Posted December 17, 2014 by Jeff in Tunes

Lita Ford: Owning it

Lita Ford photo by David Castillo
Lita Ford photo by David Castillo

Singer-guitarist Lita Ford first joined the Runaways when she was only 16 years old. Now, at age 56, Ford is still at it. Two years ago, she embarked on a summer arena tour with Def Leppard and Poison. And last year, she released the live album The Bitch is Back… Live. During a recent phone interview, she talked about her 2012 studio album, the highly personal Living Like a Runaway, and explained why she thinks the Runaways should be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

What’s the status of your book?
We just turned it in last night and I’m really thrilled. I can start talking about it and spilling the beans. It’s an autobiographical story about a chick in a rock band growing up as Lita Ford and what that was like. It has the Runaways in it. It has the Osbournes in it and what came afterwards and up until today.

Is it hard to remember it all?
Yeah, I had to go back and forth a little bit to remember. What was the date and who was there? That’s stuff anybody would forget and when you meet so many people and travel so much, it’s typical. These are hurdles we had to jump. I think people turn stories around in their mind. They want to remember things the way they want to remember things. For whatever reason, a certain thing will stick out in your mind more so than something else. When you talk to a different person, they have a different answer. You come up with two different stories.

Talk about the decision to make a live album.
It’s rockin’. Our record company wanted it and we thought it would be a great challenge and something fun.

Talk a bit about that show. Was there something particularly inspiring about it?
It was the end of the Def Leppard/Poison tour. When it was over we came home and played this little club called the Canyon Club in Los Angeles. t was packed full of locals. We were able to rig the venue properly. Our engineer lives close by. It was just a well put together night. The band was hot after coming off the tour. It was good timing.

Elton John approves of your cover of “Bitch is Back”?
He was very honored and he said thank you. I thanked him for allowing me to do his song. I absolutely adore Elton John. I don’t think anyone on this planet doesn’t. If they do they need to be smacked around. It was a real honor to get his approval. I ran with it. I made it my own.

If you do a cover song, it doesn’t matter who you are, you need to own it. If you don’t own it, you cannot pull it off.

You wrote “Can’t Catch Me” after hanging out with Lemmy from Motörhead for three days. What do you two have in common?
Lemmy is a riot. He’s just a great guy. He’s a great human being. When we first met, we hit it off right away as friends. This particular night, we ran into each other at the Rainbow [Bar & Grill]. He lived close by and we rolled down the hill to his place where he was living at the time. We had a few drinks and partied all night. And the next night. And the next night. We ended up writing this song. It was like a week later when I realized we wrote the song.

What’s it like to play “Close My Eyes Forever” as a solo tune?
It really comes natural, especially with the help of the audience. What’s Ozzy going to do, tour with me? He can’t. Nor can anybody who does duets. Someone else in the band could sing it, but I don’t see anyone else taking Ozzy’s place except the audience.

I think the concert at the Canyon Club came in the midst of some personal upheaval. How are you able to separate your personal life from the stage?
I think I channeled a lot of my aggression, heartache and pain into my music. At the time, I wasn’t aware of what was going on in the music industry, nor did I care. I’m Lita Ford. I don’t have to sound like anybody. I can do whatever I want because I’m Lita Ford. I thought, “I am going to write this album about what I feel in my heart.” That was more important and stronger than anything else. I wrote what was in my heart and not what is supposed to be on the radio or on someone’s record player, or stereo, I should say at this point.

Has the situation with your divorce been resolved? Have things gotten better?
No. They’re not better. I’ve not seen my children. They’re being lied to and told that I don’t want them and I don’t love them and I just want to be a rock star. That’s the easy way out. I do want to be a rock star but that doesn’t mean I can’t see my kids too. They will understand the truth and they will see the light and get it one day. When they do, I will be here waiting for them.

Talk about what first made you want to learn to play guitar. Was Deep Purple the original inspiration?
Yeah. They were bad to the bone. There was nobody like Deep Purple. They were true musicians. They were the best of the best. The drummer Ian Paice and Jon Lord on keyboards. He was so aggressive on that Hammond B-3. He made them what they are today. People still go, “Oh my God, it’s a Hammond B-3.” That came from John Lord. There was nobody like Ritchie Blackmore. Nobody could play that snake charmer kind of slinky, sexy almost pre-Edward Van Halen-ish music. He still had that double picking thing going on. Oh, and the vocal range of Ian Gillan! Goddamn could he sing. Holy crap! And then Glenn Hughes who took over vocals. Nobody can sing like that. Even people like Rob Halford, who is a beast on lead vocals, doesn’t have that vocal range. And they smoked cigarettes. How do you do that? They were the best of the best. They were what made me tick. Sabbath too. They were the riff masters.

The Runaways left a terrific legacy. Do you think they should be considered for induction into the Rock Hall?
Absolutely. Without a doubt. There is no chick band like the Runaways. One thing is that we were girls. We weren’t women. We were girls and that’s what makes us different from other females out there before us like Suzi Quatro. We were girls but we also had an edge. We had a nasty, sexy, attitudinal punk vibe to us that we created. We deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. The problem is that we need to come together as one. That’s the difficulty. We’ll see what happens.

Where are you headed with your next personal album?
Oh yeah, I have half of it written. I have to be careful with it because now I have to follow up Living Like a Runaway, which is not going to be easy. Emotions like that don’t just disappear over a period of a year or two or three. They don’t just disappear. A lot of that is still in me, especially the pain I have from not being able to see my children. I have a lot to write about. I have wonderful things in my life too that have come about for the last few years. My fans are still there and I love them for that. I have a lot of good people in my life now and they are all my angels.









Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].