Recently a learned friend of mine, Jim Zespy, met up with Joan Jett. Yep, there he is, grinning like a fan-boy out of his myspace page. Don't you just envy him?
Joan is a special person, without a doubt. I can't remember when I first came across the Runaways. I think it must have been in high school, when their songs were featured in the TV movie Dawn, Portrait Of A Teenage Runaway. (Worthy of another post on it's own, Dawn was a 1976 made-for-TV movie starring Eve Plumb of Brady Bunch fame, and part of a "teens-in-trouble" genre that began with Born Innocent, featuring Linda Blair, in 1974. These are the things that informed my teens.) I was just on the cusp of leaving my middle school innocence behind, having moved from Georgia to New Jersey. I had started reading Trouser Press magazine. It was all downhill from there...
So I became acquainted with the Runaways and picked up The Runaways and Queens Of Noise. This was around 1981 or so, about the same time I was discovering Girlschool. By then I was a punk, or more specifically a hardcore kid, but there weren't any noisy or loud girl punk bands yet, so I turned to the rock chicks for inspiration. In 1981, after Bad Reputation but before Joan released I Love Rock And Roll, I was living in Miami and really starved of stimulation. I went to see Joan play at a some imminently sketchy biker bar in Fort Lauderdale. A bunch of punks had turned up for the show, and the bar's regulars weren't all that welcoming. At some point the inevitable fight broke out, only it turned into a bar-wide brawl with furniture being thrown and a lot of blood being spilled. I remember losing a pair of brass knuckles in the fray - not that I was a hard ass, but some hard ass had given me a pair of knuckles, and I thought it might be a good time to try them out. I was wrong. I managed to get out of the bar in one piece but had to double back in my car to save a few skins who were really about it be killed in the parking lot. We were chased by bikers for about a mile but hid in a trailer park and lost them. I'm not making this shit up. My car at the time was a beautiful 1976 Ford Gran Torino - those were the days.
I Love Rock And Roll and Bad Reputation were important albums to me at the time. They had all the rebellious devil-may-care attitude that any teenager was looking for, killer choruses, and Joan was hot. Debbie Harry had first made me consider lesbianism, and now Joan Jett was closing the case. I saw her play again, after the big hit, and took my uber-cool stepmother with me, and she loved it too. It wasn't cool to like Joan Jett and Minor Threat, but I did.
Later... much later, in fact, I began to understand more about Joan's history and began to respect her even more. In fact, Joan's history was just about as punk as it comes. She formed the Runaways with Sandy West when she was 15, getting Kim Fowley to manage them. When the Runaways unraveled, she started a solo career, and recorded her debut album in 1980. When it was rejected by 25 major labels she started her own label, Blackheart. Pretty fucking punk for 1980. She is credited as being the first female artist to run her own label. She certainly beat Ian MacKaye to the punch. Heh heh.
Southern nearly got to release Sinner, her most recent album, and put out the rest of the stuff on the label for her in Europe. It didn't work out. Her producer/manager/business partner Kenny Laguna is a smart dude - he's been in the business for ages (literally - since Tommy James and the Shandells), and he wanted the moon and the stars, with no compromise. He's a smart cookie, I wish I could have made the deal work for both of us. It was a shame, I would have loved to be the company to really break Joan in Europe like she deserves. She's got incredible credibility, but she's never really had the backing she needed over here. And Sinner, btw, is a really amazing record. Fantastic covers of "AC/DC" by the Sweet and "Androgynous" by the Replacements. Her tongue is firmly in her cheek where her sexuality is concerned, and I like that. I hope she really is dating Carmen Electra, too. What a hot couple!)
And maybe the best thing of all... Joan is a huge Lungfish fan! Can you believe that?
Check out her "celebrity playlist" from iTunes:
- Cretin Hop - The Ramones Weird Tales Of The Ramones
- Rebel Girl - Bikini Kill Bikini Kill: The Singles
- Save Yourself - The Vacancies A Beat Missing of a Silence Added
- Bang a Gong (Get It On) - T. RexElectric Warrior
- Rebel Rebel - David Bowie Best of Bowie
- Sympathy for the Devil - The Rolling Stones Hot Rocks 1964-1971
- Waiting Room - Fugazi 13 Songs
- American Idiot - Green DayAmerican Idiot
- Speaking In Tongues - Eagles Of Death Metal Peace Love Death Metal
- Look Back and Laugh - Minor ThreatOut of Step
- Non Dual Bliss - Lungfish Talking Songs for Walking / Neckless of Heads
So yeah, I'm jealous of Zespy for sure.
JOAN JETT! Respect.