The Runaways

The Runaways/The Queens of Noise (Cherry Red)

Dec 3, 2003 at 4:00 am
In the August 1972 issue of Ms., Lester Bangs wrote that "Clearly we need an all-woman rock & roll band that can create the kind of loud, savage, mesmerizing music that challenges men on their own ground." Four years later the Runaways were born, and wannabe rockers of the teenage female persuasion had instant role models. But despite providing the first stage steps for Joan Jett and Lita Ford, the Runaways are better known for being a footnote in rock history than for making any truly musical contribution. These reissues will explain why.

The Runaways began as a Lolita-themed creation of Los Angeles music impresario Kim Fowley, who put the band together and changed the girls' names: Joan Larkin became Joan Jett, Sandy Pesavento became Sandy West, and Jacqueline Fuchs became Jackie Fox. Furthermore, Fowley plastered their ages (sixteen and seventeen) on the back of the first record (The Runaways) and posed them next to strip-club poles for the cover of the follow-up Queens of Noise. In his spare time, Fowley not only managed the band and produced its first two albums but also had a hand in writing fourteen of the twenty songs.

For the most part, the Runaways played their own instruments (future lawyer Fox's basslines were covered by an uncredited Nigel Harrison of Blondie), but they also adopted nearly every rock & roll cliché employed by their male predecessors, which included penning some of the most embarrassing couplets ("Don't hold off, do it, I need your lovin'/I'm getting so hot, I'm cookin' like an oven") in a decade full of egregious lyrics. Though The Runaways contains the minor hit "Cherry Bomb" and an acceptable cover of Lou Reed's "Rock & Roll," any passing marks earned by the school-age Runaways would be based on effort rather than execution. Buy these for a historical thrill, not a musical one.