Lita Ford, Larger Than Life
"My whole life has been a fight .... I think the first time that I was actually given an award, Guitar Player Magazine gave me the Certified Legend Award, and then in 2017 at the NAMM Show, the Icon Award was presented to me by She Rocks, by Marshall Amps. Lzzy Hale gave it to me via satellite, and I thought, “What? OK, I’ve got this done! I’ve got one award under my belt, and I have been acknowledged..."
"I had been through the Runaways, and the Punk era with the Ramones and the Sex Pistols, and then we went through the Metal era with James Dio and Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper, then we went through the Glam era with Poison and Motley Crue, and I just thought, “OK, now it’s the Grunge era, I just need to get out of the way for a little while, and it will be done.”
Feb 25, 2019 by Abbe Davis
This is about the “Queen of Metal,” a legend in music, Lita Ford. She has lived, she has rocked, she has paved the path. She has loved, and she has hurt. Lita Ford’s life embodies Rock ‘n Roll. More importantly, she made it possible for lead singers to front bands,when previously, women were not seen as equal, and men dominated the music scene in the 1970’s. It is because of Lita Ford, that Lzzy Hale is the lead singer and guitarist of Halestorm, Nita Strauss is a top metal guitarist/songwriter, Brittany Slayes fronts Unleash the Archers, Simone Simons fronts Epica, and more. Women in music are now taken seriously.
Lita made ripped blue jeans the cool style for women back in the 80’s, and she kicked down the doors of Rock convention like a warrior; passionate about playing guitar and fronting a rock band. She unabashedly used her sex appeal with power, on her own terms. Understand, there were hardly any female path-pavers before her.
In 1967 at the Monterey Pop concert in California, Janis Joplin, blew the stadium away with her raw emotion and searing vocals. Sadly, our “Classic Rock Queen” lived a short time. On the East coast was Patti Smith, who spoke/sung her poetry to music her band played, and the Punk Rock movement began in NYC. Because of how women were objectified, she deliberately dressed in men’s clothing and wanted no sexuality or gender forced onto her.
Around the same time, two sisters in Canada were feeling the stigma against women in Rock rear its ugly head: Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson from Heart. In the 1970’s when a journalist asked Ann if she and her sister were romantically involved, Ann wanted was furious, and that night she wrote, "Barracuda," one of their biggest hit singles. Have you ever heard of any brothers in Rock music going through that? No. Of course not, and that's exactly why I’m sharing this. Back then, it could be a big threat to men - when they saw a woman play guitar, much less front a band.
And while men boasted big hair, and a sexy, tough persona, one woman was out there at age 16, daring to play her guitar in Metal music. Lita Ford heard the strong guitar solos and amps, and that sound seeped into her blood. Lucky for women in Metal today, she went there like a warrior.
Hold onto your guitars, and I’ll do my best to encapsulate the highlights of Lita’s life. She has lived a Rock ‘n Roll life:
Lita was born in London, England to a British father and an Italian mother. By the time she was 7-years-old, the family moved from London to the United States, settling in Long Beach, California. When she was 10 years old, she asked for her first guitar and began to learn Led Zeppelin solos. In 1971 when Lita heard Tony Lommi with Black Sabbath at age 13, she was blown away. A few years later, Lita saved her money from work, to buy a chocolate Gibson SG. By age 16, she hitchhiked and snuck in to a Deep Purple concert, and heard her guitar hero, Ritchie Blackmore, play guitar with double picking solos. The Metal lightning bolt struck her, she had to rock stadiums. Her other idols included, Johnny Winter, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix.
As a teenager, because she jammed with a few musician friends from the other side of town, Lita insisted she had to be in High School school with them. Their school was across the tracks on the tough side of town. Yet, the prim and proper high school her parents put her in, was no match for her Rock 'n Roll soul. Her parents gave in.
And being a Rock Warrior, Lita had her own band play for her Sweet 16 party outdoors. The party became a block party and created a buzz. Soon Lita Ford was known as, “the girl who can play guitar.” She also took up bass, and word got out about that, too.
Then Lita met Kim Fowley, who created the all-female band called The Runaways. The band was made up of Joan Jett on rhythm guitar, Lita Ford on lead guitar, Cherie Currie on lead vocal, Sandy West on drums, and Jackie Fox on bass (replaced later by Michael Steele, Vicky Blue, and then Laurie McAllister). Fowley promised them the sun, the moon, and the stars, and told them how they’d be huge rock stars. He even told their parents the same story, and how great it would be for them when they went out on the road.
They stayed in Motel 6’s, ate McDonald’s, sometimes were crammed into a car, sometimes didn’t get paid, and were truly in a Rock ‘n Roll, wild bootcamp of sorts. Kim pushed them hard, and Lita felt it taught her a lot. Yet, Lita had thicker skin, and not all of the Runaways could handle life on the road. They had some success in the U.S. Their hits included: “You Drive Me Wild,”” Dead End Justice”” School Days,””Queens of Noise,” ”Cherry Bomb,” “Getting’ Hot,” and more. They were especially a huge success in Japan, and in the UK, with stadiums packed as if they were the Beatles. Women admired their strength and attitude. Guys found them to be sexy and fascinating.
Ford's lead-guitar playing became an integral element of the band's sound. Lita did well on the bass, too. In 1975 Robert Plant asked her to replace John Paul Jones as the bassist for Led Zeppelin, which she refused to do. Another big highlight in her life was, becoming friendly with her idol, Richie Blackmore. He taught her more about how to play guitar.
