Cherie Currie hits the road this week for the first time in 30 years.
HELLO DADDY, HELLO MOM
Here’s an exclusive Metal Sludge interview with Cherie Currie, the singer for legendary all-girl band The Runaways
By Gerry Gittelson
Metal Sludge Editor at Large
HOLLYWOOD – What a shame Cherie Currie and the Runaways never made millions of dollars because the all-girl band’s legend lives on a generation after their fleeting fame in the 1970s.
How the band never quite made their way into the mainstream remains one of Rock’s bewildering mysteries, but the Runaways’ awesome splendor will live on in the hearts of their aging fans forever, me included.
It was a great pleasure to connect with Currie, now 53 and still blonde and still hot as hell. She has had her ups and downs and then some through the years, but somehow the California native has managed to keep a great attitude, and she’s going on tour beginning this week for the first time in a really long time.
It’s going to be a blast, and Currie took a break from rehearsals for a compelling Sludge exclusive. Enjoy.
METAL SLUDGE: Cherie Currie. What an honor. You’re about to go on tour. Are you looking forward to it?
CHERIE CURRIE: Oh my god, absolutely. I’m thrilled. I haven’t toured since the Runaways. I was hoping to tour in 2011 but it didn’t work out. Sometimes, it takes cutting the cord and to stop holding your breath. It feels nice to be going out there again.
SLUDGE: Time to dust off the old corset, Cherie.
CURRIE: Everyone thinks Madonna was the first one to wear a corset, but it was me. We were playing the old Starwood club in Hollywood, and I glanced across the street in the afternoon and saw a single white corset, and the sun was hitting it perfectly like a sign from god. It was perfect. I walked across the street and pressed my face to the window and just knew I had to wear that corset for “Cherry Bomb.”
SLUDGE: Great song by the way.
CURRIE: I still love singing it. It was pretty amazing. Kim Fowley and Joan Jett wrote that song for me to audition. I had come in with a Suzi Quatro song but they wanted to rock. So Kim Fowley, who was the manager, and Joan Jett, they excused themselves for 20 minutes and wrote that song.
SLUDGE: Interesting. I always figured the song was about sex. You know, hello daddy, hello mom, I’m you’re Cherry Bomb.
CURRIE: No, it wasn’t about sex.
CURRIE: No. It’s true. It wasn’t.
The Runaways live @ "CBGB’s" in New York City 1976
SLUDGE: OK. You look back now, you were 15 years old forming an all-girl rock band. How did it all come together?
CURRIE: Just a few months before, I saw David Bowie at the Universal Amphitheatre. I guess it’s the Gibson Amphitheatre now.
SLUDGE: It will always be the Universal to me.
CURRIE: Yeah, it’s crazy. But when I saw Bowie that night, I had an epiphany, just standing there watching him. Like a light that washed over me, a fog. I was going to do whatever it took, and not long after that, Kim Fowley approached me at a club in the Valley, the old Sugar Shack.
SLUDGE: You had gone to high school with Joan Jett, right?
CURRIE: Yeah, we were at Taft High (north of Los Angeles), my alma mater. I had been expelled from Birmingham High for smoking in the boys room.
Joan Jett & Cherie Currie
SLUDGE: I went to Birmingham! So what are you saying, you were a problem child?
CURRIE: No, I wasn’t a problem child. I had a twin sister who had a boyfriend, and he had a thing for virgins, and he raped me. He set his sights on me, came into my room and raped me. I was 14, and I went from a nice, surfer hippy chick that had a popular twin in junior high into a rebellious girl. It was like a perfect storm, the rape and then the Bowie concert, plus I saw a boy get thrown into a trash can at school, this poor little kid with glasses. They called him a freak, and that really affected me, too. I died my hair blue and red and white. I wanted to match Ziggy Stardust.
SLUDGE: Wow. So you look back now at the Runaways and the legacy you created. What are your thoughts?
CURRIE: Oh my god. You know, it was great and insane and exhilarating. I guess at this point, I’m satisfied to an extent, but the only way to really be satisfied would be with a full Runaways reunion.
SLUDGE: Were you ever close to doing it?
CURRIE: Yeah, in 1997. Lita Ford and I traveled around. She is still one of my best friends, and so was Sandy West, the drummer, but we lost her five years ago to cancer. Sandy and I, we had always played together until she passed. Lita reached out and said, “Come on, let’s invite Joan Jett.” We were thrilled about it, and we persuaded Joan Jett to get involved. In fact, we had a record deal and everything and a tour all set up, but Lita was in a very destructive marriage at the time with an abusive husband, and that basically caused her to pull out at the 11th hour. But now Lita and I want to do a reunion again, and this time Joan is not interested. But still, Lita and I are going to do some fun things together.
