Joan Jett (born Joan Marie Larkin on September 22, 1958) is an American rock guitarist, singer, producer and actress. She is best known for her hit single "I Love Rock N' Roll", which was #1 on the Billboard charts from March 20 to May 8, 1982, as well as for her other popular recordings including "Crimson and Clover", "Do You Wanna Touch Me", "Light of Day", "I Hate Myself for Loving You", "Little Liar", and "Love is All Around". Jett has a mezzo-soprano vocal range. Joan Jett was born in Philadelphia at Lankenau Hospital and grew up there and in Rockville, Maryland, before moving to Los Angeles at the age of 15.
At age 15 Jett ran away from home after receiving a call from her boyfriend, who was sleeping with her mother. She took only a picture of a jukebox with her boyfriend standing beside it. She then helped form The Runaways.
Kim Fowley and Sandy West called her hotel while on the road. Kari Krome (replaced by Micki Steele and later Jackie Fox), Lita Ford, and Cherie Currie completed the line-up. While Currie initially fronted the band, Jett also sang lead vocal, played rhythm guitar and wrote or co-wrote much of the band's material. The band recorded five LPs, with one becoming one of the biggest-selling imports in U.S. and U.K. history. The band toured around the world and some of their opening acts included Cheap Trick, Van Halen, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and The Vanden Dungen band (1977). They found massive success abroad, especially in Japan.
While the Runaways were popular in Europe, Japan, Australia, Canada and even South America, they could not garner the same success in the U.S. It seemed that the United States, and the music press especially, was not ready to take seriously the music of female teenagers who had run away. After Currie and Fox left the band (to be replaced by bassist Vicki Blue, who was then replaced by Laurie McAllister), the band released two more albums: Waitin' for the Night and And Now... The Runaways. Altogether they produced five albums from 1975 until 1979 and disbanded in 1979.
It was around this time that Jett produced The Germs' first and only album (GI).
In the spring of 1979, Jett was in England pursuing a solo career. While there, she cut three songs with ex-Sex Pistols Paul Cook and Steve Jones (one of which was an early version of a cover song called "I Love Rock N' Roll," originally written and performed by The Arrows). Later that year, she moved to Long Beach, New York, and ultimately, Los Angeles, where she reluctantly began fulfilling an obligation by the Runaways to complete a film loosely based on the band's career called We're All Crazee Now!, with three actresses standing in for her departed band members. The plug was pulled on the project halfway through shooting, but in 1984, after Jett had become a major star, producers were looking for a way to make use of the footage from the uncompleted film. Bits of the original movie ended up on the cutting room floor, only to be re-edited in a never commercially-released underground movie called DuBeat-Eo, produced by Alan Sacks. While working on the project, Jett met songwriter and producer Kenny Laguna. They became instant friends and decided to work together.
Jett and Laguna entered The Who’s Ramport Studios with the latter at the helm. Jett's self-titled solo debut was released in Europe. In the United States, the album was rejected by 28 major labels. Jett and Laguna released it independently on their own Blackheart Records label. Laguna remembers, "We couldn't think of anything else to do, but print up records ourselves, and that's how Blackheart Records started. It was more or less Joan's idea to do it ourselves. Jett inadvertently became the first female performer to start her own record label.
With Laguna's assistance, she formed the Blackhearts. Joan placed an ad in the L.A. Weekly "looking for three good men." John Doe of X sat in on bass for the auditions held at S.I.R. studios in Los Angeles. He mentioned a local bass player, Gary Ryan, that had recently been crashing on his couch. Ryan was part of the L.A. punk scene and had played bass with local artists Top Jimmy and Rik L. Rik. He had been a huge fan of the Runaways and Jett for years. Joan recognized him at the audition and he was in. Gary recommended guitarist Eric Ambel, who also at the time part of the Rik L. Rik band. The final addition to the original Blackhearts was drummer Danny "Furious" O'Brien, formerly of the infamous San Francisco band, The Avengers. This line-up played several gigs at the Golden Bear and Whiskey a Go-Go in Hollywood before embarking on their first European tour; which consisted of an extensive tour of Holland and a few key shows in England including the Marquee in London.
Upon returning to the states, Jett, Ryan, and Ambel moved to Long Beach, N.Y. O'Brien stayed behind in England to pursue other interests. Auditions were set up and Lee Crystal, formerly of The Boyfriends, became the new drummer. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts then toured throughout the states and built quite a following in their new "hometown" of New York. Jett and Laguna soon used their personal savings to press up copies of the Bad Reputation album and set up their own system of independent distribution, sometimes selling the albums out of the trunk of their car at the end of each concert. Laguna was unable to keep up with demand for her album. Eventually, old friend and founder of Casablanca Records, Neil Bogart, made a joint venture with Laguna and signed Jett to his new label, Boardwalk Records. After a year of touring and recording, The Blackhearts recorded a new album for the label. During the recording process, Ambel was replaced by local guitarist Ricky Byrd. Eric went on to a successful career as a founding member of the Del-Lords, and later worked as a producer of a wide variety of bands. He currently plays with his band, The Yayhoos, and is Steve Earle's guitar slinger.
With Byrd on guitar, Joan and the Blackhearts recorded their hit album. The new single was a re-recording of the title track, "I Love Rock N' Roll", which in the first half of 1982 was number one on the Billboard charts for seven weeks in a row. It is now Billboard’s #28 song of all time.
A string of Top 40 hits followed, as well as sellout tours with The Police, Queen, and Aerosmith, among others. Jett was the second American act of any kind to perform behind the Iron Curtain, the first one being Blood, Sweat & Tears in Romania in 1969. She was also the first English-speaking rock act to appear in Panama and the Dominican Republic.
After receiving her own MTV New Year's Eve special, Jett beat out a number of contenders to appear in the movie Light of Day with Michael J. Fox. Bruce Springsteen wrote the title song especially for her and her performance was critically acclaimed. It was about this time that Ryan and Crystal left the Blackhearts. They were soon replaced by the powerful rhythm section of Thommy Price and Kasim Sultan. Later that year, Jett released Good Music, which featured appearances by The Beach Boys, The Sugarhill Gang and singer Darlene Love.
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts became the first rock band to perform a series of shows at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on Broadway, breaking the record at the time for the fastest ticket sell-out ever. Her next release, Up Your Alley, went multi-platinum and was followed by The Hit List, which was an international hit.
Here's the amazing and beautiful Joan Jett with her Blackhearts in a radio broadcast live from The Bottom Line, New York City , December 27th 1980.
Tracklist: 1. DJ Intro, 2. Intro/Bad Reputation, 3. (I'm Gonna) Run Away, 4. You Don't Know What You've Got, 5. Wait For Me, 6. Too Bad On Your Birthday, 7. Teenage Sex Machine, 8. You're Too Possessive, 9. Wooly Bully, 10. Band Introductions, 11. Black Leather, 12. Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah), 13. Rebel Rebel, 14. Shout, 15. I Love Rock N' Roll, 16. I Love Playin' With Fire.
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