Thursday, November 02, 2006
"My Name's Sandy West, and I'm a Drummer." 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
"One night in the Summer of '75, I saw this guy in this weird orange suit in the Rainbow parking lot at closing time, and my girlfriend said, "That's Kim Fowley. He's made records with Alice Cooper." So I walked up to him and said, "My name's Sandy West, and I'm a drummer." And His eyes lit up. He called me the next day to give me Joan's number. She took about three buses to get to my house. She had a little Sears guitar, but she had perfect rhythm. Who ever heard of a 15-year-old girl with perfect timing? We'd go to Kim's apartment in Hollywood every weekend, writing songs and auditioning people." - Sandy West, [on the origins of the Runaways in] SPIN, 2001
Sad news to report from the music world. While reading photographer/artist Theresa K.'s website Punk Turns 30, I learned that drummer (co-founder of the Runaways, with Joan Jett) Sandy West passed away on October 21st in California after a lengthy battle with lung cancer. She was 47. From USA Today:
West died Saturday night at a hospice in San Dimas, east of Los Angeles, her manager Mara Fox said. She was diagnosed a year ago. West was only 16 when she started the Runaways in 1975 with Jett, a singer and guitarist. Along with band members Lita Ford and Cherie Currie, they had such hits as Cherry Bomb and Born to Be Bad. "We shared the dream of girls playing rock and roll. Sandy was an exuberant and powerful drummer," Jett said in a statement. "I am overcome from the loss of my friend. I always told her we changed the world."
Sandy West recently appeared (prior to her diagnosis) in the acclaimed Runaways documentary, Edgeplay, where she recounts the exciting-but-turbulent time touring with the band - and her often difficult years after the group's dissolution - in revealing interviews with filmmaker Victory Tischler-Blue, herself a former bandmember. LA Weekly's Jonny Whiteside laments that
...West’s work was so grossly underrated by the many who reserved the Runaways little more than scorn. Plagued by the perpetual, misogynistic chicks-can’t-really-rock syndrome, the Runaways were an exceptional torpedo to that tired hulk, and West herself represented perhaps its most convincing refutation, because she didn’t do anything but just-fucking-straight-ahead rock it. [continue reading "Goodnight, Drummer Girl"]
West had continued to record and perform in recent years; her label, Rocket City Records, has released a special statement in honor of the late performer.

MORE: Edgeplay: A Film About the Runaways at Sacred Dogs Entertainment (pick up a copy on DVD)
Sandy's record label, Rocket City Records
The Runaways Official Website, who report "The public celebration of Sandy's life will be on December 9th, 2006, at The Knitting Factory in Hollywood, CA. [more info soon available on the website]
Minneapolis/St.Paul Cityblogs: "RIP Runaways Drummer Sandy West"