Joan Jett and The Blackhearts Bad Reputation Nation

Bad Reputation Press Kit, 1980

The following is the original text and photos from Boardwalk Record's Press Kit for "Bad Reputation" sent to media outlets in 1980:

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Media Information
The Boardwalk Entertainment Co
9884 Santa Monica Boulevard,
Beverly Hills, California 90210

Joan Jett

Joan Jett is one of the very few, who, in Lou Reed's words, have been saved by rock and roll. "I grew up with rock," says the 21-year old singer/guitarist. "Most people thrived on Wonderbread during their formative years...I had my band." At fifteen, Ms. Jett founded and led the all-girl The Runaways. Now she is the leader of her own band, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.

Jett has been acclaimed by critics on four continents as a living symbol of rock spirit. "Joan Jett is a black ball of biting, kicking and scratching fury, a creature that was born wrong and soon got over that and ended up with enough balls to have Slazenger shareholder sweating," says London's Record Mirror. She proved her ability in the studio by producing an LP named one of the best of the year by the LA Times (the debut album by The Germs.) She is admired by figures as diverse as The Who's Peter Townshend and The Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde. Joan has also been a consistent record seller. As a Runaway, she won three gold LPs in Japan and Australia: The Runaways, Queens of Noise, and Live In Japan.

Her Boardwalk debut, "Bad Reputation," is a result of a collaboration between Joan and pop music veterans Kenny Laguna (producer of Jonathan Richman, Greg Kihn and The Steve Gibbons Band) and Ritchie Cordell (writer of "Gimme, Gimme Good Loving" and "Tighter and Tighter"; producer of "Crystal Blue Persuasion"; and writer/producer of "Mony, Mony" and "I Think We're Alone Now").

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Earning the right to be onstage wasn't easy. "I've slept on a lot of floors and eaten the rolls and salads off of a lot of other people's Holiday Inn room service trays to get where I am," says Jett.

Joan Jett was born in Philadelphia, moved with her family to Baltimore (where she became an Oriole fanatic) and moved to Southern California at age 14. On her first Christmas on the west coast her parents bought her a guitar, and she's never put it down. The next two years found her mostly in her room playing along to records by Gary Glitter, David Bowie, Slade and T. Rex. At 15, she and four other girls -- Cherie Currie, Lita Ford, Sandy West and Jackie Fox -- formed The Runaways. Joan sang lead vocals, played rhythm guitar and wrote or co-wrote much of the band's material. The band recorded five LPs with one -- the live album -- becoming one of the biggest selling imports in U.S. and U.K. history.

The Runaways disbanded in 1979 after four years of high-energy rock and the resulting high tensions. Joan knew she needed to get back onstage quickly. "I can't stand to be off stage," she says. "Everything that's good about life is good about being onstage." She put an ad in an L.A. paper and recruited The Blackhearts, all local musicians, the youngest being 16 year-old bass player Gary Ryan. Joan's band also features guitar player Eric Ambel from L.A. and drummer Lee Crystal from New York. Before putting the Blackhearts together, Joan allowed herself a brief break to produce an LP by The Germs in L.A.

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Then Jett took her band to Europe, where they broke in their act playing Holland's Lochem Festival for 25,000 people. "We ran out of money, and were determined to keep touring," says Jett. "A Dutch band called The Rowsers let us sleep on the floor of their house. That floor was freezing. I'd come back from a gig dressed in black leather and covered in sweat and end up with my teeth chattering." Europe had its colorful moments.

Now Joan Jett has returned to the U.S. and her first solo album has been incredibly well received with admirers like Deborah Harry, rooting for her. And major newspaper reviewers, from the New York Times to the Post and Village Voice, have joined in praise. "Energetic & engaging...aggressive attack...appealing melodies...Ms. Jett provides a commanding visual focus." (Robert Palmer - N.Y. Times.) "A good, glitzy, hard rock album and (her)...live gigs have been very impressive." (Robert Christgau - Village Voice.)

