Badass. Pioneer. Queen of Noise. Whatever you want to call Joan Jett, there’s no doubt that she shook the rock world to its core when herself and ’70s group The Runaways took centre stage, before disbanding four years later.
The dizzying shot to fame and subsequent fallout however has done nothing to slow Jett down. The Pennsylvania-born artist has gone on to record tracks with the Sex Pistols‘ Paul Cook and Steve Jones, and form Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, a venture which resulted in the band shooting to number two on the US Billboard 200 with their most successful release to date in 81’s ‘I Love Rock ‘n Roll’.
…But those are the things you probably already know about her. These aside, the rest of us have more in common with her than we anticipated, and we’re sure the first thing on this list resonates with more than a few!
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1. Her father hated rock ‘n’ roll, but he “put up with it”
“I lost both my parents. I call this the decade of death. I lost a lot: companion animals, friends, both my parents. I was very close to them. They made it possible for me to do this. They encouraged me. They got me the guitar. My father, who hated rock & roll, put up with it. He didn’t come down on me to stop it. So losing my parents was big, and I think it translated to the music in songs like ‘Fragile’, which is about life being fragile, love being fragile, how easy it is to break hearts.” – Jett (Rolling Stone, 2013)
In what Jett refers to commonly as the ‘Decade of Death’, the singer/songwriter lost her father in 2007 and mother two years later. While she admits that her dad wasn’t a fan of the leather, swag and volume dialled up to 11, he never stunted her passion for good old rock ‘n’ roll.
2. The first album she ever produced was The Germs‘ only record to date
“I had known Darby Crash and Pat Smear [singer and guitarist] for a couple years; they were big Runaways fans. I remember them telling me, ‘We formed a band,’ and I remember seeing them play all over L.A. I guess they figured I knew what I was doing, ’cause The Runaways made a few albums and I’d been in the studio. They asked me to produce it, and I had a great time. I think I did a good job. I just tried to make them sound like they did live, which is really what I try to do with anybody I produce.” – Jett (A.V. Club, 1998)
While the American punks’ first and last album (GI) was and remains a huge record from ’79, not many know that Jett donned her producer’s vest instead of her guitar for this one. Although Crash had originally wanted Mark Lindsay (former vocalist for Paul Revere & The Raiders) for the job, he ultimately proved too costly for the band’s label, Slash Records.
3. She met Cherie Currie at Rodney’s English Disco, the same place where Iggy Pop famously cut himself
That’s right. Where the two women first met was not only the old stomping ground of greats like Elton John and Led Zeppelin, but the place where one of punk rock’s most iconic frontmen accidentally cut himself after falling on a drinking glass. The crowd enjoyed it so much, he ended up incorporating it into the show.
4. Off tour, she loves riding bikes, going to the beach or plain old cat food shopping
“When I’m in Manhattan I’m just enjoying the city. Just walking around with friends or having a meal. People always seem to be surprised that I’m just so regular. I don’t know what they expect, but I figure that my image does it. They picture me always wearing black leather and they think I’m six feet tall. And I’m not six feet tall. I also think people have a feeling I’m gonna be really mean or just make ’em not feel good or something if they come up to me.” – Jett (The Morton Report, 2011)
More than a few artists over the years have surprised us with just how down-to-earth they are, and really we shouldn’t be…
5. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts were bigger than Scorpions in their own country
“They were mad because they were a German band and we were bigger in Germany than they were and they were having a real hard time ego-wise dealing with that. But for the most part people are really, really cool about it.” – Jett (The Morton Report, 2011)
…Yeah they certainly weren’t happy about it.
6. She played for troops in Afghanistan
“Well, I think just being able to be in a place like Afghanistan and see what it is like – I mean, it is surreal being here. It is one thing seeing it on the news, but actually being here and experiencing it… I think sometimes it is something that a lot of Americans should see, because then they are able to be much more grateful for where they live in America because we have such an amazing, wonderful country, and I think a lot of times, people aren’t always aware of that.” – Jett (CNN.com, 2002)
Some 500 coalition troops, mostly American, were at a concert at the US’s military headquarters as part of ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ (OEF) when Jett rocked their souls repping black boots, camo pants and a fishnet top. Is there anything she hasn’t done?
7. She also played a character in the 2000 Broadway revival of The Rocky Horror Show
Because why not?!