Many may know who Joan Jett is; an icon, a symbol, a ‘queen’ – she makes it look easy. Persistence paid off as she is now inducted to the Rock Hall of Fame, but she underwent rejection over 20 times before finally having ‘I Love Rock and Roll’ played on the airwaves. In the 70s, it was a battle that many female artists had faced and one that a teenaged Joan Jett went on to tackle with The Runaways.
Active from 1975-79, the band failed to be commercially successful in the US, but were popular elsewhere, specifically Japan. In those short 4 years, this all teenaged female band released 3 studio albums and one live, thus demonstrating female creativity and drive that the US was not ready for. Despite this, the band went on to tour America by opening for the likes of Cheap Trick, Van Halen, The Talking Heads and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers… who were playing to sell out shows!
Characterised as hard rock, punk rock and glam punk, The Runaways were very much a part of the punk movement. Typically associated and established within the West Coast punk scene, they went on to network with mostly male punk bands such as The Ramones and The Dead Boys, as well as British punk bands such as The Sex Pistols and The Damned.
Although it was a male dominated scene, The Runaways defied the odds as they had toured the world, made contacts with other bands to help establish their reputation, wrote all their own songs and played their own instruments whilst establishing their great showwomanship. Punk is seen as a way to express one’s differences that others may not understand, but each member would pattern herself after her idol and therefore signifying to the audience a similarity by almost becoming that person: Currie on David Bowie, Jett on Suzi Quatro, Ford a cross between Jeff Beck and Ritchie Blackmore, West on Roger Taylor, and Fox on Gene Simmons. These idols of theirs created music and their persona as a form of an expression; now The Runaways will capture that spirit and preserve it for future generations to come.
They faced many obstacles on their way to fame but nonetheless, The Runaways became a symbol of female power. ‘Cherry Bomb’ is an unappreciated female anthem that not only captures female sexuality, but also the angst of all teenagers. In doing so, they were able to reach out to the marginalised punks, but also broaden their audience to females in general. The subject matters of their songs were unapologetic and liberating as the shift in gender attitudes continued to change there-after.
Even today, The Runaways’ legacy is evident as more and more young women take to writing songs or compositions to break into the music scene. They faced adversity, but if The Runaways can do it, so can you.
Check out the official music video for ‘Cherry Bomb’ below.