When Cherie Currie joined the all-girl jailbait rock band The Runaways, whose classic lineup also included Joan Jett and Lita Ford and whose manager was the legendary Kim Fowley, it was 1975 and she was a teenage David Bowie fanatic.
Over the next few years, the white-corsetted Currie and the rest of the band made a mark in the burgeoning punk rock scene with infectious songs including “Cherry Bomb” and “Queens of Noise,” ultimately becoming an important influence on such all-female bands as The Go-Go’s, The Bangles and The Donnas, and various male rockers as well.
A well-publicized 2010 biopic brought The Runaways back into the popular consciousness, and although the band never reunited, Currie will carry the torch at SLO Brewing Co. in San Luis Obispo on Sunday night. She answered the following questions by email.
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Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at your upcoming show in San Luis Obispo?
Cherie Currie: A lot of cool Runaways songs and a few from my new album.
JM: What was the good, the bad and the ugly about the rock-and-roll scene when The Runaways were starting out?
CC: We were a bunch of 16-year-olds thrown into a shark tank. Women were not doing this besides Suzi Quatro and Fanny. Teenage girls doing it was thought of more as a novelty until they heard and saw us.
JM: How did the song “Cherry Bomb” come together?
CC: It was written on the spot for me to audition to. I had learned “Fever” from Suzi Quatro, not a rocker, so Joan [Jett] and Kim [Fowley] looked at me and started writing.
JM: In the early tours, were there any other bands that you particularly enjoyed meeting and/or hanging out with?
CC: Cheap Trick was just starting out and opening for us. We loved them and hung out a lot.
JM: Can you tell me a bit about the 1977 tour of Japan?
CC: Beatlemania. It was nothing short of amazing. It was the first time we all had our own rooms, too. No sharing!
JM: Why did you leave The Runaways?
CC: I was tired. We were all tired. We were looked at as commodity. Nothing more. We were used up by management. No breaks. No money. No consideration at all for our health and well-being. Had we been given a break, I would have stayed.
JM: Do you stay in touch with any of the members of The Runaways?
CC: Lita and I have become good friends. I love her. We never took the chance of getting to know each other in the band. It’s great to have her in my life now.
JM: Could you reflect on the legacy of The Runaways?
CC: We were brave and didn’t take no for an answer. We went for our dreams. We said what needed to be said and backed it up. We fought the good fight for girls and women in general.
JM: If you had to describe Kim Fowley in three words, what would they be?
CC: Man-i-ac. No need for the other two words. He was and is a genius. I’m so glad we had a chance to talk a few years ago. It’s not good to hang onto resentment.
JM: There was a lot of renewed interest in The Runaways when the movie came out a few years ago. What did the movie get right and what did it get wrong?
CC: I’m so glad I had the book [Currie’s memoir Neon Angel] out at the same time, otherwise I would have felt a bit gypped. They did their best in cramming three years of insanity into 90 minutes and the acting was superb. [Director] Floria [Sigismondi]’s eye for catching the ’70s vibe was brilliant.
JM: Did you ever meet David Bowie?
CC: Yes, at The Rat in Boston. What a great night!
JM: What are your plans, musical or otherwise, for the near future?
CC: I’ll get a single or two out, regardless if Blackheart releases my album. All I can do is try to catch up on the time I lost these last three years, though I know that isn’t possible. Just go out and have fun. It’s worth it when I see the look on the fans’ faces. It takes them back to simpler times — to our youth — and it gives young people hope that they, too, can reach their dreams. They can, you know.
JM: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?
CC: Be true to yourself. That’s a tall order — the hardest part. People can tell if you’re faking it. You have something special, be it. That alone will interest people. Be yourself and don’t listen to the negative. People who don’t have the guts to do what you are doing are the ones that will say something negative. Give it your best.
— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.