Hall of Idols # 52: Joan Jett


Fifty-second installment in a series exploring very important people in my life.

Let me start explaining how this will work: I listed 65 idols of mine. Every Friday (with the exception of those reserved for the Rock Chain posts) I’ll draw one of the names (following a system that it’s really not important to be explained here) and talk about it.

Therefore, the order in which the names will appear doesn’t necessarily shows where they rank in my preference.

As a final introductory note, this is also not a biography article. I’ll just write how I feel about people represented in it, their talent and their importance in my life.

We don’t currently see Rock and Roll as a bigot masculine world anymore. There are plenty of women fronting bands and women’s bands as well. Today, thankfully, it all comes down to talent.

But it wasn’t always like that. Although Folk singers like Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell carved their space and we had Janis Joplin (despite the fact that I hate her voice and think her songs are sleep-inducing bores), the thought of an all-girl Rock band was seen as ludicrous until the mid-seventies.

The Wilson sisters were halfway there in Heart, fronting and commanding the group, but they were two girls in a four-piece band. It took a courageous, driven and especially highly talented girl from Pennsylvania to change all that.

Joan Marie Larkin was born September 22, 1958 in Wynnewood, a suburb of Philadelphia (PA). Her family moved to Rockland (a fitting name, isn’t it?), Maryland, where she won her first guitar at 14 and started taking lessons. He quit because her instructor wanted her to learn folk songs.

A little later her family moved to West Covina, California, in Los Angeles County and she started hanging out at Rodney Bigenheimer’s English Disco to listen to the Glam Rock of the time she loved so much.

She started toying with the idea of forming an all-girl Rock group and with the help of music Svengali, Kim Fowley, The Runaways were born. Of course, they immediately draw attention for being an all-girl Rock band, but they had the songs to back it up. And here’s the core of Joan’s importance: it was her imprint on the songs that gave them a high quality. All others were good (especially Lita Ford) but she was the one with the real talent.

And this was proven when The Runaways broke-up. Although Lita Ford went on to find fame and fortune with some cool songs and albums, Joan’s tunes in her solo career are clearly better. She has the gift of a great songwriter AND a wonderful ear for melody and choosing songs to cover.

And it was those two combined that lead her to superstardom. While still on The Runaways in England, she heard the song “I Love Rock and Roll” played by the Arrows and a light bulb went on in her head.

When The Runaways disbanded, she tried a solo career and with the help of producer Kenny Laguna, Joan recorded his first album Joan Jett and was rejected by 23 (!) major labels. They formed their own Blackheart Records and named the band likewise. With the help of Casablanca records Neil Bogart, Laguna formed Boardwalk Records and re-released the debut under the title Bad Reputation.

On their second album, The Blackhearts recorded “I Love Rock and Roll” (which was also the album’s title) and the rest is Rock and Roll history.

The song hit number one in the Billboard Hot 100 chart and stayed there for seven weeks in a row in the first half of 1982.

With that Joan was free to pursue her musical career and endeavors without pressure and went on to record great albums and other great tunes like “Fake Friends”, a great version of “Crimson and Clover”, “I Hate Myself For Loving You” (the melody is used for the Sunday Night Football theme on NBC) and a killer version of Mary Tyler Moore’s theme “Love is all Around” (which is fitting, since Joan is an active feminist).

I personally love her songs and her attitude and think she’s extremely talented and intelligent. Besides, she’s still good looking at 57, but she was a real knock-out in her twenties. Sexy as hell.

As a final note, she was asked to perform the National Anthem in the game Cal Ripken broke the record of games played consecutively, by request of Cal himself, which is not a small feat.

For all that, Joan, I care about your GOOD reputation, so welcome to the Hall of Idols.

P.S.: Although I’ll elaborate more on the issue on my post on Tuesday, my picks for the Championship series are: Cubs in six and Royals in seven.

Be sure to check out my book “Straight and Lethal”

You can contact me at: carloantico666@gmail.com

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Follow me on twittter: @CarloAntico

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