They opened for the Ramones at the Agora in Cleveland. Yet, by 1976 the Runaways were living out of a station wagon, sleeping in tight quarters, and were fighting a lot. Cherie Currie quit by 1977, during the Waiting for the Night tour, and Joan Jett became the lead singer. Manager, Kim Fowley left, too. They got a new manager and producer and tried to press on, while also living a very Rock ‘n Roll life with drinking and drugging.. Soon, Joan Jett wanted the band to play a more Punk Rock sound, while Ford and West preferred harder rock music. The Runaways broke up by April 1979.
Lita did what any “Rock Warrior” does, she went back to California, hung out with Glen Tipton from Judas Priest, and then Eddie Van Halen-who encouraged her with her music. She also hung out with Nikki Sixx from Motley Crue. The Queen liked partying with Rock ‘n Roll men.
Lita Ford created a band, and even began to sing while playing her guitar. By 1982 her Out for Blood album made its mark in Metal, and she was the first female to front a Metal band. She became known as, "the Queen of Metal."
It was not always easy being a woman in a male-dominated music world. She once played a show, and met George Lynch from Dokken who told her, “Girls don’t play guitar.” Sometimes her equipment would get tampered with, so she had to code her equipment with colored tape to avoid sabotage. Another group once put powder all over her gear, yet a warrior doesn’t quit. Lita toured with Rainbow and Black Sabbath alongside of her idol, Ritchie Blackmore.
Her first husband was Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath. After an abusive relationship with him, in 1984 they divorced. She got into more of her own music style and created the album, Dancin’ On the Edge, which was nominated for a Grammy. The single, “Gotta Let Go,” soared to number one on the mainstream Rock charts. By 1986 Lita was managed by Sharon Osborne’s father.
In the late 80’s, MTV was watched in most households, and Lita was soon managed by Sharon Osborne (the King of Metal’s wife). Lita did smoking hot videos, like the one for “Kiss Me Deadly.” She was nominated for an MTV award for “Close My Eyes Forever," (the hit song, written by her and Ozzy Osborne). Lita was also voted “Best Female Rock Vocalist” by Metal Edge. However, with all of this, in the late 80’s, women were still not typically put on the covers of Rock magazines. By 1989 Lita broke that barrier down with her own sexy cover on RIP magazine.
She met Chris Holmes from W.A.S.P. and married him for a brief time. In 1990, her Stilletto album featured a sexy cover photographed by the famous photographer, Herb Ritts. Her mom also did an advice column for RIP magazine. When Lita’s mom passed away, thousands showed up to honor her. Lita wrote her hit single, “Lisa,” about her mom. Her next song, “Hungry,” was deemed too sexual by MTV, yet at that time they didn’t mind playing “Me So Horny” by 2 Live Crew. Go figure.
Ford's next release was Dangerous Curves, which featured the chart success single, "Shot of Poison.” Lita was nominated for “Best Female Rock Vocal Performance." She signed with a smaller label by 1993, ZYX. That label also managed Nirvana, namely, Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, who dominated the label's time. Grunge had arrived.
In 1994, Lita met Jim Gillette, former vocalist of the band Nitro. By the late 90’s Lita had two sons, James, and Rocco. Jim had the family move to Caicos, a distant island, and he didn’t want Lita to be in music anymore. She relented. By 2001, as much as she adored caring and doting over her sons, the odd, isolated life was killing her spirit. When her friend, Dee Snider from Twisted Sister, visited one day, he was surprised. He asked her how she could enjoy being so isolated. In 2011, her husband wanted them to do a reality TV show, titled The Gillettes: An Extreme American Family on TLC. (Interesting, considering this guy told her not to be in the limelight anymore). Lita made up her mind that she was going to take control of the show. When she got back to the island, both of her kids refused to speak to her. They were only 11 and 7. She left the island and filed for divorce (by 2012). Her hope was that she would return to music and would be able to get her sons out of there. That didn't happen. Ford has since become an advocate for the awareness of “Parental Alienation.”
Also in 2012, as fate would have it, Lita met guitarist/producer/songwriter, Gary Hoey, who would become her brethren in music. They co-wrote the album, Living Like A Runaway. Guitar World titled it, “Best Rock Album of the Year,” and Rolling Stone said it was, “The comeback album....it’s great to hear her return to form.”
In 2013 Lita was awarded the “Certified Guitar Legend Award.” She also reunited with Cherie of the Runaways and they recorded a Christmas single. Money from the single was used to raise money for the Toys for Tots charity foundation. She has recorded music for: Xbox games, and PlayStation 3 games, she narrated the 2014 “Betrayal” movie about Randy Castillo. Also, in 2016 she released the album, Time Capsule, a collection of songs recorded in the 80’s with Billy Sheehan, Gene Simmons, Bruce Kulick, Robin Zander, Rick Nielson, Dave Navarro, Rodger Carter, and Jeff Scott Soto. In addition to this, in 2017 she received the She Rocks "Icon Award,” for legendary status in Rock music. She truly is considered the first lady of rock guitar and the matriarch for women in Metal music. In January of this year, she was inducted into the Hall of Heavy Metal History.
AD: Hey Lita, Congratulations on the “Hall of Heavy Metal History.” I’m sorry if I am yelling, I feel like I'm taking loudly here.
LITA: Not at all,”Hey, I’m projecting my voice, okay?!!!”
AD: (laughing out loud, no lie) You sound great by the way, what do you do to keep your voice sounding so great?
LITA: I think I take care of it now better than I ever have. I drink a lot of tea, I go through so much honey, and try to stay away from dairy cause dairy just (chllaaaaaa).
AD: I know you won’t tell me about the new album, I hear it is darker and riffier. How do you and Gary Hoey click so easily, you’ve worked together a lot?