Yes, Joan Jett -- the girl who was raised on rock and roll instead of Wonderbread -- is showing the world there's more than one way to grow up strong and healthy.


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The Village Voice
Vol. XXVI No. 4 January 21-27, 1981
Joan Jett Bangs Her Gong


Released around the same time as The Ramones, back in the Bicentennial Summer of '76, the first Runaways LP made the band seem like a bunch of glittery L.A. dolls rather than sisters of all the young punks from back East. Formed at the end of '75 about a year after Mott the Hoople's masacara ran out and Bowie went (relatively) butch, they were too late for glam and too early for full punk. Yet one snap of their witty bubblegum hard rock gave them away as dedicated followers of the British glitter-pop fashion -- the '72-'74 hits of Slade, T. Rex, Mott, Suzi Quatro, etc. What gave the rouge-rock connection depth, though, was the band's intentionally threatening omnisexuality. In fact, if the group hadn't been saddled with endless problems they had the potential to become a strong continued voice of glitter's aggressive gender politics.

Still, on the overwhelming negative side there was Kim Fowley as Warholian scam-Svengali, a snickering press either humiliating them or hyping them, plus -- oh yes -- the band's often mediocre music piled in with the few gems. All of this worked to invert the group's potentially exciting sexual aggression into a Oui magazine fantasy tease. But the worst problem was within the band itself. If featured writer Joan Jett had started out as lead singer instead of Cherie Currie, there probably would have been less mocking and more rocking. Besides having less singing personality than Joan, Cherie never came off as more than a vaguely frisky object, as was borne out in a going-through-the-motions show I saw in '76. Cherie played tough, but Joan was the real aggressor. She would have demanded respect. Cherie later found a perfect vehicle as the abused "bad girl" in Foxes. By then, Joan had inherited the Runaways' lead spot. The next time I saw the queens of noise, in early '78 opening for (guess who?) The Ramones, Jett, though likable and tough, had to strain to live down the band's joke status while holding up the dead weight of the rest of the group.

Today Joan Jett as 21-year-old solo artist is still getting over her bad reputation. Her self-titled debut LP is only distributed independently. But on that album and in her recent live shows the last thing she's doing is pleading for acceptance. Instead she's perfected an "if-you-don't-wanna-fuck-me-fuck-off" stance that makes good on all the Runaways' potential for glittery sexual threat. The first song she recorded for the album, with ex-Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook, was Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me," which includes its own litmus test for legitimacy -- if you can cover Gore's protofeminist anthem in 1980 without coming off as a pretentious spokesperson, you've got a right to its power. Jett does just that, with "politics" that seem totally unintentional. Her troubled past may lend extra credibility to her sexual liberation, but when she sings it's for the moment.

The entire album, as well as the live show I saw at The Bottom Line a few weeks ago, comes off as a spontaneous declaration of independence. Jett's new songs of defiance and autonomy have the ultra-catchy hooks much of the Runaways' material lacked and live she's working with by far her best and tightest band to date. Jett's Revlon-rock influences are now more obvious than ever, in the music as well as in her persona, with two strong Gary Glitter renditions and a real Mott "All the Way from Memphis"-style sax freak-out in the recorded version of "Jezebel." More contemporary influences explode into the blitzkrieg blur of chords in "Bad Reputation" or the anarchy of Cook and Jones in "Don't Abuse Me."

The album is a relentlessly fun party favor, but live Joan quadruples her kicks -- on vinyl she seems restrained by comparison. Her hoarse scream is her best calling card and live it helps her come across as blunt, funny and sexy as Marc Bolan banging his gong. This unselfconscious, even bullheaded gutsiness is what personalizes the many familiar covers. At the Bottom Line gig she added The Rolling Stones' (surprise, surprise) glitter-period "Starfucker" to her set, making the song's bitchiness seem joyfully gratuitous. The most noticeable omission from the show was "You Don't Own Me," probably because it's too slow. But by the end we were utterly convinced no one could own her. Now or ever.

14133 copyright 1980 News Group Publications Inc.

Jett Lag Productions/The Boardwalk Entertainment Co
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