Last night, I watched this documentary called “Edgeplay: A Film About The Runaways.” It was interesting for a number of reasons, but also disappointing due to a couple of omissions. The largest omission was Joan Jett, perhaps the most successful of the band’s alumnae. I don’t know if she refused to participate or if there is still animosity between her and Victory Tischler-Blue, nee Vicki Blue, the film’s producer and Runaways bassist during 1977-78. Leaving out Joan’s perspective, to me, left a large gap in the story.

The other thing missing was the inclusion of any of the Runaway’s original music. There were live clips of “Wild Thing” and “Rock and Roll,” but the soundtrack was mostly music by Suzi Quatro or solo Lita Ford. Although the band wrote or co-wrote their songs, I don’t know – and the movie doesn’t mention – who owns the rights, so maybe that was the issue with using the music.

One surprising inclusion was the participation of Kim Fowley, the band’s former manager. I say surprising because there is a lot of straight-up hate between the band members and the man they claim manipulated and exploited them. At one point during the film singer Cherie Currie discusses telling her parents about Fowley: “I didn’t tell them everything he had done; my father would have absolutely taken out a gun and blown his brains out. I still hope one day someone does.”

Fowley, meanwhile, looked at the band as a business or a sports team, where several totally different individuals get together for the benefit of a bigger cause. He was the catalyst that put the band together (they were not pre-fabricated, but rather, as Fowley got word of the individual girls, he worked to put them in touch with each other). He ran herd over them like a drill instructor, using fear and belittlement to keep them in line. To him, the band seems to have been nothing more than project from which he could make money. (There is a stark contrast between this and Lita Ford looking back at how much she had believed in what Fowley told her about being a rock star and how much she really wanted that to happen.) The exploitation and alleged psychological and physical abuse of the girls was something Fowley seems not to have been concerned about. He talks about it as if it were just part of the process, like the military boot camps (yes, camps – plural) he claims to have gone through because he “enjoyed” them.

The Runaways’ story is a fascinating look at a band that came up at the time punk rock was being born in the U.S. Because of their youth, their legitimacy is often overlooked, but the fact is they toured with the Ramones and Blondie, and ultimately were to become as much associated as the New York punks as they were with the California scene.

The Runaways’ full history, as well a link to help get them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is at the band’s Web site here.

For some music, I’ve pulled a couple of tracks from the Runaways’ 1977 album Live in Japan and a couple from a 1993 demos compilation titled Born to Be Bad. The demos, I believe, are from the time when the Runaways were just starting out and were a trio with Jett, drummer Sandy West, and bass player Micki Steele.

Queens of Noise (live).mp3
Rock and Roll (Velvet Underground cover) [live].mp3
Cherry Bomb (live).mp3

All Right Now (Free cover) [demo].mp3
Rock and Roll (Velvet Underground cover) [demo].mp3
You Drive Me Wild (demo).mp3

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At 9:30 PM , Blogger PoorCollegeStudent said...

Joan Jett refused to participate in the making of this movie, which explains why she wasn't in it and probably why they couldn't use songs she wrote or co-wrote.


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