LITA: It’s like a relationship, musically. He is family and a friend, he and his wife. We read each other really well, his ideas work together well with my ideas, it’s a music relationship that just works. It is beautiful. We have so much fun. Last time we were recording stuff and he looks at me, and he asks, “What do you think?” I just melted into this big old producer’s chair, and tears started coming down my face, and he’s like “OK, I see what you think, we got this.” But it was good tears. When we’re doing guitar stuff I’ll think to myself, “Gary is one of the greatest guitar players in rock, period, and I’m one of the greatest guitar players in rock, and together there isn’t anything that the two of us can’t do together, or can’t cover, or can’t fill in a song, at that time. Whether it’s an acoustic part, or whether it’s some kind of weird, haunting Telecaster part, or something completely off the beaten path, we can do it. Together we just blow it out of the water.”
AD: Great. So, from what I hear, it’s like you’ve got your music counterpart, is that how it is with you guys, a McCartney /Lennon type of thing? Is there anyone else you feel that way about?
LITA: There is nobody else one that I feel that way about. I fit in with a lot of people, but not to the extreme of Gary and me. I can say something to Gary that is completely wrong, and he “gets it.” We make it happen. Sometimes a type of recording technique doesn’t feel right. You think, the song is great, but when it gets to this one drum break, it feels too fast. “Well it’s right on the click track, I don’t know why you[re thinking it feels too fast, …but you’re right, it does feels too fast,” Gary will say. So, I’ll say, “Gary, how do we stretch it out a little longer?" and [he'll] say, “Let’s pull the click track out.”
AD: That takes Gary having respect and trust in your instincts, too, correct? I mean, you don’t get that all the time with everyone.
LITA: Completely, that’s what chemistry’s all about. Respect, trust and knowing that it’s either gonna do one of two things. It’s either gonna work or it’s not gonna work. It’s like, “OK, it works, it’s great,” or, “Nope, not going there.”
AD: (laughing) Excellent, I love hearing about it, it’s inspiring.
LITA: How is your gear, any changes, what’s going on with your gear these days?
LITA: I try to use the DSL’s HD 100’s Marshalls, those are just badass amps. The Marshall’s were made to be cranked, wide open, a lot of noise, a lot of power, and there’s a lot of shit that they can do, a big beefy American sports car.
AD: They are great.
LITA: I love it together with a Warlock or my white double-neck, or one of the big ballsy guitars with the pre-amps. Neal Moser, he custom builds these pre amps in the guitars and they are sick, together with a big JCM Marshall 800. Ya gotta get a good one, ‘cause some of them are just beat to hell. If you can get an older, well -taken -care- of, really good sounding JCM 800, those are my favorites. I don’t like the rack mount stuff. I’ve gotta have a real tube amp. Even though you can duplicate the sound of the tube amp, I prefer the real deal.
AD: Do you think it is just overkill and it doesn’t get the authenticity of the real deal, is that what it is?
LITA: I was talking to Mark Slaughter at one of the shows, and he was telling me, “The Kemper is great, I can get an Angus Young sound, or I can sound like the Edge, (from U2), or all of these different guitar players, or if you want me to sound like you on “Kiss Me Deadly.” And I just thought, “I don’t need to sound like the Edge, I don’t need to sound like Angus Young. I need to sound like Lita Ford. I don’t need to have all those sounds built into my gear.
Ace Frehley and I were having the same conversation not that long ago. Ace was like, “What is it with these damn Kempers, they got the sounds all built in,” and I was like “Ace, you just need to sound like ACE, you don’t need to sound like everybody else.”
AD: That’s product for you. It’s a way to sell. People wanna sound like their idols at times. If they had a Blackmoore when you were a kid, would you have wanted to buy it to sound like him or not?
LITA: I don’t think so. I mean, ya know, I like the different sounds, I think it’s brilliant modern technology, absolutely fucking brilliant. For a lot of musicians, it does work, especially musicians who go from one band to another, or they’ll go from one band to the studio, and they want to have all these sounds that are easily accessible to them. That works, but if I wanted to sound like Blackmoore I would just get an old Marshall and a Strat, and an echoplex.
AD: (laughing) Equipment was slightly different back then.
LITA: In my teenage years I wanted to sound like Blackmoore, now I just wanna try to sound like Lita Ford.
AD: I hear ya (laughing). You’re doing a good job.
AD: I read your book, Living Like A Runaway. Tell me, when you were growing up, which females amazed you, since there were very few in music? Janis (Joplin), Patti Smith? Who made you go, “Ah, a female?”
LITA: Janis was just amazing, there was nobody like her. She had so much attitude. There’s a lot of people who can get that same grit, or that same breathy sound or whatever they are trying to get, but they don’t have her attitude - and it doesn’t sound as original as it did when it was coming from her.
AD: Did you get to see her live ever?
LITA: No, unfortunately. I didn’t even get to see Hendrix live.
AD: Tell me what struck you, the first time you heard Hendrix play?
LITA: What hit me hard with him was that I grew up in an all-black high school. I was the only white chick in an all-black high school with all black musician friends. We would ditch school, me and the guys, and we would go jam. Mark Seibert was my bass player back then, he was very influenced by Hendrix. And Anthony, the guitar player, he was influenced by Hendrix. We were all influenced by Hendrix. This was my high school.
AD: You made the choice to be there, right?
LITA: I did. My parents originally moved to this beautiful part of Lakewood Village in California. They put me in high school, and I went there for two weeks, and I was miserable. I said, ‘Mom, Dad, they are all football players and cheerleaders, I don’t fit in.”
AD: Sounds like me with some PTA moms at times, ha.
LITA: Yah, birds of a feather stick together, right?
AD: It’s in you, your soul is a certain way, it’s not gonna conform. So, going to the other school, when you first walked in, you were more comfortable?
LITA: Well, I had my musician buddies there. The school was not in a safe part of town. There were a lot of gang shootings, and drive by shootings, and the high school was rioting with the high school up the street. You had to have a special I.D. to get on school campus because the place was behind bars. I was like "Mom and dad, I wanna go to that school!” and they were like “Eh, ok?”
