The Runaways:

An All Girl Band on a Dead End - Justice Trip


The Runaways - an all-girl teenage rock 'n' roll band from Southern California - were not born until a decade after the birth of the chopper in the early '50s. Yet this five-piece group, whose average age is only 16 years, seems to express in their music the same recurring themes that have followed biker crusades over the decades. 

Freedom. Justice. Rebellion.

 Myth or not, riding a chopper has always been a symbol of staying young, never growing old. A 39-year-old guy mounted on his chopper, wheeling along the Pacific Coast Highway, somehow looks at least ten years younger.

 The Runaways, who recently cut an album on the Mercury label, are on the same kind of youthful freedom trip. They say they never want to become adults. Their songs' titles include Dead End Justice, Cherry Bomb and American Nights. But the lyrics are not about American knights on their iron horses. The music of The Runaways has been characterized as "punk rock" or "jailbait rock," possibly a new phenomenon in the fluctuating world of popular music. On the eve of their departure on their first national tour, they were being hailed as the new Beatles, or possibly something even bigger. It is hard to believe, though, that anyone or anything will ever be bigger than the Beatles.

Still, just as it is difficult to predict new trends in the styling of choppers, so also it is nearly impossible to prophesy exactly how high a new rock group like The Runaways will soar.



One thing is certain, though. Irregardless of the plateaus their career may reach, the enthusiasm of their collective spirit will reach much higher. And HIGHER. Because that's what makes them so exciting on stage, even in their infancy. When they start to really get down and get into their choreography on stage they have the potent force of a cavalry of 1000 Sportsters rolling down Route 66 in tight formation.

On stage, they are electric. The lead singer, Cherie Currie, comes across like a female David Bowie with a 40-inch over front end. Unfortunately, Cherie was the only member of the group who wasn't able to participate in a recent taped interview by CHOPPERS Magazine. The following is that candid interview, where the girls talked about everything from choppers to Charlie Manson. (Note code: I for Interviewer.)

Interviewer: This will be our first rock and roll cover.

Sandy: We're going to be on the cover, on choppers?

Lita: We get choppers, right? Do we get five of them?

I: No, just one.

Joan: Oh, man.

Lita: Five of us on one chopper?

I: Well, that's something I hadn't considered but that's a possibility too. The problem would be to get good enough bikes.

Jackie: Three of them?

Joan: Yeah, you could do that.

Sandy: Two on each bike and then one standing in between them or something.

Joan: When is it coming out?

I: October. I don't know if Susanella (West Coast Publicity Director for Phonogram, Inc.) showed you our magazine or not?

Joan: No, do you have one with you?

I: Yeah, our July Bicentennial issue and our August issue. Anyway, I'd sort of like to do this as casually as possible - I'd rather just have you guys talk and pick up on it later. That's why we have the tape recorder.

Sandy: That's a nice bike.

I: Do you think so?

Sandy: Yeah.

I: Well, we might as well start on that then, if any of you have had experiences with bikes or bikers or anything like that.

Jackie: Not bikers, bikes.

Lita: I've had experience with bikers but not bikes.

Sandy: My sister has a biker boyfriend.

Jackie: We used to go to the desert all the time and ride motorcycles. I still have a motorcycle but I never ride it. For one thing it's kind of small; it's a Honda 100. I've been trying to get my little sister to sell it for the past three years and she won't. I mean we're too busy to ride; there's just no time. Yesterday was the first day off we've had in a long time and that was because it was Father's Day.

I: How did you get involved with Mercury records?

Joan: Denny Rosencratz, the General Manager of West Coast A&R, the guy who signed us, came down to one of our rehearsals and instead of going through all the shit about send us a demo and all that stuff, he came to rehearsal and said I want to sign you. We never went through any of the crap.

I: So you were basically like a garage band setup?

Sandy: When the band first started, you know, a long time ago, but as a five-piece, things were getting together a lot more.

Jackie: By the time we joined, I mean Mercury was already really interested.

Joan: This band wasn't formed, like a lot of other bands are formed just to play high schools and stuff like that. We started out with the whole intention to be famous.

I: How long have you been together?

Joan: The five-piece has been together since December 1, 1975.

1: And when did you cut the album?

Joan: It was done in March

Sandy: ... and released in May, May 17th.

I: Did you have any overall concept when you put the album together?

Sandy: Pretty much, it was basically. kind of fell together too. Because our songs are all about what teenagers do and stuff 'cause we're teenagers and teenagers relate to those things.

