LITA FORD – The best things in life are worth waiting for
The year was 1983 and I was taking my first baby-steps in the new and exciting world of heavy metal.
Back in those days it was very much a man’s world (a lot more than it is today) and eventhough I worshipped Judas Priest (who got the ball rolling) and all those other classic bands, I didn’t have a female rolemodel.
So – I dressed like the guys. Denim and leather, 80’s style with patches, back patches, badges and all that stuff.
[Remember this? ;P]
One day I was flipping through Swedish music magazine OKEJ and saw photos of this “new” rock chick who just released her album “Out For Blood“. Lita Ford.
I thought Lita looked so cool. With that logic, I was also convinced that she SOUNDED good, so I went and bought the album. In two versions, as the cover had been censored in the UK for being “too vulgar”. THAT, of course, meant that I absolutely HAD to have it! :)
[This was the very first article I saw, that made me go buy Lita’s debut album. I’ve still got that scrapbook, these articles are in surprisingly good shape still, no soda-stains or anything :)]
The CENSORED version from 1983 – now signed!
Long story short – Lita has been the source of inspiration ever since. Besides Judas Priest, she’s the reason I’m still here, in this crazy rock’n’roll circus. She paved the way, showed that women could be a part of the business, and not just as groupies (you always get that shit anyway from ignorant people).
She was talented, beautiful, successful, determined and had tons of attitude.
It’s been 30 years since I first got “Out of Blood“. Always wanted to meet her but the opportunity was never given. She just didn’t tour over here much – and the one time she DID, with Bon Jovi in 1988, I had a gig with my own band (major clash!)
I ALMOST met her a few years ago though. At Sweden Rock, I was with Jon Oliva’s Pain who had the caravan next to Lita’s and I could see straight in. But she had what you might call a bad day. Could happen to anyone. I wasn’t going to push anything. The chance was right under my nose but I respected her privacy and chose not to bug her.
My friend Kevin from Jon Oliva’s Pain brought me up on stage during LIta’s gig. Just shot this very short clip from that – we were drinking wine, watching Lita from up close, couldn’t be better. :)
And now, it’s 2013, 30 years later, the teenage girl that was me, who thought the badass chick with the bleeding guitar was the coolest thing ever – finally got to meet her idol face to face for a long and openhearted talk. :)
That’s every fan’s dream. It doesn’t even matter that I’ve been meeting “rock stars” on a regular basis since I was 18 and therefore “should” be jaded. When you get to meet someone who’s actually meant something in your life, you go back to being a nervous, stoked KID!
Lita was great, she is totally down to earth – has a unique quality that makes you feel like you’re long time friends. So, here’s what happened…
MALMO, SWEDEN – JULY 25, 2013….
I woke up at Hotel Palace in Gothenburg early in the morning. I had just been to see her show at Sticky Fingers the night before. Took the bus back to Malmo and slept all the way home while the rain was pattering against the window.
At this point, I didn’t even know if the interview was going to happen. It’s always like that. You get the details in the very last minute, it just goes with the territory…
Around 3 in the afternoon I finally got a text back from the label-guy who informed me that my interview was taking place at 5.30 at the venue. That was when I realized that this was actually happening, finally. When that sunk in, I started getting nervous. Man! Lita Ford has not only been a rolemodel since I was a kid, she’s also the last name on my list of people I want to meet before I die. The circle was about to be completed!
I grabbed my interview-bag and drove down to the venue, KB – my second home. I just wanted to find a good place to do the interview where there wouldn’t be sound check-noise or people running in and out. Johan, alias “Dr AOR” was outside and he was one of the DJ’s of the evening so he let me in.
Bengan, who’s been working at KB since forever, suggested the main dressing room, which also serves as a hospitality room. It was empty and it was perfect.
Lita’s tour manager introduced himself, a nice man, and I stayed watching the sound check preparations while waiting for Henrik “the camera man” to show up.
Then…. Lita arrived. Her comment just made me laugh, because I know exactly where she was coming from with that question: “Do I know you from before, or are you doing the interview?”
I’m exactly the same. I never freaking remember people, so as to avoid awkward situations, it’s better to ask first.
