Joan Jett and The Blackhearts Bad Reputation Nation

April 2008 News

Page updated on April 30, 2008
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Intrepid Rock Journalism JOAN JETT

Click to enlarge Author's Note: This piece, in a somewhat edited form, is slated to appear in the Thursday, May 1st edition of the Frederickburg's appropriately lauded news destination, The Free-Lance Star, most likely on the cover of the Weekender section. Now, enjoy:

Some people take the road less traveled. JOAN JETT had to build her own. With a career going on more than three decades, rock icon and pioneer JOAN JETT has singularly made her own success like none other in rock music, pushing boundaries and shattering perceptions of what one artist, man or woman, can do. Jett, with her back-up band The BLACKHEARTS, will headline the 12th Annual Cinco De Mayo Fiesta at Richmond's Brown's Island on Saturday, May 3.

Best known for fist-in-the-air rock hits "I Love Rock and Roll," "Bad Reputation" and "I Hate Myself for Loving You," JOAN JETT has blazed a wide trail through music, kicking out punchy, straight ahead rock and roll that is as classic as it is rebellious. She will release a greatest hits album, "Fit to be Tied," in June.

As a teenager, Jett helped found the groundbreaking punk band The RUNAWAYS, the first major all-girl band to hit the mainstream.

"We saw the world around us--saw the music scene around us--and none of that included girls playing rock and roll," said Jett, during a recent phone interview. "We knew that it was going to be something that people would respond to."



low resolution image Not Enlargeable Apr 26, 2008 - Last night was over the top cool. I'm in Laughlin Nevada for the Laughlin River Run. I've been here since Wednesday working with a Joe Klein, a partner working to rebrand his new media business. I'm also here with Michael Butler of the Rock and Roll Geek Show.

Last night we interviewed the BLACKHEARTS of JOAN JETT and the Black Hearts. We talked with Dougie Nails the lead guitarist and THOMMY PRICE on drums, who has played with Joan since the mid 80's after playing with Billy Idol on the Rebel Yell album/tour.

Michael Butler ran a great interview with the band, and I worked as the cameraman.


Age is just a number for rock 'n' roll true believer JOAN JETT

This whole age thing is getting old for JOAN JETT.

As a teenager, she was ridiculed and dismissed - even spat upon - for having the audacity to play loud, raunchy rock 'n' roll. Now, people want to know how and why she's still willing and able to keep doing it.

After all, Jett - who shocked some as a 15-year-old member of Los Angeles' barrier-bashing RUNAWAYS in 1975 and defiantly acknowledged a "Bad Reputation" on her first solo album - turns 50 on Sept. 22.



These are excerpts from telephone interviews with rock musician JOAN JETT and her manager, KENNY LAGUNA, conducted a week before their 4 p.m. show Saturday at the Stockton Asparagus Festival.

The leather-clad rocker helped pioneer the role of women in punk-rock as a teenage member of the RUNAWAYS.

Now 49, she's sustained a 26-year solo career that's produced such signatures songs as "I Love Rock 'N' Roll," "I Hate Myself for Loving You," "Light of Day" (written by Bruce Springsteen) and "Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)." Politically astute and articulate, she defied punk convention by registering to vote when she was 18 and has been a frequent visitor to U.S. troops in combat zones.

She was onstage when Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean made his infamous "screaming" speech in 2004.

She's performed around the world and was the first woman to own her own record label (BLACKHEART RECORDS), which still produces and promotes young punk-pop and rock bands.


JOAN JETT's Still Rockin' Hard

Everybody who has a pulse no doubt knows who JOAN JETT is. Over the years she has given us countless great songs, and practically paved the way for all of the female rockers to follow. Not only has she conquered the music industry, but she also made her way to the silver screen, and even did some time on Broadway. On top of that, she currently has her own radio show on Sirius satellite radio. What hasn't she done? Signed bands to her label? Oh, wait! She has done that too!

I was recently extremely fortunate have the opportunity to catch up with JOAN JETT to get the inside scoop on where she's been, and where she is going. I wondered how it felt to be such an influential figure in the music industry, for both female and male musicians.

