Joan Jett’s Cover Tunes: Appreciating the Originals

Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ‘N Roll is a classic love story: Girl meets song, girl falls in love with song, girl records song and changes history forever. It’s a legend that Jettheads know by heart. Joan saw the original performed by The Arrows on UK television while on tour there with The Runaways. The rest of the band members weren’t interested in recording the song, but Joan could not forget it. After The Runaways broke up, the girl and the song were magically reunited when Joan recorded it with The Blackhearts. It dominated the charts for two months in 1982 and is now regarded as one of the greatest songs of all time. Fuck Cinderella, this is the stuff fairy tales should be made of.

I Love Rock ‘N Roll was not the first or last time that Joan Jett would record a cover song. They actually make up a significant percentage of Joan’s music. History-making or not, all of Joan’s cover tunes have a way of making us forget the originals. But we shouldn’t. Because even though the song is never the same without the girl, the girl is also never the same without the song. We should remember where they came from, because they are where Joan comes from.

Here are just a few of my favorites. Check them out and compare them to Joan’s versions and let me know what you think.

1. I’ll start with the big guns: I Love Rock ‘N Roll, by The Arrows (J. Hooker/A. Merrill, 1975). You can read a detailed history of the song and see who else has recorded it at www.iloverocknroll.org.

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See more epic destiny after the jump.

2. Make Believe, by Wind (Bo Gentry/J. Levine, 1969). That’s Tony Orlando singing. The B-side, Groovin with Mr. Bloe, has a cool story behind it, involving Mr. Kenny Laguna. Read more about it HERE. Joan’s version appears on the Bad Reputation album.

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Listen to Joan’s version HERE.

3. Nag, by The Halos (Arthur Crier, 1961). Arthur Crier passed away in 2004, and you can read more about his life HERE. Joan’s version appears on the I Love Rock ‘N Roll album.

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Listen to Joan’s version HERE.

4. Bring it on Home to Me (Sam Cooke, 1961). Joan’s version appears on Flashback. This is from the liner notes:

Bring It On Home (1984) (S. Cooke)
Produced by Kenny Laguna
Jett: A Sam Cooke song. Beautiful to me. Ricky Byrd and I sung harmony lead together on this other fave of mine. Notice, no guitars, just a Wurlitzer keyboard and strings (real ones).
Laguna: Sam Cooke was the finest. It’s the only song we ever did with no guitars. The vocals were live.

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Listen to Joan’s version HERE.

5. I Need Someone, by The Belmonts (P. Falciglia/C. Mastrangelo, 1961). Joan’s version appears on the Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth album, and you can read a quite decent review of the song HERE.

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And here’s Joan’s version:

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Fun fact: 1991’s Notorious and 1994’s Pure and Simple are the only two Joan Jett and the Blackhearts albums that contain no cover tunes whatsoever. What are your favorite JJBH cover tunes? Do you like the originals, or do you think Joan obliterates them?

4 thoughts on “Joan Jett’s Cover Tunes: Appreciating the Originals

    • Thanks! “Dog” was always one of my favorite JJ songs to see live. I miss it in the set. It was the only time she would put down her guitar and lean into the crowd so we could touch her, and she could touch us back.

  1. Pingback: Dirty Deeds: 10 cover songs that are better than the originals | Born to be Jetthead

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