Here's an exercise in free association. I moved to the East Bay in 1994, just as Rancid's "Salvation" was eking its way up the charts in the wake of the massive success of Green Day and the Offspring. Five years later, I found myself onstage belting out "Alternative Ulster" with Mike Watt, Greg Hetson, Eric Melvin and Derek O'Brien at Punk Rock Karaoke in San Francisco. An hour after that, I found myself involved in a public makeout session with one of a quartet of girls who'd belted out an adorably sloppy version of the Runaways' "Cherry Bomb."

To me, Cherry Bomb mufflers are inextricably linked to ratty-ass Novas (this association dates back to my childhood friend Robert, with whom I once camped in the back of a busted RX-4 wagon because our backyard accomodations got too cold; his grandparents had a mint 510 and a mammoth Fury III plus an unlimited supply of soda stacked on cardboard pallets. Ironically, my grandparents did, too. His sister was named Chablis and had a child named "Cherokee" well before she hit 18).

The Nova in the "Salvation" vid was eventually wrecked in an accident involving Mike LaVella. And the East Bay? It gave me sustenance; an identity. SoCal has mostly given me flash, opportunity, poverty and stunning views of the Port of Los Angeles, but it also gave us the Runaways. And well, Runways drummer Sandy West is dead. Almost any eulogy for her will talk about their influence on women in rock 'n' roll. Some of the more intelligent ones will mention Kim Fowley. But that's not the larger point. For me, the Runaways were a key jumping-off point for so many people in so many different ways. If they weren't directly influenced, they were indirectly influenced.

And in some weird way, my odd, postproduction nexus-of-personality is a Rancid video for a song about a gated community 15 minutes south of my college-and-afterward apartment featuring a clapped-out Nova and some sick-ass scooters made on a ridiculously cheapo budget that became the first in a string of hits for a bunch of unlikely lads.

So, in the words of the late, great Randy "Biscuit" Turner: Go start your own band! Or car.

R.I.P. Sandy. You did more good in the world than most people, just by rocking the hell out.

Runaways Drummer Dead at 47 [CNN]

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