Released: 2016, Harper Collins
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
From teenage rock star to “The Queen Of Heavy Metal,” Lita Ford has spent a good deal of her life in the spotlight. Naturally, there have been highs and lows but in Ford’s new autobiography, LIVING LIKE A RUNAWAY: A MEMOIR, she pulls no punches and lays it all out, warts and all.
Lita Ford’s music career began in September 1975 when she auditioned for producer Kim Fowley. Fowley was putting together an all-girl “jailbait” rock band and Ford had both the looks and talent to make his vision complete. The Runaways’ success was enormous but short-lived, yet gets a lot of coverage in this book. The influence of that band should not be lost, nor should the talent contained within it. While Ford and Joan Jett went on to solo success, as a group, The Runaways were never given the respect they deserved simply because they were “girls.” Ford’s career was dogged by this for years, as she had the undisputable talent but never received due credit for no other reason than she was a female. The obstacles faced by Ford are seemingly endless in the book. MTV’s refusal to play her videos, underhanded managers and the inability for record labels to market her properly are just some of the struggles she seemed to face on a constant basis. On more than one occasion, she states that any headway she made was often met with a devastating loss, such as the death of her unfailingly supportive parents. Ford also states quite frankly the dalliances she has had with various musicians over the years, including some shocking allegations of physical abuse against Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi, as well as her short-lived marriage to former W.A.S.P. guitarist Chris Holmes. Most sad, though, is Ford’s decade-long fall into obscurity, allegedly under the controlling thumb of her now ex-husband, former Nitro vocalist, Jim Gillette (whom she never names in the book). According to Ford, Gillette moved her and their two children further and further away from civilization, finally settling on a remote island in The Caribbean, where she was left to home school the boys and with little else. Eventually, Ford got away and filed for divorce but alleges Gillette has alienated her completely from her sons in the years since as a result.
With help from co-writer Martina Fasano, LIVING LIKE A RUNAWAY: A MEMOIR is a pretty simple read. Just shy of 260 pages, I knocked it out in a day but it was an enjoyable read from front to back. The Runaways were a bit before my time, so most of that material was new to me and very interesting. Ford’s solo material in the eighties is what I am most familiar with but the behind-the-scenes stuff is what really drew me in. She also puts to rest what happened during the whole pool scene from Decline Of Western Civilization II since she was married to Chris Holmes at the time. But the most compelling section is the final third of the book, which chronicles Ford’s departure from the music scene, her tumultuous marriage to Jim Gillette, the god-awful WICKED WONDERLAND album and her inevitable “true” comeback with 2012’s LIVING LIKE A RUNAWAY.
Despite being a professional musician for the past 40 years, one cannot help but feel that Lita Ford still faces the same ridiculous attitude today that has plagued her throughout her career: girls shouldn’t play guitar. Obviously this is nonsense but that “old boys club” notion that pervades the upper crust of the music industry as well as the Neanderthal catcalls launched at female musicians still continues today on many levels. However, Lita Ford has proven time and time again that she will not be held back or compromise her music for anything. LIVING LIKE A RUNAWAY is a testament to that fact and just how far talent, will and determination can take a person professionally.