The Runaways–The Original Riot Grrrls
The Runaways – The Original Riot Grrrls.

Cherrie Currie – Vocals
Joan Jett – Gtr
Lita Ford – Lead Gtr
Jackie Fox – Bass
Sandy West – Drums

The 1st time I was exposed to The Runaways was via the classic 1977 Vertigo Records compilation, “New Wave”. The group contributed 2 tracks – “Cherry Bomb” & “Hollywood” – from the “Runaways” & “Queens Of Noise” LPs respectively. “New Wave” was one of the few points of Punk Rock access for a poor boy from the sticks back in the day. Most of the front line Punk records were almost impossible to find in either WH Smiths, Woolworths, Midland Educational or Regent Records - & “New Wave” gave me the chance to repeatedly abuse not only The Voidoids, The Ramones, The Damned, The Dead Boys, The New York Dolls, Patti Smith, The Boomtown Rats & The Flamin’ Groovies – but also The Runaways!

“Cherry Bomb”, in particular – with it’s stuttered chant of “ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-CHERRY BOMB” – set my 14-year-old pulse racing through the roof of my humble provincial bedroom into stratospheric orbits of proto-lust. Along with my dog-eared copy of Blondie’s “Rip Her To Shreds” – I was beginning to change my opinion of girls with guitars. Photos of Cherrie Currie & Joan Jett hacked from Sounds & NME were soon vying with those of Debbie Harry for space on my rapidly disappearing bedroom wallpaper.

“Hello world, I’m your riot girl”, boasted the chorus to “Cherry Bomb” – thereby naming the distant future Femme-Punk movement in the process. That’s right - The Runaways were the forerunners of Bikini Kill, L7, Babes In Toyland, Sleater Kinney, Bratmobile, The Donnas & their ilk - & were arguably the template for all that were destined to follow (go on, argue!).

The Runaways were formed in Hollywood in 1975 with the assistance & guidance of garage rock guru/svengali Kim Fowley. Initially dismissed by many as an ‘assembled’ group (there was actually quite a lot of that going around at the time, eh Malcolm?) – the 16-year-old Runaways quickly established themselves in a relatively barren rock n roll landscape as girls with attitude.

The Runways eponymous debut LP was released in 1976 – a month before their New York debut @ CBGBs. Including “Cherrie Bomb”, “American Nights” & a cow-belled romp through Lou Reed’s “Rock And Roll” – the LP was a rousing debut. Full of strutting riffage & dextrous fret abuse, “The Runaways” was critically well received & picked up on by many young Punks who held “New Wave” dear to their hearts.

The Runaways toured the UK in September 1976 just as the Punk Rock explosion was breaking out onto the streets. Parsons & Burchill championed the group in the NME but Lucy Toothpaste from Punk-zine ‘The Jolt’ was not so impressed: “No self-respecting Punk would’ve stayed even halfway through if the same material had been played by a male band.” Ouch!

The Runaways eventually released a total of 5 LPs in their lifetime before Joan Jett moved on to even greater success elsewhere (“I love rock n roll, put another dime in the jukebox, baby”, anyone?).

All 5 Runaways titles – “The Runaways”, “Queens Of Noise”, “Live In Japan”, “Waitin’ For The Night” & “..And Now The Runaways”, are now available on CD for the 1st time trough Cherry Red Records. All have been digitally re-mastered & feature extensive sleeve notes by both Michael Heatley & Sally Jones.

Although The Runways sold close to jack shit back in the day (except in Japan!) – their place as the progenitors of the all-female rock n roll scene cannot be denied. Dig back in time & find out where it all started - &, consequently, discover just what a hideously male dominated world we’ve rightly left behind.

Marquee Smith – tMx 13 – 11/03
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