Posts Tagged The Runaways

book review: Living Like a Runaway

lita ford. living like a runaway

Living Like a Runaway by Lita Ford. Dey Street Books| February 23, 2016| pages | $26.99| ISBN: 9780062270641

RATING: 3.5/5*

“The power and the grit that come out of heavy metal music and the way it makes people feel and act attracted me, and ever since I can remember I’ve been drawn to it.”

An easy conversational read that grips with its sincerity as well as with the sex and drugs and rock and roll, Lita Ford’s memoir Living Like a Runaway revolves around content and tone. Edgy. Confrontational. Honest. Lots of swearing. Lots of run-on sentences. The writing falters at times. Most won’t be reading it for its scholastic merits. 80s heavy metal icon Lita Ford dishes about The Runaways, her solo career, being a woman in rock and roll, her romantic hookups—with Eddie Van Halen, Nikki Sixx, Dee Dee Ramone, Toni Iommi of Black Sabbath and others– and more. The chapters on The Runaways run flat and lack energy. The passion-fueled intense guitarist fails to draw those emotions and details to the page.

Not so heavy on the drugs. Lita dabbled but never got wrapped up in the excess as much as others in the 70s and 80s. Maybe it’s the close relationship she maintained with her parents. Although Ford joined The Runaways at age sixteen and lived on her own to pursue her musical career, she remained close to her Italian mother and British father. She wrote the song “Lisa” about her mom. Seems the music bug hit after Lita attended her first concert– Black Sabbath—at age 13. Lita’s mom bought her an acoustic guitar and Lita gave up on lessons after two weeks and started teaching herself to play songs by listening to the radio. Her parents met in an Italian hospital during WWII. They supported everything she did and even hosted parties for her musician friends.

In 1975, Lita Ford became part of the world’s first major all-female rock group The Runaways along with Joan Jett and Cherie Currie [I read her memoir about The Runaways—Neon Angel–years ago]. It was a band put together like many boy bands, based on looks and perhaps talent ensures and maybe not. Lita describes The Runaways as “an all-girl jail-bait rock band.” The music part went well. Lita loved playing and touring. The business aspects weren’t that great with the teens touring the world with questionable management. Touring is messy. Managers and others aren’t completely honest with and take advantage of youth. It was a whirlwind for the teens who ended up developing their musical talents and styles along the way. Lita writes: “Inside the music scene, though, people recognized our ability, and we were hanging out with the big dogs: Queen, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, Rush, Led Zeppelin. We were interesting, original, musically talented bad girls, and everyone wanted to meet us.”

Too young during the Runaways heyday, I remember Lita Ford in the MTV 80s when she had such hits as “Kiss Me Deadly”—long blonde hair, full-on black leather and wicked guitar riffs– and well as her duet with Ozzy Osbourne, “Close My Eyes Forever.” I admired this strong, beautiful California-blonde playing guitar to rival the best. However I’ve always steered toward alternative music. During the 80s I mostly listened to The Cure, Depeche Mode and of course pop like Madonna and Duran Duran. Although it was impossible to escape hair metal bands in the 80s and I did see Poison, Def Leppard and Whitesnake the summer after my senior year of high school.

Lita broke out as a solo artist with the debut of Out for Blood in 1983. Lita writes: “I was a bona fide rocker by the time the Runaways broke up, which means not only had I grown into my own musical style, but also that they all really don’t care about you. They want to use you. They want your money and they want your fame. And then they spit you out when they’re done with you.” So there’s that. Lita chronicles her albums, her hits and tours as a solo artist. Her band consists of guys and her writing partners were always men as well. Interesting but not sure how much to read into it. That I’d like to discuss with Lita Ford. I’ve found that many solo female artists have bands full of men. After the Runaways maybe she needed to move away from working so closely with women. Or it’s just the nature of the music industry—it’s male-dominated. Sharon Osbourne managed Lita. It’s a rocky relationship that Lita suggest didn’t work because Sharon assumed Lita and Ozzy were physically involved. Lita insists that she and Ozzy never hooked up and Sharon had nothing to be concerned about. She writes: “As much as I truly loved Sharon, I couldn’t help but feel she was undermining my hard work. I continued to wonder if she thought I had fucked Ozzy. Maybe that was why she was doing this. Let me tell you, he was fucking everything that moved, so to speak—except me.” [Don’t plan on being invited on The Talk.]

“Another fucking battle for me in the industry.”

Being a woman in rock, Lita dealt with sexism all the time. On tour with Poison, she describes how the band’s crew would select women from the audience and bring them backstage for the band to choose from. She writes: “The women probably thought they were going to a party, but they were just pieces of meat for the band and crew that one night. It was a game to them. It was degrading to women in general, and it was upsetting to me to see other women being treated like fucking cattle.” After she collaborated on the song “Hungry” with Michael Dan, its overtly sexualized message wasn’t well-received. Lita notes: “At the time, a song like “Hungry”—sung by a female—wasn’t something that would get played on the radio. As a result, it was banned from radio and the video turned out to be a disaster.” She adds that MTV would not air the video but did play 2 Live Crew’s “Me So Horny.” Double standards abound.

