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Cherie still da bomb, juggling chainsaws and guitars
Sally Browne, The Courier-MailMay 6, 2016 9:00am
BY THE age of 20, Cherie Currie had already lived several lifetimes.
As lead singer of teen rock band The Runaways, also featuring fellow young rebel Joan Jett, she’d seen a lot from her position at the front of the stage – as well as the goings on behind it.
She was 15 in 1975 when she and her four bandmates first hit the road, modelling themselves on acts such as David Bowie, Suzi Quatro, Deep Purple, Jeff Beck and Kiss. The girls who’d normally be the groupies of such acts were wielding microphones, guitars and power.
They occupied an ambiguous space of being young feminist icons, doing what they wanted for themselves, while also being sexualised young girls manipulated by the men behind the scenes and an ever-hungry audience. Their song, Cherry Bomb, said it all.
Their story was immortalised in the movie The Runaways in 2010, starring Dakota Fanning as Currie and Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett.
Currie left The Runaways at 17 to pursue a career with her twin Marie, and she starred in Foxes with Jodie Foster, a 1980 movie about teenage misfits.
Now she’s back carving up stages when she’s not literally carving up hunks of wood as a chainsaw artist. She has also written the memoir Neon Angel, on which The Runaways movie was based. At 56, the ebullient and effusive Currie is as energetic as ever and excited to be coming to Australia to play shows.
“I still feel the same as I did in my late teens and my 20s, but I’m so much wiser,” she says. “I enjoy so much being on stage in a different way now.”
Currie worked closely with Fanning and Stewart on The Runaways movie, and they’re still in touch. She’s in touch with The Runaways, too, in varying degrees, including touring with guitar heroine Lita Ford. She also made a record with, somewhat controversially, Kim Fowley. Fowley was the group’s manager and power baron who died last year. Recently his name has been in print again as former Runaways bassist Jackie Fox shared her story of an alleged rape that took place in front of a room full of bewildered teenagers. It was an indictment on the culture and the times. The story rocked the music world, but Jett and Currie, who were there, say they remember it differently.
“I wish she’d done what I did and talk to him,” Currie says. “I love all the band members and I want the best for all of them. Just her recollection and my recollection just aren’t the same.” Currie instead made peace with the past, recording Reverie, her first album in 35 years, and becoming good friends with Fowley up until his death.
Currie and her pals were carving their way in a man’s world – she never saw the group as being exploited, she says. “We were a girl rock band and we were going out into a sea of sharks. We had no parental supervision and we were out there on our own with a couple of roadies, who were wonderful. But we were out there, we had a record deal and tour dates and a job to do.”
So how does it feel up on stage now, at 56? “(No problem) if you can wield a chainsaw eight hours a day,” she laughs. “I’m in better shape than I was in The Runaways.”
Cherie Currie performs at The Triffid, Newstead, May 26, 8pm, $59.90,thetriffid.com.au