Lita Ford: "I Wasn't Going to Put Down My Guitar"
Lita Ford is a bitch.
Her words, not ours: She's touting the title track of her new album, The Bitch Is Back . . . Live. "I heard [the original version] on the radio and it just came tumbling down on me like a ton of bricks: 'Hello! Please record me, you dumb bitch. This is your song!'" she says from her Los Angeles home. "It was a no-brainer."
The Elton John song -- revved up with nasty guitar power chords in place of John's boogie-infused piano -- opens the album. Ford says she typically opens shows with it, as it helps bridge the generation gap in her audience.
"A lot of people from the older generation are familiar with 'The Bitch Is Back.' I see it in their faces. They sing along," she says. "The younger generation have never heard it before and are hearing my version for the first time. I've got this whole group of people from different generations latching on to this song. It works."
What also works is the method employed for the live album. Unlike most live albums, pieced together from the best moments of a tour, Ford's first is a single concert recorded at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, California, in October 2012. It's a full-force Lita Ford showcase, warts and all.
"We recorded it all in one go because we wanted the listeners to feel like they were there," she says. "If you put on the headphones you can hear stuff in the background -- people talking, stuff dropping, people walking across the stage. You're really there.
"We just came off tour and into a little club in our hometown and just decided to record it. It was really a spur of the moment, last minute decision," she adds. "We just did it as a dedication to the fans -- one show recorded all the way through in one shot."
If the live album title is at all autobiographical, one can only hope the name of her previous album, Living Like a Runaway, isn't. In the 34 years since her first group, the seminal all-girl garage rock band The Runaways, also featuring Joan Jett and singer Cherie Currie, disbanded, Ford has built a solid career. But it's clear she remains somewhat bitter about her early experiences.
"Did being in the Runaways live up to my expectations? No, not really. I didn't realize the shit we'd have to eat being in a young rock band just starting out," she says. "The Runaways didn't make that much money -- at least not the girls. The money was in the hands of the managers."
When differences over musical direction broke up the band in 1979, Ford looked to her musical idols -- Jimi Hendrix, Ritchie Blackmore, and Johnny Winter -- for inspiration. She wanted to make a statement as a solo artist, and believed the only way do that was sing and play guitar.
"There was no way I was going to put down my guitar," she says. "When I couldn't find a singer to sing the way I had hoped a singer would sound like, so I had to teach myself to sing. Singing and playing guitar, man, that's a lot of weight to carry."
But could she break through in a genre dominate by male acts?
"It was a man's world, still is," she says flatly. "I think the breaking point was when I released my first album (1983's Out for Blood). There were no female guitar players fronting a three piece band (back then). It drew a lot of attention. I was off and running."
Lita Ford is scheduled to perform Saturday, November 8, at Ovations Live! in Chandler.
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