I: Do you all collaborate on the music, or are there any members that write more than others?

Jackie: Joni writes most of the music.

Joan: The second album is going to be even more of the band's writing. A lot of people when they hear the album, a lot of people thought, well, it must have been studio musicians, it's live. And we want people to know, we write our own songs, we play our own music; it's not studio musicians. We want to really get into writing our songs so they will say, hey, they really can write their own songs and that they're good.

I: But you're all L.A.-based mean this is where you grew up and all that?

Jackie: Not all of us. I was born in L.A. and lived in L.A. all of my life. I think Sandy was too. Lita was born in London.

1: So are you actually runaways then?

ALL: (laughter) - No.

Joan: I have. When I was little I got in a fight with my mother.

I: Where do you find you get most of the ideas for your songs?

Joan: Just from the stuff we do. You know, the stuff that we do personally and the stuff that our friends do... stuff that's going on.

1: Do you party together a lot?

Sandy: Oh yeah!

Joan: Everything, the partying, the bleeping and everything, it's all in the songs.

I: Well that one song, "Justice," is it based on a true story?

Joan: Well it is because some of us have had hassles with cops and a lot of our friends have been in juvenile hall.

Jackie: Kim Fowley wrote the lyrics and he wrote it after reading an article in. Time Magazine about juveniles. I remember picking up the L.A. Times one day and reading about a juvenile center that was being condemned because there were cockroaches in the infirmary and refrigerator and kids were so overcrowded they were sleeping in the halls

I: But none of you have ever actually been in juvenile hall?

Sandy: haven't... came close, but...

Lita: Ive been arrested a few times.

I: Do you plan to go on into adult life as rock and roll stars?

Sandy: I dont think I'll ever consider myself as an adult because don't think I could ever be... We're all so crazy you know

I: Well. do you have any consciousness as far as influencing your fans! I'm asking this 'cause just did an interview last week with lan Anderson and he seemed very conscientious or the fact that little kids, so to speak, were going to buy his album and the things he said they were going to accept as the truth and that kind of thing and this was in talking about motorcycles. For example, he said that he didn't want to have a picture of him taken on a motorcycle without a helmet because that would indicate that he would be advocating not wearing a helmet and that kind of thing. And do you have any type of consciousness as far as your fans, or do you feel that they should just let it all hang out?

Jackie: I don't know. 'Cause kids really do. They think that stars on stage and that this is what they're really like. And a lot of times they want to be like their stars People have said that we're going to be the next Beatles. When I was watching "Helter Skelter" the other night Manson was saying "We kill... It's not our fault It's those people that make that music; listen to what they're saying. Listen to what they're telling us to do." I think, my God, we've got songs like Switchblade Music, it we're the next Beatles and people are going to be...

Lita: It's so weird when the band got together and... what's her name... Squeaky Fromme tried to kill the President.

Joan: It was the exact same time...

Lita: I don't... I don't know what that means...

Jackie: Like kids seem to be real depressed and they go to the concert and they come away feeling good and more of a sense of they see other teenagers out there being successful and doing the things they want.

I: But not like in the Partridge Family.

Jackie: No, like the Beatles like up 'til then long hair had never been heard of. All of a sudden people were starting to wear long hair. Like even the Bay City Rollers... people copy the way they dress. You know, in that kind of way as far as the physical being... like Alice Cooper, when "Schools out for Summer" came out, kids went, YEAH! Maybe "Deadend Justice" kids dont hear that now.

Joan: When Charles Manson gets out on parole in '78 he's gonna go ______!

1: You seem pretty impressed with Charlie...

Lita: Yeah, we watched that (referring to "Helter Skelter").

Joan: I hope to hell that guy never gets out.

Jackie: We watched it on TV the other night

Joan: That guy scares the hell out of me.

Sandy: It made me really afraid.

l: It's interesting if you read the book...

Jackie: It's interesting but I hope he stays interesting behind bars.

Joan: You know something that's peculiar about it. I was talking to Kim, our producer, and he (referring to Manson) was a genius, you know he's a genius in the same sense a lot cf people are, but there's a reason. The reason he turned it out was because he had no outlet and that was the only outlet he had.

I: Well, in the book there was a lot of stuff about bikers that I found pretty interesting. He thought they were going to be his army and they're basically the ones that turned him in at the beginning. He had all sorts of grandiose plans. He wanted to buy a cavalry of Sportsters.

