Posts Tagged With: Suzi Quatro

Women Learn To Be Women – Part 2 (Runaways edition)

You know, I actually believed that this series would be no more than four posts (and that I would have it done before now, but I should have known better on that account). When I started looking more deeply into the bands that came along in the mid- to late-1970s, I realized how wrong I was. There’s a bunch of them. Thanks to punk coming on the scene in the UK and later in the US, a lot more women jumped into the mix of rock ‘n’ roll after the Quatros and Fanny, et al. Among them, the earliest, and probably most influential, is the band I’m going to talk about today. The Runaways.

Joan Jett (rhythm guitar) and Sandy West (drums) were the first girls to join the band, meeting in 1975 in L.A. thanks to controversial manager Kim Fowley. Another original band member was Micki Steele on bass. She was fired from the band before things really got started, but went on to join the Bangles (I’ll talk about them in another post). The rest of the classic lineup was set when Lita Ford, Cherie Currie, and Jackie Fox came along (lead guitar, lead vocals, and bass, respectively).

And here they are.

the runaways-classic lineup

(l to r) Cherie Currie, Joan Jett, Sandy West, Lita Ford, Jackie Fox

The Runaways had mixed success. While they signed with a major US label (Mercury), they never made it big in this country, even with the “jailbait” marketing that went with their name, the band’s outfits (pretty risqué for the time–no kidding), and the ages of the band members (16-17 when the band first started up). In Japan, though, they were huge, playing to sellout crowds and appearing in their own tv special.

And, as we’ll see as these posts go along, they influenced a lot of other women to pick up guitars or drum sticks and play.

By 1978, however, internal politics and trouble with their manager led to the band calling it a day (1979, officially). They had released four studio albums, one live record, and Joan Jett and Lita Ford would go on to have very successful careers in rock music. Sandy West became a drum teacher and did session work with John Entwistle before her death from lung cancer in 2005. Jackie Fox became a lawyer, and Vicki Blue (actually Vicki Tischler-Blue) became a filmmaker, directing documentaries on the Runaways and Suzi Quatro, as well as playing Cindy in This Is Spinal Tap.

cindy spinal tap

Yeah, but who is Cindy? I don’t remember.

Tischler-Blue has also produced music videos, including one of a 2011 Suzi Quatro song! How can I not include that here?

Back to the matter at hand.

Here are two Runaways videos for you. The first is from a 1977 concert in Japan where they’re performing probably their most famous tune, “Cherry Bomb.” So many rules being broken here.

This next video was filmed on the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test after Cherie Currie left the band, also in 1977.  By this point, too, Vicki Blue had replaced Fox on bass. Joan Jett took over as lead singer, and, um, contrary to what the caption says, that’s Lita Ford on lead guitar (although Currie is, indeed, an accomplished chainsaw artist). A solid band, wouldn’t you say?

And what about after they broke up? Given how influential Joan Jett and Lita Ford were in their own solo careers, it only seems fair to post some of their work, too. (I posted Suzi Quatro by herself, too, so…)

One of the many reasons the Runaways broke up was stylistic. Jett and West really wanted the band to move in a punk direction while Ford was more interested in keeping the music hard rock or even metal. And that’s the direction she went as a solo artist, releasing several successful albums before retiring to raise a family. She returned to the music scene in 2008 and released a new album last year.

Here Ford is playing “Kiss Me Deadly,” one of her big hits from 1988.

And here she’s playing a track from her most recent album.

And then there’s Joanie (oops, fangirl slipped out there). After being turned down by more than twenty labels, she, with her business partner Kenny Laguna, went on to form Blackheart Records, becoming one of the first women to create her own label. She’s released 14 albums at this point and 34 singles, 18 of which have charted around the world. She also decided to market herself a little differently than Ms. Ford.

Here she is in 1981– (I especially love this video because Jett’s attitude toward revealing her body is just awesome)

and in 2012 with a brand new song!

Now, one thing that is blatantly obvious with Joan Jett and Lita Ford (and Suzi Quatro before them) is that after leaving the Runaways, they never played in an all-woman band again. Why is this? When Jett was forming the Blackhearts, the ad she ran in the L.A. Weekly called for “three good men.” A 2010 article in the Irish Times made the assumption that this was because of her bad experiences with the Runaways. Perhaps it was the same for Ford. I don’t know. Fortunately, more all-women bands came along because of them. I hope you’ll tune in next time to read more about them.

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Women Learn To Be Women – Part 1

This week’s Monday Morning Music post and my conversation with the local radio station’s music director got me to thinking about how a lot of people don’t know about rock bands whose members are all women or majority women. And really, the more I thought about it, the cliché is still true that the majority of women who make it big in the music business, or get into the music business at all, are singers who don’t play an instrument.

So, the original point of this post was to make a list of bands and artists that aren’t part of that cliché, because, no matter how good singers and the standard white women with acoustic guitars are, they’re still playing by the rules that say that women can only do these things. These other things? No, no, no.

And that still is the point of this post, but once I actually started looking into all the all-women bands that there are or have been, I was pleased to have it proved to me again that there are a hell of a lot of them, and if you don’t know any of these bands, you’re just not going out of your way to hear anything new or didn’t get out much back in the day.

I’m at fault, myself. My go-to original all-woman band is Fanny. I saw them on Sonny & Cher when I was a kid and think June Milllington is awesome. But I’d never heard of the Ace of Cups until yesterday ( and Goldie and the Gingerbreads today) and had forgotten that Suzi Quatro was around with The Pleasure Seekers long before her fifteen minutes of fame in the 1970s as Leather Tuscadero.

And there have been so many more. See, that’s the cool thing of looking into all this, is that there is all this history here, connections, influences, roots, and it belongs to us. You just have to look for it. So, this one post has now morphed into at least three.

Today we’ll go way back to the early 1960s and look at our foremothers and foresisters. Part two (and maybe part three) will involve bands from a little closer in (late 1970s-1990s), and the last part(s) will focus on contemporary women and their bands. I would love to read your thoughts and suggestions on any of this. And given how wordy this post got, I may have to split the series up further. We’ll see how things go. 

First up, Goldie and the Gingerbreads.


goldie decca album

This band was the first all-woman band to sign with a major record label: Decca in the UK and Atlantic in the US. The quartet (Ginger Bianco, Margo Lewis, Carol MacDonald and Goldie Zelkowitz (who changed her name to Genya Ravan)) toured extensively throughout the US and Canada, the UK, and Europe, and their single “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” reached the 25th spot in the 1965 UK single charts. Sadly, Herman’s Hermits released their version in the US two weeks before G&TG’s record came out on this side of the pond, so they didn’t get the radio support they might have otherwise.

Things kind of went downhill from there with the band breaking up in 1967-68. Ravan went on to form Ten Wheel Drive and is now a DJ with Little Steven’s Underground Garage. The remaining band members went on to form the all-woman jazz band Isis.

Here are Goldie & the Gingerbreads performing “Let Me Hear Your Heartbeat” on Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s show, “Not Only… But Also…. with an intro from a ridiculously young Peter Cook.


Then there are the Quatro Sisters.



The Quatro Sisters are Suzi, Arlene, Patti, and Nancy Quatro from Detroit. As teenagers, they watched the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and Patti decided they could be a rock group, too. They started out as the Pleasure Seekers. Various non-family members were also in the band, including Darline Arnone, who plays drums in the video below. The Pleasure Seekers played and toured until 1969 (releasing two singles, one on Mercury) when they changed direction, taking the new name Cradle, and making heavier tracks with a more metally sound. They toured seriously for the next two years, their last stop in Vietnam.

Not a bad run for a band that only released two singles. Sister Suzi, though, she left Cradle in 1971, heading to the UK where she hit it big with more than a dozen hit singles there and in Australia. Folks in the US didn’t really notice her until she took on the role of Leather Tuscadero in the TV show Happy Days (yes, she was my favorite character).  Thanks to those appearances, her song “Stumblin’ In” got to #4 in the US charts. (Not one of my fave songs, I have to admit. You couldn’t get away from it and it’s just so sappy.)

Patti Quatro went on to play guitar in Fanny (see below) and, according to an interview she gave in 2011, now runs a travel business with her husband in Texas. Nancy owns a restaurant, also in Texas, and Arlene “retired early and raised a family,” including her daughter, the actor Sherilyn Fenn. Suzi still lives in the UK where she performs and DJs for the BBC.

So, now a slew of videos. First up we have the Pleasure Seekers performing the Four Tops’ song “Reach Out.” The film is obviously ancient (1968) and Suzi Quatro (the singer) is nearly unrecognizable (to me anyway). Yeah, it’s kind of goofy, but those were the days.

Cradle with their track “Soothsayer.”

Even though when Suzi Quatro made it big, she was always the only woman in any band in which she played, I still want you to see her. She was such an influence on so many of the rockin’ women still to come, and this is how most of us remember her, not as the longhaired hippy/Motown girl (no disrespect intended). Here she is doing “Devil Gate Drive.” Influence on Joan Jett? Pretty freakin’ obvious, isn’t it?


Another band from the ’60s is The Ace of Cups.

ace of cups

These women were a San Francisco psychedelic group (Mary Gannon (bass), Marla Hunt (organ, piano), Denise Kaufman (guitar, harmonica), Mary Ellen Simpson (lead guitar), and Diane Vitalich (drums)), debuting in 1967. They opened for Jimi Hendryx for a free Golden Gate Park show that summer. They opened for a lot of folks, including the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Muddy Waters. They didn’t land a record deal and didn’t release any music until 2003 when Ace Records put out It’s Bad for You But Buy It!, a CD of “rehearsals, demos, TV soundstages, and in-concert tapes,” but they were thought highly of by a lot of folks in the biz (at least out in SF).

Video of these folks is scarce. Here they are in the film West Pole performing “Simplicity.” It’s a shame the filmmaking was so hippyish and you can’t really see the band, but hey, it was 1968 in San Francisco. Neat song, though.


So, what about Fanny?


Well, they were the most successful of these early bands, being the first to release an album on a major label (Warner Brothers) and having two Top 40 hits (“Charity Ball” and “Butter Boy”). They ended up releasing five albums before they disbanded in 1975. Another cool thing? The band wasn’t all-white. June and Jean Millington are Philippine-Americans. They formed what became Fanny in high school with June on guitar, Jean on bass, and Alice de Buhr on drums. Nickey Barclay, who previously played keyboards with Joe Cocker, joined them later.

June Millington left the band after Fanny’s last album with Warner Brothers and Patti Quatro replaced her. The band recorded one more album with Casablanca and then dissolved.

Named “the hottest female guitar player in the music industry” by Guitar Player in its 40th anniversary book, June Millington now lives in Massachusetts and, with her longtime partner Ann Hackler, founded the Institute for the Musical Arts in Goshen. These are the folks that started up the rock ‘n’ roll band camp summer programs for girls and women. Jean did studio work for a while, raised a family, and is now an herbalist, besides still playing with her sister. They released Play Like a Girl in 2011.

Here’s Fanny on that 1971 Sonny & Cher show, with “Charity Ball.”

And here are the Millingtons in 2009. That’s June’s son on drums. Love the guitar and bass work on this track.

Next post, we start with the Runaways. You’ve been warned. 😉 And a little help: if you know any all-woman bands that aren’t also all-white, please let me know in the comments. Google and my crappy memory are failing me on this, and I don’t want this series to come across as all-white-girls-on-parade-except-for-two if I can help it.

Categories: Music, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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