On the surface, the Runaways were spandex and lace clad jail-bait; chicks with an attitude that made grown men cower. But once the sweat cooled and the fans dispersed, they were simply five girls barely old enough to drive, struggling to find security and love in a world of moldy tour vans and grungy nightclubs. It is in her memoir Neon Angel that Cherie Currie, the front woman of those “Queens of Noise,” steps out of her satin corset and fishnets to reveal the bruises beneath. Neon Angel is everything that being lead singer of the Runaways was – an unrelenting torrent of easy drugs and careless sex caging the tender heart of a teen outcast searching for what matters most. Love.

A quick glance at the book’s cover may lead you to think that Cherie Currie was just another piece of rock n’ roll eye candy: the bleached Bowie haircut and eyes sodden with mascara were as thin a disguise as the lingerie she wore on stage. But dive into the first chapter and you’re looking through the eyes of a 15-year-old with a passionate love for her family, and, of course, David Bowie. It is hard to imagine in those first pages that this “sweet little surfer girl from the Valley” would evolve—practically overnight—into the ‘Cherry Bomb’ that shocked parents and thrilled teens from here to Japan.

However, this soul-bearing account of Currie’s early life makes sense of her transition. At a tender age, Cherie’s life was torn by her parents divorce; by the catcalls of “freak” from classmates as she stormed the halls of her high school in red platform tennis shoes; and by the sexual attack of her twin sister’s ex-boyfriend that left her staring hard into her bathroom mirror, deliberately snipping away her hair. “If they thought David Bowie was a faggot and a weirdo, good. I’ll be so fucking weird they won’t know what hit them.” Her only refuge from the torment was at the Sugar Shack, a local club known to attract fellow glam-rockers. It was at this very club that Cherie met Kim Fowley, manager of the Runaways, and Joan Jett, her future bandmate.

In an instant, Currie was sucked into the whirlwind of the Runaways experience. Kim Fowley epitomized the stereotype of the sleazy band manager, pushing his teenage trophies into endless tours, and endless amounts of illegal substances (after all, it was all about the bad girl image). Some of the most heart wrenching moments surface when Currie admits that, for a time, Fowley was the closest thing in her life to a consistent father figure. Considering his penchant for pimping out Currie to rocker celebs for the press, and frequent use of terms of endearment like “you useless piece of dog shit!” it’s no wonder why Currie had no choice but to get tough or get lost.

Currie chronicles her journey in an unabashedly honest voice with the power to bring the reader right onto a bar stool at Rodney’s Club or onto a bed in a crusty motel room. She fearlessly reopens old wounds, and certainly pulls no punches in the details, including everything from the moment when her mother moved to Indonesia without saying goodbye—even when her own daughter chased her to the airport for one last hug—to her witnessing the attempted suicide of Jackie Fox, bassist for the Runaways.

In her honesty, Currie makes it clear just how hard you can hit rock bottom. She is also living proof that no matter how bad the addiction, how bleak life may seem, there is still a way out. For Currie, her family—the family that was certainly less than perfect, that in the past had left her wanting for a closer human connection—became her life raft. With support from her twin sister and Aunt, Currie found herself with the strength to make her most poignant transition: from a teen rock star turned junkie, to a sober adult and eventually loving mother and visual artist.

This book is an extension of the vow Cherie Currie made to herself as a teenager to be true to who she really was. Yes, these life lessons are far from pretty. But to have smothered or softened the details that made Currie who she is would have broken that vow. After all, cherry bombs are built to explode.

Author: Cherie Currie

Pages: 368

Publisher: It Books

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