SLUDGE: Oh really?
CURRIE: Yeah, I guess you can’t make people do things that they don’t want to do, but Lita and I, we’re going to go out and give the fans what they want.
SLUDGE: At the risk of insulting you, and I don’t want to do it, but I have to keep it real: I did NOT like that movie The Runaways. It was terrible, Cherie. I’m sorry.
CURRIE: I guess it was decided at some point that they weren’t going to care what anyone thought, and that just opened the flood gates. It was disheartening. I understand that trying to do 10 years of history in one movie is a tall order, but I do wish they could have added some more substance to that movie. It was not like a movie about the Runaways, and that was just so wrong. But it was beautifully shot, and the movie did make you feel like you were being transported back to the 1970s, and they did a beautiful job in that respect. But I wish they would have portrayed my last day in the Runaways more accurate. And there were other things: I wish Lita and Jackie were more involved.
CURRIE: I just had dinner with Lita the other night. Because of her abusive husband and the manipulation, she either didn’t read the contract or he didn’t want her to know what a life-rights agreement is all about and how absolutely untrue the movie was, but sometimes people turn around and just don’t get the right information.
SLUDGE: You have two books out that detail your battle with drugs and alcohol, and I know you worked as a drug counselor, and that helped a lot. How are you doing now?
CURRIE: I’m doing great but it’s always a struggle. Being an alcoholic or a drug addict, you can never shake it for good. There is always that nagging part of the disease, but I am clean and sober. There would be no way for me to exist the way I am now with being on drugs and alcohol. It’s something that I absolutely know will never work in my life.
SLUDGE: The Runaways were big in Japan. A lot of bands make that claim, but with you guys, it was true, right?
CURRIE: Japan was the defining moment for us. We stepped off the plane, and it was Beatlemania. It took us all by shock, these hundreds of fans. I remember making my way through the crowd, right behind Lita, trying to get through the airport, and they ripped our clothes and were grabbing at Lita and me, grabbing my hair and pulling some hair out as a souvenir. It was insane. It was the first tour where we all got our own room.
SLUDGE: Nice. But did you get paid?
CURRIE: Oh my god, we never got paid, period. It was Kim Fowley ripping us off. In ’97, I sued Kim and the record company and got our future royalties back and the name. That was all I wanted, to own the name, and that’s what we did.
Kim Fowley and Cherie Currie now & then
SLUDGE: I’ve got to keep it real. The times I’ve spent with Kim Fowley, I really like the guy.
CURRIE: He’s lucky he’s not in jail. But he’s old and sickly now, and you know what? I care about Kim Fowley, I really do. When the movie was in preparation, I saw Kim at a party, and my whole attitude changed. I mean, he stole our money from Capitol Records. In Australia, he put out this album of me and my sister with these crappy liner notes. I didn’t even know about it, and he made money on that record that I had nothing to do with. I was pretty pissed. I carried that anger and hurt but eventually I moved on. Anyway, I saw Kim again, and we talked for hours, and he actually apologized. Me being a mom now, I can understand not knowing how to care for 15- and 16-year old girls.
Alexx Michael of Shameless with Cherie Currie & Adam Hamilton
SLUDGE: And you just did a project with Alexx from Shameless. He’s a legend in Europe. He is keeping glam rock alive.
CURRIE: Well, Alexx talks very highly of you personally, Gerry.
SLUDGE: He does?
CURRIE: Yeah, he does. He’s the one who pushed for me to do this interview in the first place. I love him. We’ve really become good friends. He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in the business. He’s a sweetheart, and he’s really talented and really giving, and that’s hard to find in this business. It’s really rare. The music business, you can see how it changes people, and not for the better.
SLUDGE: Awesome. So the tour starts soon.
CURRIE: It does. The first date is August 7, and that’s this coming Wednesday at the Foundry in Cleveland. I can’t wait.
Cherie Currie Tour Dates
Aug. 7 Cleveland, OH – The Foundry
Aug. 8 Ferndale, MI – Magic Bag
Aug. 10 Chicago, IL – Northalsted Market Days Street Fair
Aug. 11 Minneapolis, MN – The Belmore/New Skyway Lounge
Aug. 15 Loomis/Sacramento, CA – Blue Goose Event Center
Aug. 16 Fresno, CA –Strummers
Aug. 17 SF, CA – Red Devil Lounge
Aug. 18 San Luis Obispo, CA – SLO Brew
Aug. 28 – Pensacola, FL – Vinyl Music Hall
Aug. 29 – West Palm Beach, FL – Harriet Himmel Theater @ Cityplace
Aug. 30 – L.A., CA – Gibson Amphitheater (the old Universal Amp)
Gerry Gittelson can be reached at [email protected]