She came over a few times, asking me when and where we would do the interview, and when I mentioned that I was waiting for my camera-guy, she realized that it was going to be recorded, so she took her makeup bag and asked where the toilet was. :)
Henrik and Mari arrived just when the sound check was about to begin. I told the tour manager that they didn’t have to worry about us. KB is our second home, and we know our way around. We could handle the setup ourselves while Lita was sound checking (I stayed and watched one song before I went upstairs to prepare).
It was unbearably hot in the dressing room. No airconditioning or anything. When Lita walked in she felt it right away and just went “Oh my god! Isn’t there an airconditioner in here?” The idea of doing the interview dressed in her cool, black leather jacket was out of the question.
The KB guys brought 3 different fans, and a cooling-machine of some sort and plugged it in, so we could kind of survive….
She was chit-chatting while fixing her makeup. Again, she did what I always do – took the makeup bag and flipped it upside down so that everything in there just fell out on the table in one big pile of mixed random makeup-products.
“I bought all this new makeup, haven’t tried some of it yet so I don’t know what it does exactly”, she laughed and continued fixing her makeup over at the floor mirror. She was upset that one of her guitars had been smashed by United Airlines on her way over to Europe, and it was one of her favorite red guitars. The neck was broken, couldn’t be fixed.
Small little talk about coffee and staying awake when you need to (I gave her my energy-gums, the ones I use when I’m out on my own “tours” and she tried one right away. Then after a few seconds commented: “Wow! That is one serious gum!” It is – it’s strong and you feel it working right away. Don’t know what I’d do without those!
I was still a bit nervous, but Lita was just so easy to deal with that I felt like I was talking to someone I’d known for a long time. She just has this open attitude that makes people feel relaxed.
She noticed Henrik’s designer t-shirt, liked it and asked what designer it was.
The first few questions were just a bit of standard stuff, to get things going. And as some of this material was equested by another media, I won’t be able to publish any of that until it’s been used for what it’s intended to. But the second part of the interview will be up here soon, transcripted and edited within the next few weeks.
[A short random clip from the interview – we’re talking about tattoos here]
The thing is…. I’ve followed Lita since the early 80’s, and when you read so much about an artist and watch them on TV or Youtube or whatever, it feels like you already know them. I guess that’s why you like certain artists more than others – because there’s something about them that you can relate to and understand, and Lita has always been that person.
I smiled when she said that during the Runaways-days she wanted it to be dark in the studio where she recorded her vocals. She didn’t want people to look at her making her faces while she was singing.
I did the exact same thing – I turned out the lights in there and I’m sure the guys were thinking WTF, but it just made me relax. I didn’t know that Lita did the same. It’s just those small things…!
It got to a point where the conversation got pretty deep and I had to really use every bit of strength and concentration to stay professional in front of the cameras.
We were talking about death and she was telling me about her mother’s last three days in life. Lita never left her side. It was hard for her to talk about it. She also mentioned her father who had passed away a few years before her mom. Lita and her parents were very close, and the song “Lisa“, that she wrote for her mom, always made me cry. Still does.
It was difficult for her to talk about it still, eventhough it’s been 23 years since her mother passed away. I wanted to say something, just a short comment that I could relate because I just recently lost my father. But as I started the sentence I realized that I couldn’t continue – I just felt how hard it was to even go there. I couldn’t. This wasn’t about me anyway,
So I was holding back the tears – so was Lita. But you know… It helped me, as another piece in processing my own grief.
You never stop hurting and you never stop missing those you loved and lost, but you get on with your life, because you must. We had the same ideas about life after death, or “life on the other side”.
She wasn’t afraid to talk openly about pretty much everything and anything. In her opinion, there are 2 kinds of people in the world: Leaders and followers.
In order to change something, somebody had to be first and lead the way. She was okay with being one of those people.
“I’m not alone thinking or feeling the things I do. There are others out there who have similar experiences. But they are afraid to talk about it. When they see somebody else bring it up, they can say “that’s how I feel!”
So, basically, Lita said a lot of things that I can relate to 100% and I definitely respect and admire her even more after finally meeting her.
