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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

I've had a very tumultuous weekend, but the good part was as I was driving around Las Vegas, I was accompanied by the sound of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, the third Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee I will be writing about.

Jett is one of the great rock and roll chicks, and I mean that most lovingly. Being a woman in rock usually gets you pigeon-holed, but for forty years Jett has been playing straight ahead garage rock without having to play second fiddle to sexual posing. She is sexy, but not in a sex kittenish way. She's nobody's sex object. In her seminal hit, I Love Rock and Roll, she's the seducer, sizing up a boy by the jukebox and pouncing on him, wearing her red leather jumpsuit and kohled eyes. And she gives a great feline yowl.

In Do You Want to Touch Me she flashes herself in a bikini, but she does it rebelliously, as if telling the executive who asked for it to go fuck himself.

Jett got her start as a member of the notorious Runaways, created by Kim Fowley. Jett was not the front woman of the band, Cherie Currie was. But Jett was the one that survived the roller coaster ride, and started her own band, the Blackhearts. The original lineup was her, Gary Ryan, Eric Ambel, and Danny O'Brien. She hit it big in the late '70s and early '80s with the above hits, as well as "Bad Reputation," one of the great wind-it-up-and-spit-it-out hits, a cover of Tommy James' "Crimson and Clover," and the gloriously titled, "I Hate Myself for Loving You."

Jett's later career saw her branching out a bit, covering Sly and the Family Stone on "Everyday People," appearing in a film as well as performing the song for "Light of Day," and even covering "Love Is All Around," the theme from the Mary Tyler Moore Show. And though her style has always been traditional bad-ass rocker, she has absorbed and influenced many different genres, from punk to riot grrls.

I've been listening to her greatest hits album, so I'm not sure if she ever succumbed and did a ballad. She comes close, at least lyrically, on her song "Androgynous." Jett's sexuality has always been ambiguous--I think that's intentional--but she gives hints when she covers Sweet's "A.C.D.C."

Jett is now 56 years old and still rocking like there's no tomorrow. As I think I mentioned in my post about the movie The Runaways, a guy I knew had her sign his arm and he made it permanent with a tattoo. I think this is completely appropriate.

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