Here are four uncomfortable truths from the first 50 pages of Living Like A Runaway that I don't know if I needed to know:
1. Lita Ford had an abortion at age 16.
2. Dee Dee Ramone gave her crabs.
3. Ritchie Blackmore and Lita Ford "had sex once or twice."
4. Male fans used to jerk off in front of the stage watching The Runaways play.
Although the sex stories are prevalent, what rings through loud and clear is Ford's consistent dedication to rock 'n' roll — and not just the lifestyle. While she may have slept with Blackmore, she spends far more words describing how his playing influenced her own guitar style. A five-sided home-plate-design guitar pick with a pointy head made out of tortoiseshell that Blackmore gave her became like a piece of art to Ford. And she still uses that rare style of pick: "It … makes it easier to make all the squealing and screaming sounds with the harmonics that I use in my playing," she writes.
Living Like a Runaway reads as though Lita Ford, now 57 years old, were sitting on a barstool in front of you, dressed in tight, faded jeans with holes in the knee, and sharing intimate details about her life. No rock star pretensions. No sugarcoating. No bullshit.
Ford's music career began as a teenager in The Runaways, rock's first all-female/all jailbait band that also gave Joan Jett her big break. Jett and Ford never really got along, Ford writes, and Jett's lesbian tendencies freaked her out so much that Ford temporarily quit the band.
If you listened to rock radio in the Eighties, it was impossible to escape Ford's solo songs — mainly "Kiss Me Deadly" (a weaker entry in her catalog than some of her deeper cuts) and "Close My Eyes Forever" (a smash duet with Ozzy Osbourne whose wife, Sharon, eventually managed Ford and apparently thought she was boinking Ozzy).
Members of other bands who dominated radio in that era make juicy cameos in Living Like a Runaway, including Jon Bon Jovi, Poison's Bret Michaels, Motley Crue's Nikki Sixx, Edward Van Halen (Ford always calls him "Edward") and Def Leppard's Joe Elliott. While most of the stories about those guys are harmless, Ford paints much darker and troubling portraits of Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi (to whom she once was engaged) and former Nitro and Tuff vocalist Jim Gillette (with whom her marriage was so filled with despair that she refuses to even mention his name in the book).
"Out of respect for my children, I have chosen not to write in detail about their father, my husband of almost 18 years," Ford writes in a warning box on page 199. "It was a very difficult decision. There is much the world needs to hear. But now is not the time. Thank you for your understanding as you read forward."
Ford also dismisses the behavior of former W.A.S.P guitarist Chris Holmes (and another former husband) in one of the most infamous scenes in The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years — during which he guzzles bottles of vodka while floating fully clothed in his swimming pool and appearing drunk out of his mind — as "performing for the camera." She claims the scene destroyed Holmes' career.
Ford's career was almost destroyed, too, by the release of 2009's sexually explicit and critically destroyed Wicked Wonderland, co-produced by Gillette. "Let me state for the record: I disown Wicked Wonderland," she writes.
Living Like a Runaway is fast read, just like the lifestyle Ford led for so many years. Retired life on a tropical island with Gillette and her two sons did not suit her, and when she filed for divorce, she resurrected her musical career. Living Like a Runaway (the album) was released in 2012, and 2016's Time Capsule features "lost" recordings from the Eighties of Ford with such hotshots as Billy Sheehan, Dave Navarro, Jeff Scott Soto, Rick Nielsen and Robin Zander, and Gene Simmons.
If anything, this book will encourage readers to discover or revisit Ford's material with The Runaways and as a groundbreaking female heavy-metal guitarist. That's what all good rock bios do...