The Runaways
The Runaways in 1976 (clockwise from top left): Lita Ford, Sandy West, Jackie Fox, Joan Jett, Cherie Currie
The Runaways in 1976 (clockwise from top left): Lita Ford, Sandy West, Jackie Fox, Joan Jett, Cherie Currie
Background information
OriginLos Angeles, California, U.S.
Genres
Years active1975–1979
Labels
Past members
Websitewww.therunaways.com

The Runaways were an American all-female rock band who recorded and performed from 1975 to 1979. Formed in 1975 in Los Angeles, the band released four studio albums and one live album 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 single "Cherry Bomb".

History

Early years

In early 1975, Rock impresario Kim Fowley had an idea for assembling an all-female rock band in a time when, according to guitarist Joan Jett, "there were no young girls at all playing guitar or any sort of instruments."[6]

Fowley met lyricist Kari Krome at a party held for Alice Cooper, put her on salary, and had her begin looking for female performers. Krome met Joan Jett and brought her to Fowley. Jett successfully auditioned for Fowley by playing ukulele to a Sweet album, and picked up rhythm guitar as her instrument. Soon afterward, in the parking lot of the Rainbow Bar and Grill, Fowley met Sandy West, who agreed to play drums. Fowley had Jett rehearse with West at the latter's home in Huntington Beach, and auditioned the pair on the telephone to music journalist Ritchie Yorke. He then turned to two radio stations to advertise for further auditions, which brought lead vocalist/bassist Micki Steele (later of The Bangles).

The Runaways were formed in August 1975.[7] Fowley touted the new group The Runaways as "an all girl answer to Grand Funk,"[8] and the band signed to Kim Fowley Productions for management in September 1975.[9] The lineup of Jett, West, and Steele made its live debut[10] playing the Whisky a Go Go September 28–29, opening for Fowley's previous conceptual band the Hollywood Stars (then billed as "The Stars").[11]

But on October 30, Steele left due to creative differences and was replaced by lead vocalist Paul Goldwin and bassist Peggy Foster in November, respectively. Lita Ford had joined to the group as lead guitarist, allowing Jett to focus on rhythm guitar. Trio were previously members of Dangerous.[citation needed]

After Goldwin left, Fowley and Jett discovered Cherie Currie at the teen nightclub The Sugar Shack[12] and brought her in as lead vocalist for the group.[13][14]

In two weeks, Foster left the group too and was replaced by Jackie Fox, whom Fowley's colleague Rodney Bingenheimer found at the parking lot of the West Hollywood nightclub the Starwood.

Fame

Phonogram/Mercury Records' West Coast director of A&R, Denny Rosencrantz, agreed to sign The Runaways on December 12, 1975.[14][15][16] The band recorded their debut album The Runaways in January 1976 and released in March through Mercury.[17] An album to an initial position of #188 on the Cash Box top albums chart, favorable reviews, and numerous radio and album adds,[18][19] as well as sales of 70,000 units.[16]

The band toured the U.S. in support of headlining groups such as Cheap Trick, Van Halen, Talking Heads, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.[20] For their stage performance, the documentary Edgeplay: A Film About the Runaways (directed by former Runaway bassist Vicki Blue) revealed each girl patterned herself after their musical idol: Currie on David Bowie, Jett on Suzi Quatro, Ford on a cross between Jeff Beck and Ritchie Blackmore, West on Roger Taylor, and Fox on Gene Simmons.[21]

The Runaways were the subject of a writeup in People magazine in September 1976. A week later, Fowley severed his ties with the band and forfeited his rights, titles, claims, and merchandising ownership to Mercury Records.[22] Mercury refused to accept Fowley's stakehold in the band and turned it back to him the following week.[16] Fowley and the band reconciled in November and returned to the studio to record their followup album Queens of Noise.[23] The album was released on January 7, 1977.[24][25]

The Runaways performed a world tour in support of Queens of Noise. The band quickly became lumped in with the growing punk rock movement.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

In the summer of 1977, booking agent David Libert secured dates in Japan, where they played a string of sold-out shows. They were unprepared for the onslaught of fans that greeted them at the airport. Jett later described the mass hysteria as "just like Beatlemania".[26] While in Japan, the Runaways had a TV special, made numerous television appearances, and released the album Live in Japan, which went gold. Jackie Fox left mid-tour and was replaced by bassist Vicki Blue when the group returned to America.[27]

Cherie Currie left the band on August 9, 1977. Fowley recorded The Runaways' third LP, Waitin' for the Night, at Larrabee Studios the same month, with the band as a four-piece and with Joan Jett on vocals.[28][29] The album was released in October 17, 1977,[30][31] and was the final album that Fowley would record with the group.[32]

Dissolution

Due to disagreements over money and the management of the band, the Runaways and Kim Fowley parted ways in 1977. The group quickly hired Toby Mamis, who worked for Blondie and Suzi Quatro. When the group split from 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.[citation needed] 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. 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 in December 1978 and quit in January 1979.

