helped rejuvenate interest in the band. ~ Steve Huey
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

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the4mckeowns
So much talent there. They paved the way for all these ladies today
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Radio DJ's prejudiced against women musicians.. So odd yet funny and typical. Explains it all.
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I have a crush on all of them
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Hey i remember these hot lookin ladys...rock on.
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negretedolor e s
I had the vinyl record albums back in mid to late 1970's...Wow , h a s it been that long??? These ladies had real musical talent and pulled off the tough chickie image very convincingly . I was very impressed that they could rock and elbow their way into the Rock'nRoll genre traditionall y dominated by men! YEAH!!!!!!
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gimmick my a**... these broads were clitrock at its best....If Iggy had worn lingerie he'd be a Runaway
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What a gimmick!!! Record label throws together 5 hot rock and roll chickadees. Beautiful young girls equal $$$$$$$$. The formula never gets old.

Bonus: they re not bad as musicians.
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milosdad
Joan Jett in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. Who would have thunk it?
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Yeah! I would have loved to have been one of their groupies! They could just use me, abuse me, then throw me to the next one!!!
Or even better yet they could all just gang up on me at once!
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The whole band rocked and we're awesome to look at!
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More cowbell haha
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Joan Jett, Lita Ford two reasons alone to love 'em.
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Joan jett is hot as f**k tbh
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rock n roll chiks make the world go round
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I love the runaways. I'm growing up in the wrong generation.
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I f**k love the runways I wish I was in there band I could of play guitar with Joan jett and I love Joan jett
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dlockwood3
I was a DJ in college in the 70's, the Runaways were a favorite.
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I'm surprised that that actors who portrayed these artist are mentioned. Anyway, awesome band!!
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https://www. f a c e b o o k . c o m / p a g e s / T h e - R o n i - L e e - G r o u p / 3 2 1 4 3 4 4 4 4 5 3 5 9 1 7
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yes I love the music / the movie
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Hey bobonnit if you got nothing nice to say don't say anything at all Joan Jett is awesome and I checked out your account and all yo do is say bad thing about signers and bands
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F**king badass! Love them!!!
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Legit...
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I'm going to Joan Jett's concert
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I saw Joan Jett and the black hearts at a freed concert. It was probably one of my favorite concerts I've been to and I saw CCR
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No, they really were a crass marketing gimmick and Joan Jett has one of the worst voices in rock.
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say the movie & I think they should of had Dakota play joan jett. I love kristen & everything but Dakota looks more like joan
Report as inappropriate
jalepard
I saw the Runaway's movie on cable last night, not bad. Another actress who could have played Joan Jett could have been the gal who was on the L Word & played the character Shane. Looks a lot like Joan, I guess they are both from the Philly area too.
Report as inappropriate
Literally love this band
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milosdad
I loved these girls. When I saw them they were my age. Imagine, teenaged boy and four hot girls playing punk. Saw them headline and then open for the Ramones.
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wendy o williams would have raped these girls then ate them
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twlightgirl2 0 1 0
Love this band I'm 12
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If I could have five wishes from a Genie, one of them would be to take a time machine back in time to see this groundbreaki n g band live.
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wiljarv
Great Band if Kim Fowley had any smarts he should have taken ALL of the Studio albums, and made ONE REALLY GOOD record to begin with and started from there....I'v e seen Joan Jett so many times I've lost count. Very Genuine prefomer musician Lita's new one is also cool But I think a reunion isn't doing .......didn' t anyone see EDGEPLAY Sandy wanted to go out one last time and nothing happened? and she was alive then too so even if they did a reunion who would play BASS ? the last girl that was in
Report as inappropriate
There can't be a reunion, Sandy West died. Joan Jett said so herself.
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the runaways was a band for people who dont hve rolemodels this band was about self empowerment. there songs were about sex,violence and revolt, and street sense they were amazing and they are my inspiration
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one of the few girl bands that I actually like.
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A recent Joan tweet has sparked speculation of a reunion.
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blueroomrec
I have alot of respect for these girl's, they went out to prove that they could rock just as hard as the guy's did!.
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TALK ABOUT COOL, LOOKS AND SOUND!
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honestly one of the most influential bands of the 70's this article does not do them justice
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GREAT ROCK BAND JOAN JETT-LITA FORD CAME FROM THIS BAND AND THEY STILL ROCK TODAY
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i saw them live at japan i was the same age as cherie
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I love the Runaways! Joan Jett is bad a**.
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I'm only 3 years younger than Joan Jett but I'd never heard of the Runaways until I saw the movie on the Starz channel. I immediately became a fan and now listen to them a lot. I like their raw unpolished sound in comparison to the overproduced music of today. Just 5 hot chicks who could flat out play straight up rock-n-roll!
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i have my hair like cherie currie but like she had hers it in the runsways
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I just saw Cherie Currie on That Metal Show, and she has a new album. Apparently she's been passing the last 30 years as a chainsaw artist.
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There's a special circle of hell for people like Kim Fowley.
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my dream job is to make a band like theres so i could bring rock history back
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why did they brake up
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