By Caitlyn Holroyd
Long before the Spice Girls, there was another – more edgy – five-some of ladies preaching girl power known as the Runaways. Co-founded by Joan Jett, the teenage band was short-lived, but rivaled top punk acts of the time like the Ramones and the Sex Pistols before breaking up in 1979. Because we love these badass chicks (and their new biopic starring Kristin Stewart and Dakota Fanning will be in theatres soon), we’d like to introduce you to the Runaways.
Emerging from the Los Angeles music scene in 1975, drummer Sandy West and guitarist Jett approached producer Kim Fowley with their idea to form an all-girl band. Beginning as a trio with bassist Micki Steele, they toured the party circuit before adding 16 year-old lead guitarist Lita Ford and lead singer Cherie Currie to their lineup. Steele would leave the group soon after and be replaced by Jackie Fox.
Within a year, they had released their first album and were playing sold out shows across the country, opening for bands like the Ramones and Van Halen. Though the girls played up their sex appeal by donning lycra bodysuits, corsets and hotpants, they had no problem fitting into the male-dominated world of punk. They sang about sex, drinking and disobeying parents and received pre-tour training from Fowley on how to use their guitars and drumsticks as weapons. As several unfortunate lads found out – hit on them too hard and you’d get knocked out.
By 1977, the Runaways had become a phenomenon in Japan after their second album went gold but it was here – at the height of their fame – that the band began to fall apart. Amidst allegations of drug use and sexual abuse by their management, Fox would leave the band followed soon after by Currie. The remaining girls then parted ways with Mercury records and Fowley, who, in Jett’s words, wanted the band to be nothing more than “young fuckable jailbait;” eager to take sole credit for their success. They would release their fifth and final album in 1978 before calling it quits.
They may not have been around for long, but the Runaways paved the way for many female musicians and for that, we salute them!