Chicks rock: The Runaways were ‘Queens of Noise’
Get a behind the scenes look into the lives of 70s teen rock band The Runaways in Evelyn McDonnell’s “Queens of Noise.”
The subject of a recent movie, the Runaways were a teenage girl band put together by infamous producer/manager Kim Fowley, with a lineup of Joan Jett, Cherie Currie, Sandy West, Lita Ford and Jackie Fox. The rise and fall of the band is detailed through interviews with the subjects themselves, family and friends, previous interviews and more in this book.
The author sets the tone of the book by discussing the 70s rock scene, the infamous clubs where the kids hung out and even the cultural time period, specifically in California where the girls lived.
McDonnell also delves into the background of Fowley, his first attempts of putting a girl band together, and then him introducing Jett and West, as well as the involvement of teenage songwriter and actual teenage runaway, Kari Krome, who wrote some of the first songs. Would-be members, who weren’t chosen or didn’t take the gig for various reasons are also interviewed, as well as the members that did join Jett and West, Ford and Fox. With the addition of Currie as lead singer to give the band a hot blonde front and center, the band came together pretty quickly, began playing anywhere from clubs to high schools, and got a record deal shortly thereafter.
Eventually touring in Japan and getting an almost Beatles-mania following there, the girls arrived back home to record a second album, and after it completed, began to have problems. Fox and Currie quit, with Jett taking over as singer and Vicki Blue as bass player. When Blue couldn’t take the stress from touring and being in the band, she was replaced by Laurie Hoyt, and the band shortly dissolved after. Jett and Ford went on to successful music careers, while Currie released an album with her sister and eventually tried her hand at acting. Fox found a career outside of music, as did Blue.
The rocky relationships between the bandmates are detailed, and come across as largely stress dealing with the pressure of fame at a young age. Some of the band members also had drug problems. Currie wrote about her own in her autobiography, “Neon Angel” and is also detailed here, while West’s problems with drugs is also detailed, though it was cancer that eventually took her life. Rocky romantic entanglements are also discussed.
For a grim and gritty look at the rise and fall of the band, as well as a look at sexual politics in the 70s and in the 70s rock scene, this is a fascinating book. And for fans of The Runaways, like me, this is a must have.