Disagreement among band members included the musical style; Jett wanted the band to make a musical change, shifting towards punk rock/glam rock while Ford and West wanted to continue playing hard rock/heavy metal music.[33] Neither would accept the other's point of view.[34] The band played their last concert on New Year's Eve 1978 at the Cow Palace and officially broke up in April 1979.[35]

Potential reunion

In 2010, Jett and Currie reunited to re-record the song "Cherry Bomb" for the video game Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock.[36]

In a 2015 interview with WHMH-FM, Ford said that she decided against a possible reunion in the early 1990s because "Nirvana was just kicking in, and it was really bad timing; it wouldn't have worked. People would have just turned their nose up at it."[citation needed]

In December 2018, Ford said that a Runaways reunion would never happen and blamed Jett's manager Kenny Laguna as the reason, saying, "Joan Jett is very much in 'Joan Jett land,' I guess you could say. Will she ever come out of Joan Jett land? I don't think so. I think her manager controls that, and it's really up to him and her. It seems to me like Joan Jett's manager just runs her life in every way, shape, or form. He's very controlling and he has a real problem with me. He has a real issue with me. He sees me as a threat, which is ridiculous because she's like my sister, and I love Joan. It's ridiculous, it's uncalled for, and it's caused a little bit of rivalry between her and I, which is totally uncalled for. It's his fault. The hard part is just trying to communicate with Joan without her manager involved. We had dinner a couple of years ago, what was supposed to be a girl's night out, and she brought her manager with her. So it's like, dude, answer the question. I'm trying to ask you a question. Are you interested in putting The Runaways back together? She never answered the question."[citation needed]

On May 12, 2021, Currie was asked about a reunion, to which she responded, "I've played with all the girls individually; I've played with all of them — with Lita, with Joan, and, of course, with Sandy; I never did a show without her before she passed away. So I'm the only one that's actually played with all the members. Lita and Joan have a little bit of an issue, and that just seems to be the problem. Lita doesn't like Kenny. I wish they would get over it, honestly, but I don't think so. Kenny was my manager during the early stages of making Blvds Of Splendor. We were very good friends for 20 years. But then, unfortunately, with the record, with them holding up Blvds Of Splendor for 10 years, that kind of eroded my friendship with him a bit."[37]

After the breakup

The Runaways after 1979
Joan Jett in the 1980s
Joan Jett in the 1980s
Micki Steele in 2003
Micki Steele in 2003
Cherie Currie in 2010
Cherie Currie in 2010
Lita Ford in 1988
Lita Ford in 1988

Joan Jett

Main article: Joan Jett

Jett went on to work with producer Kenny Laguna and after being rejected by 23 record labels, 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.[38] The label continues to release albums by the Blackhearts and other bands. Jett went on to have massive success with a cover of the Arrows' song "I Love Rock 'n' Roll", as well as "Crimson and Clover", "Bad Reputation", and "I Hate Myself for Loving You". She also co-starred in the 1987 film Light of Day with Michael J. Fox,[39] and appeared in the 2000 Broadway revival of The Rocky Horror Show as Columbia.[40] Jett is on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". In 2015, she and her band the Blackhearts were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[41]

Sandy West

Main article: Sandy West

West continued her association with John Alcock once the group disbanded. She formed the Sandy West Band and toured California throughout the 1980s and 1990s. She also did session work with John Entwistle of the Who and became a drum teacher.

West died from lung cancer in October 2006, having been diagnosed the previous year. 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.

Micki Steele

Main article: Micki Steele

Steele (as Michael Steele) joined the band The Bangles and went on to success with songs such as "Manic Monday", "Walk Like an Egyptian" and "Eternal Flame".

Cherie Currie

Main article: Cherie Currie

Upon leaving the Runaways, Currie released a 1978 solo album titled Beauty's Only Skin Deep and a 1980 duet album with her twin sister Marie Currie, Messin' with the Boys, in which the duo was backed by members of Toto. The Curries' cover of Russ Ballard's "Since You Been Gone" reached Number 95 on the U.S. chart. Currie 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 and they had a son together, Jake Hays. The couple divorced in 1997.

Currie still performs and records, remaining under contract with Blackheart Records, but her current passion is chainsaw carving which she displays at an art gallery in Chatsworth, California. In 2013, Cherie recorded two songs with Alexx Michael for the Munich-based hard rock-glam metal group Shameless, which were released on the album Beautiful Disaster on October 2, 2013.[42][43] Currie's most recent solo album, Blvds of Splendor, was released in 2020.

