35 Years Ago: Lita Ford Breaks Through With ‘Kiss Me Deadly’
Former Runaways star Lita Ford had penned quite a few songs by the time she got to her third solo album, Lita, in 1988. But somebody else's tune became her first big hit.
The No. 12 hit "Kiss Me Deadly," which put Ford in the Billboard Top 20 for the first time in her career, was written by Mick Smiley – a onetime Billy Idol bassist previously best-known for "Magic" from 1984's Ghostbusters as well as songs for other movies. Producer Mike Chapman found the song, and Ford related well to its provocative opening lyric, "Went to a party last Saturday night – didn't get laid, got in a fight."
Still, Ford told Songfacts that they "weren't sure about it" at first. Quite a bit of work followed in the studio.
"Kiss Me Deadly" was initially "slower and it wasn't such a high key," Ford later remembered. "So we took the original version of the song [and] we raised the key, then we sped up the track – because before it was really slow and it had no energy. So we raised the key, cranked up the energy and there it was."
While still decidedly rock, Ford's version of the song nods slightly toward New Wave, with David Ezrin's keyboards adding extra texture. "Mike Chapman is one of the people who taught me that you need to make a song build dynamically," Ford added, "and 'Kiss Me Deadly' is huge in dynamics. It just goes straight up from a keyboard and vocal [until] at the end of the song, all mayhem, all hell's breaking loose – and the dynamics are up here on the song."
Watch Lita Ford's 'Kiss Me Deadly' Video
She was still the primary composer on Lita, writing seven of nine tracks, but Ford told Songfacts she had no qualms about recording "Kiss Me Deadly" or making it the album's first single.
"To me, a good song is a good song. Good songs are really hard to find, and it doesn't necessarily matter if you wrote it or not. Do the royalties go in your pocket? No. The royalties will go in Mick Smiley's pocket, but there’s other mechanical and other royalties that go along with it, like airplay. You always reap the benefits somehow, in some way or shape or form."
"Kiss Me Deadly" pushed Lita to a career-best No. 29 on the Billboard 200 and a platinum certification. The song subsequently surfaced in films such as Captain Marvel, The Kite Runner and Romeo & Juliet vs. the Living Dead, among others. It would be surpassed just 10 months later by the album's third single, "Close My Eyes Forever," a duet with Ozzy Osbourne that reached No. 8 on the Hot 100.
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