Lita Ford

Lita Ford at Ho-Chunk Casino on August 4th for Rockn' The Dells
by Tommy Rage
July 2018

Lita Ford rocking Ho-Chunk Casino in Wisconsin Dells - photo by Tricia Starr - TStarr Photography

Lita Ford rocking Ho-Chunk Casino in Wisconsin Dells
photo by Tricia Starr - TStarr Photography

What happens when a 16-year boy enters the bathroom with Hit Parader magazine, only to see his dad smile and nod 20 minutes later when he comes out with the pages of his teen heart-throb dog-eared?  Yep, you guessed it. You probably have also guessed that those lustful thoughts were for one of the 80’s hottest rock stars, captured by its 1988 iconic album cover: Lita. Being a founding member of the original 1975 line-up for The Runaways, Lita Ford’s lead guitar work established her as a pioneer in the 80’s rock scene. Having four albums under her belt with The Runaways, Lita helped open the door for future female bands such as the Donnas, The Go-Go’s and Vixen. After The Runaways officially disbanded in 1979, Lita chose to carry on with a solo career. The blond bombshell’s first two solo albums were met with lackluster reviews (Out For Blood and Dancin’ On The Edge). It wasn’t until her self-titled release in 1988 that brought Lita to the front of the glam metal scene. Taking time away to focus on raising her two young sons, Lita didn’t release a new album until 2012. Releasing her autobiography “Living Like a Runaway: A Memoir” in 2016 and enjoying a comfortable tour schedule, I caught up with Lita prior to her all-star lineup at Ho-Chunk Casino Baraboo on August 4th for Rockin’ The Dells.

Joining fellow rock legends Joan Jett (lead & rhythm guitar), Sandy West (drums), Jackie Fox (bass), and Cherie Currie (vocals) to form one of LA’s most famous bands, Lita shares what an impact the all-female teen rebellion band had on future female rock stars, “I think The Runaways really set it all off and carved the path, so to speak. Whether you’re a guitar player or a lead singer, of course, either way. I think that Lzzy Hale (Halestorm) would be the first to say that she is a big fan and she’s a talent in her own right with a voice like no-tomorrow. She has to be following in The Runaways footsteps, and the same for In This Moment. There was no path or trial for woman at all! [Women] just weren’t accepted, and now they are, and she is just awesome.” 

Musical differences and difficulties with management led to the breakup of The Runaways in 1979. With their young energetic intensity and pure musical talent, it wasn’t long before Lita knew exactly where she wanted her career to go after The Runaways, “Absolutely, it’s in my blood, I couldn’t change that. It hasn’t changed, it my roots. It’s where I come from, it’s who I am and it’s what I do.”
Stepping out from behind the lights of The Runaways was a bit of a struggle. Lita’s first two solo albums did poorly and only managed one notable hit from Dancin’ on the Edge, “Gotta Let Go”. Changing record labels (RCA) and finding common ground with her new manager Sharon Osbourne, Lita shares how her biggest hit “Close My Eyes Forever” came about. “The cool thing about that single and the way it came together: At that time in 1988, Ozzy was the number one rock male vocalist, and I was the number one female rock vocalist, and we were both being managed by Sharon [Osbourne]. It just made sense. It just so happened that Sharon and Ozzy had come to visit me in the studio while I was wrapping up the Lita album, and they brought me a house warming gift, as I had just bought a new house. Ozzy ended up staying at the studio drinking wine and shooting pool, and Sharon got bored, so she left. So, she takes off and Ozzy and I continue to write, and we wrote “Close My Eyes Forever”. When the record company caught word, they were thrilled. It was both Ozzy’s and my first Top Ten single here in the US.”
The 1988 platinum album Lita was packed with hits: “Close My Eyes Forever”, “Kiss Me Deadly” and “Falling In and Out of Love”, co-written by Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx. Lita’s next three albums however, failed to carry Lita into the new music scene of the 90’s. Taking a break from recording and touring, Lita shared her eagerness for getting back out on the road again, “Well, it kinda has come full circle. In 1994, it was time for me to bow out. I had been on the road since 1974. I had been on the road for twenty years. I was tired, and the music scene had changed. There was no place for 80’s rock in the 90’s. It became a dirty word with Grunge. So, I went off to my deserted island, and had kids and waited till the smoke cleared. It has come full circle. People now demand 80’s music to be back again. Now the 80’s has become bigger and better than before, so I had to come back. I did with ‘Living Like A Runaway’ (2012) and that album took off and I got the Def Leppard tour. It felt great, it felt right to come back. Now, one of the guys from the 90’s is in my band [laughter], Patrick Kennison (Union Underground 1996-2002). He is one of the best guitar players and vocalists I know, and he sings the Ozzy part on stage. I’m blessed to have a great band all the way around.”

With the success of her 2012 release “Living Like A Runaway” and the 2010 movie The Runaways, Lita felt that the time was right for her to share her life’s story and her experiences she had along the way. Lita’s autobiography “Living Like a Runaway: A Memoir” was published in 2016, but not without some struggles. Lita shares the difficulties of being a female rock star who needed to make sure that her story was told from her point of view. Lita explains, “I think, that because I was one of the only females of my kind, it was real hard to tell my story. Especially with the co-authors of the book. They couldn’t wrap their head around what I had done. I went through five different co-authors. I just paid them off and wrote it myself in my own words. At the time I had a punched a wall and broke my hand. I just sat at home at my computer and wrote the whole book [laughter]. I sent it to Harper-Collins. If I hadn’t had their support, I think it would have been a half-ass book. They waited until it was ready, and they really came through and supported me. I needed to share what a fight it was. It was a fight being a female artist in a man’s-world. They needed to hear all of it. The recording side, the fight with the record companies and the great side of things like have a gold and platinum album and coming out the other side knowing I had won the fight.”

Having a sense of accomplishment about her book, Lita released Time Capsule in 2016. A collection of songs she discovered on old analogue tapes from the 80’s featuring recordings she’d made with Billy Sheehan, Gene Simmons, Bruce Kulick, Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, and Dave Navarro. Most recently, Lita feels like it’s time to get back out on the road again and release some new material. “I have some new music coming out, I can’t share when, but it’s just heavy, riffy, stuff I’m so excited to get it out. I’ve got a single coming out on Labor Day weekend, but I can’t talk about it yet. I’ve taken on a couple of people; one that’s a powerhouse in the music world and one from another world that I can’t talk about yet [laughter]. I’m chomping at the bit with excitement!”

All this excitement and energy has served Lita well. With her book, and a new album coming out, Lita enjoys touring and being a part of a spectacular line-up at Ho-Chunk Casino Baraboo on August 4th for Rockin’ The Dells, featuring: Lita Ford, Dee Snider, Cinderella’s Tom Keifer, and Saliva. When asked about how it feels to be back out on the road with her longtime friend Dee Snider, “Dee was one of the only rockers, back in 1982, I think, that pumped me up as a female artist. He would come out on stage and push me in people’s faces [laughter]. He was always so supportive. We became really close. When his first son was born, it was on was on my birthday. So that was a big deal for Dee and me. We are still tight, and his family is so kind to me, and Dee is bad ass.”

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