New Book on The Runaways Cements Their Legacy (With Photos)
The story of The Runaways is mythic for many reasons: Sure, hot jailbait girls were involved, but then there's the fact that two of them went on to become bonafide, solo rockstars. There's also the fact that the man who helped put the girls together, Kim Fowley, is an inimitable character. And let's not forget the music, particularly the infectious come-on of their biggest hit, "Cherry Bomb," which set the template for bad girl bombast in rock n' roll.
Credit: Jenny Lens Joan Jett and Lita Ford at the Whisky in August 1977
There have been attempts to tell the Runaways story before, including Cherie Currie's book, Neon Angel, on which the 2011 bio-drama starring Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning is based, and bassist Vicky Blue's documentary Edgeplay. But the compelling new book, Queens of Noise by former L.A. Weekly writer Evelyn McDonnell, is the most exhaustive and diplomatic account of the band's rise to fame and the sad downward spiral some of its members later experienced.
McDonnell got the notoriously private Joan Jett to tell stories for the book; the Currie quotes are mostly all culled from Neon Angel. Currie tells us she and Ford opted out of talking with McDonnell because she was still mourning deceased drummer Sandy West and she didn't like the way the drummer was portrayed in McDonnell's piece.
Also included in the book are reminiscences from Fowley, Rodney Bingenheimer, Iggy Pop, Alice Bag, Don Bolles, plus countless hangers-on, groupies and journalists. Full disclosure: I've become close with Fowley and Bingenheimer over the years, and of course both play huge roles in Runaways history. Bingenheimer has been the band's biggest supporter, while Fowley has often been portrayed as the Svengali-like villain in the group's rise and demise.
Currie's allegations of sexual impropriety by Fowley -- in which he showed the girls how to fornicate by taking advantage of a passed out girl -- are discussed in Queens of Noise. The book gets everyone's take on the alleged incident and but ultimately leaves it an open question. It's important to note, however, that Currie apologized to Fowley later for her ill words about him which she blamed a lot on her years as "a drunk." Still, she recently told me her ire was more about money she felt he owed her and the band in the past. (See our full interview with Currie on this blog soon).