Like many other long-time Runaways devotees, I was ecstatic to hear that former vocalist Cherie Currie was locked in a studio and recording a new album ! This was a couple of years back now. After years of spinning Cherie’s solo albums – such as the one she did with sister Marie ‘Messin With The Boys’, and her very underrated 1978 LP ‘Beauty’s Only Skin Deep’ – I could not wait to hear some new material. Matt Sorum from Guns n Roses was producing, Slash and Duff McKagen also played on it – Billy Corgan penned a track – I mean, the whispers I’d heard were that this thing was turning out to be one hellava rock n roll album ! and then…well, there it stalled. And there it remains.
Why ? Well, at that time – Cherie was being managed by Kenny Laguna, who (after a 2010 gig supporting Joan Jett) apparently offered Cherie an album deal on his label – Blackheart Records with a tour to follow. For the rock n roll illiterate, Laguna is well-known for having managed the career of Joan Jett. Sure, he produced some hits in the 60’s for artists such as Tommy James and the Shondells, Darlene Love and The Ohio Express, but let’s call a spade (or a black heart!) a spade: he is most well-known for his management of Joan Jett.
Commenting on her current situation in a recent interview at examiner.com, Currie said ‘for some reason Kenny hasn’t mastered it’ and ‘it’s still not being released and there’s not much I can do about that. Kenny wouldn’t let me play any shows after I performed with Joan either. For someone my age, a year is like five. Why wouldn’t he let me play? Even with the (Runaways) movie and my book, that would have been PR enough for me to be able to get out there and have fun and play Runaways songs, and say hi to the fans old and new, but he wouldn’t let me do it.’ Also – ‘I feel extremely betrayed by the whole thing. I don’t think Blackheart had any other hits out of that record company besides Joan, so it doesn’t seem to make sense to me’. Makes no sense to Mr Rockbrat either. Currie continues ‘He just wants me to sign a record contract that I will not sign. It’s one of those 60/40 contracts that they own you for life. The record has been finished for three years. I’ve had to walk away and let it go and I thought the evil was out of this business. Joan’s record is coming out in October and it just blows my mind because she hadn’t even thought about making a record when I went in to make mine. I wish her the best, but it will be a cold day in f**king hell before I ever let anyone do this to me again.”
Cherie’s comments made me furious – enough to sit down and write this post and I am left shaking my head at this situation. Should I care ? What’s the big deal ? Why does it matter you ask ? It matters to me. Cherie is a star. Full stop. She deserves better. I am also from an era where rock n roll mattered – it was all that ever mattered. It’s always been about the music. If it’s all about the music for you Kenny Laguna – you should go ahead and release her record. Consequently, after a frustrating two and a half years of waiting, Currie did not re-new her management contract with Laguna, which apparently expired back in March.
This all sounds kinda petty dontcha think Rockbrat friends ? I recently contacted Blackheart and asked for a release date for Cherie’s album, but as yet – have not received a reply. This is just the latest – in a string of strange decisions over time – from this man and his small record label which have left me baffled. A friend from San Francisco who runs a popular rock podcast has previously attempted (and failed) to get Cherie on his show, and told me ‘at one point I had an interview with Cherie lined up but apparently Blackheart told her she couldn’t do it’. Not sure of the real reason behind that one – but why wouldn’t you grant permission for an artist on your label to do a radio show ? Same deal with Joan – this podcaster is one of the biggest Jett-head’s on the planet – yet never seems to be able to secure an interview with her. A Kenny interview ? Yep, sure. A Blackhearts (band) interview ? no problem. But not Joanie herself. What’s up with that ? Maybe some at Blackheart still think it is 1982 and they can be selective with their main act ? Who knows. Off topic somewhat, buy another odd one is the amount of compilations Joan has released over the years – peculiar to say the least. There was sweet f.a released after 1994’s ‘Pure and Simple’ – but all we got were endless compilations – that rant another time folks.
An issue I also have which gets under my skin is Laguna’s apparent say in Runaways affairs. Can someone please explain to me the full extent of his involvement with the band and indeed their legacy ? I for one would like to know. For example does he get a cut from merchandise? He was listed as the executive producer of The Runaways film from 2010 – but apart from that ? Any legal ownership? He may have some kind of legal right over the Runaways – but not the moral right – (in my opinion) – to call any shots. (Especially with no band involvement in their heyday). Just calling it as I see it.
Actually, the making of that Runaways movie did not sit well with many. Guitarist Lita Ford was quoted at that time in Rolling Stone saying ‘I just want people to know that I have nothing to do with that film’. Ford also added ‘I’ve always loved Joan. I don’t know what the problem is with him (Laguna) – he really goes out of his way to f**k me up. I despise him for it’. You gotta admire Lita’s honesty folks. Incidentally – for all the hype around that film (which I dug, by the way) – nothing could prevent it from from fizzing out after a promising first couple of weeks in the cinemas. Online stats tell my miniscule mathematical brain that a $10 million budget lined up with a gross taking of $3 to 4 million is not what I’d call a (ahem) runaway success. I suggest you also seek out Vickie Blue’s ‘Edgeplay’ documentary (on the Runaways) as well – which includes honest and revealing interviews with most of the band members. Strangely Joan Jett was absent from the film. May I say how disappointed I was at that time when I learnt that she was not filmed for the Edgeplay doco (her decision I believe). Is it also true that Joan/Kenny would apparently not grant the rights required to air the band’s music in the film ? How sad. Even the Beatles managed to patch things up in the mid-90’s for their Anthology thing !
