Rape allegations probably aren’t the most fun reason to begin talking about, well, anything really. But The Runaways have been getting a bit of ink online lately due to Runaways bassist Jackie Fox claiming that in the late 70s, the band’s manager Kim Fowley drugged and raped her, which was supposedly witnessed by other members of the band. Though considering that fellow former-Runaways Joan Jett and Cherie Currie have both denied being aware of any such thing happening, it’s hard to say if there’s any truth to these allegations or if it was merely an emotional reaction to all this Bill Cosby heinousness. Regardless, these claims wouldn’t be hard to believe since the domineering Fowley was clearly a world-class creep (the fact that he was portrayed in a movie by Michael Shannon about says it all). So for that it stands as a testament to these ladies’ badassery that despite all this they were able to sound like such a potent rebuttal to 70s male rock chauvinism, and in the process very ahead of their time.
Speaking of 70s male rock chauvinism, it may come as a surprise that despite being lumped in with the burgeoning punk movement of the time, the band whose sound I’m reminded of most when I listen to The Runaways is probably the least feminist and least punk band I could possibly think of — KISS. Seriously, just listen to the chugging simplicity of the guitar riffs on songs like “Day Or Night” or “Thunder” and tell me that it doesn’t sound a lot like KISS, except if KISS was composed entirely of teenage girls that weren’t privy to take shit off of anyone. So basically I’m saying that The Runaways sound like KISS if they were the exact opposite of KISS. Also, it probably says something that a lot of the instrumentation here by The Runaways (who were all around 16 or 17-years-old at the time) is a hell of a lot tighter than that of those stadium-packing buffoons in white make-up.
And even though a lot of the songs on this debut sound a bit too glammy and mid-tempo to qualify as first generation punk, the don’t-give-a-fuckery of this band does more than enough to make them feel like an embodiment of these radical ideals that were going on at the time. The album’s most well-known track “Cherry Bomb” in particular has that feeling of “the world is bullshit and I’m gonna fuck things up”, even if it has that slight adorableness of being sung from the perspective of a teen lashing out at her parents. But more than anything, this album just rawks. Every song on here has some badass guitar riff or shout-along chorus going for it, and whether this is the first feminist hard rock record ever made, I can’t really say I feel qualified to answer that. But The Runaways certainly feels like the first of its kind, and combine that with the way it oozes a youthful abandon that could only be forged by a bunch of unstoppably brash young musicians, it’s a record you just can’t keep down and won’t keep down.
Favorite Tracks: “Cherry Bomb”, “Thunder”, “American Nights”