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On Stage: Female rock pioneers team up

Nov 16th, 2019 · 0 Comment

By Denny DyroffEntertainment Editor, The Times

Cherie Currie and Brie Howard-Darling

In the 1980s, there were many all-female rock bands that wrote music, sang the songs and played their own instruments – acts such as the Bangles, the Go-Go’s, L7 and the Lunachicks.

The groundwork for their success and acceptance was laid a decade earlier by two bands who made huge inroads into the male-donated world of rock music – the Runaways and Fanny.

Fanny was an American rock band, active in the early 1970s. The band was one of the first all-female rock groups to achieve critical and commercial success, including two Billboard Hot 100 top 40 singles. Brie Howard-Darling was the original drummer in the group’s predecessor band, The Svelts, but returned to play on the group’s final album, Rock and Roll Survivors in 1974. 

The Runaways were an all-female teenage American rock band that recorded and performed in the second half of the 1970s. The band released four studio albums and one live set during its run. Among their best-known songs are “Cherry Bomb,” “Hollywood,” “Queens of Noise” and a cover version of the Velvet Underground’s “Rock & Roll.”

Three of the Runaways went on to have highly successful solo careers – Cherie Currie, Lita Ford and Joan Jett.

Fast forward to 2019 and two former members of these bands have teamed up to form a potent musical collaboration that has just released an album and is currently on tour.

On November 16, that tour featuring Cherie Currie and Brie Darling touches down in the area for a show at Kung Fu Necktie (1248 North Front Street, Philadelphia, 215-291-4919, kungfunecktie.com).

Currie and Darling were ’70s icons who got the headlines. But they didn’t always get the credit they deserved as strong women holding their own and forging new ground in a rock and roll playing field then dominated by old-school masculine mores.

While Currie and Darling had a mutual admiration society, the two didn’t meet until 2017 when Darling reached out to Currie to contribute vocals to “Fanny Walked the Earth,” a reunion album from the trailblazing Fanny, the first all-female band signed to a major label (Reprise) in 1969.

Now fierce friends and cool collaborators, they’re singing together on the new album, “The Motivator,” which was recently released on Blue Élan Records.

The 12-song album features 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.”

“I was making a record with two of the women from Fanny,” said Darling, during a recent phone interview. “I thought it would be nice to have a women’s group like the Bangles, the Go-Go’s and Fanny.”

In 2016, Darling joined a live performance by her former Fanny bandmates – sisters June and Jean Millington. This inspired the formation of a new band called Fanny Walked the Earth.

An album of all-new songs with the same title was released in March 2018. The album marks the first time June, Jean, and Brie all recorded at the same time in over 40 years.

“We released the album and got good response,” said Darling. “Unfortunately, we were unable to support it because Jean had a stroke.”

The album featured appearances by rock legends Currie, Kathy Valentine of The Go-Go’s, Genya Ravan, Patti Quatro and Susanna Hoffs, Vicki Peterson and Debbi Peterson of The Bangles.

“Singing on ‘Fanny Walks the Earth’ was great,” said Currie. “I sang on ‘Gimme Shelter’ with Brie. We just thought we sounded really good together.”

Darling said, “Cherie and I have a lot of history in common. She invited me to play in the Cherry Bomb Charity Project. We feel the same as we did when we were in our twenties. We wind each other up.”

According to Currie, “The women in Fanny are like queens to me. They started all of it. They cracked that door and made it possible for us to believe that we could do it too.”

Fanny’s roots go back to the mid-1960s.

“I first started with Jean and June 1966,” said Darling. “We had an all-female band called the Svelts. That band became Fanny.”

After she left Fanny in the early 1970s, Darling stayed active in the music business. She has recorded with such artists as Carole King, Ringo Starr, ELO, Keith Moon, The Temptations, Jimmy Buffett, Melissa Manchester, Janiva Magness, and Glen Campbell. She has been a band member of American Girls and Boxing Gandhis.

Another of rock’s iconic figures is Currie, who was the lead singer of the Runaways. The five teenage girls from Southern California formed one of the first American all-female hard rock bands and then recorded four studio albums during their brief career.

Currie was the Runaways’ front woman — a wispy young blonde who belted out the lyrics while the band created a wall of sound behind her. Currie left the band late in 1977 and the group eventually dissolved two years later.

After she left the Runaways, Currie recorded several solo albums as well as an album with her twin sister Marie Currie. She also appeared in a number of films — including “Foxes” with Jodie Foster and “Parasite” with Demi Moore. Then, she carved out a highly successful career as a chainsaw artist working with wood sculptures.

Fortunately for music fans, Currie decided that making music still was important to her. In 2013, she began working on new music and assembled her own band. That resulted in an album called “Reverie” that came out in 2015. It also got Currie interested in going out on the road again.

“That was my vindication tour,” said Currie. “Every tour will be a vindication tour. I’ve worked hard all my life and have done very well as a chainsaw carver from the San Fernando Valley. But I love performing more than anything else.”

Now, she is kicking ass on the road with Darling – rocking out and playing songs from a sparkling new album.

“The Motivator” was produced by Grammy-nominated producer Dave Darling, who also is Brie Darling’s husband and former bandmate in Boxing Gandhis.

“We recorded in November and December last year,” said Darling. “We did it pretty quickly.”

Currie said, “We did most of the vocals at Dave and Brie’s studio at their house – The Compound. We also did a lot of music and overdubs at Clear Lake Studio in Burbank.”

Currie’s fans definitely need to feel grateful that his project came along when it did.

“This project has been important to me because I was ready to leave the business,” said Currie. “I just wanted to be a chainsaw artist – but the universe said ‘No.’ I’m still doing chainsaw, but my poor clients have had to wait for ages.”

Based on the reception Currie and Darling’s project has received so far, those clients waiting for carved wood might have a really long wait ahead of them.

Video link for Cherie Currie and Brie Darling — https://youtu.be/PNee6mthSac.

The show at Kung Fu Necktie, which has The Droogettes and Vixen 77 as the opening acts, will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20.