Recommended Listening: Take It Or Leave It, A Tribute to The Runaways

While the span of the band’s career was relatively short, The Runaways changed the landscape of rock and altered the perception of women making music forever. With The Runaways’ biopic just released last year, who would have imagined that their influence would continue to be topical several decades after their break up? I was around for the duration of their rise and fall and, the significant post-Runaways careers of Joan Jett and Lita Ford notwithstanding, I sure never thought we’d still be taking about them 30 years later. So it’s not surprising, really, that Main Man Records has compiled what can only be called the definitive Runaways tribute compilation; a two disc set called Take It Or Leave It. All you need to know is that this record fucking rocks.

If you were alive and digging rock music in the seventies, you don’t really need me – or anyone else for that matter – to sell you on this compilation/tribute. The collection sells itself by virtue of what it is: over fifty separate tracks of badass punk/metal/rock music and interview snippets that make me wish I were 15 years old again and could still get excited about a new band. Because, compared to anything that’s charted in the past 20 years, The Runways kick everyone’s ass.

There a few songs here that aren’t “perfect” (really, guys; Bebe Buell may have slept with an impressive number of Rock Stars, but that doesn’t make her a musician) but they all sound good, and most of the covers are amazing. It’s also fun to hear the brief sound bites from original Runaways members on how they joined the band and other memories. But the bottom line is that this record is Rock & Roll, or what it used to be before everything became emo and autotuned. Yawn city. That’s the most positive review I can give it. Here are a few more details about this faith restoring release.

Take It Or Leave It is a 2-disc collection with 36 tracks that span The Runaways entire catalog. Their best-known songs, like “Cherry Bomb” and “Queens Of Noise” are represented alongside more obscure tunes like “Hollywood” and “Born To Be Bad.” The fullness of the selection makes it evident how generations of artists, from L7 and The Go-Gos to Redd Kross and Guns n’ Roses, call back to the passion-fueled rock sensibility of The Runaways.

While the individual interpretations of each track explore the original contributions of Cherie Currie, Joan Jett, Lita Ford, Sandy West, Jackie Fox, Vicki Blue, Take It Or Leave It also includes two performances by original Runaways band members: lead vocalist Cherie Currie’s rocking remake of fan-favorite “American Nights,” and “Dirty Magazines,” the last recording made by drummer Sandy West (who passed away from lung cancer in 2006) with her band Blue Fox.

Artists from various musical backgrounds donated their time and resources to help Main Man Records honor The Runaways. Some of the participants include The Donnas, Shonen Knife, The Adolescents, The Dandy Warhols, Richard Barone (of The Bongos), Derwood Andrews (of Generation X), Toilet Boys, Care Bears On Fire (with Earl Slick of David Bowie/New York Dolls), Kittie, Starz, David Johansen (of New York Dolls) and Kathleen Hanna (of Bikini Kill/Le Tigre) and Peaches, (whose collaboration was produced by Ad Rock of the Beastie Boys) as well as members of Frehley’s Comet, Monster Magnet, The Fastbacks, The Cucumbers, The Doughboys and actor/musician Robbie Rist, also remembered as Cousin Oliver from The Brady Bunch.

Interspersed with the music are interview clips with the members of The Runaways, mock radio ads by broadcast legends Rodney Bingenheimer, Carol Miller and “Mr. Marty” Martinez, candid comments from the late Johnny Ramone and a recollection of the band’s appearance at CBGB’s by noted radio personality Meg Griffin. A donation from the proceeds of Take It Or Leave It will be made In Sandy West’s name to the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Since 1982, the AICR’s mission has been to fund, support and promote research as well as expand public knowledge through educational programs to bring its message of cancer prevention to millions of Americans. To that end, the AICR has committed more than $82 million, and was the first organization in the nation to support research into the role of diet and exercise as it related to cancer prevention.

Take It Or Leave It is available online and at select retailers now. Track Selection is as follows:

Disc One:

THE DONNAS – “Queens Of Noise”
SHONEN KNIFE – “Black Leather”
THE BINGES – “I Love Playin’ With Fire”
BEBE BUELL BAND – “Heartbeat”
FRANKENSTEIN 3000 – “California Paradise”
BLUE FOX – “Neon Angels On The Road To Ruin”
THE EASY OUTS featuring GAR FRANCIS – “Is It Day Or Night”
LAURA WARSHAUER – “Little Lost Girls”
WHITE FLAG – “C’mon”
CALI GIRAFFES – “You’re Too Possessive”
ROBBIE RIST – “Yesterday’s Kids”
SERPENTEENS – “Little Sister”
ADOLESCENTS – “School Days”
BLUE FOX featuring SANDY WEST – “Dirty Magazines”

Disc Two:

RICHARD BARONE – “Hollywood”
CARE BEARS ON FIRE with EARL SLICK – “Saturday Night Special”
DERWOOD ANDREWS – “Gotta Get Out Tonight”
DAVID JOHANSEN – “Blackmail”
THE RIBEYE BROTHERS – “Trash Can Murders”
DIGGER PHELPS – “Rock & Roll”
TOILET BOYS – “Born To Be Bad”
THE SWALES – “Midnight Music”
FRANKENSTEIN 3000 featuring CHERIE CURRIE – “American Nights”
F-13 – “I Wanna Be Where The Boys Are”
THE STAY AT HOMES – “Getting’ Hot”
KITTIE – “Fantasies”
STARZ – Waitin’ For The Night
JACK BRAG – “Secrets”
KATHLEEN HANNA & PEACHES – “Dead End Justice” (produced by Ad Rock)

Grade: A+

0 thoughts on “Recommended Listening: Take It Or Leave It, A Tribute to The Runaways”

  1. Bebe Buell’s track “Heartbeat” is my favorite so I don’t agree with you. The first five tracks on the CD are the best. The Dandy Warhols version of Cherry Bomb is pretty unique too.
    Bebe Buell has tons of attitude in her vocals. That sometimes works better than a perfect voice like a Mariah or something.
    Also, LIVE, Bebe Buell rocks!

  2. Great review! I love the compliation too and I agree that Bebe Buell’s song is one of the few misses on a near perfect tribute album.

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