Joan Jett and The Blackhearts Bad Reputation Nation

Joan Jett Interview

"It was like you were in the eye of the hurricane," says rocker Joan Jett, recalling the spring of 1982 when her single "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" hit number-one on the country's Hot 100 singles chart.

"You'd see Billboard and things like that and it was exciting -- but you didn't really know what was going on or how people's views of you were changing. The Blackhearts were this punk garage band that nobody would even deal with, then all of a sudden we have this number-one song and we're mainstream. It's all perception. We didn't change a thing."

With more than 20 years of professional experience under her belt, it could be said that the hard-rocking, straight-shooting Jett still hasn't changed a thing.

From playing in a national touring band at age 15 to scoring a number-one hit single and more recently, becoming an outspoken leader of women's safety issues, Jett's career has been marked by a sense of contemporary validity and progression, while never straying too far from her early punk roots.

Her career began in 1975 as a member of the all-girl group The Runaways. When Jett was only 15, the band was signed to a national recording contract, and by the time the group dissolved in 1978, they'd toured the United States, part of that time opening for the Ramones.

Jett says that although she and other members of the group were extremely young and were often perceived as an industry-created project, the music was always paramount to the band. She says the fact that most critics never could get past their sex-pot image was disturbing.

"That was really frustrating," she says. "We had the enthusiasm to talk about the music and people always got around it -- I guess (they were) threatened by teenage girls that wanted to play rock 'n' roll ... As soon as we let people know that it wasn't a phase -- that this was something we wanted to do -- that's when people got strange."

Although the group was frequently panned by critics and ignored by radio, time has allowed Jett to recall that period with fondness.

"The thing that I remember overall is that we had a good time and I really enjoyed myself," she says. "It was a lot of work because we were always on the road, and when we weren't on the road, we were making albums."

In 1978, The Runaways disbanded, and in 1981, Jett's solo debut, Bad Reputation" was released. In late '81 came Joan Jett & The Blackhearts' "I Love Rock 'n' Roll," with the single of the same name soaring to the top of the charts.

Jett continued to record and tour throughout the '80s, going gold with 1983's Album, and platinum with 1988's Up Your Alley, which featured the top-10 "I Hate Myself for Loving You." She hit the top-40 again in 1990 with a cover of the AC/DC classic "Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap)."

More recently, Jett has worked on a project called Evil Stig, a band made up of members of The Gits, a Seattle group whose lead singer, Mia Zapata, was raped and murdered. Jett, who was living in Seattle at the time, dedicated her video "Go Home" -- a song about being stalked -- to Zapata, and began dedicating the song to her at live shows.

Jett later befriended the band and played with them on a short tour, singing Mia's parts. Benefit shows were held to raise money to finance a private investigation into Zapata's murder, and the shows were then recorded and released as an album. Her murder also inspired the formation of Seattle's "Home Alive" program, a women's self-defense program. "I thought it was really wonderful that something positive could come out of such a tragic thing," says Jett.

Currently, Jett is having success with her rendition of "Love Is All Around," the theme of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

ESPN asked her to record the song to promote women's basketball during the NCAA tournament, and now, radio has begun spinning the track.

"I was more than happy to help," she says. "I'm a big sports fan and I'm an advocate of women doing what they want to do."

Jett says those heading to Sunday's show will see a no-frills rock 'n' roll show, with a wide selection of material spanning her whole career.

"It's straight forward," she says. "No flash-pods or anything like that. It's just us and the audience ... Hopefully it will be hot enough for some sweating -- to me, that's very important."

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