Lydia Jenkin is an entertainment feature writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Cherie Curry set on making better memories

The Runaways’ Cherie Currie has come to terms with her bad feelings for her ex-manager and even made her latest album with him. Before her show in Auckland next week, she talks to Lydia Jenkin.
Cherie Curry went from innocent surfer girl to a pawn in a whirlwind of sex, drugs, and rock n roll, imposed by manager Kim Fowley.
Cherie Curry went from innocent surfer girl to a pawn in a whirlwind of sex, drugs, and rock n roll, imposed by manager Kim Fowley.

Being plucked from obscurity as a teenager, to become the lead singer of a vanguard all-girl rock band, turned out to be a difficult experience for Cherie Currie.

She went from innocent surfer girl to a pawn in a whirlwind of sex, drugs, and rock n roll, imposed by manager Kim Fowley.

Two years with The Runaways may have made her famous, and created some enduring hit songs, but it also gave her addiction issues, and left a truly sour taste in her mouth.

It's something Currie has been open about throughout the past 35 years, talking plainly about the anger Fowley left her with, and the struggles all four fellow band members had due to their experience with him.

She detailed traumatic events like bullying, and abuse in her book Neon Angel (which was published as an expanded edition in 2010), and has spoken about them in the press.

So it's somewhat surprising that Currie's recent album Reverie, which came out last year, was recorded with Fowley.

"It's funny, but in a way the album was Kim's brainchild.

"Kim and I had actually developed quite a nice cordial relationship over the couple of years before that, after the book came out, because, for my benefit anyway, I needed to talk to him about what I'd been through in The Runaways, and try and resolve some of that, and so we became friends really.

"And so when he phoned me and said 'I hear you wouldn't mind making a record with me', I jumped at the chance because I knew that he had cancer, and that he wasn't going to live that long. And I really wanted to replace those memories I had as a young vulnerable kid, with the perspective I now had as an older woman, who understood a bit more."

She also wanted to introduce her 19-year-old son Jake, who is also a musician and producer, to Fowley, and so the three of them got together in a studio to see what would happen.

Singer Cherie Currie and son Jake Hays. Photo / Getty Images
Singer Cherie Currie and son Jake Hays. Photo / Getty Images

"Within a week we'd written four songs - more actually, but Kim only lasted four days in the studio, he was so ill, and so he turned the record over to Jake, my son, and Jake finished the record. So it was a very rapid thing, and unfortunately Kim passed away before it was finished."

It was a turning point for Currie though, who finally felt able to forgive and move on from their past.

"He was not the same person as the guy I knew as a teenager, and for about nine days he actually moved into my house and I cared for him 24 hours a day towards the end, and it was really good for me to be able to let go of all those bad feelings and thoughts that I had. Because memories are funny things, you know.

"Even though it was 40 years ago, it still felt like it had just happened. So now I've got good memories, and I'm grateful for that."

It was also one of the easiest albums to make for Currie, who enjoys much more confidence in her musical talents now than she did as a member of The Runaways.

"With experience and age you learn a lot. When I made that first record with The Runaways, I'd just turned 16, and I was very afraid, I'd never really sung before. And it was a lot of pressure. I feel like this time I really soaked it all in, instead of being frightened by it, or feeling like I was incapable, or wasn't good enough. All that stuff, all those insecurities we hold on to as young people, I didn't have them anymore."

Cherie Currie detailed traumatic events like bullying, and abuse in her book Neon Angel.
Cherie Currie detailed traumatic events like bullying, and abuse in her book Neon Angel.

She also loved working with her son, who fronts a band called Maudlin Strangers, and who she clearly admires greatly. That doesn't mean they had a completely smooth road navigating the switch from a mother and child relationship, to being artist and producer though.

"He does have different musical interests. I lean towards classic rock in a way, and particular kinds of music that make me feel good, whereas he doesn't have that same view, so there have been disagreements.

I do listen to him and respect his ears and his taste. But there are occasions where we realise we come from different times, and you know, I'm going 'Actually you're gonna have to let me have a bit of that Glenn Campbell french horn if you don't mind thank you'" she laughs.

Along with songs from Reverie, Currie promises to include plenty of Runaways songs in her first New Zealand performance because she knows that's what fans want to hear, but also because she's finally reconciled the idea that there may never be a Runaways reunion, no matter how much she wishes it might happen.

"I feel very lucky because I'm the only member of the band who's played with all the others as a solo artist. I played with Sandy before her passing, Jackie Fuchs as well, and then Joan I played with in 2007, 2008, 2009, and then with Lita Ford over the last couple of years I've recorded with her and performed with her.

"And I did really believe that we could have a reunion, but Lita has issues with Joan's management, and I don't think that's going to change, and even though it seems like a great idea, it just hasn't happened you know, so I've had to come to terms with the fact that there won't be a reunion, and that's ok.

"I feel like we have to leave the past behind us. It doesn't exist anymore, it only exists in our minds, and if you can let that go, then it's gone. Today and tomorrow is what we should focus on, not the past. I've gotten through a lot of tough times by learning to think that way. It took me a long time to get to that point, but I wish that could be the case for everybody."

Lowdown

Who: Cherie Currie of The Runaways
Where and when: Performing at the Kings Arms in Auckland on Friday May 20
Listen to: Reverie (2015), Midnight Music in London (2016)

- NZ Herald

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