THUNDERTOME II: ROUND 11
SURVIVOR: the long ships (frans g. bengtsson)*
CHALLENGER: neon angel: a memoir of a runaway (cherie currie with tony o'neill)
bookstore browsers (those still exist where you are, right? bookstores, i mean) could be forgiven for being a little fuzzy on the connection between neon angel, cherie currie's memoir, and floria sigismondi's the runaways (the 2010 biopic starring dakota fanning as cherie and kristen stewart as joan jett). as far as i can tell, neon angel was first published in 1989 as nonfiction for young adults; currie rewrote it (with a different cowriter) in 2002 to "tell the stories [she] couldn't tell in [her] young-adult book" and "bring it up to the present." the updated story was optioned as a film, and...then purchased and published, also in 2010? nuts and bolts aren't currie's strong suit, though she still tells a good story.** let's move on to that.
currie had the kind of relationship i wish i'd had with david bowie; she hit her teen years in the san fernando valley in the seventies, and her formative show at the universal ampitheatre in LA, the lucky little thing, was bowie on his diamond dogs tour (mine, in turn, was the cure on the swing tour***). echoes of her musical adolescence seeped into mine via the local FM stations; rodney bingenheimer, he of the storied english disco, was on KROQ as of 1976 and kept at it straight through my radio years. along with the sugar shack, that disco was ground zero for underage glam-rock kids like cherie and her twin sister marie, who'd duck out of the house looking like the wakefield twins and slither into platforms and body glitter in a gas station bathroom (fellow survivors of southern californian gas station bathrooms, i salute you). after one such reverse-molt, they met record producer (and allegedly epic creepster) kim fowley and joan jett; marie wasn't interested in their girl-band pitch, but cherie was all ears, and she was soon a runaway (fowley and joan jett wrote "cherry bomb" at cherie's audition; she'd arrived ready to sing suzi quatro's tragically unsuitable "fever" cover, so they dashed off a new song to give her material). rock and bitchiness—two of my favorite things—ensued.
On Lita Ford: "Every so often she would make bitchy comments about how skinny I was, and it was obvious this was because she was starting to have some weight issues of her own. Weight issues as in she was getting a fat ass. When you live on a diet of cheeseburgers and beer, keeping in shape ain't easy. That's why I'd only eat fish and vegetables—that drove Lita fucking nuts."
On Etiquette: "After [Cheap Trick] finished their set, Kim grabbed me—literally right as I was about to walk onstage—and said, "Someone wants to say hello!" I thought maybe it was my family—Kim had insisted that we couldn't see our families until after the show, though.
"Oh, yeah?" I said, and turned, only to find myself face-to-face with Rod Stewart.**** What do you say when you are confronted with a bona fide legend in the music industry? I just smiled and said, "Nice to meet you, Rod." It didn't end there. Marie and I ended up snorting coke with him and Ronnie Wood at Rod's mansion following the after-party. Talk about life in the fast lane! Rod was as drunk as a skunk, and actually started crying when I pulled out the coke.
"Oh my God!" he said, with tears in his eyes. "Nobody EVER gives me blow! I'm always the one expected to have it! You're so kind! Thank you..."
On CBGB: "[T]he audience was a mixture of bums and art-school freaks, a show that landed us an article in People magazine. I remember we played alongside Television (who played very long guitar solos) and Talking Heads (who had a female bass player, and a really weird, pale, and sweaty lead singer). "You girls should stay out of the bathroom," [a roadie] had warned us. "I've been in there, and it ain't pretty."*****
as someone who deals with ladies and stories and lawyers all the time, it fascinates me that currie is able to tell her story as she does. she opens by noting that "all incidents and dialogue are to the best of the author's recollection and knowledge," and that "[s]ome identities were changed to protect the innocent, and in some cases, regrettably, the not so innocent," which...would keep me awake at night, were i her editor. were the seventies so sketchy that one can just whip out sex, drugs, and rock and roll anecdotes with relative impunity? (i'm familiar with the customary answer, but currie's "adult" anecdotes involve rape and kidnapping; i'd love to know which identities were obscured). opportunities for accusations of libel aside, though, what sticks with me about her narrative is the ultra-mundane stuff: she opens with earnest, thoughtful tales of that mind-blowing bowie concert, her parents' separation, and the evolution of her self-confidence. i read keith richards's life in the months between my first and second passes through neon angel, and in all seriousness—particularly for those of us who will never need to master the intricacies of open G tuning—currie's is the more enjoyable book. she's more active in the way she talks about her former bandmates, even as she criticizes them; she takes the time to recreate the events of her life instead of indicating points of interest like a bored tour guide. david mitchell she ain't, but i like cherie currie; i believe she gives a shit.
VICTOR: the long ships; both tales were harrowing (and currie's boasts an amusingly ambivalent foreword by joan jett), but one must write like a viking to best vikings.
imaginary reading group discussion questions
01 would you be pleased or dismayed to find your "sorry i haven't posted" blog entry on cory arcangel's blog (which consists entirely of them)?
02 when was the last time you were in a bookstore? which one was it?
03 what was the formative show of your teens?
04 what would you do with CBGB's bathroom door?
05 why do you think cherie's sandy west memorial chainsaw sculpture [runaways drummer sandy west died of lung cancer in 2006] was of a mermaid playing guitar instead of a mermaid playing the drums?
06 if you've read keith richards's life, did it improve or lessen your opinion of ol' keef?
07 if you're a fan of groups which are mostly ladies, which is your favorite?
*previous battle here.
**which i have now read twice; i'm so far behind on THUNDERTOME at this point that my poor old memory, never a finely-oiled machine, needs a kick here and there. sad.
***i'd begged my mom to let me see bowie and nine inch nails at the forum the previous fall, but i got nowhere. man was she smug afterward when rumors started circulating about stabbings in the mosh pit.
****i passed rod stewart in a crosswalk on eighth avenue yesterday afternoon. he was eating a granola bar, placid as the buddha.
*****one of my fellow editors here at the ladymag grew up in the city and met her husband at CBGB; when it was gutted and became a john varvatos boutique a few years ago, someone saved the bathroom door and gave it to her.