The Runaways

Joan Jett herself put it best, that “riff rock is very male, testosterone filled, but… Girls have testosterone too.” The emergence of the Runaways in the mid 1970’s proved this statement to be true. Despite the inevitable backlash these girls would face, and the sexist desire for women to be no more than acoustic guitar playing, docile, background musicians, the Runaways took the stage and made it apparent that they could successfully exude hard rocking riffs just like the boys.

Joan Jett, alongside Rock N’ Roll producer and song writer Kim Fowley, noted the lack of female representation in the Hard Rock world throughout the 1970’s. Jett also knew that if she was craving the endorphin rush of climbing up on a stage to rock out, that there had to be other girls lusting for it too. The Runaways formed by word of mouth, each 15 or 16 years old, never considering their gender to be an issue, and having little life experience to fall back on. Signing on when they were essentially strangers to one another and to the music game as a whole, Joan Jett (rhythm guitar), Cherie Curry (vocals), Lita Ford (lead guitar), Sandy West (drums), and Jackie Fox (bass guitar) are who we remember as the Runaways.

Expecting to be accepted by the fans of a genre of music known to rattle the cage and exude a sense of artistic freedom, it wasn’t long before the Runaways realized that this idea was far from the truth. Enduring verbal abuse from every direction, even that of the music industry they yearned to be a part of, it became clear that the Runaways had something to prove.

Their first album achieved minimal success and faced harsh criticism. Many were under the impression that the Runaways were another overhyped, gimmicky act put forth by their sometimes questionable manager, Kim Fowley. Fowley appeared to have total control over the band, and despite his previous successes within the music business, his influence over the group of young women remains a controversial topic.

The Runaways second album, Queens of Noise would prove to be their most successful despite US radio stations remaining timid to play their music due to their age, gender, and lyrical content, all while supporting their male rock counterparts. Japan, however, embraced the five girls and celebrated their uniqueness, prompting their first international tour. The Runaways sold out arenas and were cheered on by fans of all ages and genders who took their image and music seriously. No longer did the Runaways feel like a joke, but like a band whose impression may actually be lasting.

The distinctive mix of inexperience, passion, and burning desire to be heard, crafted the Runaways into a tidal wave of a band. Though outrageously magnificent and awe-inspiring, the wave must eventually crash, and that the Runaways did. The stresses of the road and their tender ages appeared to take their toll, ending the Runaways in 1978. Their impression however, did not dissipate. Beyond prepping the launch pad for the successful careers of Lita Ford and Joan Jett, The Runaways demonstrated to women and men alike that there was not only room for females in Rock N’ Roll, but that they too, deserved to be heard.

–Victoria Shaffer

Huey, Steve. “The Runaways | Biography & History.” AllMusic,
“Joan Jett – Talks The Runaways 2014.” Youtube, uploaded by Jettigre1, July 19, 2014,
“Tom Snyder Tomorrow Show 10-11-78 Joan Jett Punk Rock New Wave” Youtube, uploaded by Mat M, September 6, 2015,

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