Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Lita Ford - Mississippi Moon Bar

During the era of "hair metal" there was a phenomena that to this day is still perplexing.  At this firestorm that "hair metal" became one had to be cognizant of what they were looking at on the cover art of the associated bands.  The rationale being that some of the sexiest women on the covers were actually men and often were better looking than some women in the world of "pop" music.  Its interesting to think about that comparison, its a legitimate argument BUT was there a deficiency of women in "hair metal"?

I remember a time right after Poison released their album "Look What the Cat Dragged In", a person I know (to remain nameless) actually thought all four of the members of the band were hotter than the middle of the sun (now you know why he shall remain nameless).  It took some convincing that they were indeed all men but in hindsight it was a simple mistake one could make.  The '80's and early '90's was rife with performers in high heeled boots, spandex, hairspray coated (and moussed) hair, chains, earrings and so much make-up that it was nearly impossible to tell what they really looked like and those were just the men.

Introspectively I suppose the tradeoff between the male dominated world of "hair metal" and its fans was probably to draw in as many fans (preferably female) into their brand of music.  To support that viewpoint I ask the simple question: What was the sex of the vast majority of the people in the bands videos?  Female of course.  In support of that argument, the music itself and the songs that flooded the airwaves were about women.  As a testament to the power of the male dominated bands (and the drawing power of the "other" sex), men young and old began their own "transformations" through hair and clothes of the bands, often to the extreme of almost a state of transvestism.

The transformation of the music into the form "hair metal" became was one rife with such gender "indifferences" were magnified with those performers that were of the opposite sexes and the nerve of them being spot on with their hair, spandex and cosmetic choices.  I almost have to wonder (out loud at times, I can't remember things at times stupid '90's) if there was trepidation amongst those who were "snake bit" by their attraction to those bands that may have confused the male audience.  With some exceptions many people when asked about female bands from the '80's and '90's would defer to the likes of Wilson Phillips, the Go-Go's or the Bangles but hair metal had them beaten like a drum.

Hair metal has had some notable female acts (and performers) including "Femme Fatale", "Vixen", Doro Pesch, and then there was the pinnacle: Lita Ford.  Ford has had one of the most interesting in music history starting with "The Runaways", then add a dash of Lemmy Kilmister (Motorhead) culminating with one of the greatest duet / ballads in rock history with Ozzy Osbourne, "If I Close My Eyes Forever".  What Lita Ford has done is add her mark onto the record of rock history (a really, really deep mark) and she never had to look back.

On March 30th, 2013 Lita Ford came into the Mississippi Moon Bar and did nasty, nasty things to the house.  Okay that sounds bad, but its not I promise.  Ford came out and literally owned the crowd and the stage.  Really its no wonder that she was that strong, remember Ford joined "The Runaways" at just 16 years old (1975).  At a time when most teenage girls are picking out prom dresses and dating the starting quarterback (I know, I know there are more 16 year old girls than starting quarterbacks, be nice I'm old), Ford joined a person named Joan Jett in the lineup that also included Cherie Currie (lead vocals) and Jackie Fox (bass).

Whilst her time in Dubuque, Iowa the history of Ford became less important, if anything I would confess few were looking at the past.  I have to confess the indelible image of Lita Ford on the album cover of "Lita" is still etched in my mind but I have to say she could do that cover again today and no one would notice any difference.  Musically Ford didn't disappoint, her performance was spotless but I did notice one small thing and that is...  Her vocals have matured like a fine wine, it has subtle tones and nuances that only come with perceived age.  As an example when Ford began the song "If I Close My Eyes Forever" the power of the song seemed to take on another characteristic that can only come with age (NO Ozzy didn't make an appearance).

To any fan expecting to see their favorite "rock legend" disappointment can be dripping from the halo in which we place upon them.  That wasn't a problem for Ford and that is exactly what made this appearance as perfect as could be.  BUT...  This performance wasn't some sort of MTV "Unplugged" acoustic, only one person on the stage (like Jim Croce always seemed to pull off.  I told you I was old), nope there was a band on that stage with Lita.