Jackie: People thought he was a big talker. People thought that he was Jesus. He was a Jesus that was out killing people. And nobody, no matter, nobody wants to get killed. It scares people like that when he went through the plans to kill all of those famous people.

I: Somehow he controlled his women.

Joan: I only saw the second half of the movie.

1: That speech he made...

Joan: Oh yeah, it was... it made a lot of sense...

I: How about bikers? Have you ever known any bikers or had any relationships with bikers?

Lita: Not really any relationships but I have some good friends that are.

Joan: think one was in a club... in this club called "Boomers" in Marina del Rey. There are all kinds of bikers in there with all kinds of choppers.

Sandy: I had her leather jacket on and when I walked up the stairs one guy grabs me and says, "Where did you get that?"

Joan: And I was talking to this one biker guy and he says, "Let me see your jacket. What kind is it?" And I said, "It's a Harley-Davidson." And he said, "Let me see it! I'm not going to rip it off." And I don't know - it was fun.

Jackie: There were a lot of surfers there.

Joan: The place was coming down. People were jumping up and down, the floors, speakers, plaster was falling off the ceilings.

Lita: They wrecked the bathrooms... Do you mind if I smoke one of your cigarettes? Actually I like smoking two at a time.

I: Do you know enough about bikes to have a favorite motorcycle?

Sandy: Personally, I like to ride... if I had a bike. I mean I don't think I could ride a chopper. I'd like to have one because I think they're bitchin'. I love them. They re so neat looking, but I like to ride dirt bikes. I don't know . .. a Yamaha or something ...

Jackie: Don't ask me why, but for some reason I like the Kawasaki 250

Sandy: Yeah, Kawasakis are pretty nice.

I: Have you ever been on a hawg?

Lita: Yeah, I used to have a lot of friends that used to have wheelers and I used to know a lot of guys that used to go riding. We'd ride down the street and people would stand and look and go, "Hey!" And they'd  flip you off or something.

I: In essence that's a power trip. Big Harley-Davidson.

Lita: Well, when you're chopping down the street... right they probably do it to you, right? I don't know if they do it any more; this was a while ago.

Joan: Down on Hollywood Boulevard, at nighttime there are Hell's Angels all up and down Hollywood Boulevard on their bikes.

I: Have you ever known any club people like that... people that wear colors, like Angels...

Joan: A long time ago, I talked to this chick. Her name was Cowgirl and she told me that she was a . . . she had a tattoo over her whole back and she said that her old man was the leader of the L.A. chapter of Hell's Angels. And I was talking to her for a while about tattoos and stuff.

I: Do you have any tattoos?

Joan: No, but I want to get one.

Jackie: In high school there was some Mexican girl standing there in a halter top and on her shoulders was this big Harley-Davidson tattoo.

Sandy: When you lived in Long Beach, did you ever used to go to the Recreation Park?

Lita: Oh, all the time.

Sandy: Did you see all the bikers there?

Lita: Yeah... I don't know if they're real bikers. They seem to me like they're just bleeps on motorcycles with tattoos.

Joan: The Angels... they're still pretty bad, aren't they? I don't see them too much anymore except in Hollywood, on Hollywood Boulevard.

Lita: I used to have a really close friend. Her name was Patty. It was a long time ago. And her mother got divorced from her real father and she married a biker and his name was Scotty... I don't know his last name. Big guy! He was in some kind of biker club and he got shot or something... shot in the head. A cop shot him. He was sitting on his front porch with a rifle and he fell asleep with it and the cop... They said. They told me that the cop was on acid because he totally flipped out and he shot the guy... shot Scotty in the head. It didn't kill him but it... you know... and they beat him up and they handcuffed him behind his back. They dragged him with the handcuffs. They broke both of his wrists. He was messed up. And they had all kinds of biker friends. Guy named Deadeye... and you know (laughter)

I: Is your music anti-police?

Lita: (laughter) Why not?

I: You don't get any static about that?

Joan: No. I'm sure when we're in Memphis on stage, I'm sure there are going to be cops just waiting for me to say FUCK. Just waiting. Oh man, Memphis ... one cuss word and that's it. The cops will pull you off stage and throw you in juvenile hall or you know, down in jail.

Lita: Confiscate the equipment!

Joan: At least that's what l've heard.

Lita: Especially us ... we're going to be watched because we're girls. You know.











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