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Former Runaways frontwoman Cherie Currie digitally released her long-awaited, star-studded album, Blvds of Splendor, via former Runaways guitarist Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records on April 28th.
The album previously came out as a vinyl-only release for Record Store Day last year, but didn’t get a wide release; the digital version includes three bonus tracks.
Cherie first began talking about the album which features guest appearances by Billy Corgan, Guns N’ Roses’ Slash, Duff McKagan, Matt Sorum, Juliette Lewis and Brody Dalle, among others — in 2016. She shelved the project at the time after falling more than 12 feet while chainsaw carving, causing head trauma and partial facial paralysis that lasted months.
Her extraordinary life reads like fiction. From a teenage rock star to becoming an accomplished Chainsaw Carving artist, Cherie has always taken the road less traveled.
Cherie was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, where she spent her early teenage years living the Southern California lifestyle with skateboarding and surfing being her pastimes of choice. Cherie would regularly sneak out to Paradise Cove to catch the waves on her eight-foot, blue and yellow gun board. Cherie describes her life at this time as “about as Ozzie & Harriet as it comes.” However, soon the idyllic existence ended with the demise of her parent’s marriage.
After the divorce, Cherie’s mother, a former Republic Studios contract actor, remarried and moved to Indonesia, taking Cherie’s younger brother Don with her. Cherie and her twin sister Marie moved in with their Aunt Evie, their Grandmother, Onie and their father, Don.
Inspired by the music and image of David Bowie, Cherie found an escape and a raison d'être in rock & roll. The twins began frequenting the Sugar Shack, a club for teens in North Hollywood, which played all the hottest glam rock cuts coming out of the UK. It was there, where she met producer and manager Kim Fowley and a young guitarist named Joan Jett, who also frequented the club. They were searching for a lead singer for the all-female rock band they were forming, which then consisted of Joan Jett on guitar and Sandy West on drums and was called The Runaways.
Cherie was asked to learn a Suzi Quatro song for her audition, but when she arrived to the audition with "Fever", a Peggy Lee original (which Quatro had covered), the band would not play the song. Unable to agree on a suitable alternate song, Joan and Kim wrote an impromptu audition piece, the chorus and title being a play on words referring to Cherie’s name and "cherry blonde bombshell" good looks. "Cherry Bomb" became one of The Runaways signature songs, and still stands today as a universal anthem for teenage rebellion.
Cherie was just 15 when she became The Runaways lead singer. Within a month of Cherie joining The Runaways, the band secured a deal with Mercury Records. Two weeks later they were in the studio recording their self-titled first album.
The Runaways faced opposition and criticism simply because they were unlike anything the world had seen before. They were a teenage all-girl band, which people hoped to dismiss, however, they delivered – technically and creatively – with maturity well beyond their years. With the triple threat of talent, self-assured sexuality, and style, The Runaways rocked as hard, if not harder, than the men in the male-dominated rock world. Their provocative image, which was augmented by the outrageous fishnets and corset Cherie wore for “Cherry Bomb,” would lay the groundwork for pop star fashion we still see today.
The release of their debut album in 1976 was followed by a national tour across America. During this time, the girls headlined bills over legendary bands such as Cheap Trick, Van Halen, Tom Petty, and The Ramones. By the time their sophomore album, Queens of Noise was released in 1977, The Runaways’ legend had gone international.
The band embarked on an international tour of Europe and then ultimately Japan, where Runaways mania had reached a fever pitch, as they were the fourth most popular international act there behind Led Zeppelin, ABBA, and Kiss.
Drained by their non-stop schedule, overworked, and underpaid, the already fractured and fragile group began to fall apart. A ‘Live In Japan’ album was released as a coda to the tour. It was the last full-length release to feature the original Runaways lineup. Cherie left soon after the band’s return to the US.
After three albums with the Runaways, Cherie went on to be a solo artist. She signed a contract with Mercury saying she would record four records, but she left the Runaways after the third album, thus she was obligated to record another album. She recorded it solo and the result was ‘Beauty's Only Skin Deep’ for Polygram Records. Marie Currie did a duet with Cherie on her solo record "Love at First Sight." Cherie and Marie went on a US tour in 1977, and when Marie would join Cherie on stage to sing the encores the audience would go wild. Then they went on a Japan tour in 1978. While in Japan, the twins performed on many TV shows. So, Cherie ran with the idea of two blonds are better than one, and changed the band name from Cherie Currie to Cherie and Marie Currie. With Marie Currie, she recorded ‘Messin' with the Boys’ for Capitol Records and ‘Young and Wild’ for Raven. ‘Messin' with the Boys’ was released in 1980 and received more radio play than ‘Beauty's Only Skin Deep.’
