Sandy West

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Sandy West
Sandy West.jpg
West in 1976
Background information
Birth nameSandra Sue Pesavento
Born(1959-07-10)July 10, 1959
Long Beach, California, U.S.
DiedOctober 21, 2006(2006-10-21) (aged 47)
San Dimas, California, U.S.
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, drummer
Instrumentsvocals, drums, guitar
Years active1975–2006
LabelsMercury, Cherry Red
Associated actsThe Runaways, the Sandy West Band

Sandy West (July 10, 1959 – October 21, 2006)[1][2] was an American musician, singer, songwriter and drummer. She was one of the founding members of the Runaways, the first teenage all-girl hard rock band to record and achieve widespread commercial success in the 1970s.[3]

Early life[edit]

Sandy (born Sandy Pesavento) was born 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. In 4th, 5th, and 6th grade, she was the drummer in the Prisk Elementary School orchestra. 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.[4]

The Runaways[edit]

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-woman 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 4 buses to get 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 women 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.

Post-Runaways years[edit]

After four years of recording and touring the world, the Runaways disbanded in 1979. West made varied attempts to continue her career as a professional musician, playing with other acts in southern California, releasing a solo ep, The Beat is Back,[5] 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.[4]

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.[6][7] 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). West spent time in jail on multiple occasions following her career in the Runaways,[8] 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 bandmate Joan Jett said, "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 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."


Sandy West was portrayed by actress Stella Maeve in the 2010 film The Runaways.[9] The film also featured Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning and Scout Taylor-Compton, who portrayed Joan Jett, Cherie Currie and Lita Ford, respectively. During the audio commentary during the DVD extras, Joan Jett dedicated the film to her.


Time Magazine described West as a "pioneering rock drummer".[10]


Runaways albums
Post-Runaways releases
  • 7" - F-13
  • 4 song tape
  • The Beat is Back


  1. ^ "United States Social Security Death Index," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 03 Aug 2013), Sandy West, 21 October 2006.
  2. ^ "Sandy West Biography" (
  3. ^ "USA Today October 24, 2006". 2006-10-24. Retrieved 2011-10-31.
  4. ^ a b Garth Cartwright (25 October 2006). "Obituary: Sandy West". The Guardian.
  5. ^ "Sandy West - Biography & History - AllMusic". AllMusic.
  6. ^ "Sandy West". IMDb.
  7. ^ "The Runaways, 1977. • r/OldSchoolCool". reddit.
  8. ^ Cherie Currie Vs. Lita Ford: The Runaways Reunion Fizzles
  9. ^ "The Runaways (2010)".
  10. ^ "'''Sandy West''': ''Milestones'' (''TIME'' Magazine. October 29, 2006)". 2006-10-29. Retrieved 2011-10-31.

External links[edit]