|Return to Cherie Currie||
She has been described as “the lost daughter of Iggy Pop and Bridgitte Bardot,” a queen of noise and a woman of grande reinvention. She’s an artist who is respected for laying the foundation for countless women in the music industry by becoming the frontwoman in the very first all-girl rock group with platinum album sales; Cherie Currie. Truly a force to be reckoned with, Currie has been on a wild journey through life and has been brave enough to bare her soul and share her story through her music and beyond. Currie released her new star-studded solo album Blvds of Splendor on April 28, 2020. The album is available digitally via Blackheart Records, the record label founded by rock musicians Joan Jett and Kenny Laguna. Featuring guest collaborations with Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, Slash and Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses, as well as Juliette Lewis, Brody Dalle, The Veronicas and drummer/producer Matt Sorum, this is an album for the ages. This is an album that is meant to be experienced first uninterrupted and then over and over again while dancing around your house and singing at the top of your lungs. That having been said, could there have been a more perfect time in history for this album to be released? It is a time that we have to fight to keep the music alive, just as Currie has done her entire life.
The year is 1975 in San Fernando Valley, California. Currie is a 15-year-old girl spending her time skateboarding, surfing, and diving headfirst into the local music scene. She frequented the teen club in North Hollywood called the Sugar Shack, where they would pump out the hottest glam rock cuts from the UK. On a typical evening out with her sister Marie, Currie was approached by rock producer and svengali Kim Fowley. “We really like your look” from Fowley was all it took for Currie’s life to change forever. Fowley was looking for a lead singer to complete the line-up of the all-female rock band The Runaways. An introduction to guitarist Joan Jett and drummer Sandy West turned into an audition that would inspire one of The Runaways’ signature songs. Currie was asked to learn a song by Suzi Quatro, who was already a major icon for her. After arriving at her audition ready to sing the Peggy Lee original Fever, which was frequently covered by Quatro, the band refused to play the song. On the spot, Fowley and Jett wrote an audition piece for her. A lyrical play on her name and bombshell looks landed her the gig and became the famous hit Cherry Bomb.
Rounding out their sound with Lita Ford on guitar and Jackie Fox on bass, they took the male-dominated industry by force. Their only goal in mind was to rock as hard as the boys did and make a name for themselves in a music world that did not take them seriously. Their unapologetic attitudes, explicit lyrics, provocative image and raw talents took them on a tour to the top of Sunset Strip. Inspired deeply by David Bowie, Currie created a unique stage persona combined with an illustrious fashion style that would go on to inspire the likes of Madonna and Lady Gaga. Within a month, the band had a record deal with Mercury Records and recorded their self-titled debut album The Runaways weeks later. During a time where sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll came with blurred lines and negligible limits, the teenagers were exposed to both the highs and the lows of the rockstar lifestyle. The girls were overworked, underpaid and left with little mediation from their manager Fowley, who was reaping their benefits. However, the sudden fame kept the limelight shining as they continued to find success with their second studio album Queens of Noise, and they embarked on national and international tours. The girls were prowling world-famous venues and headlining shows with opening acts as Blondie, Cheap Trick, The Ramones and Van Halen. Gaining fans from all over the world, they became a sensation in Japan. This led to their third album Live in Japan and gained them recognition as the fourth most popular international act in Japan, behind Led Zeppelin, ABBA, and KISS.
After only two years in the band, Currie found herself burned out financially, mentally, emotionally and struggling to reclaim her life against drug abuse. The tension in the band was growing stronger and she made the choice to walk away, but not from music entirely. She went on to record solo albums until she redirected her artistic passion towards acting. Known for her role alongside Jodie Foster in the film Foxes, Currie also starred in numerous other films and guest spots on series television. At the age of 25, she realized that her drug habit had become a problem and found healing through helping others. Becoming a drug and alcohol counselor not only made a difference in other’s lives but stirred up new passions in her own life. Currie went on to become a physical trainer, painter, mother, award-winning chainsaw carver and author. In 1989 she released her autobiography Neon Angel: The Cherie Currie Story, which was catered to the young adult market. But a new dream emerged when she felt like she had more stories to tell; stories that were far too intense for a young adult book. She showed her uncensored book to Laguna, a longtime friend and partner in Blackheart Records with Jett. Although he agreed to shop the manuscript for a book deal, he ended up with a movie deal.
