42 Years Ago The Runaways Were Born!

If there are few more typos in this one than in most of the drivel I type, keep in mind that a) this is an unusual weekend post, and b) we are in Day #2 of our celebration of the Runaways' birthday!

Yep, 42 years ago this weekend, Kim Fowley, Joan Jett and Sandy West formed the band in what we can only surmise was a sleazy, shag-carpeted semen dump of an Econoline Van with "Free Candy" spray-painted on one side and Kim Fowley's pathological mug cackling out the other.

In reality, it was probably a sleazy, shag-carpeted semen dump of an office on Sunset Blvd., where dreams go to be fondled, but always seem to run into someone like Fowley instead before running back to Kansas screaming.

More than anything, I marvel that any of them survived being involved with Fowley. That they were able to not only create, but also perform at such a high level despite being amateur musicians at best forced to co-exist with a mercurial madman remains one of rock's largely unsung miracles.

As a kid, they didn't register on my radar AT ALL and I have quite the bone to pick with someone about that. As a ten-year-old whose hormones had not started road-raging just yet, I would have still been all over five smoking-cute girls who could rock.

Sigh, we got Kiss instead.

In a perfect world, somebody in a position of power would have walked into Mercury Records' seemingly non-existent marketing department with a baseball bat and told them in no uncertain terms that if they fucking whiffed on this mother of all slow pitch, slam-dunk, sure-fire hits, they would never work in this or any town ever again.

And even if said "marketing" department still sat on their duffs, how does anyone at a radio station with EARS in 1976 not take one listen to "Cherry Bomb" and immediately break into regular programming with the following announcement:

"Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt this Kansas song to bring you...THE RUNAWAYS!!"

If they had, mark my words, within two days, every American boy above the age of 8 would have had their favorite Runaway and the tongue-kissed posters on their bedroom walls to prove it.

In hindsight, I remain forever incredulous that the album didn't at least go Top 40 just out of simple curiosity, but here in the heartland, we were never even told the band existed.

Adding further insult, their albums were rarely, if ever, stocked in the local record stores I frequented.

You wouldn't think being stuck in Podunk would rival banishment to Siberia, but the first time I ever saw a Runaways album was when a Japanese import copy of Queens of Noise found its way to the over-priced import section of my local Record Hut back in 1979.

Like all the other titles in that section, they wanted $20 for it and, while I had that much cash in my wallet, I wasn't the sort of thirteen-year-old who took $20 chances just yet so the Runaways remained a complete mystery to this would-be fan until the arrival of Joan Jett & The Blackhearts' "I Love Rock & Roll" changed that forever.

Much like the Ramones, the Runaways have seen a resurgence in recent years, becoming the subject of a major studio movie called, you guessed it, "The Runaways", and seeing "Cherry Bomb" used significantly in box-office smash "Guardians Of The Galaxy".

Scratch that previous "perfect world" hypothesis, if the Runaways had been fortunate enough to exist in ANY OTHER world than this, they still would have been bigger than Kiss. No, I'm not kidding.

Think about it, instead of Kiss' craptastic "Phantom Takes A Dump In The Park" debacle on NBC, we could have had Joan, Lita, Jackie, Sandy and Cherie in the comfort of our living rooms instead.

Also, instead of those shitacular Kiss solo albums (except for Ace's which is actually better than any Kiss album), we'd have gotten a solo platter from all five Runaways and, in doing so, more than likely seen most of our other L.A.-based "power pop" heroes involved and/or covered in the process.

Cherie would have been the first to go "solo" in any world, of course, and teaming up with her twin sister Marie would have been yet another slam dunk revenue stream for a Mercury Records that had ANY idea how to break a band of aggressively cute teenage girls, but NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, Mercury shat the fucking bed and none of it ever fucking happened.

Why do I keep bringing it up, my friends say?

Because every time I listen to "Take It Or Leave It", "You Drive Me Wild" or "Born To Be Bad" (co-written by future Bangle Michael Steele), I hear a song that was exactly what everyone was looking for - record labels, radio stations, and, most of all, kids - yet you couldn't have buried more successfully with a shovel and ten tons of concrete.

While I will continue to celebrate the birth of The Runaways with the glee and air-guitar accents it rightfully deserves, I just wish there were more people at this fucking party!

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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