Joan Jett and The Blackhearts Bad Reputation Nation

Rock Of Ages: Jett Engines Roar With Hard Rock

Joan Jett ought to trademark the phrase "rock and roll." Then she could licence it out to bands who meet the Jett-set criteria of what makes rock: noise, dirt and sweat.

'Cause frankly, man, she's sick off all the generic crap out there being peddled as hard stuff. Nobody wants light beer when they ordered a shot of tequila.

"Sweaty, loud, dirty, three-or-four-chord, hook-laden melodies - guitar songs, that's what I consider rock and roll," Jett said in a phone interview.

Yes, Jett loves to sweat. Perspiration begets conflagration. Unfortunately, thanks to our Alberta "summer," she may need a parka to stay warm when she plays the closing set at Rockfest '99 tomorrow night.

"Being sweaty on stage is a big part of it for me".

I have a better show when I'm sweaty. Even this summer it's been really tough to work up any kind of sweat. So I have to work real hard."

We can only hope that Jett's engine is able to generate enough heat to keep her show flying tomorrow night as she takes the stage with The Blackhearts, the current version of the band she formed in 1980 via an ad in the LA Times.

Of course, Jett herself has been on the scene since 1976, when she formed the all-girl band The Runaways with drummer Sandy West. Twenty-odd years later, she's still around, seeming to consistently hover just below the radar of mainstream success after her heyday with hits like "I Love Rock 'N Roll" and "I Hate Myself For Loving You.

Instead of selling out 10,000-seat venues, she's playing rockfests with whatever-happened-to? bands, making stops in bustling metropoli like Uncasville, Connecticut, Croton on the Hudson, New York and Leduc, Alberta.

So what? It's about the music.

"I enjoy it, actually," Jett said. "It really is down to the crowd on how good a show we're going to have."

What she does mind is the increasing tendency of radio stations and the media to classify any kind of music played by women as rock.

"Rock and roll is a catchphrase the press uses to grab attention. So any woman who even sings is a rock-and-roller, and that's annoying to a woman who does play rock and roll."

Does that sound like a shot against Canadian songstress Sarah McLachlan and her happy, hippy Lilith Fair? No, no, a thousand times no.

"I'm totally supportive of the Lilith Fair and all the artists on it," said Jett, making damn sure that her point was completely understood. "I'm totally into it, man."

No, the problem is the dilution of the once-pure music known as rock into sub-genres and crossover categories. That's all well and good, but where has real rock and roll gone?

And why does the stuff being flogged as rock suck so badly? "I think there are not a lot of great songs out there by the rock bands that are getting airplay. It's all mid-tempo bullshit with no hook. And that's really the truth."

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