AD: Man! Let me tell you, that’s a woman who runs with the wolves. Were people kind of pissed? Like “Is she kidding?” segregation was ... I mean, did you get treated differently?
LITA: Not really. A lot of the girls didn’t understand. They wanted to rip my hair out. I had my musician buddies, my guys, my band, that would always take me away from all that. I was okay. I would hang with them. The teachers looked to the media to try to figure me out. I had been on tour with the Ramones, when I was with the Runaways. I was at Rod Stewart parties and it was in the press. So, these teachers are looking at me like, ‘Well, she wasn’t in Math class today, but she is at a Rodd Stewart party, so she’s gonna do something with her career.”
AD: (laughing) So they treated you like football players at universities, eh?
LITA: (laughing) I guess. They were like, "Ya know what,? Give her the credits she needs to graduate, and get her the hell out of here, and hope she does something with her life."
AD: (laughing) Wow. Cool. Now in 1974, let’s go to that, when you saw Richie Blackmoore, the Deep Purple concert where he’s double picking his solos, it also strikes me that they had various styles that day. Earth Wind and Fire, and Seals & Crofts. Today, Do you think it would work with festivals, to mix it up like that and build to the rock finale?
LITA: Just get on the stage and play, we all love each other, we are all family. If it’s a tuba or a bass, it’s all music.
AD: True, that’s the main thing. By the way, with the Runaways, your version of “Wild Thing” was so kicking.
LITA: With Ace?
AD: Yah, I like the version you did.
LITA: That was just a jam and I thought Ace was gonna sing it, and Ace thought I was gonna sing it, ha, so funny.
AD: (laughing) Your book years ago, Living Like a Runaway, it was an easy read, as you’ve said, yet it was not an easy read, because there are so many aspects, twists and turns, a Rock ‘n Roll life you’ve lived. How did you get to the point when Kim (manager of the Runaways), was sick and dying, after so much time, to go see him before he dies with Cherie?
LITA: Kim never changed. Kim remained Kim til the day he died. His outlook on life and his input. I guess I wanted to say goodbye.
AD: I get that. He attributed a lot to the beginning of your career. Do you feel that the Runaways was this little dysfunctional family, thrown into it all, and you just kept going along with it?
LITA: We were teenage, raging hormones, back then. It was, “Get up, you gotta get up, get out of bed, we have to get the plane!” “I don’t wanna get out of the bed, I’m too tired to catch a fucking plane.” “Well you have to get out of the bed, what do ya mean you never went to bed? You’ll sleep on the plane.” “Well I can’t sleep on the fucking plane!” I mean aghhhhhhh (laughing)
AD: (laughing) How many people did it take to keep the band on schedule every day?
LITA: Well, we had one or two managers. One was usually on tour with us, and also there was the tour manager. They would work together. It was a lot of craziness. It was a lot of fun. I took it very seriously and I wanted to just play music and enjoy life, enjoy the guys that were around me cause, I wasn’t gay. I was very much into men, I still am. And I felt like, “Wow, there are so many guys here, this is so much fun, I want that one tonight, so [I'd} end up going with a rock star, or one of the guys from the other band, just because.
AD: Well, if a guy does that, he is cool, but back then, when a woman did that, did you get labeled?
LITA: Yah, they did, but I think what they didn’t understand was, I was not sleeping with fans. I was sleeping with choice rock stars. Big difference. And I don’t think there were many choice female rock stars back then, so the band had to sleep with the fans.
AD: Interesting. When you strip down your rock image, the toughness, ‘cause it takes a lot, being strong to do what you do. We are all standing on your shoulders. You guys paved the way for us to be able to do what we do now. I have heard what you've said in interviews. There is a lot of love in you. You had musicians come to your parents’ home, you’ve been protective to guide other musicians through your own experiences.
The other side of you doesn't want to ever go see Bohemian Rhapsody, since you wanna remember them the way you knew them. I mean, you don’t wanna see the Runaways movie because why not? It is spliced together, you get to see Sandy and the others, and how they felt about the Runaways?
LITA: I don’t like lies. I don’t like things that are deceptive. Like Bohemian Rhapsody, I’m not sure they picked the best of Freddie Mercury. Queen, over the top amazing. The same with the Runaways. Things fuck with your head, especially when you know somebody personally, and I don’t like things that fuck with my head. I choose to not see something that will fuck with my head. I’ll go to bed and I won’t sleep for a week.
There’s a Motley Crue movie coming out called DIRT, on Netflix. I know I’m gonna watch that movie, and I’m gonna be chewing my nails the whole time. This one I’ve gotta watch.
AD: What’s the difference between that and the Runaway movies?
LITA: Because I don’t think the dirt is bullshit. That’s not how Nikki works, that’s not how Motley Crue works. They were a different animal. They were not gay, they knew what AIDS was. It was just sex, drugs and Rock 'n Roll. Nikki had his shit together, he was the ruler of Motley Crue, and I was there during most of it, people in Hollywood or those who grew up on the strip. So, I actually got to live through a lot of that. I just feel closer to it, if that makes any sense.
AD: I hear what you’re saying about it. Your mom sounds like she was amazing, even when she was so ill, wanting to be at your show. So, I think, hypothetically, if you had a girl, and she loves Rock 'n Roll, and you had a mini version of you, if she is 16 years old and she says, “Mom I want to tour out on the road,” would you let her?
LITA: It depends on the parents and that girl, and who is she going out on the road with? How much trust do you have in that child? My parents trusted me.
AD: What if you have the relationship you had with your parents?
AD: Cause you’re a woman who runs with the wolves?