During that same year, another of Cherie’s many talents took center stage. She was cast opposite Jodie Foster in ‘Foxes,’ a coming-of-age movie, set in the San Fernando Valley, where she played Annie, a teenage runaway, dabbling with substance abuse to cope with the scars inflicted by an abusive father. Cherie got excellent notices for her acting in ‘Foxes,’ which led to more roles in film (Wavelength with Robert Carradine, Parasite with Demi Moore and, Twilight Zone: The Movie with Dan Aykroyd) and TV (Murder She Wrote and Matlock).
Cherie recounted the story of her incredible ups and downs, dealing with success, as well as with her struggles with addiction, in her 1989 autobiography, ‘Neon Angel: The Cherie Currie Story.’ Cherie was forced to leave much of the more salacious moments of her story out, as the book had been written specifically for the young adult market.
Cherie set out to tell the story of her incredible journey again, this time, leaving no detail censored. Cherie showed the new manuscript to Joan Jett’s longtime collaborator, producer and partner in Blackheart Records, Kenny Laguna. He had been a close friend for many years and offered to shop it for a book deal. In the process of doing so, he ended up securing a film deal, which is now ‘The Runaways,’ which stars Dakota Fanning as Cherie and Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett. ‘The Runaways’ film was released on March 19, 2010.
In 2002, Cherie decided to pick up a chainsaw and has become an award winning artist, competing and winning in chainsaw championships and making it her career out of the spotlight.
In late 2014, Kim Fowley contacted Cherie to see if she would be interested in making an album. Fowley had been battling cancer for many years. The two 'buried the hatchet' of her teenaged past. Cherie was thrilled at the prospect to come full circle and work with Kim again. Within weeks they were writing songs, but this time she had brought her son, Jake Hays, 23, an accomplished musician in his own right, who had toured with his mom and had just signed a record deal for his own band Maudlin Strangers. Within five days they were in the studio with Kim Fowley at the helm, but by day four, Kim was too ill to continue and passed the task of completing the album "Reverie" onto Jake Hays.
As Jake and Cherie worked to finish the album, Cherie also brought Kim into her home and cared for him, but sadly, Kim died a month before the album was finished.
In 2019 Cherie and Fanny drummer and singer Brie Darling released a duet album titled "The Motivator," a 12-song album featuring nine classic covers by bands including T. Rex, The Rolling Stones, Buffalo Springfield, Stevie Wonder, and John Lennon, plus three powerful new originals, including the tough rocker 'Too Bruised' and the topical 'This Is Our Time.'
Cherie talked to me over the phone from her Los Angeles home to discuss her recent good fortune and how she is ready to get back out on the road to support her new hit album.
Alan Mercer: Cherie, it’ so nice to hear your voice.
Cherie Currie: It’s always great to hear your voice. I keep in contact with you on Facebook. I just love you. You are such a positive and wonderful human being.
AM: I feel the same way about you. I’m a year older than you are so we grew up in the same pop culture world.
CC: We did grow up in the best time ever.
AM: I agree, and I must congratulate you on the massive success of your new album, ‘Blvds of Splendor.’ It’s perfect in every way. You must really be enjoying all this attention.
CC: It feels like ‘The Twilight Zone.’ I never expected this album to show itself. I thought it was a done deal. It was just a couple years ago that I had my house up for sale so I could buy some land up north and build a couple of cabins and be a chainsaw carver the rest of my life on a self-sufficient property. Then here I am making a record with Brie Darling called ‘The Motivator’ and then Blackheart Records decides to put the vinyl out of ‘Blvds of Splendor.’ I did not see that coming and then they made it a worldwide download. It’s been a shock and a wonderful surprise. I stopped listening to this record eight years ago. I never thought it was going to see the light of day. For it to actually be embraced like this is a miracle to me.
AM: It is totally brilliant.
CC: I have to give kudos to Matt Sorum. He picked these songs and I picked some and wrote a couple of them as well, but he had a vision I didn’t have. I had the opportunity to work with him on a fluke when he offered to be my drummer when I opened for Joan Jett at the Amphitheater in 2010. He had called me to see about singing some background vocals on his now wife Ace Harper’s record, but I missed out on that because I was touring in support of The Runaways movie. When I told him my dilemma that I had no band to open for Joan, he pulled it all off. He brought in the players and put together a terrific show with Nick Mayberry who has now worked with me ever since and Grant Fitzpatrick from The Cult. Then I brought my son, Jake on board. We put together this great 30-minute act. It just went from there. Matt thought I really needed to make a record and within a week after that show we were in his home studio recording ‘Roxy Roller.’