The band that accompanies Ms. Ford is best described as a "dream team", made up with serious rock history.  Take Mitch Perry for a moment, and consider his pedigree one that includes stints in MSG (Michael Schenker Group), Asia, and with Edgar Winter.  Perry fits perfectly with Ford, his guitar work is really, really mind-blowing.  Seriously, I'm not trying to make a mountain out of a molehill, the dude can play.

Its fun to sit back and take in any band live but all too often we are exposed to musicians that are really not what was expected.  Usually those individuals come from lead or rhythm guitar but those deficiencies (at least in the genre of hair metal) are covered up by good looks and flirtatious behavior.  Commonplace are those playing guitar meeting such criteria, add to the stereotype to those playing bass or drums usually aren't "all that" (talent-wise, I'm not commenting on looks for any guy).

Honestly its quite a misnomer that people of either persuasion aren't of any level of talent, but why?  Certainly it isn't because of the talent of two of the members of Lita's band, Bobby Rock (drums) and Marty O'Brien (bass).  Look back at the pedigree of O'Brien for a moment: Tommy Lee, Disturbed, and Static-X.  Of all of the aforementioned bands I would think that Tommy Lee would know talent within the realm of bass with Mr. Nikki Sixx in this little band called Motley Crue.  Mr. O'Brien brings a level of energy to his place within the band that is comparable to Mr. Sixx.  What can be taken from O'Brien is that level of professionalism and an exceptionally active, phenomenally talented musician.

I've saved Bobby Rock for last not because he is the drummer or he isn't talented, far from it.  Rock has performed with bands like the '70's rockers "Rare Earth" and one of the most underrated bands from the era of hair, "Vinnie Vincent's Invasion".  The two albums that Rock is associated with (whilst in VVI) showcase wild, violent guitar and impeccable talent from all of the members of the band.  I think that Rock fits Lita Ford's band perfectly, the wild man of the band, the drummer (John Bonham and Keith Moon prove that the "wild man of the band" is the drummer).  It was fun to watch as Rock performed to the level that he obviously does.

Bands and individual performers from the era of hair are a dime a dozen and few have the staying power to have ever made two albums and survive more than two or three years so a band that beats any of those criteria is special.  I meant special in the great way and not the window licking way.  What Lita Ford has done is more than survive, she has conquered.  As I began digging into the wonderful world of women in rock few names bubbled to the surface so when a performer has crossed the decades with the skill and precision Ford has is rare.

Rock history is really not kind to female acts not because of lack of talent, I personally believe the reason lies within the misogynistic world that IS rock history.  Lita Ford has become without a single doubt in my soupy mind as being THE best female rocker ever.  That's a tall task when you think of her former band mate Joan Jett and the legend that is Debbie Harry but Ford trumps them all.  Lita Ford epitomizes hair metal (if I'm being honest hard rock too).

That's a difficult task if you think about it really.  When one considers all of the bands and performers that graced the airwaves, it wouldn't have been much of a stretch that Ford could have gone the way of Vixen or even Joan Jett.  Ford's greatest traits are personified with her unwavering form of music.  As the genre began to fade and acts began trying to change to fit into the new world of "grunge", Ford simply didn't.  Her music has the same feel and power that it did then.

Through the leather, tattoos, screaming guitar and the fallen dreams of so many spiky haired performers wafted away like chaff on a gentle breeze there remained a select few.  Lita Ford proved to me that despite the stereotypical hair metal performer, Ford can look into the mirror and the reflection she sees is far from "hair metal".  Lita Ford has proven to me that she should be considered "rock royalty".  No female band from that era can hold a candle to her accomplishments.

What I took away from her concert at the Mississippi Moon Bar was that Lita Ford is the epitome of talent and that every one of you should look for a show near you!  Listen to her CD's (or cassettes) on the way to the show and see what real talent is and was from the era of hair.

Incredible show!!

1 comment:

  1. I have always been accused of liking Lita for her looks. I think she is the most beautiful rocker ever. Having said that, I have LOVED her music since the Runaways. She has a guitar that has her name down the frets. No fret markings,and her name is not marking the normal fret marks.She knows how to play without them. 99 percent of guys can't. She is an awesome guitarist and sings pretty damn good too. I've seen her live. My only complaint,she never played anything off the first 2 albums. Great live artist. Love Lita Always!!