In 2010, the biographical drama The Runaways was released. The film was directed by Floria Sigismondi and starred Dakota Fanning as Currie, Kristen Stewart as Jett, and Oscar nominee Michael Shannon as Fowley. Currie worked very closely with Fanning and created a bond that greatly influenced her character development. “Dakota would come to the house and we would sing the songs together,” Currie reminisces. “She wanted me in the studio every time she did any kind of recordings and I was on set for a lot of the filming. If she felt iffy about things, she made sure that I was there. Floria really didn’t care for me to be there, but she (Fanning) demanded it. So, I am very grateful to her for that.” Her involvement in the film continued when she was asked to help re-create the music. This opportunity gave her a chance to get back into the studio with Jett for the first time since 1977. When the film was released, Currie’s dream book Neon Angel – A Memoir of a Runaway by IT Books/HarperCollins Publishers coincided. In the midst of doing PR for the film, Sorum reached out to have Currie do support vocals for his wife’s record. Although the phone call was not returned in time, there were no hard feelings. In fact, it was quite the contrary. Currie had just been asked to open for Jett at the Pacific Amphitheatre and she did not have a band. In casual conversation asking if he knew of anyone that might be available, “He goes ‘I’ll drum for you.’ And I literally almost fell out of my chair. I swear to God,” Currie laughs. Sorum happily agreed to drum for her and put together the rest of the band, which included bassist Grant Fitzpatrick from The Cult, guitarist Nick Maybury, and Currie’s son Jake Hays. The performance blew everyone away, so much so that they were offered a record deal that same night. Sorum could feel the lightning in a bottle effect playing with Currie and suggested that they really make an album together. “He (Sorum) turned to me when we were having pictures taken after we had gotten off stage. He goes ‘We’ve got to make a record’ and I just did not take him seriously, I went ‘yeah, okay.’ And within a week we were in his studio cutting Roxy Roller,” Currie says, still in disbelief of how fast the album work began.
Blvds of Splendor easily became one of the most fun albums that Currie had ever recorded, and she has Sorum to thank for that. “Matt Sorum is the first guy that didn’t try to change me as a singer, which is unique to my experience. Usually, people will say, please don’t use so much vibrato or you know, can you sing like this? I guess it would get very frustrating to me,” Currie explains. “My son, he was 19 when we were making this record, and Holly Knight was having me do some vocals for some of the songs that she had written. He happened to be there in the studio and I was singing one of our songs. She was trying to tell me ‘Can you sing it without any vibrato?’ and Jake turns around and he goes ‘Holly, do you want Cherie Currie, or not? Because if you want a studio singer, then why don’t you just do that?’ This is a 19-year-old kid that stood up for me and I really loved that. I’ll never forget that moment. She turned around and said ‘You know, you’re absolutely right Jake, Cherie, sing it the way that you want to sing it.’ So, Matt really allowed that to happen for me and gave me an awful lot of confidence, because you know when people try to change you it makes you very insecure. It kind of knocks you down a few pegs and that didn’t happen with this record. Matt just made me a better artist and I’m very grateful for that.” Sorum allowed Currie to be herself both in the recording of vocals and the creation of the songs. The team went into the studio with no material, only passion, and an open mind, and they came out with the resurrection of classic rock. Unfortunately, no one got to hear it until 10 years later.
In late 2014, Fowley contacted Currie to gauge her interest in making an album together. Time had healed many of the emotional scars from their days in The Runaways, and Currie was thrilled to transform awful memories into beautiful moments and music to cherish for the rest of time. Within weeks they were writing together and beginning to work in the studio, alongside Currie’s son. Fowley had been battling cancer for many years, and by the fourth day in the studio, he was far too ill to continue on. He turned the album over to Hays and the mother and son duo did their best to finish the album, all while taking care of Fowley in their own home. “My most cherished memories are the days when Kim was here at my home,” Currie said. Unfortunately, Fowley passed away a month before the album Reverie was finished. “I just wish he could have heard the finished product. I know he would be proud.”
Currie always has a way of dreaming things into existence. This could be why her career as a chainsaw carving artist has been so successful. While driving one day, she passed the Malibu Mountain Gallery and saw a couple of guys chainsaw carving on the side of the road. She could not get it out of her head, so she decided to give it a try and never stopped trying. Over the years she has invested a lot of time and effort into her artwork. She has competed and won awards at three World Chainsaw Art Competitions and has made multiple television appearances with her chainsaw in hand. But in 2016 she experienced how dangerous her craft truly is. Currie had a near-death accident while chainsaw carving, falling over 12 feet to the ground off of a hilltop scaffolding. Luckily, she did not remember the accident happening, however, she was left with partial facial paralysis and severe head trauma for over 10 months. As always, she was eager to return to her passions again. After her recovery, she began creating in the studio with Fanny drummer and vocalist Brie Darling. In 2019, they released their critically acclaimed album The Motivator via Blue Elan Records.
