The Original Bad Girls of Rock & Roll - The Runaways

The Original Bad Girls of Rock & Roll – The Runaways

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They were defiant, cool, unapologetic, and barely out of middle school.

In the mid-1980s, my most prized possession was a vinyl copy of The Runaways 1976 self-titled debut album. The cover photo of glitter-clad Cherie Currie wielding a microphone was the most thrilling thing I’d ever seen. I propped it up on my desk and dreamed of someday being an iota as cool.

Even now, as far as I’m concerned, the most fabulous girls ever in rock ‘n’ roll were The Runaways, five California teenagers who played their own instruments, sang wildly scandalous songs, and made an art form out of trashy attire– way back in the mid-1970s. With 2010’s big-name bio-pic scheduled to be released on March 17th, the world will get a fresh look at these seriously-ahead-of-their-time geniuses– not just musical geniuses, but fashion geniuses, too.

Almost a decade before Madonna revolutionized fashion by performing in her underwear, fifteen-year-old Cherie Currie sported a full merry widow on stage while belting out classics like Cherry Bomb or my personal favorite Neon Angels (On the Road to Ruin). Sixteen-year-old Joan Jett was already sporting her trademark inky black shag haircut and I’ll-kick-your-ass grin. Sometimes the band wore matching t-shirts with The Runaways’ logo and their individual names, like some kind of reform school sorority. And let’s not forget the biggest platform boots, the tightest jumpsuits, and the most sparkly makeup in existence.

Images from The Runaways page at Fanpop.com

In a less-innocent time, The Runaways might have been the biggest band in the world. As it was, they influenced the next generation of teenage girls, some of whom went on to form bands, others (like me) who just admired their style.

I can’t imagine Dakota Fanning (as Cherie) or Kristin Stewart (as Joan) will be nearly as charismatic as footage I’ve seen of the real Runaways (there’s a boatload of it on YouTube if you’re interested), but I’m still looking forward to checking out Hollywood’s version of their story.

The movie is based on Cherie Currie’s harrowing 1989 autobiography Neon Angel, in which she tells the tale of her dream-turned-nightmare years in the band. Long out of print, an updated version of the book, featuring a forward by Joan Jett, will finally be published in March to coincide with the movie’s release. Cherie’s story of touring the world without any responsible adult supervision and lots of sex, drugs and alcohol is possibly the most unique and engrossing autobiography I’ve ever read.

No matter how the movie turns out, The Runaways set the stage for girls to dream of being in a band and rocking out just like the boys. History should be kind to The Runaways’ legacy: their drive, their determination, their iconic bad girl style.

Catch up with The Runaways before the big screen debut:
The Runaways debut (Import only) at Amazon
The Best of the Runaways at Amazon
Pre-Order the reprint of Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway at Amazon

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19 thoughts on “The Original Bad Girls of Rock & Roll – The Runaways”

  1. Great piece Melissa! Love the Runaways! Not sure yet about the movie, either. But I think that I will check it out. I am absolutely going to get Neon Angel. That sounds fascinating.

    Yesterday, I was flipping channels and an old Jodi Foster movie, Foxes came on. I was shocked when I saw Cherie Currie in that. I had no idea!!

    BTW-Has anyone seen the Joan Jett Barbie Doll? I myself want the Cyndi Lauper one.

  2. I’m VERY excited about this movie, though I’m a bit over Kristen Stewart. It seems like she feels a special kinship wtih Joan and I just want to go, “Babycakes, Joan would eat you for breakfast and chase you down with a bottle of Jack.”
    But I might be wrong. :-)

  3. Melissa… That has to be one of the best articles I have read. So well done. Thank you for all your support over these many years and it is for people like you that makes this so gratifying. BTW.. the new book ‘Neon Angel’ is a completely new book, entirely rewritten with stories I could not tell in the young adult book. It comes from an entirely different point of view, with no fear, just calling it as it was…
    I send you love, thanks.. and great job again girl!
    Cherie Currie

  4. Thank you so much, Cherie, for taking the time to read my post. Your comments are the biggest thrill *EVER* for this longtime fan! I’m beside myself with happiness! And I cannot wait for the book– I had no idea it was brand new!

    Thanks everyone for your comments on my very first article! You girls rock.

  5. OMG-Cherie Currie just commented on your article Melissa?? That is amazing!! This is just so exciting!!

    You rock Melissa!

    And of course Cherie, you are a rock goddess!! I will no doubt be reading your book!!

