Bring back some good or bad memories


July 11, 2024

Once Upon a Time, There Was a Little Girl Named Sandy Who Wanted to Play the Drums

Sandy West was a fantastic female drumming talent that started her career in the 1970s. Drumming for the Runaways, she toured for almost a decade before working on a solo career after the band split up. She continued to influence a new generation of drummers in the late 1970s and ’80s, yet sadly succumbed to cancer in 2006, though her influence and sound still lives on to be enjoyed by so many today.

Sandy (born Sandy Pesavento) was born on July 10, 1959 in Long Beach, California. When she was 9 years old, her grandfather bought her a drum kit, and being an avid fan of rock and roll acts of the 1960s and 1970s, she began practicing rock music immediately and regularly. She proved to have a natural talent and quickly became a proficient drummer. By the age of 13, she was the only girl in local bands who played at teenage parties. At 15, she met Joan Jett and producer Kim Fowley and formed The Runaways.

Driven by her ambition to play professionally, she sought out fellow musicians and other industry contacts in southern California with the idea of forming an all-girl rock band. In 1975, she met producer Kim Fowley, who gave her the phone number of another young musician in the area, guitarist Joan Jett. When Joan and Sandy met shortly thereafter (Joan took a bus to Sandy’s home to play through some songs) there was a palpable synergy between them, and the inception of the eventual Runaways arguably took place that day. The girls subsequently played for Fowley, who agreed to help them find other female musicians to round out the band, most notably Lita Ford and Cherie Currie.

In her 2010 autobiography, Currie recalled, “Sandy was the muscle of the group; she was the rock, strong and passionate, always smiling and joking. Sandy got along with everyone and was never afraid to show her emotions. She could be tough, like the time she threw me over a car to stop my arguing with Kim, but then she’d always feel terrible after getting in your face. She was no-nonsense, with a heart of gold, and if you couldn’t deal with that, then you couldn’t deal with Sandy.”

After four years of recording and touring the world, The Runaways disbanded in 1979. As is often the case in the recording industry, the musicians, including West, were not left with much of the revenue produced during the band's tenure. West made varied attempts to continue her career as a professional musician, playing with other acts in southern California, releasing a solo album, The Beat is Back, and forming The Sandy West Band. None of these ventures produced significant income, so West was forced to spend most of her post-Runaways years working outside music. West later claimed that ex-Runaways’ manager/producer Kim Fowley had not paid the members of the band what they were entitled to. “I owe him my introduction to the music business but he’s also the reason I’m broke now,” West said.

West appeared in Edgeplay: A Film About the Runaways, a documentary about The Runaways produced and directed by the band’s former bassist Victory Tischler-Blue, providing some of the more poignant interview segments, describing the things she needed to do post-Runaways for money. She worked mostly in construction, and spent a small amount of time as a bartender and a veterinary assistant. In other parts of the Edgeplay interviews, she alludes to the fact that she engaged in criminal activity in order to make ends meet (e.g., she describes how she had to break someone’s arm for money they owed). Perhaps as a result of this activity, West spent time in jail on multiple occasions following her career in the Runaways, which she alluded to in Edgeplay.

In 2005, West, a heavy smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer which later spread to her brain, and she died on October 21, 2006 at age 47. Former Runaways’ bandmate Joan Jett said in a statement, “We shared the dream of girls playing rock and roll. Sandy was an exuberant and powerful drummer,” adding, “I am overcome from the loss of my friend. I always told her we changed the world.”

Cherie Currie, the initial lead singer of The Runaways, said, “Sandy West was by far, the greatest female drummer in the history of rock and roll. No one could compete or even come close to her, but the most important was her heart. Sandy West loved her fans, her friends and family almost to a fault. She would do absolutely anything for the people she loved. It will never be the same for me again to step on a stage, because Sandy West was the best and I will miss her forever.”

On December 9, 2006, a memorial tribute concert for West was held in Los Angeles, featuring the Sandy West Band, Cherie Currie, the Bangles, the Donnas, and Carmine and Vinny Appice, among several others.


Post a Comment



Browse by Decades

Popular Posts


09 10