Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Runaways

One of the previews today was for The Runaways, with Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning. Students of Rock 'n' Roll history will immediately sit up and pay attention to this movie, but I'm guessing it will be corporafied, made palatable for teenagers and movie executives alike. Which would be a shame, as the story of the Runaways is a great one.

I'm going to do this from memory, so I'll go light on the details. The Runaways were active from about 1975 to 1980 and were the first all-woman band to almost make it big. They wrote their own material and played all their own instruments. And they rocked. They never really sold albums in quantity but their strong-suit was live performances anyway. The pressures of breaking big and being gender trailblazers took their toll and the Runaways disbanded.

Which is where the story gets really good. Joan Jett and Lita Ford went on to solo success. Jett will always be known for "I Love Rock 'n' Roll," even though she's better than just one song, and Ford ("Kiss Me Deadly") is one of the best guitarists of the era - either gender - and has done all kinds of session work.

Michael Steele joined another all-woman band, the hugely successsful Bangles. It's generally thought that the Bangles couldn't have existed without the Runaways coming earlier and, in Steele's case, it's quite true. It's also nice that she was able to reap the rewards of her earlier struggles.

Cherie Currie was the lead singer. Blond and gorgeous, she pioneered the punk-chic look a decade before Madonna started wearing her underwear on the outside. Cherie didn't do a lot in the music biz after leaving the Runaways, but did a little acting.

In the early days, Cherie Currie's identical twin Marie was offered the lead singer role, but Marie turned it down. Lest you think that's the end of Marie's rock 'n' roll story, it's just the beginning. Marie married in to rock meritocracy: multi-Grammy Award winner Steve Lukather, he of Toto and session music fame. Luke, as he is known, is a guitar virtuoso and played on hundreds of songs since the late 70s. You can't listen to an oldies station for more than a couple of hours without hearing a song where Luke is contributing (Africa, Rosanna, Beat It, Thriller, Physical, Hard to Say I'm Sorry, Dirty Laundry, I Love LA and hundreds more). Marie Currie and Steve Lukather divorced in the 90s, but their son Trevor, now in his 20s, is getting raves for his guitar work.

The effects of the Runaways are still being felt in the music industry today.

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