In their native USA, The Runaways never found much success. Overseas, in the UK and in Japan, the band were not just a composition of female teenage angst they were the idols, the icons, the overlords of it. This 1977 performance of the band’s song ‘Wasted’ on the legendary UK music show The Old Grey Whistle Test is a testament to their huge influence.
The Runaways are a curious version of punk rock, unlike their contemporaries the band were conceived with a plan. While other bands had formed via an intense urge to create and shake up the scene, Joan Jett and Sandy West first created the band with a view on world domination. The pair had originally met through mutual friend Kim Fowley who had exchanged numbers between them. After their initial meeting, Fowley would help the duo fill the other positions in the band. Two decades later he said, “I didn’t put the Runaways together, I had an idea, they had ideas, we all met, there was combustion and out of five different versions of that group came the five girls who were the ones that people liked.”
Starting their life as a trio with singer/bassist Micki Steele, The Runaways soon began taking on the party and club circuit around their native Los Angeles. Soon they added lead guitarist Lita Ford, who had originally auditioned for the bass spot. Steele lost their spot in the group fairly quickly, replaced by local bassist Peggy Foster, who then left after just one month. Lead singer Cherie Currie was found and recruited in a local teen nightclub called the Sugar Shack, followed by Jackie Fox (who had originally auditioned for the lead guitar spot) on bass.
The band were set up to take on the world and were quickly lumped in with the other punk rock bands of the time, having already established themselves on the West Coast punk scene. The band found favour with punks from across the country though finding friends in bands like the Ramones, Dead Boys, The Damned, Generation-X, and the Sex Pistols.
Like much of their contemporaries the band hit a peak in 1977 with the fervour of punk at its most intense and the release of their seminal LP Queens of Noise. It was an album that did okay at home but found a mass of fans abroad. Japan, especially, was a hotspot for Runaways’ fans, encouraging them to do a live album out there as well as a TV special, Jett later described the tour in Japan as being “like Beatlemania”.
It was during this tour though that the band would lose another member. Jackie Fox would later allege that Kim Fowley had raped her in a room full of people, with none of them making any movement to stop the incident. It was a disgusting final act for Jackie and something which is a black mark on the career of the band. Fox was unceremoniously replaced by Vicki Blue.
The next member of the band to leave was Cherie Currie who left the band following a disagreement with Lita Ford. This left Jett with vocal duty and the band we see during this TV performance is complete. The group are at the legendary television show to debut one of their new tracks from their latest album Waitin’ For The Night. The track was called ‘Wasted’ and was another shake of the fist at the establishment and the lack of a future the youth of the time felt they had.
It’s a really great performance for a few reasons, firstly Joan Jett taking centre stage is always a treat to behold. Secondly, the song is an impeccably written, angst-driven, punk ditty. Finally, and most importantly, we love this clip because it shows each member living their best life.
Jett is centre stage with a snarling lip, a power stance that says “yeh, just you try it” and the thrash of three chords that only Strummer could match. Lita Ford, on the other hand, is finding her heavy metal dream at the end of each note. Blue, creates herself a bassist bubble filled with rhythm and only rhythm, and Sandy West completes her best Roger Taylor impression.
Together they deliver a powerful and effortless performance of ‘Wasted’. Watch that performance on the Old Grey Whistle Test from 1977 below.