Back in the mid-1970s, The Runaways were nothing but a bunch of teenage girls with the potential to become music legends, given the chance. Often dismissed as a marketing stunt, they have fought their way to the top, becoming the first all-female rock band to gain true commercial success. They were an important step in the evolution of rock music, and the music industry as a whole, and not only because they wrote songs, played instruments and toured all over the place. The fact that they were all female in a world dominated by men – from roadies to managers, mind you – gives them an even more important role in history.
Should we call The Runaways a feminist band? Well, we might, even if their lyrics were not about gender equality and politics – but does a band truly have to sing about these and engage in various disruptive and scandalous acts (see Pussy Riot, Russia’s famous feminist punk rock band for example) to be considered “feminist”? Or is it enough to be powerful, successful, and independent?
The truth is, The Runaways emerged at a time when the rock music scene of the United States was clearly dominated by men. Let’s take a look at a few of their contemporaries: Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, The Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, AC/DC – and all of them had an all male composition. And The Runaways never managed to become a resounding success in the United States. One of the reasons for this might have been the fact that radio station programmers limited the number of tracks with female vocalists that could be played in an hour, and the fans of the band – mostly teenagers – couldn’t get into the bars where the band played.
The Runaways as a band has a short history. After their debut album was released in 1976, the band enjoyed a meteoric rise and fall. With four studio albums and a series of international appearances, the band left a mark on the lives – and tastes – of many. Initially, the band’s members emulated the looks of their idols – Cherie Currie that of David Bowie, Joan Jett that of Suzi Quattro, and so on – but they have become idols themselves. Their final show took place in California in December 1978.
Although members of the band have often felt not being taken seriously by the American music industry, The Runaways represents an important landmark in the evolution of music in the US and the world. Many of the band’s members went on to pursue a successful solo career and inspired many others to form their own bands in the coming years, elbowing the way for female musicians through the world of rock.