Triumph and Tragedy: Cherie Currie on the Hollywood Biopic, Joan Jett, and the Runaways’ Legacy
Posted by Robstengasm on Friday, April 23, 2010
In just under four years together, the Runaways left an indelible mark on rock history, as one of the first all-female bands to infiltrate the boys club that is rock ‘n’ roll. Cherie Currie sang lead vocals on the group’s two most popular albums, their 1976 self-titled debut and 1977’s Queens of Noise. She unexpectedly left the band at the peak of its powers in 1977, and her new memoir, Neon Angel: A Memoir of A Runaway, and the new biopic The Runaways—starring Dakota Fanning, who plays Currie, Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett, and Michael Shannon as their controversial manager Kim Fowley—sheds light on why Currie decided to leave the band, while telling the story of the Runaways’ unlikely rise to fame and the myriad personal and professional difficulties they faced.
Crawdaddy! got a chance to chat with the ex-Runaway at her homebase in Los Angeles.
Crawdaddy!: Hey Cherie! How did this new book and the Runaways movie come together?
Cherie Currie: The original version of the book came out in 1989 (a less-exhaustive biography of Currie, Neon Angel: The Cherie Currie Story, was released in ’89). It was written by Neal Shusterman. In the year 2000, I read the book, and I just felt like I need to write it from a new direction. We started shopping the book, and (producers) John and Art Linson thought it could be a good movie. John was a Runaways fan, and that’s really how it started.
Crawdaddy!: What was it like to watch actors, especially quite famous ones, depict your life on film.
Currie: Well, you could imagine it, putting yourself in my shoes. It was quite an experience to see it all unfold. To have those actors—Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon, and the rest—involved was a dream for me. It was truly the most exciting thing that has happened since the birth of my child.
Crawdaddy!: How involved were you in the filming of The Runaways, and how good of a job do you think Dakota did of portraying you.
Currie: I was there for Dakota. You know, the producers didn’t think it was a great idea for me to be there too much, but I made sure that I was there for her, whenever she needed me. We worked together in pre-production and on the set, and she did a fantastic job.
Crawdaddy!: All things considered, how good of a job do you think (director) Floria Sigismondi, the producers, and the staff did at capturing your group’s real story.
Currie: Well, how do you take two years and turn it into an hour and a half? They had to take poetic license, and it is really only scratching the surface about what really happened with the Runaways and all we were about. My book dives in much deeper and tells a fuller story, but I’m still very happy with how [the film] came out.
Crawdaddy!: So if people like the movie, but want to dig a little deeper, it seems like they should pick up the book…
Currie: Absolutely. The book, my god, so much happened to us that wasn’t in the film. Anyone that is inquisitive about the Runaways should get the book. I’m very proud of it. I dove really deep to present my perspective of what happened. So far, so good, people are appreciating it.
Crawdaddy!: A big talking point in the book and the film is what it was like being an all-female rock group. What was that like for the Runaways?
Currie: You can only imagine what it was like to be a group of five teenage girls in such a male-dominated business. There were many, many struggles and hurdles we had to get over, but we hung in there and that’s that important point. We made a mark. That’s really the moral of the story. You can accomplish anything if you give it all you’ve got.
Crawdaddy!: You guys were (and still are) an extremely influential group, especially to all-female bands like the Go-Go’s, L7, and the Donnas. How proud are you to have been an integral member of such an important band?
Currie: I’m very proud anytime the Runaways are mentioned as influences on younger bands. It makes it all the more worthwhile for me. A lot of female bands have said the Runaways were a jump-off point for them. How could I not be thrilled about that?
Crawdaddy!: So, you’ve been out of the music business for a while, what are you listening to these days?
Currie: [Laughs] Honestly, I listen to a ton of my son Jake’s music. He’s actually going to be playing with me this summer. Other than that, I am a huge fan of classic rock from the ’60s and ’70s…that was such a great era. Really, it’s either classic rock or my son’s music for me.
Crawdaddy!: So, as you just hinted at, you are going to be playing some gigs this summer. How are you feeling about that?
Currie: Yeah, I am going to be doing some shows this summer, and I am just enjoying that the Runaways are getting the recognition they deserve. This is by no means a comeback, this is just me having fun and giving some people some nostalgia. Of course, I am very excited about it. I’m really looking forward to the summer and playing these songs again.
Crawdaddy!: What is your relationship with Joan Jett like these days?
Currie: We’ve rekindled a friendship after 30 years, which has been really great. It was important to hear how she felt about me leaving. Now that we are all grown up and able to laugh about all of it, we’ve been able to regain our friendship. I just wish [drummer] Sandy [West] was here to be a part of it. We do everything with Sandy in mind. I feel she’s with me all of the time. She’s held in all of our hearts. And we sure miss her.
Watch: “Cherry Bomb” [at youtube.com]