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1976, The Runaways — Lita Ford, Joan Jett, Jackie Fox, Sandy West, Cherie Currie — photo by Tom Gold

The Runaways teenage, all-female rock band was co-founded in 1975 by guitarist Joan Jett and drummer Sandy West. The two were joined by Cherie Currie, Lita Ford, and Jackie Fox and became the main core of the group. Vicki Blue, Micki Steele (who’d later join The Bangles), Peggy Foster, and Laurie McAllister also flowed in as others dropped-out, and they eventually broke up in 1979. The Runaways actually saw greater success in Japan than here in the US, where many critics and serious rock fans alike had a hard time taking the sexy teenage girls from LA seriously. Their mania and memory largely slipped into a slumber until being sparked again by the 2010 biographical flick, The Runaways.

Being a child of the ’70s & ’80s I was aware of The Runaways, but was exposed more to TV than the live music scene. Suzi Quatro (who inspired Jett) was riding a wave of curiously sexy, somewhat androgynous, lady rocker vibe and saw decent TV airtime. I’ll admit, I was intrigued. Pinky Tuscadero definitely had my attention too. Then Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and Lita Ford (now a pursed-lipped, metal guitar goddess), shot back into the rock limelight wiser, and with stronger musical chops. Looking back at The Runaways, one thing I’ll say is that they were well-merchandised, as witnessed by the great archive of images that have successfully survived the test of time.


1975, The Runaways — Joan Jett, Peggy Foster, Sandy West, Cherie Currie, Lita Ford with band manager Kim Fowley, who was instrumental in putting the group together. He was a pretty crass dude, once having sex with a woman in front of The Runaways to, “teach you dogs how to f___.” He’d later apologize, saying he didn’t know how to handle 15-year-old girls. And that in his own crazy way, he loved them. Bullshit, I say. Sicko ego trip is more like it. 


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I Held My Breath In Amazement As I Took This Photo, 1977 — “Cherie Currie invited me to her San Fernando Valley home more than once and I always had my camera with me. On one visit she invited me into her small, but cute teenage bedroom. There on the walls were some Runaways’ posters and above her record player was David Bowie. She put on Starman from Ziggy Stardust on her record player and looked up to the heavens. As I held my breath in amazement, I took this photograph.” –photo by Brad Elterman


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Backstage with Joan Jett, 1977 — “Joan Jett was not pissed off at me. She was just being Joan! We were all hanging around backstage waiting for her and the rest of The Runaways to take the stage. In a thousand years when a historian finds this photo they’ll be able to pinpoint the exact location by looking at the hieroglyphics on the wall of The Whiskey.” — photo by Brad Elterman


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Cherie Currie Lollipop Exclusive, 1977 — “All the music and magazines wanted raw and candid photos of The Runways. None of that studio shit. They wanted photos that looked like snapshots capturing cool moments. It was my style and the photos went everywhere. I have not changed my style today.” — photo by Brad Elterman


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Teenage Rock Twins, 1977 — “The Japanese went nuts when they found out that Cherie Currie had a twin sister. I did too and so did just about everyone else on the scene. They were adorable to photograph. Dig the stuffed animal toys!” — photo by Brad Elterman 



Joan Jett & Her Switchblade 1977 — “Joan Jett walked around with a real switchblade knife back in the ’70s. You did not want to mess with Joanie. This photo was that on Hollywood Blvd and that is the trunk of my parents Plymouth Duster in the photo!” — photo by Brad Elterman



A Runaway At Home In The San Fernando Valley, 1977 — “I love this Cherie Currie photo in taken in her bedroom. I was so shy. I should have just thrown her over my shoulder and carried off to my high rise Sunset Strip apartment for the evening.” — photo by Brad Elterman



Cherie Currie Had A Teenage Tattoo! — “I did several photo sessions with Cherie Currie at her home in the San Fernando Valley. This shot was taken in the family kitchen where Cherie is showing off her tattoo to me. That was in 1977.” — photo by Brad Elterman



Valley Chicks, 1977 — “I was hired by Nippon Phonogram Records in Japan to do this session of The Runaways lead singer Cherie Currie at her San Fernando Valley home. I had previously photographed her on stage, backstage, and hanging out. The Japanese wanted MORE PHOTOS! This time they wanted something more personal – her family life. Her identical twin sister Marie, pictured on the left, immediately caught my eye and I insisted on her joining the photo shoot. The stunning blonde in the center is a teenage Vickie Ronald who was in my class at Van Nuys High School. Later the legendary record producer Kim Fowley discovered Vicki and transformed her into “Vickie Razor Blade” in a band called “Venus And The Razor Blades.” Marie was also signed to a record label and like me, they all found a way to get out of the valley and to the other side of the hill.” — photo by Brad Elterman


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“In the very early days, The Runaways and Van Halen musically grew up together on the Sunset Strip. Edward was my friend.  I’d go to his house after a night of partying, and we would say ‘Hi’ to his mom, and he’d make me breakfast by opening a packet of Carnation Instant Breakfast (mix with milk and drink your breakfast, chocolate or vanilla).

Edward had no time in his life for anything unless it was for sex or rock ’n’ roll. He didn’t even have an ignition switch in his car. He just said, ‘Fuck, I don’t need a key,’ and he would put these wires together, and off we went in his piece of trash vehicle with an AMAZING stereo system, on which he played me Running with the Devil. I was blown away by how awesome and rockin’ it sounded! Good ol’ straight-in-your-face rock ’n’ roll, no bells and whistles. Not watered down with tons of guitar overdubs and tons of keyboards, as we just came out of the Boston era. Boston was cool, but extremely produced. back-to-basics three-piece rock ’n’ roll. Everyone was too busy trying to figure out how to outdo each other, while Edward would just DO IT! No questions asked!!! Just fuckin’ DO IT!

He was a great inspiration to me. You know how sometimes people say things to you that you carry with you for years, and that change your life forever? I was stuck in a world where not too many people listened to girls playing guitar. I didn’t know what I was capable of doing, especially having been fresh from The Runaways, which was an uphill battle. One day Edward said to me, ‘Lita, you can play guitar, what’s your fuckin’ problem, just DO IT!!!’ Something so simple coming out of the mouth of Edward Van Halen was like an electric charge of energy going through my brain. Suddenly, my life became so clear and simple. Hey, it’s not an issue that you’re a chick. So what? Just fuckin’ DO IT! What are you waiting for? Approval? Fuck them!!! Just be yourself!!!” —Lita Ford, via