If Joan Jett and Lita Ford hadn’t survived the ’70s to become stars of the ’80s, I probably wouldn’t be writing a book about the Runaways. Few people would be interested in reading about a band that never had hits of their own (in the U.S), no matter how earth-shakingly hot they were. Jett’s and Ford’s subsequent solo success proved the legitimacy of the all-girl band for which they provided twin guitar engines. And I had the immense good fortune to interview them both last week, for Queens of Noise (my forthcoming history of the Runaways).
Joan was on the phone, still basking in the glow of her first-ever tour of South America, where she and the Blackhearts played in front of tens of thousands of true rock’n’roll fans in Brazil and Argentina. At Lollapalooza, Chile-style, she joined los Fighters Foo for “Bad Reputation.” (Video here.) Roqueros on that side of the equator are way more appreciative of their guitar heroes than us jaded colonialists up north. “I’m going to be spoiled for American audiences,” she told me (among other things).
The next day, I met Lita at the Grafton on Sunset. “Joan says hi,” I told her. Weird.
Lovely Lita looks amazing. We bonded over buying Doc Martens at Trash and Vaudeville. The fleet-fingered fox has been through hell and back recently, getting the butt-end of a brutal divorce from Jim Gillette, father of her two children. She was amazingly strong, honest, clear, and direct, until the talk turned to her boys, and the song “Mother,” from her forthcoming album, Living Like a Runaway. Those eyes that have seen more than their share of outrageous shit — after traveling the world as an underappreciated, overexploited jailbait genius, the woman dated a young Nikki Sixx and was managed by Sharon Osbourne — lost their steely resolve. Lita Ford: teenage pioneer, guitar goddess, wronged matriarch.
The Italian-English Ford was the Runaways’ pugilist, but lately she’s been peace-maker, breaking bread with Jett and singer Cherie Currie for the first time in decades. The woman who quashed a previous Runaways reunion attempt thinks the timing is right now. But mostly, she just wants to end three decades of stupid fighting. “At least we can establish our friendship again,” Lita said. “You’ve got to crawl before you run. All I’m trying to do is be friends.”