Another important aspect of the interview dealt with the family tragedy she’s going through. I will post that part of the interview soon, it’s very sad. It doesn’t matter which parent made the most mistakes in a marriage or what the reasons are that people get divorced. But when kids are being used as weapons in those battles, it sickens me.
Lita started this Facebook-page which deals with the subject – check it out:
Lita Ford’s Parental-Alienation Awareness
I could have stayed there talking with her for hours. She wasn’t looking at the clock or going “one last question, I gotta run” – which is almost standard. EIther the artist or some manager interrupts an interview by letting you know that you need to finish. Lita was totally cool, no stress.
We continued talking after the cameras were turned off, and I could not have asked for a better first meeting. I’m thankful it turned out that way. Cause when you’ve admired someone for so long, it would have been somewhat disappointing and almost devastating to find out that that person was a prick and that you wasted 30 years of your life following his/her career.
That didn’t happen with Lita. I can still relate to her, maybe even more now than before. Go check out the photos from the interview and the shows at www.facebook.com/intherearviewmirror
I thanked her for her time and instead of shaking hands, like I usually do, I instinctively gave her a hug. I never do that. It’s happened maybe once or twice before that I’ve hugged a “stranger”, and especially not in interview-situations.
And ten minutes later, when I was leaving the venue to go home and leave some of my stuff before going back to the show, she hugged me. So, I think it was a good chemistry and after 30 years it feels like the best things in life are worth waiting for!
The metal queens that left a mark
When you’re on vacation you suddenly have a LOT of time on your hands. I ended up spending hours on YouTube last night watching videos by some of the female bands/artists that inspired me as I was growing up.
I’ve always collected albums by female rockers, whether it was all-girl bands or female fronted male bands or even the very few women who got a gig playing in a male band (not just singing).
The very first heroine was of course Lita Ford. When I was just a kid with very little knowledge of the music world, I remember stopping in the record store being totally in awe of the cool girls on the cover of this Runaways album:
Lita was of course the one who caught the eye of a curious 8-year old cause she wore that silver-thing on her arm. Then when she released her first solo-album in 1983, I really started collecting Lita-stuff. She was definitely the number one role-model.
[Cheesy early Lita-video, title track of her debut solo-album “Out For Blood“]
Joan Jett never appealed to me as much. It was only last year at Sweden Rock Festival when I attended her press-conference and saw her live, that I truly got why she’s stayed on the top in this business all these years. She is genuine and breathes rock’n’roll! She ruled the crowd, they loved her!
In the early 80’s, there were very few females playing metal. One of my favorite bands was Rock Goddess. The youngest member, drummer Julie Turner, was so young at the time that they even had trouble getting her into some of their own gigs!
They came to Sweden opening for Def Leppard in 1984 I think, but I wasn’t allowed to go. My parents were still not happy about the fact that their daughter was into heavy metal, it was something they had heard “bad things” about. Needless to say, they had to change their minds along the way… ;-P
[Rock Goddess with the asskicking Jodie Turner on vocals and guitar!]
I picked up whatever I could – Girlschool, She, Lita, Joan, Headpins, and then of course Lee Aaron. The Metal Queen. When I first heard her, it was on the radio (must have been some local station, they didn’t normally play heavy metal on the national Swedish radio back in those days) – I thought it was a guy…! Man, the lady had quite a set of pipes! And she was beautiful too, not to mention a bundle of energy on stage. Well, that’s how I imagined her, because I never saw her live and there was no YouTube so I had to rely on the reviews I read in the metal magazines I could get my hands on in 1984. I was happy to finally see her live at Sweden Rock Festival last year and she blew me away! She is still stunning and hasn’t lost her vocal range one bit!
[Quite cheesy video but these were still the early years of music videos…]
As the years went by, the world of metal started to expand and more women fought their way in. Cause it sure as hell wasn’t easy being a woman in metal in the 70’s or 80’s! There were very few, and the ones who DID manage to secure their place in the business, constantly had to deal with stupid juvenile sexism. It was automatically assumed that heavy metal was a man’s world and as a woman you simply couldn’t play.
