As I first sat down to write this, I desperately tried to separate Jett the rock star, from Jett the ‘female’ rock star. Just look at the music by itself without the distraction of a person’s gender and ‘rock mythology’ getting in the way.
Couldn’t do it. The very first song on this record is “Cherry Bomb,” a tune about youth rebellion, underage girls and promiscuity all from the female viewpoint.
My opinion is that next to the Ramones, Joan Jett is the ‘coolest’ (not to be confused with ‘Best’ ‘Greatest’ or ‘Favourite’) rock star to have walked the earth. Gender is part of that package. When I was a skinny kid on my banana-seat bike she was belting out “Cherry Bomb” with the teenage Runaways appealing to both the stoner set and emerging punk scene. During my own adolescence as big hair metal was killing the airwaves, she was singing about loving rock ‘n’ roll in a way that was both kiddie-pop and rock power simultaneously, and being welcomed into the boys club as a peer. Then in 90’s she was rock aristocracy as a virtual ton of female driven bands claimed her as influence and anointed her to the status of ‘rock god.’ Who else but Jett could be welcomed into the fold by rockers, punks and metal-heads a like.
This all came about not because she sang meaningful folk songs, or using her sexuality to sell records through image, but by jumping into the ‘rock’ game straight up and singing about being a disaffected youth and sex from a female perspective. These being two of the most common themes of rock music coming from her rock ‘n’ roll heart. Like the Ramones, she didn’t follow a trend, her jeans and leather image never really changed from beginning to present. Instead she just turned the amp up and rocked out.
It is hard to imagine a world where Hole’s Live Through this, Phair’s Exile On Guy Street and even Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill exist without Jett blazing a trail of ‘fuck you – I’m a woman who rocks’ right down the middle of male dominated guitar/loud amp highway. As if to prove this point Jett is the first woman to win the Revolver Golden Gods Award which honours metal performers. Put it this way, when record companies wanted nothing to do with her in the post Runaways era – she just started her own label and then sold records in the millions.
So I pick up this “Cherry Bomb” red vinyl copy of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts Greatest Hits (ordered from Newbury Comics http://www.newburycomics.com/rel/v2_viewupc.php?storenr=103&upc=103-2040175N ) and my kids immediately start bouncing their heads around and dancing at the lunch table to “Bad Reputation.” My ten year old says “does this mean she doesn’t care what people think of her.”
Him: That’s cool.
Him: Who is that?
Me: Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.
Him: Can we listen to this again?
Me: Any time you please.
Him: Can I work the turntable?
Me: Not a chance.
So, we have an incredible record and it is Rowan approved. What more can you ask for?