The Runaways – Inspiration to Female Rockers

The Runaways redefined music with their all girl punk rock band.  A sound full of guitar solos, slamming bass, rebellious runawaysdrumming, and raw lyrical powerhouses Cherie Currie and Joan Jett.  The girls were fifteen and sixteen years old.  Young, full of hope, and new to the music scene. Kim Fowley (music producer/ manager) met Sandy West (drummer) and Joan Jett (guitarist/ singer) who ultimately got together to form what would become The Runaways in 1975.  Joan Jett, Cherie Currie, Sandy West, Lita Ford, Jackie Fox, and Vicki Blue broke the status quo of male dominated rockers and led the path for other female artists to push boundaries in the industry.

Recently, I watched “Edgeplay: A Film About The Runaways.”  The film had interviews with the girls in the band, family members, and Kim Fowley who was the band’s producer and manager 1975-1978.  The Runways signed to Mercury Records in 1976.  They released four albums.  The band was not popular in the state during the time of their release in 1976, which I feel is due to the fact that they were a female rock group (society loves change).  They were heckled by male fans who called them sluts and rejected by a male dominated music industry who believed they were going to be a flash in the pan because they didn’t have that “hot girl” look.  Fowley was constantly using the lead singer Cherie Currie to push the “hot girl image.”  In the beginning, even though they weren’t big in America, overseas they were huge, especially in Japan; “Cherry Bomb” launched them into fan frenzy overseas and brought on new success.  Soon the girls were headlining sold out shows with opening acts like Cheap Trick, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as well as played a three month tour with The Ramones.  Bands that are permanently in the history books of music.

The Runaways had a sad story.  They were brought together by the love of music, but they fell apart because of people in the industry who took advantage of them and didn’t protect them.  When I was 15/ 16 years old I spent my free time in dance classes at the studio, played with my brothers, spent time with family, and were around adults who looked out for my best interest, but these girls wanted to write history; they left home and Fowley promised them the moon and stars.  Instead, they were exposed to the lifestyle of drugs, alcohol, sex, emotional and verbal abuse, hole in the wall motels, and inappropriate men who had a tight grip on their careers.  The girls were encouraged to be jealous and competitive with each other.  There was separation in the band among the girls.  Joan Jett seemed to be the peacemaker in the band, trying to keep everyone together; to be focused on the music.  The official statement was that the girls ultimately disbanded in 1979 over musical differences, but I think it was more than that.  It was four years of turmoil, anger, verbal abuse, multiple changes of band members, and music industry execs exploiting these young kids.

Without The Runaways we may not have had Sleater-Kinney, The Bangles, The Raincoats or The Donnas.  All girl rock groups that have taken that punk rock sound and continue to push the boundaries of music today.  In the music industry their are millions of dollars being tossed around which can change people.  People can become greedy and take advantage of others for their own benefit.  Maybe The Runaways were destined to fall apart.  You can’t really be a runaway once you are an adult.  The rebellious nature has to grow out of you at some point.  Without the disbanding of The Runaways, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts would have never been formed, Blackheart Records may not exist, society would have lost out on songs like “Bad Reputation” and “I Love Rock n’ Roll,” and the better bond and forgiveness that has formed among the girls may have never happened.  The Runaways changed history.  I hope one day they are inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame because they deserve to be there for not only being the first all-girl rock band, but because their music created a revolution that any girl can pick up a guitar and be a rockstar.

Click here for some of my favorite music by The Runaways.  Below are some great interviews with Joan Jett and Cherie Currier.

Interview with Joan Jett & Cherie Currie – CNN

Interview with Cherie Currie – HitFix Blog

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Girl Power!

If you haven’t noticed, I love to highlight women who have made a mark on society in music and dance.  There have been many women who have created a legacy, changed the world for future generations, and developed magic for others to experience everyday.  International Women’s Day was on March 8th, but in my opinion everyday is Women’s Day!

Pop music is one of my favorite music genres.  It has broken boundaries and changed over decades, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the harmonizing quality girl groups have incorporated into their sound.  Starting in the late 1930s when the Andrews Sisters changed the music scene and the up-and-coming popularity of girl groups began.  In 1955 was the year that girl groups started to grow.  In 1960-1966 over 750 girl groups charted songs in the United States and the United Kingdom.

While listening to girl groups over the decades, I came across a group called “The Chantels” which was formed in the 1950s.  No words can express how excited I was to find this group.  I have a weird obsession with my name that date backs to when I was a kid.  When you don’t have a common name, you can never find cool things with your name on them.  Having a younger brother who has the most common name to man I was jealous.  Anyways, this girl group was revolutionary since it was the second African American girl group to have success after the Bobbettes.  Their first song to hit the billboard charts was “He’s Gone,” but their most popular hit was “Maybe.”  Many of the girl groups such as the Chantels, the Bobbettes, the Shirelles, and the Marvelettes have that doo-wop groove including the harmonized vocals, the simple instrumentations, and those claps that help to keep the rhythm tied together.

Jumping a few decades to the 1990s through to today, girl groups still have a hold in popular music.  During the 90s the sound of girl groups changed.  TLC brought a contemporary R&B sound to groups.  The harmonies were still there, but the style had more of an edge.  After TLC, one of the top selling girl groups ever hit the scene, the Spice Girls.  The Spice Girls is not only embedded in my childhood, but they were the women who taught the 90s generation about girl power and how important friendship is to your life.  Emma, Victoria, Mel B., Mel C., and Geri created a huge fandom and their legacy still lives on in popularity as the best selling girl group ever.  Their mix of dance party type songs like ‘Wannabe’ and ‘Spice Up Your Life’ to their soft ballads ‘2 Become 1’ and ‘Say You’ll Be There’ resinated with the 90s generation connecting their music to life.  The girl groups continue through today with the up-and-coming group Fifth Harmony who have some of the most amazing voices together.  Their vocal range, projection power, and instrumental simplicity to highlight their voices is something exhibits true talent.

In the US, we rarely see artists from foreign speaking countries (besides EDM) in the general popular music scene, but girl groups are huge in Japan (J-Pop) and South Korea (K-Pop) and have hit the music scene hard in the late 2000s with some catchy dance club tunes which include artists Morning Musume, 2NE1, and Girl Generation.  These girl groups bring in techno sounds of EDM, the R&B edge and rap style that TLC had back in the 90s, and power vocals such as Fifth Harmony and Little Mix.  This sound is going to continue to blow up especially now that EDM is hitting the pop scene with artists like Zedd working with numerous female vocalists such as Selena Gomez and Ariana Grande.

Watch out One Direction, Rixton, and The Wanted the girls are coming for your music crown and I think they have the power to take over.  Click here for a list of girl groups that have affect the music scenes from the 1930s through today, and celebrate the power of women everyday.

*All date information found through wikipedia.