LITA: That’s so cool. (laughing) I wanna make one thing clear, The Runaways movie is very deceiving, and it makes certain members of the band out to be better than other member s of that band, and that’s done by management and people who helped to create the movie. That makes me sick and it’s not what the Runaways were about. The Motley Crue movie is not that, it’s like an equal share with everything.
AD: So, tell me, there’s so much respect here, with what you have done through a rock n roll life. I wanna know, what were the Runaways about? If you strip away that movie, and deflect what they did with that?
LITA: It was a Rock 'n Roll school of learning. Like a college to go through the test of your life, to see if you were gonna survive it, and who was gonna come out at the other end of this Rock 'n Roll school. What were you gonna be? For instance, Jackie Foxx went on to be an attorney. Sandy, unfortunately, passed away. We all love her, and we all miss her, really, really bad. She was a great talent, and a great drummer. Cherie was a Rockstar at an early age at 16. Everybody idolized her because she could walk into a room, and everybody would drop what they were doing and turn and look at Cherie. She had animal magnetism at an early age, which is why Kim chose her to be the lead singer of the Runaways. She was the rock star, she had that vibe. Whereas, some lead singers don’t look like rock stars, some look like they should be working at a bank.
AD: (cracking up laughing-awesome!) Tell me about Freddie Mercury, what about being in a room with him, he had that same vibe, correct?
LITA: He had that vibe. He was a huge rock star. He couldn’t walk into a room. If he walked into a room, there would be nobody left with anything, they would devour Freddie because he had that same animal magnetism. I think lead singers have to have that, it’s important.
AD: I saw Bohemian Rhapsody, you feel like a lot is left out, you really do- if you are someone who has listened to them forever. How old were you when you were hanging out with them?
LITA: We were just 17.
AD: So, through your eyes at that age, how was it to be around them?
LITA: God, the Runaways worshipped Queen, all of them. Roger Taylor, Brian May, John Deacon,. We worshipped them, their music. We could play it over and over. We learned all of the songs, the parts, and got to know everybody as a person. It was such a gift.
AD: I love the story in your book about your mom having you meet David Bowie. Like, WHO gets introduced to David Bowie by their own mom? Your mom was a rock star, forget it, I was eating that up.
LITA: (laughing) Yes, she was. Thank you.
AD: When you and The Runaways were in Tokyo, what triggered you when Cherie did the sexy photos and your band found out? What was that?
LITA: There were a lot of things I wanted Cherie to do and Cherie to be, and she wasn’t. And then there was a lot of weirdness about Kim. He had ways of explaining things that didn’t make sense to everybody. Sometimes I think Cherie may have been one of those people who didn’t quite understand what the fuck he was talking about. And then there’s me, going, “Don’t you GET it?!You don’t see what he’s trying to say?" Ha.
AD: (laughing) Did you feel she was selling out, while you were trying to be a musician, is that part of it?
LITA: Well, Cherie was being pushed and pulled in many directions by many different people. And people were more afraid of me, or intimidated by me, that I might dump a Marshall stack on them.
AD: (Ha) Why, cause guys like Eddie Van Halen were sliding across stages, kicking amps and stuff?
LITA: (laughing) Maybe.
AD: I’m sorry, "Edward," in your book, he wants to be known as Edward.
LITA: That’s how I know him.
AD: I loved the bathroom story, it’s like, you guys are superhuman to a lot of us, but behind the scenes you are going through the same dynamics we all do. It cracked me up (NOTE: Eddie Van Halen – just before he met Valerie – hung out and had fun with Lita, yet, one day Lita’s jealous ex-boyfriend comes over and, as Lita and Ed are fooling around, Ed feels this big boot on his face. Apparently, the ex-boyfriend found a way to climb up to the 2nd floor and Eddy ran into the bathroom and locked himself inside. Lita told her ex to get lost, and then when she opened up the door, there goes Eddy, who had climbed out of the bathroom window and was flying out of there and running down Sunset Blvd.)
LITA: Freddie Mercury, behind the scenes, he was just a person, he had an illness that nobody knew about. On top of everything, he was gay before it was okay to be gay. Now it’s no big deal but back then, it was like, "Don’t tell anybody, you’ll lose everything you own.”
AD: Yah. One thing about the movie, is the actor, Rami Malek, really got the body movements exact, and Brian May loves how he portrayed him. The other thing is how Freddie had the energy, with everything he was going through, with his treatments, to do a concert like that. You feel like he knew,“This is it, this is my big arena time.” So, if you ever wanna see it, if you change your mind…(laughing)
LITA: Peter Frampton just came out that he is ill.
LITA: He has a degenerative muscle disease, he’s not going to be around much longer, yet he wants to go and do a tour. It’s like, “OK dude, you’ve gotta hold that Les Paul.” I think being close to death gives you an inner strength to live.
AD: I give him so much credit. It’s sad, when you’ve done music your whole life, how can you not do as much as you can, til you lose that, I guess?
AD: I wanna get back to how, in the 70’s and 80’s, there weren’t a lot of women on magazine covers, and you go and do sexy stuff. Ballsy! How did you do that? Did someone tell you they wanted a smoking cover, or was that your idea? Did you wanna be the sexy chick on the covers and magazines? How did you wanna portray yourself?
LITA: I liked the fact that it made people uncomfortable. Like the record company would say, “She’s got too much makeup on,” or “Her guitar is bleeding,” and I’m thinking “Oh my fucking God, is this guy for real? Everybody knows that guitars don’t bleed." “You can’t put blood in Target stores, you can’t put blood in Walmart like that,” and I’m thinking “Does this guy even realize that I don’t have any pants on? No one said anything about that.” But it was, “Take that blush off of her face.” They were worried about the blush on my face, or that my guitar had blood coming out of it.
I used to love to create havoc. To wreak havoc, and if I knew that I was getting a reaction out of somebody out of doing something, like taking off my pants, or wearing a low-cut blouse, it’s okay, it worked. I knew that I was getting their attention, and sex sells.