AM: I love that cut. I can’t even pick a favorite song from the album because they are all sublime. If I had to pick, I would start with your composition, ‘Shades.’ You wrote that with Jake didn’t you?
CC: Jake wrote the original song with the original lyrics for the ‘Reverie’ album.
AM: Yes, I have that one too.
CC: Matt wasn’t completely sold on the lyrics. I thought they were brilliant. That’s why we ended up re-recording it. Like I said, I never thought this record was going to come out. Jake really shines as a Singer/Songwriter/Producer. It’s been ten years since we recorded ‘Shades.’
AM: That reminds me, I love Jake’s new song, ‘Sober.’
CC: He’s just fabulous. He lives at home now since he lost his house in the fire. It’s really great to have him there.
AM: You two complement each other artistically.
CC: Thank you, you know Alan all these wonderful things you say mean so much to me. Since we did grow up at the same time, to be able to put out a record that touches on the magic we experienced growing up in the Seventies is a huge gift to me because it really is a rockin’ record.
AM: It really is.
CC: If I never make another record, I’m OK with that.
AM: Now I hope you go our and play some live shows.
CC: We have to go out and tour behind this record. I did tour on it in 2014, 15, 16 and I tried to force the release of the record, so it will be so much fun to have people know the songs now. I used to have to tell everyone the song would be coming out…soon. (Laughter) These wonderful fans and friends would show up for these tours that I would do wanting that album. I think everyone gave up until it happened. It’s great that it’s out and now I get to talk to you.
AM: Cherie, you are such a gifted chainsaw artist. It seems like it would be the most difficult art to produce.
CC: Well it is labor. I’ll tell you that much but it’s something that I have cherished because it’s a chainsaw so I can get out all my aggression silently in my head, not so silently in real life, with all the people I get angry at. (Laughter) It really supported me for the last twenty years. When I picked up that chainsaw, I never foresaw myself making another record.
AM: That’s because most people who started recording when you did do not make records anymore.
CC: That’s right. It’s so much fun to be the boss. I love not having people telling me what to do or how to do it. That has really resonated with me as far as being an artist. It’s just me and that saw. I have to make myself happy and that’s not easy. I work really hard to make sure my clients are happy.
AM: Congratulations on your book being on the top of the best sellers list again! That doesn’t happen often.
CC: Alan, I feel like I’m the Cinderella girl. I don’t know how that happened. My long-time publicist Ken Phillips is bewildered by it as well. I think it has a lot to do with this record and people enjoying it enough where they reach out and see that I wrote a book ten years ago. Actually, the original version came out in 1989 aimed at the young adult market and then I rewrote it and made it an adult book. I’m recording the audio version now. I’m on chapter eleven. It’s a hard story to tell.
AM: Do you have emotional moments while reading it or are you past it?
CC: I thought I was past it when I was asked to write the adult version and tell the stories I couldn’t tell in the young adult version. I even warned my neighbor Scott Waters, who lives next door, that if he heard any screaming and crying coming from my house, don’t call the police, I’m just making my audio book. (Laughter) Honestly it is a traumatic experience to relive it and allow it to come out. Writing it is different. You read it and you cry, but when you have to say it out loud, you become a part of it. It feels like more of an exorcism at this point.
AM: Do you have a publishing date yet?
CC: We are trying to do it post haste and get it out there for people. I think it will come out at the perfect time. It feels like the stars are aligned in my favor.
AM: Very much. Listening to the new album also inspired me to listen to some of your older music like the album you made with Marie. That is a classic now.
CC: The feelings that come out of that record are a little strange. After my twin sister and I made that record she decided she didn’t want to tour on it. That left me in a pretty bad situation. I had a quarter of a million-dollar record and no way to support it, but it is a great record. At least it gave Marie the opportunity to know she didn’t want to be making records or touring. I was able to walk away from that situation where at least I gave her a shot at it. She is a fabulous artist too, much like you. You are one of the greatest photographers and we have to do something together.
AM: We will, I promise. This is definitely your time. You are having a Cinderella moment and I hope it last about a decade.
CC: Thank you Alan. I really hope this album brings a lot of joy to people. When I listen to it, my jaw hits the floor, because of how great it is.
AM: Me too.
CC: I’ve never felt this way about a record before. There were always some songs I didn’t like on my past records, but I am so very proud of this one. I’m grateful to all the great artists who came to help make it happen.