Fox focuses on her business and her seven cats. (“I am a full-on crazy cat lady,” she said.) She said she suffered stage fright as a musician, and is wary of attention. She didn’t want to be photographed for this story.
“I want people who were Precious Metal fans in love with the image of me as a 24-year-old to have that,” said Fox, now 57. “I haven’t been in the music industry for 15-plus years. My focus isn’t, ‘Do I look sexy in this outfit.’ I’m just not interested in that game anymore.”
Girl with a dream
Fox was born Mara Fuchs in Jersey City, N.J. Her mother was a Wall Street bond trader; her father practiced law. When her parents divorced, her father raised her.
As a young girl growing up in greater New York City, Fox dreamed of forming an all-female rock band. She was already planning for future fame by using the English translation of her German last name.
She begged for a guitar, and when she was 8, she got one — a classical one with nylon strings.
“I realized I couldn’t play the songs I wanted to play,” she said. “It was the wrong instrument for the job.”
She listened to her dad’s record collection, which included The Beatles, Yes, Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond and “a lot of Irish and Scottish folk music,” Fox said.
For her 11th birthday, her father gave her a Bay City Rollers album, one of the first records of her own.
“I was out-of-my-mind mad about it,” she said.
Soon posters of the all-boy band from Scotland covered every surface of her bedroom.
To raise money for instruments, Fox started working at 11. She snagged a job at a hardware store for half minimum wage, what underage workers were paid back then. It was the first of series of odd jobs — “anything I had to do to get my hands on musical equipment,” she said.
She scraped together $150 for her first electric guitar. She needed someone to jam with, so she hustled to make more money to buy another guitar for her friend.
Her passion for music fueled her through to graduation.
“I can’t tell you how much I hated school,” she said. “I had it in my head that if I couldn’t finish high school, I would be giving myself permission to not finish things my whole life. I made sure I graduated high school. Then I booked it to California.”
Fox gained admission to the Guitar Institute of Technology (which later became part of the Musicians Institute) in Los Angeles. Before she could even complete the yearlong guitar course, she landed her first record deal at 19.
In October 1983, she answered a classified ad placed by drummer Susette Andres. By February 1984, they added bassist Alex Rylance, vocalist Leslie Knauer and guitarist Janet Robin to officially form Precious Metal. They played clubs around L.A., building a small but dedicated fan base.
“We were incredibly disciplined in an era when a lot of drugs and partying were going on, and we were all very good musicians. … We didn’t waste money or time. We rehearsed three days a week even when we weren’t gigging,” she said. “We were taking this lethally seriously because we had to be twice as good to get half the amount of respect.”
The buzz reached Southern California rock station KROQ .
“The DJ said on the radio, ‘If anyone knows Precious Metal, get them to send a tape,’” Fox said.
The band sent its demo “Girls Night Out.” When the song aired, the president of PolyGram Records happened to hear it.
Precious Metal nabbed a record deal and released “Right Here, Right Now” in 1985. (Andres left the band just before, with Carol “Control” Duckworth taking over on the drums.) The band released “That Kind of Girl” in 1988, and “Precious Metal” in 1990.
The band was born in MTV’s heyday, which meant music videos were obligatory. For a cover of “Mr. Big Stuff,” Precious Metal brokered a deal to pay $10,000 to Donald Trump’s charity for the real-estate tycoon to appear in the video. The band could only afford to send Knauer and Robin to New York for filming, Fox recalled, and they bunked at her mother’s place. At the last minute, Trump demanded $250,000. The band couldn’t meet that figure, so instead edited his face out of the final video. (Several media outlets revived this story during Trump’s campaign for president in 2016 and 2020.)
Precious Metal toured North America, mostly playing venues for 2,500 or so fans. In 1986, Precious Metal played for its biggest audience yet — 250,000 concertgoers at the Festival de la Amistad en Acapulco, which featured hard rockers King Kobra and other bands. Fox will never forget the rush.
“We played for an ocean of people,” Fox said. “There’s a transfer of energy from an audience to a performer. It literally makes you high.”