Joan Jett and The Blackhearts Bad Reputation Nation

Fighter Jett On Runway

"Hey, hey, hey - check out these five hot chicks on TV! They think they're a band or something? They think they're serious? Isn't that cute ... These bubblegum teenyboppers will be gone in four years, tops ..."

No, this isn't a typical reaction to the Spice Girls - but to a similar group that existed from 1975 to 1979: The Runaways, featuring a teenage singer named Joan Jett. While not nearly as successful (or fluffy) as The Spice Girls, The Runaways suffered just as much scorn at the hands, uh, pens of music critics.

Time wounds all heels. Two decades later, Joan Jett is cool. She's featured in Rolling Stone's recent "Women in Rock" issue. She's become a strong-willed icon of the alternative music scene. Some have called her the "original riot grrl," a term used to describe certain female punk bands in the Pacific Northwest.

Former grunge queen Courtney Love even cites The Runaways as an influence (on what, we're not sure, since another Hole album seems as unlikely as a Nirvana reunion). Jett shed her bubblegum image - with some difficulty - to come back in 1982 with the No. 1 hit "I Love Rock 'n' Roll". And while she hasn't reached that level of fame since, her recent work on the Iggy Pop tribute album, We Will Fall, a new greatest hits album and a studio album to come in the new year all points to comeback city.

"I hope you're right," Jett says, in a throaty Brooklyn accent over the phone. "There's a lot out there, so people get focused on other things, and you want to try to refocus them on to your music or try to turn people on to it that maybe have heard of you but never really listened, you know? So it's an opportunity, with two albums and hopefully a lot of excitement, yeah, we hope that people will be ready to listen."

Playing with The Blackhearts at the Thunderdome on Wednesday, Jett says that "women in rock" is still a novel idea, although people tend to be more accepting than when the Runaways were around.

"Now the people seem to be a bit more willing to listen to women play," she says, "but I don't think it's as open as people think it is. Guys get to play the full spectrum. They can play Metallica, Jane's Addiction, Oasis, the whole cross-section, into Michael Jackson, every kind of music. Women get to be heard being pop singers and that's it. It stops at the rock 'n' roll. And those are the walls I want to break down. Even though we have come a long way, we've got a long way to go."

Jett won't overtly put down The Spice Girls, but says that "when something like that gets the shot, and something that I would consider to be more real to people's lives doesn't get a shot, it's tough."

On the other hand, what's to say that history won't repeat itself? In 2017, you may by reading a Cyber-Sun article about Melanie Brown - a.k.a. Scary Spice - and her enormous influence on the next generation of "women in rock." Stranger things have happened.

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