AD: (laughing) As we go on, we learn from our choices. You hung out with musicians, do you look back on those choices now, and ask why you were interested in those kinds of guys?
LITA: A lot of those guys that I was with had animal magnetism, they were the rock stars, they were good looking, and sometimes some of us like that bad boy attitude. I mean “He’s really beautiful, he’s really perfect,” well put a scar across is forehead and I’ll fall in love with him even more. I like someone who is a little perfect, but a little bit fucked in some way shape or form.
AD: So, a woman like you, what would you like? Would it be comforting to be with someone who is laid back, with a twinkle in his eye, and he is like “Look at my Rockstar, she’s really cool,” or would that bore you?
LITA: No, it definitely wouldn’t bore me, but if they don’t have a dangerous edge to them somewhere, like for instance, I had a guy with me for the night and we rented a sports car for the night, and I drive, I can fucking drive. I don’t have any parking tickets, I don’t have any speeding tickets. I’m really blessed as far as driving, I mean, I could have been a race car driver. I fucking love it so much. So, I’m in Los Angeles, I grew up in Los Angeles, I know the streets, I know the neighborhood and how the traffic works, and the street signs, and this guy starts getting nervous.
He’s scared, and I’m like, “Dude, are you kidding me? What am I doing, 75 on an open freeway, and you’re scared? And I wanna kick him out of the car. He’s done. Gone. That’s it.
AD: Yah, you need a man’s man. I hear ya.
LITA: I need someone who can drive on the freeway, or on the sidewalks? (laughing)
AD: (laughing) So, what scares you? What is your biggest fear?
LITA: Trust, I suppose. I stick with those I trust, and I open up to those I trust, and I let people see the side of me, where I trust that those people aren’t going to use anything I say or do against me. I find it safer to stick with your small group of people that you know in your life, who aren’t gonna fuck you in some way.
I don’t want those kinds of people in my life, and they scare the fuck out of me. I don’t like them, I don’t trust them. I don’t like when people come and knock on my door and if you’re standing there naked. “Who the fuck is at the door, look at the security camera,?" and I’m like, “Lock the gate, get away.” (laughing)
AD: It must be tricky, we all want privacy, but you’re in the public eye. Do you dislike Paparazzi?
LITA: Yah, they cross the fucking line and they paint a deceptive picture of things, and they put up somebody’s house, and they say, “Lita’s house,” and you think “I’ve never seen this fucking house before in my life!”
AD: Holy shit! So then, if someone wants to be your buddy, how do they get through and become your buddy?
AD: But how do you know trust?
LITA: You don’t, you just give them a chance, and as time goes by, you see that person for who they really are. Eventually you see it, and you go, “This person is amazing,” or you go, “I gotta get them out of my life as fast as I got them into my life.”
AD: It’s true, I hear you. Now, did you think that “When I Close My Eyes Forever,” would be a top-grossing hit when you wrote that with Ozzy? Did you write that at a party?
LITA: We wrote it at a recording studio, but when the record company heard it the first time, they knew before it ever got released.
AD: Ah, cool, got it. In the 90’s, when you took a break, when you were on hiatus, were songs still coming to you? What did you do with that? How did you bottle that up?
LITA: In the daily life, when I took a break in 1994, I got pregnant. I had two boys, and my boys became my entire world, and I didn’t wanna know about anybody else at that time. And of course, the Grunge scene kicked in, and I just wanted to get the fuck out of the way and let the Grunge scene have at it.
AD: You can take the girl out of the Rock, but you can’t take the Rock out of the girl. So, was it still coming up for you?
LITA: No. What started happening, I started teaching my kids in a School of Rock way. (Rock N Roll Alphabet), like A was Alice Cooper and then we’d sit and listen to the music. I was also teaching my sons how to write upper and lower case letters, handwriting, printing, all the different types of signatures and literature, things that they would use in life. And I thought, "There are no rules, it doesn’t matter how you teach it to them, as long as they learn it."
AD: Yes, as long as they get the concepts. Did songs come to you, did you record anything then? Did you use a recording device, what did you do?
LITA: I didn’t get back into doing everything I wanted to do, freely, as a musician and songwriter, until I was divorced. Once that divorce was final, it was like,"I can be Lita Ford again." He didn’t want me to be Lita Ford, he wanted me to be Lita Gillette, and I said, “I am not Lita Gillette.” Gillette are my boys, those are my boys. I will always love my boys. I will always love Gillette, because it’s my boys.
AD: To me, a mom who has already cared for her kids, is a mom.
LITA: He didn’t want me to be a rock star, he didn’t want me to be that celebrity. He tried to bury that, and I had to stifle it just to save an argument, until the day I left him, and I went, “Agh, I can breathe again!”
AD: So now, I leave it up to you to let me know if you wanna tell us if you will do a reunion, your sons, if you’ll see them again soon.
LITA: I’m waiting for them to realize that I miss them, and I love them, and that they are being turned against me by their dad. That light bulb needs to go off over their head before we can move forward in our relationship. In the meantime, I’m gonna keep doing what makes me happy, which is rocking out, and playing for the fans, and making music.
AD: Beautiful. That’s beautiful. I gotta tell you, thank you for your book, by the way, you shared a lot. I wanted to know, in 2000, you and a lot of people thought, “The end of the world! And then you wrote about how you woke up and it wasn’t the end of the world, and you were upset, so what was that about?!”
LITA: (laughing) Well, my ex was pretty good at brainwashing, he could get you to believe the fucking sky was falling, and I really thought it was.
AD: OK, are you superstitious? Are you ever going to see an Aerosmith concert again, because in your book, you said that wild things have gone on anytime you have tried to go see an Aerosmith concert, do you still have superstitions now?
