Joan Jett to Rock the Redding Civic
By Phil Reser
Let's Get Loud
By Phil Reser
Photo courtesy of Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
“I come from a place where rock ‘n’ roll means something,” Joan Jett proclaimed during her 2015 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “It means more than music, more than fashion, more than the pose. Rock ‘n’ roll is an idea and an ideal. Sometimes, because we love the music and we make the music, we forget the political impact it has around the world. Rock is all about being an outsider looking in, about standing up against the status quo. About getting loud.”
The veteran songwriter, singer, guitarist and record producer remembers being told at a young age that women couldn’t and shouldn’t play rock ‘n’ roll. “Even as a kid, it was so illogical to me. It’s like, what do you mean? That girls can’t master the instruments? You don’t mean they can’t master the instrument. What you mean is they’re not allowed, socially. It’s a societal thing.”
She also believes there should be more women in the Hall of Fame, and more women in rock. “They’re out there, they just don’t get the notice the pop girls do. Go to any city and there’s an all-girl rock band. It’s just a matter of society wanting to hear that kind of music. But people’s tastes change, so you have to just do what you love and hope other people love it, too.”
Jett formed her first serious band, The Runaways, at age 15. The all-girl line-up included herself on guitar and vocals, Sandy West on drums, Cherie Currie on lead vocals, Jackie Fox on bass guitar and Lita Ford on guitar.
Ahead of their time, The Runaways performed a hard-rock sound during an era when disco music was king. They also felt dismissed by audiences and critics because of their young age and their gender, and the public didn’t seem to know what to do with five girls who sang about sex, rebelling and partying.
As the band evolved, Jett began emerging as the group’s lead singer. She was already a powerful force behind the scenes, writing most of the band’s songs.
The Runaways broke up in 1979, around disagreement about the direction of their musical style. Jett’s next challenge was to put together a solo music career, starting with three songs she wrote during a visit to London with former Sex Pistols Paul Cook and Steve Jones.
Back in Los Angeles, she begin creating more songs while she was hired to produce the first and only record released by the Los Angeles punk band, The Germs.
With her foot in the Southern California music scene, she connected with long-time music producer and songwriter Kenny Laguna, who took a serious interest in working with her to get a record label to distribute her solo project. Despite their hard work, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts’ “Bad Reputation” album was met with rejection by 23 record companies.
In response, Jett and Laguna decided to start their own record label, calling it Blackheart Records. With that new venture, Jett became the first female artist to own and have direct control over an independent record company.
After a year of touring in support of Bad Reputation, she and Laguna put together a second album. “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” became a huge hit, driven in large part by the title track, which hit the top of the pop charts in early 1982. She had two more hit singles that year with her version of Tommy James’ “Crimson and Clover” and Gary Glitter’s “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah).”
They released three additional albums between 1983 and 1986, and Jett returned with the album “Up Your Alley” in 1988. It was a Top 20 album on the Billboard 200, and was her second platinum certified album in the United States. The album featured the Top 10 single “I Hate Myself For Loving You.” After the release of “The Hit List” in 1990, Jett charted again with the release of “Unvarnished” in 2013.
In addition to building her own career, she has worked as a producer for groups like Bikini Kill and L7, along with several other female-led rock bands that drew inspiration from the punk-glam rock sound of the Runaways.
Recalls Jett, “In the early days of the Runaways, our audience had never seen anything like girls playing rock and roll. We put it right in their face, man.”
Which is where Joan Jett is still putting it now.
Joan Jett • Friday, August 11
Redding Civic Auditorium • www.reddingcivic.com