"Intellectually, I know that's the case in some instances," Joan said. "It's very humbling, and I'm always kind of hesitant on accepting that. But when someone comes up to me and tells me that I inspired them, that makes me feel good."


JOAN JETT To Release Hits Compilation

JOAN JETT recently performed a tribute to the Dave Clark Five at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, but though she's been around long enough to get inducted herself-her self-titled debut album was released in 1980-she shows no sign of slowing down. The punk/r 'n' r legend keeps busy with her label, BLACKHEART RECORDS, which recently released albums from Girl In A Coma and the Dollyrots, and her charity work, which includes USO tours and gay marriage benefits. But she's maintaining pace with her own music as well, as the one-time Runaway recently announced the release of an upcoming CD/DVD package for this August. A tracklist has yet to be announced, but it seems a safe bet that classics like "I Love Rock N' Roll," "Do You Wanna Touch Me" and the Freaks And Geekstheme song "Bad Reputation" will be included.

JOAN JETT On Fashion, American Idol, and Rock and Roll

low resolution image Not Enlargeable When it comes to true rock royalty, only a few names come to mind. And one of the first is the incomparable JOAN JETT. Glam was lucky enough to chat with her recently and get her opinion on girl bands, fashion designers, and her old friend Cyndi Lauper.

Glam: Your Greatest Hits CD is coming out in August. TellÊus a little about that.
I'm very excited about it. It's always fun to have a record out and talk to people about it. Like the title implies, it will have all our hits on it. But we're going to have a few new tracks that some people haven't been exposed to, so I'm excited about that. To promote it, I'm on the road pretty much most of the year. We'll be doing concerts starting very soon.

Glam: You're doing a few dates with the True Colors tour [editor's note: launched by Cyndi Lauper and the Human Rights Organization and Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays] How did that come about?
They called up to see if we were available for a few dates on the tour and I was definitely interested. It should be a good time. I've known Cyndi for many years, from way back from the 80s and it'll be great to be with her again and on the road.

Glam: Did you happen to catch American Idol when Amanda Overmyer performed your song?
I thought it was cute. Yeah, definitely. She did a good job.


JOAN JETT Refuels at 50

low resolution image Not Enlargeable When JOAN JETT picks up the phone in New York for her Spinner interview, two things are immediately apparent: First, the tale of her three-decade plus career is evidenced wholly by her speaking voice, which is throaty and unintentionally gruff. It's the wear of a Philadelphia-born punk named Joan Marie Larkin who left for L.A. at 15 with a rock 'n' roll in dream in one hand and leather in the other. Three years later, Jett formed the RUNAWAYS, and thus beginning her kicking-and-screaming ascent to rock iconism. Dubbed the original riot grrrl, Jett would garner several other titles along the way: chart-topper, entrepreneur, activist, actress, producer, sex symbol and all-around badass, included.

This brings us to number two: JOAN JETT commands, though not literally, respect. Her middle- finger- to-the-establishment reputation sits backseat to the woman on the line -- a woman who, despite her persona, felt misunderstood at the onset. She issues no bounds as inquiries go, answering each question with cool authority and, often, laughter. "What do you want to know?" she begins. And so it does.

You're releasing a greatest hits CD/DVD later this year. What was it like for you to sit down and sift through nearly three decades' worth of material?
I have the most contempt... to look at myself [musically] and be like, "No, no." Do you know what I'm saying? It's like looking through dated pictures. It's kinda weird to look at old videos or old photos. But I'm glad I did it. Sometimes, sitting around and making records, you don't really hear it. You're just recording and loving the songs, taking them out on the road and playing them for people. People remember what's recorded but I don't listen to my records over and over again. I don't go back to the recordings unless there's something I need to refresh myself for the band -- the tempos or a structure of a song. But I'd love to do that because I put a lot of hard work into the records I make. It can be fun to go back and take a listen. Also, there are a few [new] tracks that'll be on the CD. They are songs that we haven't really played live yet, but they're written out.

