Pat Blythe: Cherie Currie….The One and Only Cherry Bomb
Let’s go back to September 25 and a late night visit to Cherry Cola’s Rock ‘n Rolla Cabaret and Lounge. With my sisters in tow, we ducked into the club so I could introduce them to the exquisite Cherish Stevenson, the club’s owner and gracious hostess, and give them a small taste of the nightlife in Toronto. Cherish pulled me aside to let me know Cherie Currie was playing the club and would I be interested in shooting the event. It took me a nanosecond to say yes, I’d love to.
Cherie Currie performing at Cherry Cola’s October 17, 2015
She of The Runaways fame. A blue-eyed blonde whose “rock-chick look perfectly augmented the loud, aggressive sound that roared from her fellow bandmates.”
…and with the slightest possibility (and the rumor mill running at full boogie) that Currie’s former bandmate (and close friend) Joan Jett might, just might make an appearance made this a much anticipated show.
Cherry Bomb – The Runaways
Fast forward to October 17. I arrived just as Cherry Cola’s was opening. A “Private VIP Event” note was already stuck to the door. I was meeting up with Roxanne (Veronica) so I beelined straight to the far end of the bar, grabbed a couple of seats and began to sort out the camera gear. Rox appeared moments later and we both enjoyed a good jawing and couple of drinks before the first act, punk band Adaptive Reaction, appeared on stage. It didn’t take long for Cherry’s to fill up with some patrons clad in rather fantastical costumes.
At the time I didn’t realize the evening’s events were also part of Horror-Rama, a two-day horror fest created by Suspect Video owner Luis Ceriz and Fangoria/Gorezone editor Chris Alexander, both of whom jumped up on stage to introduce themselves, welcome the crowd and reiterate the night’s list of performers. Following Adaptive Reaction, a creation known as Corpusse is announced by a disembodied voice through the speaker system. I must confess I have never witnessed anything quite like it before. Suffice to say I am at a loss for words. Not everything is my cup of tea and I’m not overly fond of drinking my liquids (especially the red variety) from a skull. The entire costume was right out of The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and I found the complete get-up quite fascinating. He’d be brilliant as one of the villains.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers TV Show Intro 7
As for the star of the evening, she was up next. First, a little history.
In the beginning….
Born in and raised in Encino California, Cherie Currie became the teenage lead vocalist of The Runaways at the tender age of 15. ‘Discovered’ by Kim Fowley and Joan Jett at the Sugar Shack, a teenage centric club in North Hollywood, Currie’s hard rock looks and cocky attitude made an impression and she was asked to join the band. The song “Cherry Bomb” was written by Jett for Currie’s audition and has become Currie’s signature song. Within weeks The Runaways had a recording contract with Mercury Records and were in the studio. According to Currie, ” I was thrust into fronting a band…I’d never really sang. I’d never been on stage with a live band. It was like being in the center of a hurricane, everything was moving so fast.” The self-titled album, The Runaways, was released in 1976. The group issued three more albums, Queens of Noise in 1977, Live in Japan also in 1977 and Flaming Schoolgirls, a compilation of previously unreleased recordings, in 1980. By this time Currie was a solo act and the band had formally broken up.
Queens of Noise – The Runaways
Currie’s first solo recording, entitled Beauty’s Only Skin Deep, was released in 1978 on Polygram Records. For the album Messin’ With the Boys in 1980, Currie was joined by her identical twin sister Marie (who is two minutes older than Cherie). One of the songs off the album, “Since You’ve Been Gone”, charted 95 on the U.S. charts. Both the album and the single “This Time” made the top 200 on the U.S. charts. Acting was next and Currie’s debut was in the 1980 film Foxes with Jodie Foster. On the strength of her performance in Foxes, Currie was offered numerous roles in other films and guest spots on several TV shows.
Cherie & Marie Currie – Since you’ve been gone 1979
Her 1989 memoir, Neon Angel, was made into the 2010 movie The Runaways and recounted Currie’s time in the band, her drug addiction, sex abuse and her relationship with Kim Fowley, whom she grew to hate while in the band. After reconnecting with Fowley at a Hollywood party in 2008, the 30-year estrangement was finally broken and the relationship slowly mended during the last few years of Fowley’s life. According to Currie, “He (Fowley) didn’t know how to handle 15-year-old girls. In his own crazy way, he loved us.” She reunited with Fowley for her album Reverie, the last studio album he produced before his death. It was Fowley’s way to make amends for the all the money he cheated out of her when she was in The Runaways, and for releasing her and Marie’s music on Young and Wild without their permission. In his final months, Currie took care of him as he was dying of cancer.
