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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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