You were one of the first female musicians to start her own record label, BLACKHEART RECORDS, more than 25 years ago, and it was done out of necessity because 23 labels rejected you.
That's crazy, right? As an artist, you want some control over what you're doing. But it's common -- we all want to be signed to a major label. It's part of that dream: being in a band, signed to a major label, have a big record come out. But nobody wanted anything to do with me, my music or my band. It was really... tough.

Why do you think you were rejected?
I don't know. It's really hard for people to see it -- that atmosphere and mindset that people had about girls in music or girls in rock 'n' roll 25 years ago. I'm not playing the typical girl role and I've taken a lot of shit. It's hard for me to judge. I can't tell what it is about me. I don't walk around smashing s---; I'm not that kind of scary person. I don't know what about me was so threatening.


Jett's fierce rock/punk prowess opens door to healing and hope

low resolution image Not Enlargeable JOAN JETT AND THE BLACKHEARTS concert review, NIU Convocation Center, Dekalb, IL March 29, 2008

Northern Illinois University is no stranger to staging arena shows, bringing the likes of Kanye West and B.B. King (to name a few) to the corn field surrounded campus. However the normally serene settings have unfortunately been interrupted by the fatal February 14 shooting from a former student that resulted in six fatalities and eighteen wounded. Though media flocked to the campus in the aftermath and continue to report updates on occasion, the road to rebuilding and hopefully some healing seems to finally be in full swing, as evidenced by a steadily building concert schedule (including upcoming shows with Jimmy Eat World, Paramore and Carrie Underwood).

But amongst first folks to kick off the streak of silence were punk rock powerhouses JOAN JETT AND THE BLACKHEARTS, a curious choice for the collegiate venue, though one that was likely backed by her broad base appeal. After all, the famed singer/guitar slinger was an early staple of the CBGB scene alongside Talking Heads, Tom Petty and Television (all of whom opened for her), while blazing the trail for women artists of all associations. And from then until now, she's captivated everyone from punk and pop circles to radio listeners and indie appreciators, along with audiences of all ages from various walks of life.

Though students certainly flanked this show, the seats were filled with a wide ranged mix of the aforementioned, all of whom were simultaneously treated to the group's greatest hits and more recent selections from 2006's SINNER (BLACKHEART RECORDS Group). No matter what the era, Jett and her longtime backers were fierce and fiery, juicing up all eras with unabashed electric attitude and those seriously sassy vocals. Golden oldies like "Bad Reputation," "Cherry Bomb" and "Crimson and Clover" possessed the insurgent sprit that got this original "riot grrrl" noticed in the first place, while reclaiming the take charge personality of the front women's youth.


BLACKHEART RECORDS to Release Greatest Hits CD-DVD in August

JOAN JETT, rock legend famous for hits like "Bad Reputation" and "I Love Rock 'N' Roll," is also a savvy record label founder and executive. After 28 record labels rejected her first solo LP in 1980 she became the first woman to start a rock label and subsequently released over 15 of her own albums that have sold over 30 million copies. The label has also been home to several punk bands like The Vacancies and The Eyeliners, even Big Daddy Kane. 2007 saw the release of albums by acclaimed bands Girl in a Coma and The Dollyrots.
JOAN JETT Greatest Hits CD/DVD package, due out in August, along with a Blackheart debut album from Seattle’s The Cute Lepers.
Today, many artists have steered away from major record labels, releasing their music independently. For JOAN JETT it was a necessity over 25 years ago, one that broke down barriers for women in the music industry and established her as a worldwide superstar, still independent and stronger than ever.

Says Jett, "It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. BLACKHEART RECORDS started out of the trunk of my car, when 28 labels rejected my album 'I Love Rock n Roll.' With all other options exhausted, my partner and I decided to press up our own records, and just do it our way. 28 years later, we are still doing it our way, creating music and releasing up and coming bands that have both integrity and passion. Blackheart has turned into an entity all its own, and I'm proud to be able to help deliver music that is both full of integrity and passion."

JOAN JETT's classic video for "Bad Reputation" is an inspiring mini documentary on how and why BLACKHEART RECORDS was started by her and producer KENNY LAGUNA. Watch below and stay tuned for more from JOAN JETT and BLACKHEART RECORDS in 2008.

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