Run-Run-RUNAWAYS!August 29, 2008
Recently while driving down the road with my youngest son (25-years-old) the song ‘Tush’ by ZZ Top came on the radio. I mentioned to him how I liked Joan Jett’s version and we started talking about her. He had no idea she was in a band, The Runaways, prior to forming Joan Jett & The Blackhearts. So I told him about having all their albums, a few 8-tracks and seeing them live a couple times back in the day.
The next day I surfed online for some Runaways information to see what LPs were available on CD and came across the news that drummer and co-founder Sandy West had passed away on October 21, 2006 at the age of 47 of lung cancer. I had no idea. It was a sad moment because I instantly flashed back to a night in 1976 when Sandy took the time to talk to myself, Flash, Mott and Bug.
Joan Jett and Sandy West formed The Runaways in August 1975 and by the first of the year rock magazines like Creem, Circus, Hit Parader, Who Put The Bomp!, Cleveland Scene and even a British paper or two (I got them all back then) had begun writing about a new LA band made up of teenage girls who weren’t bubble gum or sugar coated, they were hardcore rockers (the term punk was also being bandied about). That new band was The Runaways and producer Kim Fowley, who always made the magazines, was their producer.
In March ’76 they entered the studio, recorded their first album, The Runaways, and went on tour amid lots of hype and media coverage. On June 1, 1976 The Runaways’ debut album was released and I dutifully bought it, I think at Far East Audio in Wooster, OH. I also picked up the 8-track for the Lincoln (I had a all black ’63 Lincoln Continental Towncar with suicide doors in mint condition).
Soon after word filtered out that The Runaways were going to be playing at The Wine Cellar in Massillon, OH, a nightclub. When the night came Flash, Bug, Mott and myself headed east to Massillon and caught their show. My Gawd, it was true! They were only 16 and 17! Jailbait!
It was a hot, sweaty, sticky night with a full crowd in attendance and while a bit sloppy I guess, The Runaways rocked the house by sheer enthusiasm, tenacity and guts. You couldn’t help but like them even though they were on par with some of the local bands talent-wise at that time.
After they were done we hung around for a couple more drinks and while getting ready to head out we walked by Sandy West who apparently was coming out for a cigarette before they closed The Wine Cellar for the night. We stopped and complimented her and the band and she was, looking back, gracious enough to stop and talk to us for a good 15 or 20 minutes.
She was fun, cute, friendly and loved rock ‘n roll.
That was a night we had a ton of fun. The original line-up of The Runaways that night consisted of Joan Jett (16), Sandy West (16), Lita Ford (17), Jackie Fox (16) and Cherie Currie (16).
I saw them one other time, on March 13, 1978 (three days before my oldest son was born and a day or two before a HUGE blizzard hit this area) at the Flying Machine in Akron, OH. The band line-up at that time included, Jett, West, Ford and Vicki Blue.
Apparently there is a film, Edgeplay, a Runaways documentary. I need to find that. One caveat is Joan Jett reportedly refused to have anything to do with the documentary personally.
After The Runaways broke up in 1979, Sandy West formed the Sandy West Band as a singer, drummer and guitarist. She released one solo EP.
For more information on Sandy, Rocket City Records has a great tribute online, the Sandy West Tribute.
The late Sandy West in action. Tom Golden Photo
Posted in ROCK 'N ROLL | Tagged Akron Ohio, Cherie Currie (16), Circus, Cleveland Scene, Creem, Edgeplay, Far East Audio, Flying Machine, Hit Parader, Jackie Fox (16), Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Joan Jett (16), Kim Fowley, Lita Ford (17), Massillon Ohio, Rocket City Records, Runaways!, Sandy West (16), Sandy West Band, Vicki Blue, Who Put The Bomp!, Wine Cellar |