Lita Ford is associated with being the lead guitarist in an all-girl rock band called, The Runaways, who stormed to commercial success with their song Cherry Bomb, which appeared on their self-titled debut album back in 1976. That is something to be proud of in its own right, but Ford has gone on from the experience of being in a band of that status to honing her craft as a solo artist, learning to provide lead vocals whilst simultaneously delivering some great guitar. Standing proudly over a back catalogue consisting of eight solo albums, the first of which was Out for Blood back in 1983 up to the most recent release Living Like a Runaway, unleashed on an unsuspecting public in 2012, Ford has a lot to talk about!
We’re taking a ride through her solo career and how it all started as well as finding out along the way about an album that has yet to be released and read about her thoughts regarding her comeback album Wicked Wonderland; and then get an insight into the many up and coming releases that are planned for the next few months into next year. Hold on tight as we take a trip to the world of Lita Ford.
“The first concert I ever did go to was when I was 13; I went to go see Black Sabbath at the Long Beach Arena.” Ford is setting the scene for her personal epiphany. “I was in awe of the band, and not just the band but how it made the audience feel, and how the audience was reacting to the music and to this band on stage. I saw this happening and I thought; whoa this is what I wanna do, this is what I wanna do when I grow up.” Wishing to clarify how the British rock influence had taken her imagination by storm, Ford continued. “And I was also a huge Deep Purple fan, huge Deep Purple fan. I loved every member of the band, not just Ritchie Blackmore. I was just into Ian Gillan, Ian Paice, Jon Lord, they were all just bad ass!”
Ford joined The Runaways to satisfy the craving for this feeling she had experienced on that occasion whilst watching Black Sabbath. That time playing in that band became a launch pad for her solo career. “Coming out of The Runaways, I had a certain style which was punk, and it spills over. The Runaways days spill over into the Out for Blood record and into Dancin’ on the Edge. And one of the things with Out for Blood was I really wanted to be noticed as a guitar player, and I wasn’t getting that credibility because I was a female.” Ford recollects as she thinks back to the days of transition from being a member of a band to being the focal point of a new one. “The only way I could put that across to people was to be the only guitar player in the band, and front the band at the same time which I did do on the Out for Blood record.” Then Ford winds up her thoughts on this evolution of her as a female musician in what was a male dominated business at that time. “So that gave the audience nobody else to look at, they were forced to look at me as a guitar player and that gave me the credibility as a female guitar player. That also got me a record deal and developed some notoriety on who I was as a person.”
There remains an eerily curious void of mystery hanging over an album that has yet to surface called The Bride Wore Black. According to some sources, this unreleased album was produced by none other than Black Sabbath guitar hero Tony Iommi, but Ford is quick to set the record straight. “The Bride Wore Black was never produced by Tony; actually Tony had nothing to do with that album whatsoever. The only thing Tony had to do with that, I was engaged to him at the time.” With that point cleared up, Ford shares her thoughts on the recordings for that album. “Maybe that’s something we’ve yet to hear. It was on analogue tape, and it’s sitting on a shelf and err, I dunno, maybe we’ll have to finish it? It was not finished, that was one thing that it didn’t get finished. It was, I dunno, maybe halfway, halfway through.” Ford continues. “At the time I was leaving the label, so it came out at a bad time. It was just bad timing. I mean you know, you’ve heard that saying timing is half the battle in the music industry, if you’re not at the right place at the right time you can be damaged, and err, The Bride Wore Black was one of those, that was shelved because of bad timing.”
Released in 1988, the third solo album by Ford which was simply titled Lita came to be a commercial success. Featuring such golden nuggets as Kiss Me Deadly, Falling in and Out of Love, Back to the Cave and Close My Eyes Forever, it raised her profile significantly.
“Well, it just materialized” was the response when asked about the duet with Ozzy Osbourne called Close My Eyes Forever. “Ozzy and I were playing pool. We were at a recording studio and we started to drink some wine, and we were just, hanging out playing pool, drinking wine. There was a little room off to the side of the area where we were playing pool and in this little room there was a keyboard, guitar, a little amplifier and err, Ozzy and I went in there and we started goofing around, we started playing and singing. We came up with Close My Eyes Forever, we actually wrote it in one night.”