In the early 90s, Lita struggled as many 80s rockers did. In 1993, Michael Jackson’s team called her to replace the guitarist on the Dangerous tour. However she surprisingly didn’t get the part despite her talent. Michael’s longtime guitar player Dave Williams told her: “[sic] Michael didn’t want me in the band because I had too much credibility and had my own name in the industry.” She grew more disillusioned with the industry and decided to leave the scene in 1994. She and her husband moved to Oregon, then Florida then to Turks and Caicos. She writes: “I stopped listening to music completely. I didn’t feel in control of my life. I was growing resentful of my marriage, because it had taken me away from the people and things I had known all my life and loved the most.”

Living the island life, Lita grew further isolated and miserable—“We were living like the fucking Amish. I loved being with my boys, but I felt trapped living in that house and being on that island.” Her husband wanted this solitude and separateness but Lita didn’t like the woman she became after home-schooling her boys and being cut off from the music scene for more than a decade. The increasing sequestration led to soul-searching and a final breakdown. Lita moved out, filed for divorce and returned to California to get back into music. In divorcing her husband she lost custody of her sons. One thing is clear: Lita’s a tough and resilient woman.

–review by Amy Steele

 FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Dey Street Books.

purchase at Amazon: Living Like a Runaway: A Memoir

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book review: NEON ANGEL

Title: NEON ANGEL: a Memoir of a Runaway
Author: Cherie Currie with Tony O’Neill
ISBN: 978-0061961359
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: It Books (March 16, 2010)
Category: memoir
Review source: publisher
Rating: 3.5/5

Thomas always warned me that downers and booze didn’t mix. The more you drank, the harder it was to remember how many pills you’d taken, so you’d end up taking more and more. It could be a lethal combination, and you’d hear of people all the time who ended their evening by choking to death on their own vomit. Even though I was only seventeen, I’d already known a few people who’d check out in this sad, undignified manner.

If people have seen the preview for the film The Runaways and wondered why Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie seems to have more screen time than Kristin Stewart as Joan Jett, it’s not merely that Fanning possesses more talent than Stewart. NEON ANGEL: A Memoir of a Runaway by lead singer Cherie Currie inspired the film. Currie joined The Runaways a year after its formation. Guitarist/singer Joan Jett and drummer Sandy West met Currie at a local teen hangout in Los Angeles. Soon after, the band really took off. It was a novelty for five teenage girls [guitarist Lita Ford and bassist Jackie Fox rounded out the band] to perform powerful rock sings in the early 70s. Unfortunately I can only think of one completely female band since The Runaways– The Donnas. In NEON ANGEL, Currie chronicles her days in the groundbreaking band The Runaways as well as her life before and after her one-of-a-kind experience as the band’s sultry blonde lead singer dubbed “The Cherry Bomb,” after one of the band’s songs penned by Joan Jett.

When the show finally ended, a dozen security guards had to clear a path to get us out of the venue in one piece. We huddled our way toward the waiting limo, and I realized that this is what it must feel like if you’re an infamous prisoner running the gauntlet of a screaming mob on your way to court. Desperate hands reached out to us, trying to tear away a piece of our clothes, a chunk of our hair, anything they could rip away from us to keep as a memento.

The good part of this memoir: Currie presents an honest recollection of the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll that took over her teenage years. Older men fantasized about [and more often than not acted on] being with these teenage hot-shots. One night, The Runaways’s manager basically lent Currie out for the night to another teen idol. Another time this same manager made all five girls watch him have sex with a younger woman. He claimed he was showing them the way to do it. She sugarcoats nothing. Currie recalls the plethora of drug-use and her subsequent addiction to cocaine, over-the-counter Benzedrine [speed], prescription pills and alcohol.

When The Runaways toured, Currie found herself so homesick that she couldn’t function without drugs. Once home, she still couldn’t even make it through a day without being drugged out on something. Currie has a twin sister Marie who felt a bit slighted that her sister catapulted to such fame and left her behind. Up to the moment that Currie joined The Runaways, Marie had been the popular one. Currie finds herself in many turbulent relationships especially with family members. She writes about two rapes [one that included abduction], an abortion, and some pretty rotten relationships.

Currie remembers positive moments with The Runaways as well: her friendships with Joan Jett and Sandy West, the fame and the surrealness of being in such a popular band that opened for Cheap Trick and The Ramones and played some of the hippest venues like CBGB’s in New York. She relished some of the opportunities to meet bands she adored and other people she might have never encountered had she not been in this band.

It was a week or two later, on the set, that I really stopped and took a good look at myself in the dressing room mirror. I looked tired. I hadn’t been sleeping much. It was taking more and more Benzedrine to get me going. And the worst thing was that the more I used one morning, the more I would need the next just to get the same effect. And then that palpitating would begin again.

The negative of this memoir: Currie repeats herself often, perhaps to pound home the point that drugs destroy lives. Or that she managed to overcome her drug addiction and now leads a fulfilling life as an artist, mother, and occasional actress. Parts of the memoir drag on and there’s a simplistic writing style, it could have used additional editing. I’m sure the memoir proved to be a cathartic experience for Currie and honestly, how much fault can I find in that?

–review by Amy Steele, March 22, 2010

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