Cherie Currie interview: karma, catharsis, and chainsaw accidents

Cherie Currie
(Image credit: Robert Sebree)

Fronting trailblazers The Runaways at the tender age of 16, Cherie Currie’s introduction to the world of rock’n’roll was a baptism of fire. 

Staring down mid-70s audiences while wearing a basque and stockings and belting out Cherry Bomb was no picnic, and her tenure with the band lasted little more than a single, frantic, influential year. 

In April she released her long-awaited, star-studded – Billy Corgan, Slash, Duff McKagan, Brody Dalle et al – third solo album, Blvds Of Splendor (opens in new tab).

Was there ever any doubt during your LA childhood that you would embark on a career in the entertainment industry? 

Bing Crosby’s brother offered my dad a record deal, which he didn’t take because he was raising kids. My mom was a very good actress, she was in a lot of movies with Roy Rogers and the Andrews Sisters. My sister Marie and I sang together as kids. We sang on [1960s US TV show] My Three Sons. My mom saw our potential, being twins, but I didn’t really feel it until I went to see David Bowie. It wasn’t until then that I realised what I wanted to do. 

As The Runaways found fame, were you comfortable with the reality of celebrity? 

Very much so, because I had the girls with me. It was very quick, it felt like it happened overnight. They worked us so hard, it was almost a blur. More people were coming along to each show, but it wasn’t until we got to the UK, the Glasgow Apollo, that we started to notice the surge in the band’s popularity. 

How do you think growing up as an identical twin affected the person you became? 

Being a twin is not a whole lot different to being a sibling. You always feel that you owe your family and want to help them. Because of my popularity my dad, especially, thought I should do an album with Marie [1980’s Messin With The Boys]. We never really considered that it maybe wasn’t her path. Which it turned out it wasn’t. Unfortunately we found that out a little late [laughs]. 

In 1980 you starred in the film Foxes alongside Jodie Foster. Did fronting The Runaways provide good grounding for inhabiting a role? Did you have to adopt a metaphorical mask to go out on stage as the sassy frontwoman so familiar from those early tours? 

Joan [Jett] took on the persona of Suzi Quatro and I took on the persona of David Bowie when we first started, because we really didn’t know who we were. Lita [Ford] took on Ritchie Blackmore’s persona. I don’t know who Jackie Fox chose, maybe some Playboy Bunny [laughs]? Sandy [West] knew who she was right out of the gate. But until we knew who we were we emulated our heroes. 

Working with Jodie in Foxes was a dream come true. I’d not acted before. I’d had a couple of lessons from my elder sister Sondra, who’s been an actress all her life, but I just played myself. The druggy parts were real easy… I’d been there, done that.

Musically speaking, you pretty much sat out the eighties. Was taking a break from the rock world an essential element of you getting clean? 

I became a counsellor for drug-addicted teens, and wrote my autobiography [Neon Angel]. The whole drug addiction thing was a profoundly heavy time in my life. So I had to accept I had a problem. I mean, I had a serious death’s-door-right-in-front-of-me situation before I fully understood that drugs really didn’t work for me at all. So I had to re-educate myself. I started working at a mall, in a linen store. I wanted to know what it was like to be normal, to have a normal job. That was all part of growing up for me, and I honestly wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

You started work on the new album, Blvds Of Splendor, in 2010. What took so long? Things just didn’t seem to line up. I had an accident in 2016 that sidelined me, and made a record [Reverie] with [former Runaways manager] Kim Fowley. There was an urgency there because I knew he wasn’t going to be with us for very long. 

So ultimately you and he made your peace? 

I’d deeply hated that man for how he treated me and The Runaways, but I forgave him and cared for him near the end of his life. That was extremely gratifying to me. I miss him now, and that’s great, to be able to work through that kind of pain and anger. I strongly suggest people forgive if they can, because you win in the end. 

You’ve touched upon your accident. And while chainsaw carving is clearly an extremely therapeutic medium, it’s not without its dangers. 

Very true. In 2016 I was up on a scaffold, twelve feet above the pavement, carving, and next thing I know I’m opening my eyes on the ground with ice on my face. My chainsaw must have hit something and kicked back. I did a back-flip, broke my tailbone, cracked my skull in the front, paralysing my face, and my shoulder hit the pavement as I kept the running saw away from me as I took the fall. Two feet to my left and I would have fallen another twenty feet and not survived. So I was very lucky.

What advice would you give to your fifteen-year old self upon making your decision to join The Runaways? 

Hang in there, and if you need help ask for it. If you’re uncomfortable and know things are going wrong, have the guts to say something. I didn’t, and neither did the other girls. I think The Runaways would have survived if we’d just talked to each other, but we were just too young to understand that. 

Will you be taking Blvds Of Splendor out on the road when lockdown lifts? 

If the opportunity arises, I’m so there. It’d be a killer show, and I’d get to do Runaways songs, which I always love doing. So yes, absolutely.

Blvds Of Splendor is out now (opens in new tab).

Ian Fortnam

Classic Rock’s Reviews Editor for the last 19 years, Ian stapled his first fanzine in 1977. Since misspending his youth by way of ‘research’ his work has also appeared in such publications as Metal Hammer, Prog, NME, Uncut, Kerrang!, VOX, The Face, The Guardian, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Electronic Sound, Record Collector and across the internet. Permanently buried under mountains of recorded media, ears ringing from a lifetime of gigs, he enjoys nothing more than recreationally throttling a guitar and following a baptism of punk fire has played in bands for 45 years, releasing recordings via Esoteric Antenna and Cleopatra Records.