LITA: I do but I’m not afraid of them. I do have superstitions, I mean, Aerosmith is doing residency in Las Vegas, and I’d love to go and I’m thinking, “Is there gonna be a goddamn earthquake or what? (laughing)”
AD: So, are you gonna go or what?
LITA: Oh, yah, I would go, bring it on!
AD: Have you talked to Steven Tyler through the years, or not?
LITA: A little bit, I would like to talk to him a little more, I don’t know too many women who wouldn’t.
AD: I met him once, but he was not how he is now, he was having so much fun in the ocean in Miami, I just left him alone.
LITA: Steven is just a basic guy. He loves the rock life. He is a brilliant front man, he’s a rock star.
AD: Did you like when he redid “Come Together,” what did you think about that?
LITA: He could sing the yellow pages. He could sing me anything and I would just go (melt) he does it so well. Did you hear him with Nino Bettencourt “Only Words,” at the 2013 Nobel Peace ceremony with a massive audience, omg, check it out.
AD: Did you hear him do “Piece O’ My Heart?”
LITA: No. Now see, that I would go for. I wanna hear that.
AD: Please check it out, it was at a live show (the CMA Songwriters Series) a few years ago.
LITA: I’ve got another interview to do here.
AD: Can we do a part B here, I have like 9 or 10 more questions and I would rather talk to you, I know you have to go.
LITA: Sure! I'll call back.
(Lita calls back an hour later)
AD: Just 10 more minutes, I’ll keep it short. I love how open you are, thanks for making the opportunities for us women out there.
AD: When Metal was being shoved to the side by the Grunge movement, was there any group that you liked back then?
LITA: I really liked Alice In Chains, they still had cool riffs, and actual guitar parts, and it still kept that edgy Metal riffy stuff going. Stone Temple Pilots, and those kinds of bands. At that time, I bailed on the industry, cause I was like, “I need to take off for a while.”
AD: What was the impression back then, when you spoke to the Metal bands that had been rocking arenas, what did they think of this style of music coming out?
LITA: It was no big deal, I knew it wasn’t gonna last forever, because I had been through the Runaways and the Punk era with the Ramones and the Sex Pistols, and then we went through the Metal era with the James Dio, and Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper, then we went through the Glam Era with Poison and Motley Crue, and I just thought, “OK, now it’s the Grunge era, I just need to get out of the way for a little while, and it will be done.”
AD: When you came back, did it feel that way?
LITA: Yah, I came back and thought, “You know what? I don’t care what’s going on musically, I’m Lita Ford, and I don’t need to sound like anybody, or play like anybody, I just need to play like myself.”
AD: Where do you think you get this strong resolve, is it from your parents, is it just you, this knowing that you have to do this? Did Rock 'n Roll find you or you found Rock 'n Roll?
LITA: I know that longevity has a lot to do with it. The proof is in the pudding. It took so long to create this, and so long to make this, and so far, so good, so let’s just keep going. My parents were very supportive and never gave me any doubt about anything, so I don’t know.
AD: I look at your life, and how you've made your own thumbprint as a musician. I want to go back to how you’re traveling everywhere, there have been crowds of people, your superstitions. Is it true that in 2013 you packed a switchblade in your travel bag, and they found it in LAX airport? I ask is because I want to know what you were thinking?
LITA: Oh, that was just a stupid mistake.
AD: I wondered if anything had happened to get you to feel scared and carry that around?
LITA: No, we had just played the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, in Sturgis South Dakota, where 750,000 bikers go through Sturgis in one weekend. There was a little man on the corner selling stuff out of his van, and I just wanted to help him out -because he looked like he could use some money. So, I walked over to him and I started buying stuff from him. One of the things I bought was a switchblade, it was still in the box, it was in the wrapper. I had never even taken it out of the box, and I threw it into my makeup bag- not realizing I was going to go through LAX airport.
AD: (laughing) Wow, you have given us an entirely different picture of what actually went on. Love it. Now, I hear you found your analogue tapes in 2013 for making the album, Time Capsule, where were they?
LITA: They were stuffed away in a closet in the Caribbean, so I went back to the Caribbean and I basically had to rescue them from this house, get them back into the studio, and make sure they didn’t fall apart. We were able to release them.
AD: When you first found them, how many songs were on them?
LITA: More than an album’s worth, but we picked the best of them. I knew there was a lot of great stuff on them.
AD: In 2016 when you wrote “Living Like A Runaway,” was anybody upset about the stories you put in there? Did anyone give you a hard time about your book?
LITA: Yah. People say stuff, but I felt, a lot of people write books, and then some get to a point where they are going to write something, but then they back out and worry about it. “I’m not gonna write that, or my son might think I’m a weirdo,” but it’s like, why are you writing a book if you can’t put your life story in it? Sure, you might upset a couple of people, but hopefully they won’t see it that way after they read the book. Hopefully, they will get it. And if they don’t, so sorry.
AD: (laughing) Yes, ya hope that your real friends will be your friends anyway.
AD: The NJ Syndicate Tour with Jon Bon Jovi, there was Brian May from Queen, Elton John, Rick Allen from Def Leppard on drums, and Jon on vocal. What went through your mind when you are on that stage, with other legends, in that moment?
LITA: It was an awesome time. Jon is one of those artists where, if there’s any celebrity in the backstage area, he will throw them up on stage. That particular night, we played Wembley stadium and they all came to see the show, so he got them up on stage. He says, “Lita, ya wanna play?” So, I jumped up on stage, but at the time I was thinking, “Do I know the song?" I was kind of not familiar with it, so I was trying to remember how it went, but when I got off stage and remembered who I had just jammed with, it became a whole different animal, like “Whoa.”
AD: What is one moment where you have looked across the audience and were just blown away in your head?