At its best, you would hear comments along the lines of “well… pretty good – for a chick“. It was still pretty bad when I joined my first band. When we played, I would constantly hear some drunk asshole (and his equally drunk idiot pals) yell: “Show your tits!”. Well, show your d***k if you can find it, son of a b…. It was a pain in the butt, but you couldn’t let it stop you.
Late 80’s presented the classy ladies of Vixen for instance. Eventhough I wouldn’t call them metal, I loved everything about them. I was young, thought of them as inspirational not only as great musicians but also as fashion-statements for women in rock. :-) I had the pleasure of talking to them a few times during their fairly short, but successful career and loved their personalities.
Other ladies that I listened to during this period was Femme Fatale fronted by a lady with an attitude – Lorraine Lewis. She’s still active, playing the Monsters of Rock Cruise for instance. Would love to see her, cause most of those American bands never made it to Europe for some reason.
Doro had been around since…forever! Starting out with Warlock, I’d say she’s also one of the few true, 200% dedicated and impressive metal queens out there. Doro and Lita won every poll for “best female artist” back in those days. I love Doro, who doesn’t?! She’s a wonderful, humble person with a true love for heavy metal.
Another band that I really liked, but who never made it commercially (they stayed somehow “underground” eventhough MTV aired their videos) was Phantom Blue.
They were the first and only female band to be signed to Mike Varney’s Shapnel Records (only 3 months after forming!). Just as a bit of trivia, guitarists Michelle and Nicole were both students of Paul Gilbert and Bruce Boulliet of Racer X. Great guitarists and to top it all off – the amazing Gigi Hangach on vocals.
They couldn’t compete with the likes of Vixen or Lita in terms of airtime or albums sold, but they made a mark in music history for sure. Michelle married John Norum (ex-Europe) and moved to Sweden where she formed the band Meldrum. I remember being in touch with her back and forth about a gig at my club Hard Break in the mid-, late nineties, but due to a double-booking it fell through. Michelle was anything but happy about it, to make a long story very short… :-( It sucks that things had to go so wrong. She passed away in 2008. Read more about the band here. The actual promo video for this great song used to be on YouTube but I’m sure some idiot had it removed for whatever reason… The only thing left is this incredibly inspiring “look at this photo”-video, but at least you can still HEAR the music.
As far as VOICES…there was only ONE that could blew off the competition. Not that there ever was any competition. This woman was on her throne and nobody ever came even CLOSE to her vocal power! Ann Wilson of Heart. That voice amazes me to this day, she was and is one of a kind.
Then, of course, there was the CHEESE.
Some stand out as worse than anything. I bought records by these “ladies” but they’ve only been played once and then took their place in the collection just as “fill-outs”, never to be played again.
Lisa Dominique, she was in Kerrang! all the time, but the only reason she was, was because she was selling her “sexy image” more than her music – she couldn’t sing if her life depended on it! Take a listen to this (warning for possible injuries on sensitive eardrums….)
Then there was the super-cheesy Betsy Bitch from the band….Bitch. I’m lost for words, this is just about the cheesiest crap I’ve ever seen or heard in most aspects, especially lyric-wise! :)
Granted, she was one of the very first female metal vocalists, starting out in 1980, but that doesn’t help, at all. This song especially is horrible. Check it out:
Another uh..lady, that must be placed in the cheese-department is The Great Kat. It’s not that she didn’t know what she was doing; she was a classically trained violinist, graduated from Juilliard and had been touring playing classical music before she became…that.
Once again, she ends up in the cheese-department simply because…well, you’ll understand when you watch the video below. She could play, has even been listed as one of the top shredders of all time by Guitar One magazine. Maybe she would have passed unnoticed if she hadn’t created this insane persona, where she often claimed she was Beethoven reincarnated. ;)
Jesus, I think I’ll have go and take a break after that. :-)) Hope you’ve enjoyed the rundown!
Honorable mentions that didn’t fit into the article above but that you should take a listen to:
Canadian rocker Joanna Dean, loved her album “Misbehavin”
One HELL of a voice – Chrissy Steele (who was recruited to take over vocal duties after Darby Mills in Headpins. This is from her solo album “Magnet to Steele“)