The Runaways Biography

Formed in 1975, this US band was initially conceived of as the product of producer/svengali Kim Fowley and teenage lyricist Kari Krome. Together they assembled an adolescent female group following several auditions in the Los Angeles, California area. The original line-up comprised Joan Jett (Joan Marie Larkin, 22 September 1958, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; guitar/vocals), Michael Steele (b. Susanne Thomas, 2 June 1956, Newport Beach, California, USA; vocals/bass - later of the Bangles) and Sandy West (b. Sandy Pesavento, 10 July 1959, Long Beach, California, USA, d. 21 October 2006, San Dimas, California, USA; drums), but was quickly bolstered by the addition of Lita Ford (b. Lita Rossanna Ford, 19 September 1958, Streatham, London, England; guitar/vocals) and Cherie Currie (b. 30 November 1959, Los Angeles, California, USA; vocals). The departure of Steele prompted several replacement bass players, the last of which was Jackie Fox (b. Jacqueline Fuchs, 20 December 1959, Los Angeles, California, USA) who had failed her first audition.

Although originally viewed as a vehicle for compositions by Fowley and associate Mars Bonfire, material by Jett and Krome helped to assert the quintet’s independence. Their 1976 self-titled debut album showed a band indebted to the glam-rock of UK band the Sweet and punchy pop of Suzi Quatro, and included the salutary ‘Cherry Bomb’. Provocative lyrics about teen sex and cheap booze, coupled with the band’s risqué stage wear, attracted criticism from several quarters and had the unfortunate side effect of casting the Runaways as pawns in a male fantasy concocted by Fowley. Queens Of Noise repeated the pattern of the band’s debut, but the strain of touring - the quintet was highly popular in Japan - took its toll on Jackie Fox, who left the line-up and abandoned music altogether, becoming an attorney practising in intellectual property law. Personality clashes also resulted in the departure of Cherie Currie, whose solo career stalled following the failure of her debut album, Beauty’s Only Skin Deep.

Jett took over as lead vocalist and bass player Vicki Blue (b. Victory Tischler-Blue, 16 September 1959, Newport Beach, California, USA) was added to the line-up, but Fowley effectively wiped his hands of the Runaways following the release of their third album, Waitin’ For The Night. Subsequent releases lacked the appeal of the band’s early work which, although tarred by novelty and sexual implication, nonetheless showed a sense of purpose. Jett took over the leadership of the band but her desire to lead the Runaways in a punkier direction clashed with Ford’s love of hard rock. Their fourth album And Now... The Runaways was initially only released in Europe and Japan (it gained a belated home release under the title Little Lost Girls). Blue was replaced by Laurie McAllister (b. November 1958, USA) in January 1979 but the writing was on the wall when Jett departed the same April, and the Runaways disbanded not long afterwards.

Both Jett and Ford later enjoyed solo careers, the former engendering considerable commercial success during the 80s. In 1985 the mischievous Fowley resurrected the old band’s name with all-new personnel. This opportunistic concoction split up on completing Young And Fast. In 2004, Vicki Blue directed the feature length documentary Edgeplay: A Film About The Runaways. Drummer Sandy West passed away two years later of lung cancer.


Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.


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