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Cherie Currie Gets ‘Motivated’ On New Record With Brie Darling

Story by Shawn Perry

Cherie Currie spent a number of years out of the public eye before she returned in 2010 with a memoir about her days as the lead singer for the Runaways, a film partly based on the memoir, and an opening slot for former bandmate Joan Jett. Soon after, she started recording again, made amends with another former bandmate, guitarist Lita Ford, and the Runaways’ notorious manager Kim Fowley, and appeared on the verge of her second act on the world’s stage. She looked and sang better than ever, and was finally receiving recognition as a pioneer in rock and roll.

Along with the accolades came the business side, the “ugly” side. It was enough to drive Currie back to her chainsaw with the intention of selling her Southern California home and moving far away. “I was walking away from this business. I wanted nothing more to do with it,” she recalls. “I had closed a chapter on the music business as a whole. I just wanted to be free of it. Too many bad memories and too many bad people.”

Then she received a phone call for a job.

“I was hired to do some background vocals on Fanny Walks The Earth,” Currie says.

Before we move on, let’s step back for a bit of context. In 2016, members of Fanny, one of the first all-female rock bands to snag a major record deal, reassembled to cut their first album in almost 45 years with producer Dave Darling.

Sisters Jean and June Millington, who founded Fanny, along with one-time drummer and singer Brie Darling, invited a number of guests to appear on the record that would become Fanny Walks The Earth. Patti Quatro, another one-time Fanny member and sister of Suzi, along with members of other prominent female bands like the Go Go’s, the Bangles, and — you guessed it — the Runaways, were all invited to the studio.

Cherie Currie spent a number of years out of the public eye before she returned in 2010 with a memoir about her days as the lead singer for the Runaways, a film partly based on the memoir, and an opening slot for former bandmate Joan Jett. Soon after, she started recording again, made amends with another former bandmate, guitarist Lita Ford, and the Runaways’ notorious manager Kim Fowley, and appeared on the verge of her second act on the world’s stage. She looked and sang better than ever, and was finally receiving recognition as a pioneer in rock and roll.

Along with the accolades came the business side, the “ugly” side. It was enough to drive Currie back to her chainsaw with the intention of selling her Southern California home and moving far away. “I was walking away from this business. I wanted nothing more to do with it,” she recalls. “I had closed a chapter on the music business as a whole. I just wanted to be free of it. Too many bad memories and too many bad people.”

Then she received a phone call for a job.

“I was hired to do some background vocals on Fanny Walks The Earth,” Currie says.

Before we move on, let’s step back for a bit of context. In 2016, members of Fanny, one of the first all-female rock bands to snag a major record deal, reassembled to cut their first album in almost 45 years with producer Dave Darling.

Sisters Jean and June Millington, who founded Fanny, along with one-time drummer and singer Brie Darling, invited a number of guests to appear on the record that would become Fanny Walks The Earth. Patti Quatro, another one-time Fanny member and sister of Suzi, along with members of other prominent female bands like the Go Go’s, the Bangles, and — you guessed it — the Runaways, were all invited to the studio.

One of the hardest things about making the record was deciding which songs to do. As fans of classic rock from the 60s and 70s, they had so many songs to choose from. “We started with about 40 songs,” she says. “We meticulously went through each one. Dave, of course, who would be arranging the songs, had a heavy hand thank goodness because for Brie and I, it was difficult to let some songs go. We trusted Dave to take these songs into the present time. It was a difficult road to pick these songs, but in the end, I think we picked the right ones.”

Tracking through The Motivator, the final choices are indeed a unique and significant lot of classic rock gems. Currie calls the title track, which was written by Marc Bolan and recorded by his band T-Rex, “the catalyst” to the whole album. Apparently, the original idea was that Currie was sing a song with backing from Brie, then Brie would sing one with backing from Currie. While there is a degree of that, the “duet” factor with each singer taking a verse has major appeal. This is what “The Motivator” became.

