Film Four showed the Runaways bio-pic over the weekend. Despite my trepidations about Kristin Stewart of Twiglet fame playing Joan Jett it wasn’t too bad a movie about the all girl band that the Svengali like figure of Kim Fowley put together in mid 70s LA. What I thought was missing though was a nod to the band’s 1976 UK tour, right when punk was kicking off over here. UK punk was a big influence on Jett and the only reference to this in the film was Kristin Stewart spray painting Sex Pistols on a T-Shirt to a blast of Pretty Vacant.
I was at the Runaways’s first London gig in October 1976 at London’s Roundhouse, back when it was a regular sweaty fleapit rather than a poncy venue with a cocktail bar. It cost us all of £1.90 to get in, which was a whole 40p more than the regular three band Sunday Roundhouse gig and a far cry from today’s outrageous ticket prices. Me and my mates were all pretty excited as we queued outside waiting for the doors to open. There was a tremendous buzz about punk gigs in the UK around 19756/76, partially because of the music and fashion, but mostly because the massive overreaction to the punk scene by much of the media, teachers, parents and other authority figures had made it all seem so terribly subversive.
Support was a bunch of idiots called the Suburban Studs, who just tried too hard to look deviant by basing their costume and makeup on a Clockwork Orange. Problem was like a lot of bands from that era they were all image and no songs. The Runaways were pretty good as I recall, but then we were all 17 and pumped full of rampaging teenage boy sex hormones as Cherie Curry pranced across the stage in stockings and suspenders. What was exciting about the band though was that they could play their instruments and write their own material, something that was pretty rare for women in rock n’ roll at the time.
Legend has it that Joan wrote the band’s signature tune Cherry Bomb with Kim Fowley at Cherie Currie’s audition, it’s not a great quality recording but at least it’s the real thing and Twiglet free.
Going back to the movie, what I did think a bit puzzling was the bit at the end where they did the old Cherrie Curry went on to be…. bit, but only for Chrrie, Joan and Kim Fowley and ignored the rest of the band. Granted the film was mostly about Cherrie and Joan’s relationship, but guitarist Lita Ford did go on to sell an awful lot of records and even duet with Ozzy Osbourne as a solo artist.