After a four-year stint with all-girl rock band The Runaways in the late 1970s, chick-rocker Joan Jett was at a bit of an impasse. After trying in vain to launch a solo career in England, she ended up recording a self-titled solo album with producer and friend Kenny Laguna in 1980, then ended up self-releasing it after nearly two dozen labels rejected it.
Then came Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and the hit song that launched her to international fame as a solo artist.
“I Love Rock ‘n Roll” was first recorded by the Arrows in the mid-1970s, then covered by Jett with members of the Sex Pistols during her time in England. When Jett and Laguna formed her backup band the Blackhearts by placing an ad in LA Weekly, they decided to re-record “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” and make it the title track of the band’s first album. The song, punctuated with sparse but powerful guitars, driven by a solid rock beat and carried by Jett’s low, gritty vocals, struck a nerve with the public. The song shot to the top of the Billboard charts in the spring of 1981 and stayed there for seven weeks. The album itself went platinum. The interest she generated led to her label mining for her past material and re-releasing her self-titled album under the title Bad Reputation, after one of the singles on the record.
Joan Jett went on to record several more charting albums, and at least one more platinum-seller, but “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” has proven to be her defining moment by far. Jett has continued to record and perform over the years, also venturing occasionally into acting and producing for other bands and artists. She has gone on to be a rock icon, being named by Rolling Stone as one of the Top 100 guitarists of all time in 2003 (only one of two women on that list).
Rock fans…listen to the opening of the video for “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” below. Recognize the song coming out of the jukebox before Jett starts singing? It’s her own song, “Bad Reputation.” Enjoy!