“Brie always does the scratch vocals because she lives with her husband (aka the producer),” Currie says. “She sent this song over to me, and I was told this was one that I would do the lead vocal on. As soon as I heard her vocal, and heard my vocal as well, I told Dave we needed to do this as a duet. He did not agree. But I asked him to put her scratch in that second verse, and when he heard it, he said, ‘You’re right.’ That was the jumping off point. ”

Trading verses, backing one another, and threading harmonies to create a beatific and infectious blend, Currie and Darling take songs like the Kinks’ “Do It Again” and Thunderclap Newman’s “Something In The Air” and give them their own personality.  The uplifting rendition of Jesse Colin Young’s “Get Together,” which celebrates its 50th anniversary, glides over the measures on Dave Darling’s simple and elegant arrangement, brought to life and emboldened by Cherie Currie and Brie Darling’s heartfelt, punctuating vocals.

While “Get Together” is a relatively positive, innocuous anthem, others like John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth” and Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” pack a heavier punch. Was recording songs like these with “political overtones” intentional?

“We chose songs that are as relevant as they were 40, 50 songs,” Currie says. “They just happened to be songs that touched us as kids. Back then, we didn’t really know what the true meaning of those songs were. We love the songs, and that’s why we recorded them.”

The Motivator includes three originals  — “Too Bruised,” “I’m Too Good, That’s Just Too Bad” and “This Is Our Time.” Currie describes “Too Bruised,” which Brie and Dave Darling wrote, as her “favorite” of the three. “It’s a song everyone can relate to,” she adds.

“Too Bruised” also inspired Currie in her own songwriting contributions. “I realized that I better up my game. I’ve enjoyed writing in the past, but this time I had to put my thinking cap on and rise to occasion.”

This she does on “I’m Too Good, That’s Just Too Bad,” which she co-wrote with the Darlings and Patti Quatro. In addition to contributing to the lyrics, Currie delivers one her strongest vocals of the album on this track. Harnessing defiance in the face of the adversity that both singers have endured in their careers, Currie really took this one to heart and it shows.

“This is just a way to say I found a partner that I believe in, and we wrote this song together,” she exclaims with pride.

A similar sentiment could be attributed to “This Is Our Time.” Currie says the phrase came up in a conversation with Brie on the phone, asserting: “This is our time, it’s everybody’s time.”

It’s by no mere coincidence that the feelings and emotions conveyed in the original material are echoed on the cover art for The Motivator. Here, Currie and Darling are caught in motion on a deserted road, looking ahead as they walk away from remnants of their respective pasts — in this case, Currie’s “corset” from her days with the Runaways, and Darling’s “crossed legs” from a photo used on a Fanny album from the 70s. Currie says she’s had the concept in her head for years. “It’s just acknowledging our past, but walking away from it to something more satisfying.”

The day before The Movitator dropped, Cherie Currie and Brie Darling played a handful of songs from the record live for an intimate audience at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. They were backed by Dave Darling on acoustic guitar, Eric Dover on electric guitar, Dave Schultz on keyboards, Derek Frank on bass, and Matt Oloffson on drums. Grammy Museum executive director Scott Goldman announced them as “true pioneers,” at which point they fell right into “The Motivator, ” and followed with “Get Together,” “Gimme Shelter,”  and “For What It’s Worth.” Brie took over the drums, as well as lead vocals, on “Too Bruised,” the only original number rolled out. The half-hour set ended with “Do It Again.” It was a magnificent set, brimming with confidence and swagger. Afterwards, they sat down for an interview with Goldman.

With talk of a tour in the fall, Cherie Currie and Brie Darling are definitely ready to take The Motivator on the road. For Currie, the album and her relationship with Brie Darling have enabled her to come to grips with her musical legacy. “I am so grateful for all of it. It was traumatic, enthralling, magnificent, scary, and devastating. I’m glad and blessed that the Runaways have been introduced to a new generation of listeners and I’m glad I was part of it.”

Though she’s not ready to give up her day job as a chainsaw artist (“it helps me regulate my stress levels when it comes to the music business”), she’s found the “motivation” to have it all — the music, the chainsaw art, friends, family, a full life — without the drama and chaos of her formative years.

“It’s a new beginning,” she says. “I’m going to take the road of destiny to happiness and enjoy my life. I’m just so glad I got a great partner to do that with.”