LITA: Oh, wow, it has happened so many times. Different eras, different situations. Like, in the Runaways days, in the Punk era, you could look across the audience and there would be spit in the air like it was raining.
LITA: It was packed with no standing room, and the amount of spit was insane.
AD: (really laughing a lot) I just went to a Metal show, and the bands were like, “Come on motherfuckers, we wanna hear you scream!!” And they were trying hard to rev up that audience. Do you ever get like that, where you wanna just scream?
LITA: Sometimes they get revved and sometimes it is just where you are and what kind of audience you are with, so you just have to go and bend with the audience. You are not gonna make them do that, you just have gotta give ‘em what they want.
AD: Have you gotten to a relaxed place where you just do your thing or?
LITA: We just played Destin, FL and it was packed, cameras, and the cell phones (back in the Punk era nobody had cell phones), and people were standing on tops of people. It was an insane night. You look in the audience and you think, “How is that person standing on top of that person?” And then you get these other shows where everyone is just so relaxed and you just wanna rip your face off.
AD: (laughing a lot, she's hilarious)
LITA: You gotta go with the crowd and give them what they want.
AD: I have only about five more questions, but I wanna clear the air about Kim Fowley, was he sexually abusive to you guys in the Runaways?
LITA: If he was sexually abusive to any of the girls, I don’t know about it, because he never did anything like that in front of me. I was very, Kim was afraid of me, and he personally told me that. I wasn’t sure until he told me that. And he told me that before he passed away, “Did you know that I was afraid of you?” and I said, “Kim I kind of had a feeling, ‘cause you never messed with me.” I never had him come onto me or anything like that. I think he knew better. He knew he wasn’t gonna get away with it.
AD: People write these things and I wanna know. He sounded like an eccentric ballbuster who put you guys through a Rock bootcamp, that is what it seems like.
LITA: Yah, it was a Rock bootcamp, it totally was.
AD: People have said you guys should do a Runaways reunion, how about that? Sandy wanted that so much. Would it be as authentic without Sandy?
LITA: Sandy was in a really messed up place in her life. At that time, she and Cherie both wanted a reunion and I’m not so sure that Joan Jett was not in a messed up place, too. It was just not something that was going to happen for many reasons. We lost Sandy shortly after that, unfortunately.
AD: Do you feel, that even when you do pull members together and do a reunion, who would you get on drums anyway? Would you ever do it in memory of her?
LITA: I just don’t think that it’s ever going to happen. I think that dream of it happening is so far gone. I wish it would, I would love it.
AD: People would go nuts for it, they would. Definitively, besides now, when do you feel that you have come into your own style the most?
LITA: Um, ya know, I gotta say, I feel like the first time, it’s kind of crazy, but my whole life has been a fight, mainly because I’m a female. I had to deal with people in the industry that don’t accept that. I think the first time that I was actually given an award, Guitar Player Magazine gave me the “Certified Legend Award,” and then in 2017 at the NAMM Show, the “Icon Award” was presented to me by She Rocks, by Marshall Amps. Lzzy Hale gave it to me via satellite and I thought, “What? OK, I’ve got this done! I’ve got one award under my belt, and I have been acknowledged from Marshall Amplifications, and from Guitar Player Magazine. Guitar Player Magazine would never put me on t
the goddamn cover. I was a female. It was wrong. So, that was a huge step for me.
AD: It is great. You’re touring, you want family matters to come to fruition for peace. What grounds you?
LITA: Being able to see life clearly keeps me moving forward. Being able to sort out the true people from the haters or liars. Trust. Music has always grounded me throughout my life. (I also love being with my dogs).
AD: It's great to see Lzzy Hale talk about how she values you, how you have shared with her, and how she has learned from you. Hopefully those who make it pass that vibe down. Let’s have fun, if you could have anybody in your own Rock Star Band, alive or dead, who would it be?
LITA: That is such a tough question, cause if they were alive, what year is it? What decade?
AD: (laughing) Without analyzing it so much, who would you pick?
LITA: Sandy on drums, I’d bring her back.
AD: Aww, that’s great. What do you listen to in your down time?
LITA: I listen to so much stuff it’s ridiculous. I start playing music from the minute I open my eyes to the minute I close my eyes at night. My dogs get pissed off at me. I don’t have TV in my bedroom. It’s like when I go to bed, I go to bed, it’s bedtime, get into bed and go to sleep. I don’t watch movies for hours, otherwise, I won’t sleep. Lately I have been hearing stuff that has great vocals, like, Alice in Chains I like, or Jerry Cantrell - since I just did the NAMM show with him. Gary Hoey’s new album- a lot of cool stuff. Or brilliant vocals, like yesterday I was listening to Pink. I like her voice. She does great songs.
AD: If you could give me two sentences about your new concept album coming out can you tell us that?
LITA: I don’t wanna talk about it.
AD: OK. Now, will you be in South Florida on June 15th?
LITA: Yes, I will.
AD: I can’t wait to hear you play, hope to meet you then.
LITA: Sure, speak to our person.
AD: Thanks for rocking out, and I can’t wait to hear your new album soon.
LITA: I can’t wait for everyone to hear it. I’m freaking losing it. (laughing).
AD: I want you to rock forever, and I have to thank you again for paving the way for us women and music. I just send you tons of love.
LITA: Thank you, Abbe, I hope to meet you in June.
AD: Me, too!
The Runaways: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EBvXpjudf8
Close My Eyes Forever: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foGkU6x3eSE
Lizzy Hale Honors Lita: She Rocks Icon Awards https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hriQlXDnOI
Abbe Davis is a music journalist who has written for various Fortune 500 companies. She is also the singer/songwriter with her rock band, Sordid Fable. Abbe lives in Ft. Lauderdale.