Lita Ford is ripping open the vault and sharing music no one has heard yet. Ford, a Grammynominated artist who recently accepted Guitar Player’s Lifetime Achievement Award and is one of the youngest living legends in rock ‘n’ roll, is celebrating four decades of music. She is releasing Living Like a Runaway: Lita Ford, A Memoir, documenting her journey from all-girl band The Runaways to major solo successes. Ford is also offering an audio complement in the form of Time Capsule. .
This “throwback” record boasts identifiable voices and brilliant players jamming without any planning or pressure. Some of the album’s highlights: Billy Sheehan playing bass and Rodger Carter on drums; Dave Navarro playing a mandolin; Jeff Scott Soto singing a duet with Ford; Rick Nielsen and Robin Zander of Cheap Trick actually singing backing vocals; and KISS’ Gene Simmons ripping the bass.
The album is a time capsule of the fertile and whisky-soaked pre-grunge period that so many rock fans have continued affection for. Time Capsule is Ford’s gift to fans who love the ‘80s, when thrilling vocal performances, raunchy riffs, and loud, growling guitars were as essential as oxygen.
In these “lost” recordings, you hear what happens when insanely talented musicians get drunk, hang out, end up in a room together with a “Screw it, let’s play” mentality, minus the click tracks or label execs breathing down their necks, looking for the single or the “hook.”
“There was a shitload of these 24-track analog tapes in the closet in my house [in the islands],” Ford recalls. “This is some of the best work I’ve ever done and it was sitting there. I grabbed two suitcases and took them back to the United States.”
Imagine Ford dragging a pair of suitcases full of analog tapes through the Caribbean dirt back to Los Angeles, so, as she recalls, “we could bake these fuckers,” due to their age. “If you just put them on the reel, they would flake. I was chewing my fingernails, thinking, ‘Please work!’ And they did!”
Time Capsule was made organically among the most badass and gifted musicians from the ‘80s. There was no back and forth emailing of parts — this was done in real time, drinks in hand.
As for exactly how the songs came to be, she muses, “We had a break between recordings and it seemed so many us were always in the same place, at the same time. George Tutko was one hell of an engineer, coming off the platinum-selling Lita album. He asked me, ‘Who will produce?’ I will, because I knew George had my back and I wasn’t alone on this.”
Participation happened spontaneously. She remembers how one recruitment went down, saying, “Dave Navarro walks by. We grab him and tell him, ‘Play something on this song. Here, play this mandolin!’ And boom! He does it.”
She furthers, “These recordings have attitude. All of these rock stars were recording in the local studios. There’s also Cheap Trick — the identifiable voices of Rick Nielsen and Robin Zander singing backing vocals. Gene Simmons played on and co-wrote ‘Rotten to the Core.’ W.A.S.P.
Chris Holmes is in the introduction to the album and is the first thing you hear, stomping around looking for the keys to his ‘Ford.’ Billy Sheehan was one of my best friends, and I asked him what he was doing. I said, ‘Want to play bass?’ We didn’t know how long it would take; we were simply having fun.”