I absolutely love Joan Jett. She is, arguably, the most influential female artist in all of rock history. Jett was the original “riot grrrl”, and, Kathleen Hannah (of Bikini Kill) would agree. If not for Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and Jett‘s former band, The Runaways, most of the music that I love would not even exist today. Go to my blog Rock Chicks Rule! if you doubt. But, recently, a co-worker [a female co-worker, no less!] doubted Joan Jett‘s rightful place in rock history. Ugh! So, let me, first, rundown Jett‘s best recorded moments, 1980-1993 …
1980/81: Joan Jett/Bad Reputation. Jett‘s self-titled solo debut was released in 1980, but, then re-released in 1981 as Bad Reputation by the only label that would distribute it despite her, well, bad reputation! The Ramones-inspired title track is my favorite Jett hit, and, one of my all-time favorites songs, period. The song has been covered so many times, including by one of my favorite pop/punkers, The Dollyrots (who were once signed to Jett‘s Blackheart Records). But, “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)”, which was originally recorded by Jett idol Gary Glitter in 1973, is on this disc, too. “You Don’t Know What You Got” was a minor hit and an awesome track. “Don’t Abuse Me” is a cool Runaways cover. Jett vowed to include one Runaways cover on every album. This album was self-produced with the help of Steve Jones and Paul Cook of The Sex Pistols, and included an early version of “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” that didn’t make the final cut. An impressive debut, nonetheless.
1981: I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll. Jett‘s mega-successful breakthrough was her first album as Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”, originally recorded by The Arrows in 1975, was #1, like, forever (10 weeks, I think), and I remember when the radio played that song every 10 minutes! “Crimson And Clover”, originally recorded by Tommy James & the Shondells in 1968, was the huge follow-up single. I love that song because Jett didn’t change the gender specific pronouns (making that song kind of risqué back then). Of course, it wouldn’t rhyme if she did. “(I’m Gonna) Run Away” and “Love Is Pain” are excellent tracks, and, the Runaways cover, “You’re Too Possessive”, is cool, too. The label didn’t like Jett‘s leather ensemble on the cover of her debut, so they asked her to dress nicer for this release. On the commentary track of The Runaways (2010), Jett said she hated that jacket, and would never wear pink, or any bright color, by choice!
1983: Album. The follow-up to I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll was a relative disappointment, commercially, since a hit single, comparable to the previous singles, was nowhere to be heard. However, this album is not her worst. The snotty punker “Had Enough”, where Jett does her best Johnny Rotten impersonation, is awesome, as is the Runaways cover “I Love Playin’ With Fire”. And, “Secret Love” and “Everyday People” (originally recorded by Sly & the Family Stone in 1968) are cool, too.
1984: Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth. Great cover. Great title. Great album. Again, no big hits, but, it doesn’t matter. Her cover of The Runaways‘ signature song “Cherry Bomb” (which she co-wrote with Sunset Strip impresario Kim Fowley), with raspy screams, is amazing! “I Love You Love Me Love” (originally recorded by Gary Glitter in 1973) and a B-side “I Can’t Control Myself” should’ve been huge hits. “Long Time”, “Talkin’ Bout My Baby” and “Frustrated” are more good rockers, while “Hold Me” is an excellent Beatles-esque ballad. But, this album is a solid listen, from start to finish!
1986: Good Music. This is Jett‘s worst album, and, the most ironically titled! Enough said.
1988: Up Your Alley. Jett returned with, arguably, her best album, song for song, of the decade! “I Hate Myself For Loving You” was a monster single and my second favorite Jett hit [note that my two favorite Joan Jett tracks were co-written by Jett herself]! “Little Liar” is Jett‘s hair metal power ballad. Jett‘s former Runaway bandmate Lita Ford should be proud of her. Her cover of The Stooges‘ 1969 proto-punk classic “I Wanna Be Your Dog” is sexy awesome goodness [but that song, by The Stooges, is amazing anyway]! “I Still Dream About You”, “You Want In, I Want Out” and “Desire” are excellent tracks, too. But, like Glorious Results, this album is a good listen, start to finish (except for “Tulane”).
1990: The Hit List. Jett included covers of popular songs on every album, and some were big hits for her, so an entire album of covers is kind of pointless, but, this album isn’t bad. Her take on The Sex Pistols‘ 1977 punk classic “Pretty Vacant” is snotty awesome goodness! Her cover of AC/DC‘s “Dirty Deeds” is pretty good, too, but, you won’t like it if you’re a big fan of the original. And, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” showcases Jett‘s voice, which seems to get better every year.
1991: Notorious. And, yet another amazing record with no hit singles! Paul Westerberg, of America’s best kept secret (and, one of my favorite bands!) The Replacements, co-wrote and provided harmony vocals on “Backlash”, and his influence is unmistakable (if you’re me!). Westerberg also recorded the duet “Let’s Do It” with Jett for the Tank Girl soundtrack (1995). Anyway, the garage rocker “I Want You” and the pleasantly familiar “The Only Good Thing (You Ever Said Was Goodbye)”, from Notorious, could have been hit singles, and, the Runaways cover “Wait For Me” is awesome! Oh, and “Lie To Me”, “Goodbye”, “Ashes in the Wind”, and “Don’t Surrender” are good, too! Great disc, for sure!
1993: Flashback. This album is an outtakes and rarities compilation, with nothing really exciting except for Jett‘s original version of “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”. But, the 1998 re-release included Jett‘s punky cover of Johnny O’Keefe‘s “Real Wild Child (Wild One)” from We Will Fall: The Iggy Pop Tribute (1998).
OK, this was, basically, the end of Joan Jett‘s commercially successful period. However, commercial success is not indicative of a true artist. A rock star, maybe, but not an artist. Joan Jett is a rock star and a true artist. Her later work, overall, is way better than just her ’80s hits, so, stay tuned for “Jett Fueled 1993-2013” …
And, for those who deny that Joan Jett is a rock legend, Jett has this to offer …