A cover version of this power ballad can be found on the self-titled debut album by Device, a band who features the lead vocalist of Disturbed, David Draiman, collaborating with Lzzy Hale who fronts the hard rock outfit Halestorm. “It’s true to who they are as an artist, as artists. You know, it’s current, current sounding and, I just did a remake of Elton John’s The Bitch is Back and does it sound like Elton john? No! It sounds like Lita Ford. Device’s version of Close My Eyes Forever is true to them as an artist.”
The next studio album continued in the footsteps of the 1988 Lita album, with similar production values and utilizing several songwriters once more. Stiletto saw the light of day in 1990 containing fan-favorites like Hungry and a song about her mother, Lisa. The album did good business, but not to the same extent as its predecessor.
Viewed by fans as a strong album, Dangerous Curves didn’t capture the commercial success that had gone before. Shot of Poison glowed with its sense of identity as the chorus reached out hoping to grab any ears that might hear it. Bad Love offered up some lighter-waving in the shape of a tender ballad, whilst What Do Ya Know about Love? exhibited the up-tempo hook-laden good times.
Once 1995 had arrived, grunge and more organic styles of rock music were being sold to the public by the record labels, and with this change in musical climates Ford found herself keeping relevant by following the course. Black was the title of this result. In the title track there was a swagger and the shadow of the blues; whilst on songs like Loverman, which gradually builds and builds before eventually faltering and all the instruments just stopping, to songs like Killin’ Kind with its familiar melody and Spider Monkey swinging to the influence of a bluesy groove, it was apparent that gloss was no longer on the agenda. During the sessions for this album, Ford recalls one memory around that time. “Jeff Scott [Soto] and I did a duet. I don’t think it was ever released as a duet. It is fucking awesome, fucking awesome. It’s called Where Will I Find My Heart Tonight.”
It was at this stage of Ford’s life that family became a priority. “What happened was, in 1994 I married Jim Gillette, 1997 I became pregnant with my first son and when I became pregnant with my first son my priorities changed and all of a sudden I wanted to take a break from the music industry.” She then explains why it felt so perfect at that time. “I had been touring since 1976 so here we are going on 21 years, 21 years of touring. I was ready for a break.”
“Coming from having such great parents, my parents were my best friends; they were my companions; they were awesome; they gave me such a wonderful childhood. And I wanted to do the same for my children. So I had two sons, James and Rocco, was born in 2001. They were my primary focus.”
Ford returned to action in 2009 with a modern, yet distinctively different sounding album to what fans were expecting. Wicked Wonderland served up jagged, busy sounding environments like the title track, Crave and Everything. “That album was not what I’d hoped for as Lita, as who I am. I really was under the thumb of my ex-husband who wanted to be the producer, the songwriter, the manager, the record company; he was everything and I couldn’t properly function. He would throw out a lot of ideas and things I wanted to do, to the point where I just said you know what? You do this record, this is your record; this is not a Lita record. So you go ahead and do it.”
Last year, bringing us up to date with the Ford story, Living Like a Runaway stormed into earshot, mostly a collaboration between producer Gary Hoey and Ford, with added lyrical input from Michael Dan Ehmig. Evidently pleased with the results on this latest album, Ford then reveals, “I’ve started with Michael Ehmig writing my next album and we’re gonna do pretty much the same process, and just keep it low-key. You know that saying where they say too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the stew…” This is the all-encompassing reference to the working relationship that proved so rewarding on Living Like a Runaway.
The title of this latest album according to Ford has two reasons behind it. One of which is the obvious connection to her time during the latter 70s with Joan Jett and the girls, with another more cryptic connection relating to times in her past when she has run from specific occasions in her life. When asked about these moments, Ford merely responds “That, you’re gonna have to read in the book.” So fans can expect a brand new studio album at some point next year, plus an autobiography. “I know there’s a bunch of talk about trying to get it out this year, but hopefully the fall, we’re shooting for the fall.”
Her record label has recently announced that a live album is due to surface in the next few months. When quizzed on this live album Ford dishes the dirt on what it will offer. “Going through the decades of Lita, without The Runaways,” then adding “From the minute you put it on, it’s high energy, and err, it’s just a fun CD. You kinda laugh, you definitely gonna get a speeding ticket if you play it while you’re driving!”
Being as busy as she ever has, Ford remains as passionate and convicted to her craft, possibly more so. When you talk to her, you realise she is more than just a musician. Ford is an individual who stands up for what she believes in and you’re reminded that she is a mother too. Throw pride into the mix and it becomes evident that elements of her British father and Italian mother are ingredients that make this blonde, guitar-tooting rocker the woman we see today.
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