Image: David Forcier
Cherie Currie was thrown into rock stardom. In 1975, the 15-year-old was hand picked by the notorious Kim Fowley to lead the Runaways, the all-female band who went on to record songs such as “Hollywood”, “Queens of Noise” and the iconic “Cherry Bomb”.
With blistering talent and iconic style, the five-piece were hot property from the start and signed to Mercury records a week after their line-up was finalised.
For teenage Cherie, ditching school and hitting the road was no Disney scenario and after convincing her family that it was a good idea, she and the band had to overcome predatory men, hard partying and a misogynist music industry.
After extensive touring and three albums, Cherie weighed up the highs and low of being a teenage rocker and decided to leave the Runaways to get healthier and ultimately pursue new musical avenues.
In 2016 Currie continues to do things her own way and as well as making records and playing live, she’s a loving mother, has worked as a teenage drug and alcohol counsellor and is a professional chainsaw artist.
With her long platinum blonde hair and Sunset Strip style she continues to be a rock icon into her 50s. We had trouble taking our eyes off her.
On behalf of rockers all over the world, we thank Cherie for the amazing records and ever-lasting inspiration.
Here’s our catch up with the original Cherry Bomb.
Noisey: Welcome to Melbourne, it’s an honour to be sitting down with you.
Cherie Currie: Thank you! I’ve wanted to come here for 40 years. So now I’m here at 56 and I’m enjoying it, the people are the sweetest. It’s the fans that are so terrific - and there’s a difference between the USA crowds. They’re just kind, wonderful people.If I didn’t have my son I’d move here. I don’t know if they’d want me here with my chainsaw but maybe I’ll carve your mascot
How did you become a chainsaw artist?
I did relief carving at first: two-dimensional work for tabletops, wall hangings and stuff like that. One day I saw a couple of guys with chainsaws on the side of the road and I couldn’t get it out of my head. Every morning a voice told me that I had to go back, and when I did, I walked into their gallery and the voice said you can do this. It was a shock because I’d only worked with a dremel, which is a little tiny tool and I was terrified of that at first, so I could not understand how this voice was telling me I could do it with a chainsaw. I’m so glad because I got over the fear. Now I’ve done thousands of pieces, and that’s been my sole livelihood for almost 15 years.
What kind of rock and roll are you into now?
The only rock band at all I’m into right now is my son’s band - Maudlin Strangers. He [and Kim Fowley] produced my album Reverie and has come on four tours. He’s 25 and looks like a redhead Robert Redford. And this kid can sing! His dad is Robert Hays, the star of Flying High - he’s got more talent in the lip of his finger than Bob and I combined. I wanted him to come because the girls would love him, he’s just so gorgeous. Everyone loves a ginger!
It must be amazing to keep meeting younger women who have been inspired by you to start their own bands.
I have to be thankful for The Runaways movie. When I opened for Joan [Jett] in 2010, some of the kids that came along were just so tiny and crying. I really thought the Runaways had been forgotten about 20 years ago. I was excited because we did do something substantial, and I don’t think new fans would have known about it if it wasn’t for this film. The old fans have always been die hard, and for that I’m forever grateful.
Can we talk about your style in the 70s? How did you do your hair back then?
I cut it myself… all I did was just pull it up and cut it! I wanted to look like David Bowie but I guess it turned into what they call a shag. I still have the Runaways outfits, but the one thing I don’t have is the corset. I have a spare one but not ‘the one’.
We love the scene in the film that recreates your “Lady Grinning Soul” dance at the talent show.
I had a little bit of a fight with [the filmmakers] about that because I actually did “1984 at the talent show and no one was throwing food at me, I won that thing! But I love that song so much . You know I play a bit of "Lady Grinning Soul" in my set? Until the show last night I’d never cried for David Bowie’s passing because I had the flu at the time and just tried to pretend it didn’t happen. Then last night for some reason it just hit me in the heart right at the chorus. I only met him once. He came to a show that the Runaways did in Boston with Iggy Pop. He was a lot shorter than I thought he was going to be, but I have to take into consideration I was wearing 6-inch platform heels.
Who are your female idols?
Suzi Quatro, she’s a fantastic gal and sings on my live album I’m doing. Also Janis Joplin of course.
Although the Runaways are said to have been orchestrated by guys in the beginning, as soon as you started getting on stage and fronting a wild rock band you realise right away how important what you were doing was for women?
I did… It wasn’t really orchestrated by guys, it was really Kim Fowley, Joan Jett and Sandy West who put the band together… and within a week we had a record deal.
2015’s Reverie was your first release in 30 years. Has your songwriting process and relationship with music changed much since you were a teenager?
That album was more like a race to the finish because Kim Fowley was dying. It was an opportunity for me to sit back in the studio with this man and not be afraid, and then I took care of him. I moved him into my house and he was bedridden, so let me tell ya, there was a lot of taking care of. I miss him.
You’ve written about your relationship with Joan Jett and how she was your rock throughout your time in the Runaways. Would you like to say anything on the record about women in music scenes sticking together, supporting each other creatively, and truly collaborating instead of competing?
Well, it’s hard because girls instinctively have this ability to be jealous. It’s in our DNA and is what tore the Runaways apart because we were so young and unable to cope. It has become a hundred thousand times better since I was in the Runaways. What I will say for women is just don’t ask peoples opinion or approval! That voice in your head is always right and for 56 years I have proven it to myself. When I picked up a chainsaw, my family said, “Sorry sister, you can’t do this, we don’t want you to die so you’re not allowed.” I said, “Sorry brother - I have to”.
If it wasn’t for that chainsaw, I wouldn’t have my home. I became very good at it. Fear is what stops your friends from saying “you wanna be a rockstar, go ahead!” instead, it’s “Oh come on!” - Even my parents told me I wasn’t gonna do it, that I’d be a nobody. Don’t seek anyone’s approval. They have their path and you have yours, and what you have in store for your life could be so beyond anything that they could comprehend.
Harriet Hudson plays in hard rock band Miss Destiny. Kate Curtis is the president of the Low Life Fan Club.