Cherie Curry’s updated 2010 memoir Neon Angel was a compelling, sometimes traumatic look at her childhood and her time with the influential all-girl teen rock band The Runaways. But it was just that, her take on the band.
Queens of Noise is an even-handed look at the band, and those surrounding them, specifically the group’s manager and brainchild (depending on who you ask) Kim Fowley. Written by journalism professor and longtime pop music writer Evelyn McDonnell, the book takes an exhaustive look at the band, from the core original members (Currie, Joan Jett, Sandy West, Lita Ford and Jackie Fox) and the various replacement bassists that came just before and after Fox’s tenure with the group. She objectively covers the group, warts and all, and does an incredible job of balancing everyone’s interpretations of the band’s brief but often contentious life. As the book demonstrates, even if everyone was in the same room, the details of the events that happened vary greatly, (the most obvious example is the often told story about Fowley calling several underage band members into a bedroom to witness “sex lessons” he was administering to another girl). The only thing just about everyone can agree on is that Fowley was a sleaze, but depending on who’s telling the story he was either harmlessly weird or viciously dangerous.
The book does tend to get weighted down from time to time in too much detail and minutia, particularly in describing the history of the towns the ladies grew up in, but it’s a small flaw and one that’s easy to overlook. The band has been given the opportunity to reunite several times over the years since their implosion in 1979 – most recently at the premier of The Runaways movie based on Neon Angel – but it looks like that’s a reunion that will never happen. This book is a decent consolation.
Queens of Noise: the real Story of The Runaways by Evelyn McDonnell/Hardcover/360 pages/Da Capo Press