  6. Squee!! Oh my word, we are not worthy! Welcome to we heart this Cherie – thank you so so much for taking the time to comment. I’m even more excited about Neon Angel now – a rewritten, hold no punches memoir?! I’m off to pre-order it right now.

    Melissa, what a fabulous post! I think The Runaways are going to do very well in Rock and History’s eye no matter what the final verdict on the film. I’m hoping it captures the times and the band and we know the music will kick ass so I think it will be well received. No matter what, it will shine a new spotlight on Cherie, Joan, Lita, Sandy and Jackie and I predict Cherry Bomb will be in the charts and be heard all over.
    .-= Tyna Werner´s last blog ..MAC Give Me Liberty of London swatches =-.

  7. What a great concept! I love the idea of a movie and excited about Neon Angel too.. I’m 46 and remember them well.. I also remember seeing Joan Jett in NYC at some seedy club when I was just 16 years old.. Not even legal to go out and drink but we still did and had a blast.. Can you believe we were not even carded back then!

  8. Cherie,

    I can’t tell you how honored we are that you took the time to comment on Melissa’s amazing piece. It’s really kind of you. Not to mention, you just quadrupled our coolness factor!

    I was excited for Neon Angels before, but now even more so. Thanks for letting us know we’ll be getting even more in this edition.

    Could you rock any harder? Answer: not possible!

    .-= stef´s last blog ..Armour Beauty – lip gloss for your wild side =-.

  9. This whole post/comment thread is beyond cool!!

    Melissa, seriously fantastic piece!
    Cherie, thank you for your amazing music, it’s been hugely influential on me! I’m such a fan and I can not wait to read Neon Angels!

  10. OMG, excuse my fan girl moment, but did Cherie Currie seriously just comment above?! It’s official, WHT is one of the coolest places on the ‘net now!!

    I remember reading the old version of Neon Angels and wishing I could be even slightly as cool as she was (and wishing I had been alive in the 70’s LOL)… I’m totally going to have to pick up the new version now!

  11. Melissa,
    Excellent article! And at the risk of sounding like a silly fangirl, OMG! Cherice Currie actually commented on it!! Although I’m not convinced about the actors chosen to portray the band, I love The Runaways so I’ll definitely see the movie.

    Cherie, thank you for providing an amazing soundtrack to my youth. Can’t wait to read the book!

  12. “Oh yeah, and Cherry Bomb could just be the most genius 2:20 minutes of rock pop perfection ever!”

    True that! I’ve heard Cherry Bomb played in so many different types of parties/get togethers – frat houses, hipster Hollywood clubs, weddings, birthday parties, and no matter what sort of people are there – indifferent teens, old school British punks, metal heads or sorority girls – EVERYONE loves Cherry Bomb and gets up to sing and scream.

    Add it to you party playlist now.
    .-= Tyna Werner´s last blog ..Irish Bread Pudding With Caramel Whiskey Sauce =-.

  13. I adore the Runaways.. Truly the first road warrior all female band.
    I don’t think they’ve ever received just dues as just how amazing they were.
    Great musicians and unforgettable stage persona’s The Runaways
    paved the way for all current female bands..
    I have to say I don’t know about the movie….I kinda wish they had people playing the roles who actually played instruments and could rock your face off just like the Runaways did.. hopefully the actresses will do them the justice they deserve!!!
    Cherie if your read this!! As an guitarist in an all female band.. we thank you for your inspiration!! YOU ROCK!!!! Xo I’m buying your book NOW!!! :)

  14. What an awesome trip down memory road. I never heard of The Runaways until they started making this movie. I much enjoy your perspective than the “o, the Twilight girl is playing Joan Jett” perspective. I love the pictures, and those outfits are scandalous!

  15. Thank you all so much for your sweet comments to me. When you reach my age (50) you really appreciate the people that have made The Runaways a success.. and that is YOU!! I send you all love and beg you, never give up on your dreams. Not for anyone, ever. It’s a personal thing, yours alone and never let anyone tell you it can’t be done, because they are wrong. I promise you that!
    … and Melissa, excellent job again baby.
    Love, hugs and some rock and roll for good measure!!!!
    xx,
    Cherie Currie

  16. Cherie – You are welcome here anytime! We’re thrilled to have your comments. And as @tyna and I said on the summer movie post, we LOVED your book. To quote Tyna; it was raw and honest. And to quote me; I couldn’t put it down. I can’t believe some of the things you went through. You are one tough chick. And we absolutely heart you!

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