Sunday, August 18, 2013

An Appetite for Destruction

Queens of Noise: The Real Story of the Runaways – Evelyn McDonnell (DaCapo Press)

So much ballyhoo…so much hype…so much bluster…so much regret over a band that produced nearly double the number of retrospective compilations as they did actual albums. That is the sad yet triumphant tale of a handful of California girls who were thrust together to form the at the time revolutionary all-girl band The Runaways.

It’s hard to name any other band that could generate so much attention and fan-damonium after so many lineup changes and delivering just three albums and never having a single crack the U.S. top 100 hits chart. The combination of the legend and the potential for greatness certainly outweighed the band’s output.

With Queens of Noise: The Real Story of the Runaways, author Evelyn McDonnell finally tells the band’s story in rich detail and accounts for all perspectives in this oft-disputed tale. McDonnell traces the roots of the band’s formation, the direction and manipulation of their genius/cum- psychopath manager Kim Fowley and finally the band’s destruction.

While the band possessed an undeniable level of musical ability, there is an almost pre-fab, engineered, like the Monkees, quality to their saga. Fowley’s slimey fingers seem to be all over the destructive side of their story, while that innate ability seems to drive them to overcome that interference. In the end, their destruction is all but inevitable and for some in the band it is a fate they are never able to overcome.

McDonnell does a great job of cutting through to the real story, yet all too often takes off on incongruent flights of literary fantasy. I get that music critics; which is McDonnell’s background, write for other music critics to behold their awesomeness, but the story of the Runaways is one that diehard fans have been waiting to have told for so long that these flights of fancy tend to feel overly forced and detract from the tale.

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