AMAZING interview with Joan from 1997
I thought I might have had this issue of Rolling Stone somewhere in my house, but I’m not sure. All I found from that era was a notebook full of Dawson’s Creek fanfic. I’ll have to go spelunking later. 🙂
Here are a few snippets. (I have no idea what a “JD-looking teenager” is.). The Scorpions story gives me chills every time I read or hear it.
In 1976, Joan Jett was a black-leather-wearing 16-year-old living across the street from Los Angeles’ notorious Whisky-a-Go-Go and writing songs like the classic fox anthem “Cherry Bomb.” Her band, the Runaways, was the world’s first hard-rocking all-female band, but the five JD-looking teenagers got jeered out of showbiz. Jett went on to form the Blackhearts, with whom she has had such hits as 1982’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” 1988’s “I Hate Myself for Loving You” and 1990’s “Dirty Deeds.” Most recently, Jett has collaborated with members of L7, Bikini Kill and Babes in Toyland. Her forthcoming album, tentatively titled “Friend to Friend,” shows her skills have been juiced by the new wave of women rockers, many of whom cite her as an inspiration.
What was your first gig like?
My first gig was with the Runaways. We did a keg party in Huntington Beach, Calif. It was at [drummer] Sandy West’s house, in her rec room. There were tons of people there and tons of beer, and everybody was drunk. I was scared to death, so I think I had quite a few beers that night.
What did it feel like when your first record came out?
Incredible. Because we hadn’t gotten to the point where we realized that the record label was full of shit, the press was full of shit, a lot of people weren’t going to give us a chance just because we were girls. The dream was still intact. But soon, that wore off. Little problems would start to happen, with business and just people not taking you seriously. It’s like if you had to go through every day being laughed at the whole time.
Can you think of any specific moments when you felt alienated because you were a woman in rock & roll?
The Blackhearts were opening for the Scorpions, in 1984 or something, so we had just had a whole bunch of really big hits. We were playing in Italy and Spain. The audience, it was all guys, and they were like worked up into this frothy frenzy. They wanted to kill me. They wanted to fucking kill me — “You fucking cunt!” Violently trying to get to me, hawking lugies. I was covered in spit, and it was hanging off me, and I would sit there, and I wouldn’t leave the stage. It was like, they’re not going to make me leave the stage. I cried every night because I didn’t understand why they hated me so much. I mean these guys would have killed me, and if they didn’t kill me, they would have raped the fuck out of me. And we had to go through this for two weeks — it was horrible. And that was all about being a girl for sure, because I was like, why do they hate me so much? And they said, “Girls playing rock & roll — you shouldn’t be doing this,” you know.
What 1997 was like for Jettheads
For those of you who weren’t around in the fandom back then, 1997 was an odd year. Pure and Simple (1994) was The Blackhearts’ last full studio album, and the Jettheads were getting antsy for new material. We had never waited longer than two years for a new album before, and the itch was starting to take hold. New songs were being folded into the live sets, like “Five,” “Fetish,” “Androgynous,” and “Baby Blue,” but the band instead released 1997’s greatest hits package Fit to be Tied. The Blackhearts had a deal with Warner Brothers at the time, and the label kept delaying the new record, making the band re-record everything with different producers. In the meantime, we ate up TV show appearances and theme songs and movie soundtracks, biding our time and biting our nails. It would be another seven years before we could own most of those songs, on the 2004 Japanese import Naked, and another two years until 2006’s Sinner (which was basically Naked with a slightly different track listing)–a full twelve years after Pure and Simple‘s release. I think we were all fit to be tied. 😉
“Friend to Friend,” mentioned above in the Rolling Stone article, was a Lungfish cover that Joan played live for years, but the band has never released a studio recording of it. Here are a couple of videos from that era–note Joan’s blonde buzzcut. 🙂