Lita Ford

Main article: Lita Ford

Ford returned to PolyGram as a solo artist in the 1980s, where she released several albums before pairing with manager Sharon Osbourne. She 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[44] 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 that year Ford toured as a special guest of progressive metal band Queensrÿche and performed songs from Wicked Wonderland and reprised her duet "Close My Eyes Forever" with Queensrÿche lead singer Geoff Tate.

Vicki Blue

Main article: Victory Tischler-Blue

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. 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. 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 never released.[45] 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 teamed up to record music for El Guitarrista, an animated series that Sacred Dogs Entertainment Group is producing.

Jackie Fox

Main article: Jackie Fox

Fox returned to using her birth name of Fuchs and graduated from UCLA summa cum laude, with a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics and Italian. She later received a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School and practices entertainment law.[46] She co-wrote "Delilah's Scissors" with Tischler-Blue and executive-produced and appeared in Edgeplay, Tischler-Blue's 2005 documentary about the Runaways.[47] She also writes an L.A. cat care column for Examiner.com[48] and is an occasional contributor to Listverse.com.[49] She is the author of The Well, an unpublished work of young adult historical fiction, and is currently working on her second novel.[50] In December 2018 she won four games on the game show Jeopardy![51]

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 a club in Orange County. 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.[52][53] Look Away, a documentary about sexual abuse in the rock music industry features Fuchs' story.[54]

Laurie McAllister

McAllister joined another of Fowley's all-female bands, the Orchids, who released their only album in 1980. McAllister retired from the music industry and worked as a veterinarian technician in Eugene, Oregon. She died of complications from an asthma attack on August 25, 2011 at the age of 54.[55]

Members

Image Name Years active Instruments Release contributions
Jett_Rocks.jpg
Joan Jett 1975–1979
  • rhythm guitar
  • lead guitar (1975, 1976)
  • vocals (1975–1977)
  • lead vocals (1977–1979)
  • bass guitar (1977, 1979)
all releases
Sandy West 1975–1979 (died 2006)
  • drums
  • occasional vocals[56]
  • backing vocals
Micki_Steele.jpg
Micki Steele 1975
  • bass guitar
  • lead vocals
Born to be Bad (1991)
Lita_Ford_by_Zoran_Veselinovic.jpg
Lita Ford
  • 1975–1976
  • 1976—1979
  • lead guitar
  • backing vocals (since 1976)
  • rhythm guitar (1977, 1979)
  • bass guitar[57] and vocals (1978)
all releases, except Born to be Bad (1991)
Peggy Foster 1975 bass guitar none
Paul Goldwin[citation needed] lead vocals
Cherie_Currie.jpg
Cherie Currie 1975–1977

Live (Agora Ballroom, Cleveland - July 19, 1976) (2015)

The_Runaways_at_Brumrock_'76_(5_of_7).jpg
Jackie Fox
  • 1975–1976
  • 1976—1977
  • bass guitar
  • backing vocals
Vicki Blue 1977–1978
  • Waitin' for the Night (1977)
  • And Now... The Runaways (1978) (credited only)
  • Little Lost Girls (1981)
  • I Love Playin' with Fire (1982)
  • The Runaways featuring Joan Jett and Lita Ford (1997)
  • 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of the Runaways (2005) (remaining tracks)
  • The Mercury Albums Anthology (2010) (remaining tracks)
  • Live in New York 1978 (2017)
Laurie McAllister 1978–1979 (died 2011) bass guitar none

Session musicians

Image Name Years active Instruments Release contributions
DJ_Rodney_Bingenheimer_2016_(cropped).jpg
Rodney Bingenheimer 1976 orchestration The Runaways (1976)
Nigel Harrison bass guitar
Unknown[citation needed] keyboards
Duane Hitchings 1978 And Now... The Runaways (1978)