In 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, the Blvds of Splendor album finally saw the light of day. “It’s a huge relief. It’s just like FINALLY. I didn’t expect it to happen, not after 10 years,” Currie remarks. “But it’s the perfect timing I guess. Everything happens when it’s supposed to happen, right?” Everyone involved with the album fought extremely hard to bring out all of the best possible sounds. When you hear the album once, you’ll want to hear it again and rediscover new elements each time. Even Currie can’t stop listening to it. “It just blew my mind how good it sounded,” she admits. “All the magnificent musicianship on it and the guests…it’s fantastic.” The first song on the album, Mr. X features two legendary musicians who really bring powerful energy from the get-go. The song was initially written by Slash and Duff, but it was only done as a demo. When Sorum brought the song to Currie’s attention she instantly thought it was amazing, and thought it was even more amazing when the Guns N’ Roses duo was thrilled with the idea of having her sing it on the album. When Slash was later asked about his top 10 collaborations in his musical career, he mentioned his collaboration with Currie. The song kicks off with fierce riffs and leaves you with rebellious energy that flows on to the next song on the album, Roxy Roller. This song was a hit by Nick Gilder that Currie has wanted to record for years. Which brings us to the song so full of emotion that it was written in 20 twenty minutes, You Wreck Me. Currie had recently gone through a relationship that began on Facebook and ended with the ugly realization that you never really know what a nightmare someone can be until you meet them in person. In one sitting she had a melody and lyrics to bring into the studio, so she called Sorum and sang it to him over the phone. He asked her to come in and finish the song that evening. Regardless of the heartache that left a lasting impression, she got a great song out of it; one that you can feel in the pit of your stomach. The introduction of synth in the next song Black Magic adds a whole new level of creativity to the album. The modern pop influence of The Veronicas mixed with Currie’s classic rock style is a fun twist of tones. Followed by the title-track Blvds of Splendor, Billy Corgan helps pull us back to a hopeless romantic ’70s vibe and displays the wide vocal range of both vocalists. The rebellious and in-your-face energy begins to spike from Force to be Reckoned With and Bad and Broken. Currie describes the album as being full of “Matt Miracles” such as the artful lyrics for Bad and Broken, which were written by Emily Belgard, a friend of Sorum. “It opens up your mind to the brilliance of people,” Currie gushes. “I just think that her lyrics are outstanding, even just on a written page, they are mind-blowing!” Backed with hard-hitting drums that are hard to ignore, this song could easily have been performed by The Runaways in 1976. Which brings us to Rock & Roll Oblivion, written by Lanny Cordola, and one of Currie’s favorite songs to perform. She describes the song as an “acid trip type of tune”, with tones reminiscent of David Bowie. “I think honesty that their inspiration just lives inside of me. That’s the kind of impact that Suzi and Bowie had,” Currie clarifies. “They just mold who you become later on in life.” When the team was beginning to fall behind on the album, they chose to run with the scratch vocal for this song, which only adds more grit to the overall sound. Two of the revisited songs that stand out on the album are The Air That I Breathe and Queens of Noise, for very different reasons. The Hollies’ original is a song that has stuck with Currie since she was in her early teens. “I never considered myself a singer at all, not even in The Runaways,” Currie affirms. “I have taken one voice lesson in my life, recently, but as I’ve grown older I’ve kind of found my own style and I wanted to be able to record that song.” Paying homage to the original version, Sorum brought in the strings, horns, and final mix that Currie had always dreamt of recording. On the other side of the spectrum, Queens of Noise is a song that she had been performing since she left The Runaways. However, this time was different for Currie. “Whenever I would do live shows I would always have Sandy West with me. I never did a show without Sandy, until she passed. I think it was a little melancholy,” she recalls. “I do believe that she’s still hanging around. For Matt Sorum to pay such homage to her as a drummer, to play it exactly the way that she played it and to appreciate her artistry fills my heart.” There is no denying that West was present in the recording studio when this song was recorded, especially with the female-powered energy of Brody Dalle, Juliette Lewis, and The Veronicas present as well. What a better way to end the album than with a song where it all started. Thinking back to who she was that very first night at Sugar Shack, Currie tried to imagine what that girl would think of the new album. “Well, that girl would not believe it. Honestly, she would just freak the F out, and say dreams really do come true.”
You can stream the album here: https://blackheart.com/blvds
Facebook: Cherie Currie
Instagram: Cherie Currie (@cheriecurrieofficial)
Learn more about Cherie and her chainsaw carving here: http://www.chainsawchick.com/about.html
You can purchase her book here: https://www.harpercollins.com/9780061961366/neon-angel/