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Once a Runaway, Cherie Currie Still Finds Her Footing
May 4, 2020
At age 60, Cherie Currie is still ready to rock. As confident and creative as ever, she now finds herself returning to make music with a power and passion that’s as fully fueled as it was some 45 years ago when she joined the pioneering girl group the Runaways, a band that unintentionally helped ignite the #MeToo movement decades before the term was ever conceived. With the release of a riveting new album, the tellingly titled Blvds of Splendor, she’s clearly a contender and ready to share the expressive instincts that made her such an expressive artist even early on.
When Cherie Currie was recruited to sing for the then fledging Runaways in 1975, women were considered second class citizens in the realms of rock and roll. Girl groups who played their own instruments were practically unheard of. Mostly, they consisted only of singers who were dependent on backing by studio musicians and the guidance of a super Svengali who operated behind the scenes. The Ronettes were a musical mechanism for the mad genius of producer Phil Spector, while the Supremes, the Marvelettes and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas served the interest of the Motown hit machine under the relentless rule of Berry Gordy. Granted, the Runaways had their own mastermind at the controls in the person of their guru Kim Fowley, but their ability to write they own material and execute their own intentions allowed them to control their own destiny in a way few other girl groups had done before. Were it not for them and precious few other female rockers like Suzi Quatro, Fanny and Deborah Harry, those bands that would follow — the Go-Gos and the Bangles included — would likely have had an even greater challenge when it came to wider acceptance.
What made the Runaways in particular so remarkable was the fact that the group scored its biggest successes when the band members were still in their teens. That may also account for the fact that the band’s accomplishments were also so fleeting. After two studio albums — their eponymous debut and its successor, Queen of Noise, the group’s run was over, save a live effort, Live In Japan.
“I had heard about the Runaways.,” Currie, who was drafted after being noticed at a local teen club, now recalls. “Word travels fast when you’re a teenage girl… this was after David Bowie and Ziggy Stardust, and it made me want to be a front person in a band.”
Still, she admits now that she really didn’t know what she was walking into. “I knew Joan (Jett) and Kim (Fowley), but that’s about it,” she says. “We went to someone’s garage and that’s where I auditioned. That’s also when Joan wrote the song ‘Cherry Bomb.’ It came to mind when she looked at me. I guess that was my persona at the time. I went on to sing the song. Yeah, pretty crazy, isn’t it?”
Currie left the Runaways after their second album and quickly launched a solo career that marked by 1978’s Beauty’s Only Skin Deep and two subsequent offerings with her sister Marie, Messin’ with the Boys (1980) and Young and Wild (1998). She also delved into acting, no surprise considering the fact that her mother, Marie Harmon, had been a successful actress, starring in films alongside Roy Rogers and the Andrews Sisters. “I had no idea how good she was.,” Currie says in retrospect. “She was a comedic genius.”
Currie first found herself in the limelight at the age of two when she and her sister were given cameo roles in an episode of “My Three Sons.” The girls were supposed to sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” but the scene ended up on the cutting room floor. “We got confused,” she recalls. “Fred MacMurray just started to sing and we looked at each other and froze up. I guess he just wanted to do it himself.”
Fortunately, her film career fared better. Her credentials include” Foxes” (with Jodie Foster), “Parasite,” “Wavelength,” “Twilight Zone: The Movie,” “The Rosebud Beach Hotel” (which also featured her sister Marie), “Rich Girl,” and guest spots on the TV series “Matlock” and “Murder She Wrote.” In addition, she played a major part in promoting the Runaways’ bio-flick “The Runaways” which found Dakota Fanning playing the part of Cherie.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” she suggests. “But still, I worked really hard.”
It was in 2010, the same year as the film’s release, that she began working with Guns N’ Roses/Velvet Revolver drummer and co-producer Matt Sorum on Blvds of Splendor, which, she insists, stands as her best work yet. Ironically, the project was never envisioned as an album, even though it features input from an impressive array of guest artists, among them, Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, Slash and Duff from Guns N’ Roses, as well as Juliette Lewis, Brody Dalle, and The Veronicas. She mostly spent her time as chainsaw artist until launching her musical comeback with Reverie in 2015. In the meantime, the tapes recorded for Blvds of Splendor languished in the vaults until 2016 when Currie decided to ready them for release. However fate intervened; she was working on one of her sculptures when she fell from her scaffolding and plunged 12 feet to the ground, causing severe head trauma and partial paralysis of her facial muscles.
Currie laughs at the suggestion that there was some irony involved with that accident. After all, it’s often said that rock and roll can be a dangerous game, but apparently the danger extends to sculpturing as well.
Following her recovery, Currie returned to studio to work with Brie Darling, the drummer and vocalist for Fanny. The two released The Motivator in 2019, while Blvds of Splendor finally got its release last year on Record Store Day via a limited vinyl run of 3,000 copies. Its wider release on April 28 includes three bonus tracks exclusive to the digital offering.
“I didn’t expect to appreciate how good it is,” Currie admits. “It was one thing listening to it on Record Store Day, but listening to it now, it just sounds fantastic. It did have a staggered timeline, but we’re putting it out now and I’m really happy about that. If I never made another record, this is the one I’d want to go out with in a blaze of glory. All those great artists, it really was a thing of wonder.”
That said, she concedes that her solo career didn’t kick off the way she had hoped it would. “That record was really a bump in the road for me,” she says of her initial outing Beauty’s Only Skin Deep. “That really wasn’t the record I wanted to make.”
She says that her subsequent absence from the music scene can be attributed to the fact that she got married, raised a son and made sculpting her priority. Even so, she did do some occasional touring over the years, even opening up for her former Runaways bandmate Joan Jett, with whom she still keeps in touch.
“Then this happened,” she says, picking up the narrative. “And I’m very happy it did.” Indeed, the song selection gives her tremendous cause for satisfaction. Several of the numbers that were chosen are covers suggested to her by her collaborators. The Tommy James hit “Draggin’ The Line” was recommended by Kenny Laguna, who manages and produced Joan Jett. Currie claims that the “The Air That I Breathe,” famously recorded by The Hollies,” happened to be one of her favorites since childhood. In fact, Currie’s arrangement is nearly identical to the original. She mentions that Nick Gilder’s hit, “Roxy Roller,” was a song she had wanted to cover ever since the ‘80s.
She notes that “You Wreck Me,” one of her originals, came about after a break-up. “I had just gotten out of a relationship,” she explains. “I wrote that one in 20 minutes.”
The inevitable question that comes out of any conversation with Currie revolves around the possibility of a Runaways reunion. Currie says that she, Jett, guitarist Lita Ford, bassist Jackie Fox, and drummer Sandy West, who later succumbed to breast cancer in 2006, had agreed to regroup, but the tour was subsequently cancelled at the last minute. “Kenny (Laguna) had everything set up, an entire tour. Then we had a conference call and Lita backed out. Lita just doesn’t get along with Kenny Laguna. Then they asked me call her and try to convince her to come back, but that fell flat. I’m the only one that’s played with all the girls — Joan, Lita…But I don’t see it happening, so I basically just walked away from it. There’s nothing I can do about it. They know I’m here, but I don’t see them working out their problems. I just don’t see it happening.”
“Queens of Noise” is offered as an instant grat track when you pre-order the album, here.