Four teenage girls – all aged 16 except lead guitarist Lita Ford, who at 17 was the “old lady” of the group – formed The Runaways around Rodney Bingenheimer‘s mid-70s groupie paradise English Disco in Los Angeles.
It was all over before any of them had turned 20.
Manager Kim Fowley played a major part in the shaping of the sound – basic heavy metal crossed with Suzi Quatro and a smattering of The Stooges – and had a hand in writing most of the ten tracks on their self-titled debut album (1976).
By 1977’s Queens Of Noise, their loud and leery approach – led by Joan Jett and Cherie Currie – peaked into bratty brilliance, but was still largely dismissed in the US.
Faring better elsewhere, Live In Japan proved they could cut it in the flesh (The Runaways were huge in Japan, where they were treated like The Beatles).
By 1979, Cherie Currie and Jackie Fox had departed, but the Joan Jett-fronted four-piece version of the group brought out the gum-chewin’, kick-ass Waitin’ For The Night – their hardest and heaviest music yet.
The storming School Days was the choice of single in most countries, but it failed to provoke much interest.
The girls parted ways with Kim Fowley in 1978, turning to Blondie‘s manager Toby Mamis, and in September 1978 they recorded And Now…The Runaways! as it was titled in Europe – the album was not released in North America until 1981, as Little Lost Girls.
A growing division between Jett (who wanted the group to be a punk band) and Ford/West (who favoured heavy metal) brought about the band’s demise in 1979.
After the group ended, Lita and Sandy briefly had a band together until West formed The Sandy West Band, continuing to perform even after being diagnosed with lung cancer in the early 2000’s.
She succumbed to the illness in San Dimas, California, on 21 October 2006, aged 48.
Ignored for years, The Runaways are now recognised as pivotal by rock chicks from Hole and L7 to The Donnas and Bikini Kill.