Lineups

Period Members Releases
August–October 1975
  • Born to be Bad (1993)
October 1975
  • Lita Ford – lead guitar
  • Joan Jett – rhythm guitar, vocals
  • Micki Steele — bass guitar, lead vocals
  • Sandy West – drums, vocals
none
Early November 1975
  • Paul Goldwin — lead vocals
  • Lita Ford – lead guitar
  • Joan Jett — rhythm guitar, backing vocals
  • Peggy Foster – bass guitar
  • Sandy West – drums, backing vocals
Late November 1975
  • Cherie Currie – lead vocals
  • Lita Ford — lead guitar
  • Joan Jett — rhythm guitar, vocals
  • Peggy Foster – bass guitar
  • Sandy West – drums, backing vocals
December 1975–January 1976 (classic lineup)
  • Cherie Currie – lead vocals
  • Lita Ford — lead guitar
  • Joan Jett — rhythm guitar, vocals
  • Jackie Fox – bass guitar
  • Sandy West – drums, backing vocals
February 1976
  • Cherie Currie – lead vocals
  • Lita Ford — lead guitar
  • Joan Jett — rhythm guitar, vocals
  • Nigel Harrison – bass guitar (session)
  • Unknown musician — keyboards (session)
  • Sandy West – drums, backing vocals
  • Rodney Bingenheimer — orchestration
February–October 1976 (classic lineup)
  • Cherie Currie – lead vocals
  • Lita Ford — lead guitar
  • Joan Jett — rhythm guitar, vocals
  • Jackie Fox – bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Sandy West – drums, backing vocals
  • Flaming Schoolgirls (1980)
  • The Best of the Runaways (1982)
  • Live (Agora Ballroom, Cleveland - July 19, 1976) (2015)
October–November 1976
  • Cherie Currie – lead vocals
  • Joan Jett — guitar, vocals
  • Jackie Fox – bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Sandy West – drums, backing vocals
none
November 1976–June 1977 (classic lineup)
  • Cherie Currie – lead vocals
  • Lita Ford — lead guitar, backing vocals (since February 1977)
  • Joan Jett — rhythm guitar, vocals
  • Jackie Fox – bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Sandy West – drums, backing vocals
June–July 1977
  • Cherie Currie – lead vocals
  • Lita Ford — guitar, backing vocals
  • Joan Jett — bass guitar, vocals
  • Sandy West – drums, backing vocals
none
July–August 1977
  • Cherie Currie – lead vocals
  • Lita Ford — lead guitar, backing vocals
  • Joan Jett — rhythm guitar, vocals
  • Vicki Blue — bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Sandy West – drums, backing vocals
August 1977–October 1978
  • Lita Ford — lead guitar, backing vocals
  • Joan Jett — rhythm guitar, lead vocals
  • Vicki Blue — bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Sandy West – drums, backing vocals
  • Waitin' for the Night (1977)
  • Little Lost Girls (1981)
  • I Love Playin' with Fire (1982)
  • Live in New York 1978 (2017)
October 1978
  • Lita Ford — lead guitar, bass guitar, vocals
  • Joan Jett — rhythm guitar, lead vocals
  • Duane Hitchings — keyboards
  • Sandy West – drums, vocals
November 1978–January 1979
  • Lita Ford — lead guitar, backing vocals
  • Joan Jett — rhythm guitar, lead vocals
  • Laurie McAllister — bass guitar
  • Sandy West – drums, backing vocals
none
February–April 1979
  • Lita Ford — guitar
  • Joan Jett — bass guitar, lead vocals
  • Sandy West – drums, backing vocals

Timeline

Discography

Studio albums

Title Album details Peak chart positions
US
[58]
AUS
[59]
CAN
[60]
SWE
[61]
The Runaways 194 31
Queens of Noise
  • Released: January 7, 1977[24][25]
  • Label: Mercury
172 36 83 28
Waitin' for the Night
  • Released: October 17, 1977[30]
  • Label: Mercury
34
And Now... The Runaways
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Live albums

Title Album details Peak chart positions
US
[58]
SWE
[61]
Live in Japan
  • Released: August 13, 1977[63]
  • Label: Mercury
33
Live (Agora Ballroom, Cleveland - July 19, 1976)
  • Released: April 21, 2015[64]
  • Label: Vinyl Lovers
Live in New York 1978
  • Released: September 22, 2017[65]
  • Label: Air Cuts
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Compilation albums

Charted singles

Title Year Peak chart positions Certifications
US
Bub

[67]
AUS
[59]
BEL
(FL)

[68]
"Cherry Bomb" / "Blackmail" 1976 6 57
"Heartbeat" / "Neon Angels on the Road to Ruin" 1977 10
"School Days" / "Wasted" 29
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Use in media

Influence

The Runaways' success paved the way for many successful female artists and female bands over the past 30 years, including the Bangles, the Go-Go's, Sahara Hotnights, L7, the Donnas, and Vixen to enter the male-dominated arena of rock music.[70] They are named as influences by several 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.

Film

Main article: The Runaways (2010 film)

A biographical film about the band, inspired by Currie's memoir, was released in 2010. Jett was one of the executive producers of 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.[71] The film was written and directed by Floria Sigismondi,[72] and was released to limited theaters on March 19, 2010.[73][74]

The Runaways received generally positive reviews from critics.[75] On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 70% rating based on 187 reviews, and an average rating of 6.19/10.[76]

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 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,[77] also from New Zealand, a friend of both Bingenheimer and Fowley, facilitated. The album, Young and Fast,[78] was released in 1987, and was a minor hit.

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