THE RUNAWAYS (1975–1978). Michael “Micki” Steele (vocals/bass, replaced on vocals by Cherie Currie, and on bass by Jackie Fox), Joan Jett (guitar), Lita Ford (guitar), Sandy West (drums).
The Runaways were one of the key female rock bands. Although they played a variety of styles, including proto-punk and glam, they were primarily a metal band. This was in spite of the efforts of Los Angeles music mogul Kim Fowley, who brought the band together in much the same way that Lou Pearlman put together boy bands in the eighties and nineties. The difference was that the Runaways, particularly Jett and Ford, had real talent.
The Runaways were recruited by Fowley in 1975, and as a result of Fowley’s repulsive behavior toward the young girls in his care, went through several lineup changes (as documented in McNeil and McCain 1996). Members included future stars Jett and Ford on guitar, Cherie Currie on vocals, Sandy West on drums and vocals, and Micki Steele on bass and vocals (who later went on to a lengthy career with the pop band the Bangles and who was subsequently replaced by Jackie Fox on bass and later by Peggy Foster and Laurie McAllister).
Fowley, best known as a songwriter and manager, most famous for his novelty single “They’re Coming to Take Me Away Ha Ha” as Napoleon XIV, marketed the Runaways as a girl group playing macho balls-to-the-wall rock and roll. For a while the group caught on, particularly in Los Angeles and overseas, where rockstarved Europeans appreciated the band’s metallic crunch and energy more than the lethargic American audiences did. Realizing that he didn’t have a female perspective, nor any real sensitivity to write songs for the group, Fowley recruited Kari Krome to write songs for the band that they would find more palatable to sing. After lengthy tours, and years of verbal abuse by Fowley, Jackie Fox left the band, along with Cherie Currie. This left Jett as the de facto lead singer, before the band eventually broke down altogether and dissolved.
Jett went on to the most successful solo career of anyone in the band with hits such as “I Love Rock and Roll” and a cover of “Crimson and Clover.” Lita Ford established herself as a top-selling metal act for a while, best known for her hit single “Kiss Me Deadly” and her duet with Ozzy on “Close My Eyes Forever.” Various members of the band went on to solo careers of limited success. Sadly in 2006, former drummer Sandy West died of cancer. The Runaways were a huge influence on almost all hard-rocking female groups, such as Vixen who came later. Jett and Ford established that women could have successful solo careers in hard rock and heavy metal.
Discography: The Runaways (Mercury, 1976; Cherry Red, 2003); Queens of Noise (Mercury, 1977; Cherry Red, 2003); Live in Japan (Mercury, 1977; Cherry Red, 2004); Waitin’ for the Night (Mercury, 1977; Cherry Red, 2004); And Now … the Runaways (Cherry Red, 1979; Cherry Red, 1999); Flaming Schoolgirls (Cherry Red, 1980; Cherry Red, 2004); Little Lost Girls (Rhino, 1981; Rhino, 1990); The Best of the Runaways (Mercury, 1982; Mercury/Universal, 2005); I Love Playing with Fire (Laker/Cherry Red, 1982); Born to Be Bad (Marilyn Records, 1991).