What do you Runaways fans think about the deplorable decision to pretty much ignore the role of Jackie Fox in that film ? I-n-e-x-c-u-s-a-b-l-e ! How dare her contribution not receive adequate recognition! Yeah I know that film was pretty much based on Currie’s book – but come on. With no Jackie Fox, there would be no Runaways and her apparent omittance from that major film was an outrage. You may’ve got one past the unknowing 14 year old’s who trekked into the cinemas, but her absence was noticed by many like me. Runaways songs such as the blistering ‘Neon Angels on the Road to Ruin’ and the beautiful “Heartbeat” were co-written by one J.Fox ! She was essential to the chemistry of the band and she will forever be known as the bass player in The Runaways (whether that film accurately acknowledged it or not).
The relationship between Joan and Fox has long been rumored to be frosty – but things got even chillier back in 2009, when Joan Jett/Blackheart Records filed a lawsuit against Fox – which was dismissed some time later. From what I have read, Jett felt that Fox was meddling with the making of The Runaways movie. She hoped that the lawsuit would stop any continued interference. Ultimately the judge cited in favor of Fox. Apparently the filmmakers, (including Joan) didn’t secure Fox’s life rights before they made the movie. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Fox had asked (via letters she’d sent to the filmmakers) if her name/likeness were to be included in the movie. Jett apparently thought that Fox was unfairly attempting to halt the movie’s release and sued her for ‘tortuous interference’ (incidentally, the filmmakers had successfully secured life rights of former drummer Sandy West, ex-manager Kim Fowley and indeed Cherie Currie). Was it unreasonable of Fox – to ask/request/question the role of her character/name/likeness – and how she would be portrayed ?! Judge for yourself.
As is well documented – the ladies in the Runaways never made serious money in the 70’s – none which went into their pockets at least. So a re-union could be great – couldn’t it ? For band and fans alike ? Apparently not. Recently, Joan Jett stated in LA Weekly that there was no point in a Runaways re-union, saying ‘she doesn’t see the benefit on her end’. Also ‘I don’t really get why we should do it – the downside is bigger than the upside’. May I state the bleeding obvious here Joan/Kenny. The Runaways ain’t about just you two. The Runaways are not Joan Jett and friends. It is indeed a band of five – Cherie, Lita, Jackie, Sandy and Joan. End of argument. Personally, the time for a re-union has passed. It should’ve happened in the mid-90s when Sandy was still alive. Not now. Not unless it’s done fairly for all involved.
I met Mr Laguna briefly a couple of times in the mid-90’s at some Blackhearts gigs – he seemed amicable. I recognise his input and legacy into pop music. I also acknowledge that he has been very good for Joan’s career. He has the respect of many in the music industry – but with decisions like this one involving Cherie Currie’s unreleased album (and his dealings in Runaways affairs), I – along with many other long-time Runaways fans – are fast becoming disillusioned.
As you can gather – I am a passionate Runaways disciple. I have previously interviewed Jackie Fox for the Japanese rock media some years back and found her to be friendly, honourable and decent. I also love Cherie, Lita Ford and have been a Joan fan for too many years to remember – always putting my hand in my pocket to buy new material. How exciting to hear a new album from Cherie Currie I thought ! Something I never imagined in the 80’s and 90’s ! Yet how unfortunate that the straight-forward process of releasing an album gets so freaking messy – why oh why complicate something simple ? Just let me rock.
Does Blackheart feel threatened that a Cherie Currie album could take some spotlight away from Joan ? Not enough room in the Blackheart stable for two Runaways maybe ? It’s a point which Currie alluded to in the Examiner interview saying ‘Joan really hasn’t had anyone else achieve the level of success as she has after The Runaways, but now Lita is back and drawing huge crowds and the original lead singer of The Runaways Cherie Currie is touring’.
So my question to you Mr Laguna and Blackheart Records is simple: when will the unreleased Cherie Currie album be released ? I am yet to receive a reply to my e-mail, so you are more than welcome to leave the answer below this article.
My advice to Cherie Currie is to re-record the album and have it fan-funded. Ginger Wildheart uses this method with great success – even breaking into the UK charts recently and outselling muppets like Justin Timberlake. I for one will offer you the first pledge.
I think I will end this post by quoting the lyrics contained in the Currie tune ‘Beauty’s Only Skin Deep’ which are: ‘I’ve been left for dead – by those who didn’t care – they never considered me or took me anywhere – I’ve got the songs to sing’. Yes folks – Cherie Currie does have the songs to sing – and the voice and charisma to perform them. She is currently out on tour and is in sizzling form. I encourage you to go and see a true rock n roll trailblazer.