Joan Jett and The Blackhearts Bad Reputation NationJoan Jett and The Blackhearts Bad Reputation Nation
Joan Jett and The Blackhearts Bad Reputation Nation

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Page updated on April 7, 2018
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Celebrations kick off at Rock Hall with special screening of JOAN JETT documentary

CLEVELAND-- Celebrations are in full swing at the Rock Hall as the 33rd Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction is quickly approaching.

The Rock Hall kicked off festivities Friday night in a special collaboration with the Cleveland International Film Festival.

A large crowd enjoyed a special screening of the documentary, "Bad Reputation," which follows the life of rocker JOAN JETT.

The documentary highlights everything from the early days of Jett's career with the band The RUNAWAYS to her success fronting The BLACKHEARTS.

"We were very fortunate to have this brand new film with JOAN JETT explaining her career, so between the inductions and this great new film, all the stars aligned this time," said Todd Mesek, the Vice President of Marketing at the Rock Hall.

JOAN JETT AND THE BLACKHEARTS were inducted into the Rock Hall in 2015.

Saturday is Celebration Day at the Rock Hall, which means fans can get into the museum for free.

JOAN JETT talks about Times Square movie similarities and being Screen-Tested

'New Wave: Dare To Be Different' on Showtime Is Fun If Faulty Look Back At Pioneering Radio Station WLIR

I hate putting on my old man shoes (A.K.A. New Balance 992s), but lemme tell ya, when it comes to discovering cool new music, you kids got it easy. Everything in the history of recorded music is but a keyboard click away, while nearly 70 years of rock n' roll culture is continually being mined by music blogs, music supervisors, and boutique record labels, turning obscure bands from yesteryear into critically lauded touring artists. Before the Internet, if you wanted to hear anything outside the mainstream, you had to hunt it down via fanzines, tape trading, and college radio stations whose signals were so weak you had to continually turn the dial to tune them in.

One of the first commercial radio stations in the nation to try to break the grip of dinosaur classic rock programming was Long Island's WLIR. Years before the grunge bands ushered in the alt rock heyday, before Green Day brought pop-punk into every living room, "The original new music station" showcased British post-punk, American new wave, synth-pop, indie rock, reggae and other music you wouldn't hear outside of record stores, rock clubs and college dorms. The 2017 documentary New Wave: Dare To Be Different is a fun, if faulty, revisionist history of the station and its legacy, airing on Showtime.

Founded in 1959, WLIR 92.7 was the first stereo FM radio station on Long Island, the seemingly endless run of suburbs and farmland east of the New York City borough of Queens. In the early 1970s, the station adopted the progressive rock radio format (not to be confused with the genre), playing album tracks by contemporary rock bands of the era. Because of their location outside the city and competition from other area stations, WLIR struggled to attract listeners and advertising dollars. "We had to do something," says DJ Denis McNamara.

On August 2, 1982, the station switched over to the New Music radio format. Longhaired classic rock bands were out, funny haircuts and synthesizers were in. DJ Steve Jones called the switch "an earthquake of seismic activity," while old school Long Island rockers like Blue Öyster Cult and The Good Rats considered it a betrayal of the highest order. The old motto of "Long Island's Original Rock Station" was replaced with "The Station That Dares To Be Different," hence the documentary's title.

WLIR soon became a beachhead from which bands operating throughout the greater post-punk diaspora could launch their careers in proximity of the United States' major media market. DJs and show producers would go on record buying trips to England or work directly with distributors to get the latest imports. Many British artists got their first American exposure on the station, making their ramshackle offices in Hempstead a crucial tour stop to plug a new record or club date.

Though the documentary's title name-checks new wave, the genre was actually on the wane by the time WLIR switched formats. Indeed the station itself preferred the terms "new music" and later, "alternative." Their playlist may have included '70s holdovers and local heroes like Blondie, the Ramones and JOAN JETT, but it was soon flooded with a deluge of British acts, be they video-centric pretty boys Duran Duran, the synth-pop of Depeche Mode, or mopey rockers like Echo & the Bunnymen and The Cure.

Despite it's new found success, the station continued to struggle financially. Employees joke that the call letters stood for "Low Income Radio," and recount how they would rush to cash their paychecks early in the morning, lest the money be gone by afternoon. Meanwhile, an entire suburban club scene sprouted up on Long Island, with WLIR-sponsored events featuring the music they helped popularize. This gives the station's now-middle aged fans a chance to nostalgically reminisce about the haircuts and antics of their youth.

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