What kind of crazy obsessive Joan Jett super fan would I be if I didn’t talk about The Runaways, right? Well, that band’s story is told in the excellent 2010 biopic The Runaways, written and directed by Floria Sigismondi, and starring Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett and Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie. The movie was based on Currie‘s memoir, Neon Angel. But, their story is also told, definitively, in the recent biography Queens of Noise: The Real Story of the Runaways by Evelyn McDonnell.
But, I just want to talk about the music, so, here’s The Runaways, album by album …
1976: The Runaways. The band’s awesome debut was anchored by the classic track “Cherry Bomb” which Jett and Kim Fowley really did write in 20 minutes to give Cherie Currie a song to audition with since the other members didn’t know the one she had practiced. That song, or any other, never came close to the Top 40, but, eventually The Runaways became more influential to future female rockers than any other artist that ever topped the charts in the ’70s! This album also includes minor classics like “American Nights”, “Is It Day Or Night”, “Thunder”, the Jett-only composition “You Drive Me Wild”, “Rock ‘n’ Roll” (originally by The Velvet Underground), and the deliciously theatrical, way over-the-top, yet brilliantly listenable, 7-minute ode to juvenile delinquency “Dead End Justice”. Jett tells recently incarcerated Cherie in that song, “You don’t sing and dance in juvie, Honey!” Words to live by! Best Runaways song (by the original line-up) ever!
1977: Queens of Noise. The Runaways 2nd album was more of the same hormone-fueled, hard-rockin’ goodness, with more minor classics like the title track, “California Paradise”, “Neon Angels on the Road to Ruin”, “Hollywood”, and two Jett-only compositions, “I Love Playin’ With Fire” and “Take It or Leave It”. But, it also had Lita Ford‘s 7-minute guitar freak-out “Johnny Guitar”, which has been called “an unnecessary use of vinyl.”
1977: Live In Japan. For some reason, live albums mattered in the 70’s. Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rush, and KISS all had classic live albums. And, all of those albums did, in fact, matter to me (in the ’70s). Live In Japan is not a classic, but, it’s not bad, proving that The Runaways sounded great live!
1977: Waitin’ For the Night. Yeah, 3 albums in one year! That’s how rock bands rolled in the ’70s! This one is a masterpiece (to my ears anyway!). Cherie Currie quit the band, and, so Joan Jett took over as lead vocalist. All Jett, all good! The first two studio albums were about The Runaways being the first all-female punk/hard rock band, but, this album was about the remaining girls just rocking out like Jett always wanted to. They sounded, more than ever, like a female version of 70’s KISS, which isn’t a bad thing at all. You can practically hear what The Donnas would be doing 25 years later listening to this album. “School Days”, “You’re Too Possessive”, “Wasted”, “Gotta Get Out Tonight”, “Wait For Me”, and “Don’t Go Away” are all favorite tracks!
1978: And Now… The Runaways. And, now, The Runaways sucked. “Black Leather” is cool, though.
1980: Flaming Schoolgirls. The Runaways disbanded in 1979, and, this posthumously-released album is filled out by outtakes from the Queens of Noise sessions and additional cuts from Live in Japan. For completists only.
Watch Kristen Stewart & Dakota Fanning perform “Cherry Bomb” from the movie The Runaways here:
Take It Or Leave It – A Tribute To the Queens of Noise: The Runaways (2011) is an epic 2-disc collection featuring 35 tracks spanning all of the band’s albums. Some of my favorites include “Queens of Noise” (The Donnas), “I Love Playin’ With Fire” (The Binges), “You’re Too Possessive” (Cali Giraffes), “Don’t Go Away” (Clinical Trials), “Black Leather” (Shonen Knife), and “Dead End Justice” (Kathleen Hanna & Peaches).