Kim Fowley and Cherie Currie
Joan and Cherie….then
Joan and Cherie….and now
The Runaways were a breakthrough band. The first all-teenage, female hard rock group — provocative, sexual, tough, hard-hitting — breaking the mold and tearing down stereotypes. In a 2010 interview with SPIN magazine, Currie was asked this question. “It’s impossible to imagine an underage female rock band today having the same freedom the Runaways had. People freaked out at a mildly suggestive Miley Cyrus magazine cover. Do you wish you had been better supervised at the time?” Currie’s response, “Well, I don’t think the Runaways could have happened under those circumstances. And our band was a milestone. Thank God we had the parents that we had because I can tell you, being the mother of a 19-year-old, there isn’t a chance I would have let that happen. But we made history. So it’s a double-edged sword.”
Joan Jett & Cherie Currie talk The Runaways
Back to the present. Currie took Cherry Cola’s stage with hundreds of screaming, clapping fans in front of her, all tightly compacted against the stage. An intimate performance, Currie was gracious, funny, even self-deprecating and it was obvious she was thoroughly enjoying herself. A performer who is very comfortable on stage, Currie knows how to engage her audience and clearly understands they want to hear the old and familiar songs…and she performs them with aplomb. I loved her rendition of “Roxy Roller” and of course, the song everyone was waiting for, “Cherry Bomb”.
Local performers Sprocket Damage had been selected as her backup band for the evening. The lineup included L-R Bri Lue-Kim (guitar), peaking out over Cherie’s shoulder Becky Walker (back-up vocals), James Bialkowski (bass), Iain Walsh (guitar). Not showing Jake Grimbrother (vocals) and Nathan Hill (drums). My apologies to Grimbrother and Hill. I couldn’t get the entire band in a single shot. I was pressed up against one side of the stage and had absolutely no room to move around.
Cherry Bomb – Cherie Currie (@ Cherry Cola’s)
There’s also a story within a story, of a young woman who grew up loving the Runaways and who learned every one of their songs, never dreaming she’d get the chance to sing with one of her idols. A huge Cherie Currie fan and a singer/songwriter herself, here is Becky’s story and how fate beautifully intervenes.
“I ran into James Bialkowski (Bass) and Jake Grimbrother (vocals) of Sprocket Damage when I was out one night. They are also the organizers of London, Ontario’s SHOCK STOCK, Canada’s PREMIERE annual horror and subculture convention.
They told me that they had been asked by the organizers of Horror-Rama to play a set to open for and then to be the backing band for Cherie Currie of The Runaways. I was thrilled for them as I was a huge fan of The Runaways growing up and still am. A of couple weeks later James messaged me and asked if I would come to one of their rehearsals and sing the (Runaway’s) songs for them. I accepted as I thought it would be something fun to do and ended up practicing with them weekly leading up to the gig.
Sprocket Damage had a rehearsal with Cherie the day before the show. I got a text after their rehearsal saying that Cherie wanted back-up vocals and asked if I was up for it. Of course my answer was yes. I had no (chance to) practice with her (Cherie). We literally met on the stage during the show.”
Becky Walker and Cherie Currie singing Roxy Roller
When Currie introduced Walker on stage it didn’t twig with me that it was the same Becky Walker I had photographed during CMW this year. It wasn’t until after I saw a mention on Facebook and commented back that I received affirmation that it was indeed the same person. Shooting someone for the first time in a dark club sporting a completely different look would be enough to make anyone stop and question the situation. Unfortunately I didn’t see Walker after Currie left and I myself departed shortly after.
A huge thank you goes out to Cherish Stevenson who invited me to photograph the event. Cherish, you’re as beautiful inside as you are outside. Your big heart, compassionate nature and welcoming hugs are like a cozy warm blanket people just want to wrap themselves in. To Randi, you are one very classy bartender. To Jay, to Matt Groopie and the rest of the gang at Cherry Cola’s…all truly awesome people. Thank you.
And now, some pictures of the evening’s event….
Cherie rockin’ it a Cherry Cola’s
Lex Gore of Adaptive Reaction
The fantastical Corpusse
(You had to see him in colour)
Cherish Stevenson and Cherie Currie
Cherish Stevenson, Cherie Currie and Matt Groopie
Cherie Brings It
SURPRISE!!! Cherish Stevenson, Randi and Jay (Shawn is missing from this mix)
All photos at Cherry Cola’s by Pat Blythe, Girl With A Camera
Check out more pics of a night with Cherie Currie @ Cherry Cola’s on my Facebook page Girl With A Camera “The Picture Taker” later this week.
Facebook, YouTube, Becky Walker, SPIN Magazine, Biography.com, L.A. Weekly, HitFix, Wikipedia
Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.
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In “real” life Pat Blythe has spent the past 32 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry. After an extended absence Pat is now heading back to the GTA clubs, immersing herself in the local music scene, tasting what’s on offer, talking to people and writing once again — sharing her passions and her deep love of music. Together for 34 years, Pat also worked alongside her late husbandChristopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who shot much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, Plateau, Buzzsaw, Hellfield….) as well as national and international acts, Currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, Pat is currently compiling a photographic history of the local GTA music scene from 1975 to 1985. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance!