I was in ninth grade in 1976 when I walked into Sam Goody’s Record store in the East Patterson Mall. The record store was nestled in the heart of heartless suburban New Jersey. As I scanned the wall of new releases, I instantly stood frozen in my Pumas as I caught my first glimpse of the Runaways debut album cover. I had no idea who they were or what they sounded like. Nonetheless, I brought the album instantly and tore the shrink off the record while I walked home. I had never seen a band that looked like the Runaways before and had not even listened to the vinyl yet, but I knew I was going to like it. Even though the album listed the members of the band as being sixteen, they did not look sixteen to my fourteen year old brain.
I finally arrived home after the forty five minute walk and placed the Runaways LP on my Emerson turntable. I was initially shocked by the sound I heard. I was expecting a pop or disco record based on the outfit Cherie Currie had on the cover. I never expected the raw rock and roll sound of the band. The lyrical content, grungy sound of the guitars and bass, and Cherie’s voice were so completely satisfying, and unlike any band I had ever heard before.
At the time, I was a backup disc jockey at the school radio station. I was too young as a ninth grader to have my own show. I was assigned as a backup in case the regular disc jockey cut out of school.(which happed often) Our radio station at the time consisted of two turntables, a mic, and a small mixing board. We sat at a table out in the open a few feet away from a bench in which the most annoying jocks in the school hung out. It was not the optimal place for a long haired skinny ninth grader to be spinning records from.
I brought the Runaways record into school and asked the main disc jockey if I could play “Cherry Bomb,” during his show. I explained that they sounded like no one else and that the students in the commons would love the band. The disc jockey I was backing up at the time was a huge Moody Blues fan who was not impressed with my argument. However, he was curious because he kept staring at the gatefold of the Runaways debut album. So, he cued up Cherry Bomb and let her play. I reached over and turned it up real loud. The jocks instantly got aggravated with me and threatened to smash the microphone into my head. The jocks did not care too much for the sound of the Runaways. Mr. Moody Blues DJ didn’t care for them either. Half way through “Cherry Bomb,” one of the science teachers came over and told me to turn it off. I picked up the album cover and showed the teacher the gatefold. I asked the science teacher if he could believe that the Runaways in the centerfold were only sixteen and how old did he really think they were; 20? 25? I remember the teacher staring back at me shaking his head with a disapproving frown saying, “they look sixteen.” It seemed no one was impressed.I thought that I had discovered a band that no one would ever hear, and that I would be their only fan. I was too young to realize that a record that was placed at the front of a national record store was probably going to be heavily promoted by the record company. Only a few weeks later, everyone knew who the Runaways were as they began to grace the covers of the teen rock magazines and started to garnish radio airplay. But for a brief two week period, the Runways were all mine. At least, that’s what my fourteen year old brain believed.
Discovering the Runaways
Written by Tony Scavieli