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"Mother of Metal" Lita Ford Is 57 and Still Living Like a Runaway

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By Nancy Dunham

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Photo by Christopher Ameruoso / Courtesy of Lita Ford

Lita Ford wants you to know her new book isn’t just about sex.

Yes, in Living Like a Runaway: A Memoir, Ford takes readers through her sex, drugs and rock'n'roll-filled life starting her wild teenage years that were colored by an abortion at age 16, her idolization of her future fiancée and abuser Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi, and the street fights that she said prepared her for a life in rock'n'roll. But the book is really her way of paying homage to the 1980s, a time many people fondly recall (even if they didn’t live through them).

"I wanted to put a book out and I wanted people to hear my side of the story as Lita Ford, the Mother of Metal. I am the first female guitar player who really [broke out as] a teenage girl,” said Ford. “It sounds crazy, but I wanted to do a trailblazing tell-all book, and tell what it was like to live in the shoes of this person. Did I sleep with my groupies, my fans? No, I didn’t have to. I had the crème de la crème of sex, drugs and rock'n'roll. And as soon as I got pregnant, I hung everything up and changed my career to raising my kids.”

And for all the negatives relayed about Runaways producer and manager Kim Fowley—former Runaways bassist Jackie Fuchs has publicly accused him of sexually assaulting her when she was 16—at the very least, Lita and her former bandmates did get the sex, drugs and rock'n'roll he'd promised them during the 1975 recruitment call the led to band's formation (and eventually led to their recording classics like “Cherry Bomb” and “Born to Be Bad").

“I can make you into one of the biggest rock stars in the world. You will fuck the best rock stars,” he told them. “You will tour the biggest arenas. You will be on the cover of every magazine. You will become a legend.”


After leaving the Runaways in 1979 to start a solo career, Ford has never stopped working to make Fowley’s predictions come true. Although her career has certainly had its ups and downs—her highest success was scored in 1988 with the song “Kiss Me Deadly” – Lita Ford has never been a quitter. Right now, she's poised to strike with a new album, Time Capsule, comprised of previously unreleased material, with guest appearances by a host of household name musicians including Dave Navarro and members of Cheap Trick and KISS—look for it on April 15 via SPV/Steamhammer Records.

It must have seemed like fate when she rediscovered those recordings—as she recalled, "There was a shitload of these 24-track analog tapes in the closet in my house. This is some of the best work I've ever done and it was sitting there. I grabbed two suitcases and took them back to the United States. If you just put them on the reel, they would flake. I was chewing my fingernails, thinking, 'Please work!' And they did!"

Ford took some time off from her tour to talk with Noisey about her full-throttle return to her career after an almost 15-year hiatus, and to premiere a previously-unreleased vintage track, "Rotten to the Core" (featuring Gene Simmons, Rodger Carter, and Bruce Kulick).

Noisey: So what should people expect from Time Capsule?
Lita Ford:
This album is all about the ‘80s and features great musicians in the prime time of their lives. It’s hot, great music. It is a Time Capsule. It is a moment in time.

So many people loved the ‘80s music and bands and concerts that came out of the era and they didn’t get to hear it because they were too young or they weren’t even born yet or for any number of different reasons. So this is a way to bring some of it to them.

Were there any surprises for you once you started putting it together?
The one thing I forgot was the intro tape. It’s funny as hell. It’s [ex-husband and founding member of W.A.S.P.] Chris Holmes and now we are talking 1988 so 1989. They were hot commodities. Chris was hot, too. I have got him stomping around looking for his keys and this is our intro tape and there is a woman talking with a real thick New York accent – ‘How do I know where the hell Lita is? She’s probably gallivanting around with the rock band guys.’ Chris six feet six inches tall, he’s a big guy and it shows in his voice. So he’s stomping around and the dog barks and he tells it to shut up and he opens the door and you hear this diesel engine revving. We use that in the show, the revving and I pick up guitar and the show starts. It’s funny as hell.

I have to ask, have there been any Spinal Tap moments for you on the road during this tour?
There is always stupid Spinal Tap stuff with me. I feel like an idiot magnet, and sometimes that brings trouble. On this tour, we were trying to get home from Texas and it was a nightmare. We had all this equipment and had to go through the airlines and the guy behind the counter was a complete dork! I admit I lost my temper and said ‘Have you ever seen anything but a suitcase before?’ And he kept saying ‘Well, ma’am I have to do this or a I could lose my job.’ And it’s crazy.

This one suitcase was one pound over—one pound—and I ended up taking out my heavy silver Concho belt. If I put it in my carry on bag, it shows up as some weird device, and they run it through the metal detector about five times, and it holds everything up.  So it was all these crazy Spinal Tap moments and when we’re finally going to the gate all these people are coming up saying, "Aren’t you Lita Ford?" And I’m thinking, "Now you come to help me out?" 

A lot of the book is very raw, especially the parts where you talk about Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi physically abusing you. It had to be difficult to recall it and write about it, instead of blocking it out.
I don’t block it out. You can’t block it out. You have to face it and know it and say, "I don’t ever want to be in a situation like that again." Hopefully I never will be it. And it’s also to show people that your superheroes may not be who you think they are.

The graphic parts about sex with Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, Eddie Van Halen, and others are pretty big bombshells. Did you give any of those guys a heads up about what you were planning to write?
I didn't share any parts. I went about my business and came home and didn’t really share anything, but we did clarify a few things with a few people. I didn’t want to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. There is no libel in it. If it wasn’t true, it wasn’t going in the book. We did make some phone calls and we did take a couple of tiny things out, and we combed through it all. But it’s as I wrote it.

Are you concerned the stories will put them in a bad light?
Come on. We were all young. And it was the ‘80s.

This has been a very tough time for you personally with your very messy divorce from Nitro's Jim Gillette, and his currently having full custody of your two sons. I’m sure you’re read the abuse accusations your sons have made about you, and their statements they never want to see you again. Is there a message you want to send them?
I just want my kids to know what their father telling them about me is not true. I love them, I miss them, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t contact me. I want to give them my love and take care of them. My ex husband wanted to alienate my kids from me because he wants to hurt me. It’s awful, evil and the court systems—worldwide—allow it.

Did the tone of the early press around the book surprise you?
People always twist things. The New York Post picked out all the sex in the book and pieced it together so it looks like the book is all about sex. It made some commotion and turned some heads, but it’s not all about sex. It’s about my whole life. But you’re always going to have people do things like that and have their own opinions on what was written.

Is there one part of the book you really hope people zone in on?
I think the whole book is worth zoning in on and I don’t think there are any weak parts of the book. With my shows, I never want to look around the room and see anyone bored. It’s the same with this book. I wanted this book to capture their attention in the same way.



'Living Like a Runaway: A Memoir,' is out on HarperCollins on February 23. Catch Lita Ford on tour next month, and keep an eye out for her book signings, too—WORD Bookstores and Brooklyn's Saint Vitus Bar is hosting a signing and live Q&A with Lita tonight, conducted by Noisey editor Kim Kelly (more info here).

 
LITA FORD ON TOUR
 
2/23, New York, NY, Barnes & Noble Tribeca - (Book Talk and Signing) 6pm

2/24, Ridgewood, NJ, Bookends - (Book Signing ) 7pm

2/25, Naperville, IL, Anderson's Bookshop- N.Central College (In conversation w/ Scott Itter) 7pm

2/27, Austin, TX, BookPeople - (In conversation with Raoul Hernandez) 6pm

2/28, San Francisco, CA, BooksInc / The Chapel -(in conversation w/ Sylvie Simmons) 1pm

3/1, Santa Monica, CADiesel, A Bookstore - (Book Signing) 6pm

3/2, Los Angeles, CA, Bootleg Theater / LiveTalkes Los Angeles - (Book Talk and Signing) 8pm

3/3, Tempe, AZ, Changing Hands - (Book Signing) - 7pm

3/4, Denver, CO, Tattered Cover Book Store - (Book Signing)

3/5: Beverly Hills, CA @ Saban Theatre (With Ace Frehley)

3/6: Las Vegas, NV @ Brooklyn Bowl (With Ace Frehley)

3/19: Toledo, OH @ Savage Arena (With Brett Michaels, Ratt, Warrant, Firehouse, LA Guns and Trixter
 

LITA FORD W/Halestorm:

4/1: Reading, PA @ Reading Eagle Theatre in the Santander Arena

4/2: Hampton Beach, NH @ Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom

4/5: Huntington, WV @ Big Sandy Superstore Arena

4/6: Lexington, KY @ Singletary Center

4/7: Raleigh, NC @ The Ritz

4/9: Biloxi, MS @ Hard Rock Live

4/11: Springfield, MO @ Gillioz Theatre

4/12: Tulsa, OK @ Brady Theater

4/13: Wichita, KS @ Cotillion Ballroom

4/15: Fargo, ND @ Fargo Civic Center

4/16: Sioux City, IA @ Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

4/19: Huntsville, AL @ Mark C. Smith Concert Hall

4/20: Spartanburg, SC @ Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium

4/21: Johnson City, TN @ Freedom Hall Civic Center

4/24: Ladson, SC @ 98 Rock Fest

 

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