Anybody who dismisses Joan Jett and her band, the
Blackhearts, as just some little pop band has either never met the lady, never
heard one of her albums, never seen the band live, or does not know anything
about music. Tommy Price, the band’s drummer, has been with the band for over
eighteen years, and you do not get a musician of that quality staying unless
something is going on.
Way before joining the Blackhearts, Tommy was a top session
drummer who actually played on all of Joan’s early work, but was never a
Blackheart till later. Then he joined Blue Oyster Cult, Roger Daltrey, and was
with Billy Idol for many years. Tommy finally accepted the gig with Joan after
seeing them from backstage at some American festival. He concluded that the
band was the equal of the Who live. There is no finer compliment than being
compared to Shepherd Bush’s finest.
Many other fine musicians have been in the Blackhearts over
the years, to name a few, Kenny Aaronson, ex Bob Dylan; Sammy Hagar, now with
John Eddie; Ricky Byrd, ex Ian Hunter Band; Tommy Burns, now the axe player for
Billie Joel; and of course long time friend, manager, and mentor Kenny Laguna,
ex Martha and the Mandels, who had the original hit which Joan later covered
and had another hit with ‘Crimson and Clover.’
But never let it occur to you that Joan Jett is anything
less than a one-hundred percent rock ‘n’ roll star. There are the obvious
early paying of dues. Joan Jett, together with Lita Ford, was originally a
member of the all girl band ‘The Runaways’, put together by Kim Fowler.
When that finally imploded in 1978, Joan went across to London, England, to see
what was happening. At first she hitched up with the remnants of the Sex
Pistols, Steve Jones and Paul Cook (they actually made a demo of ‘I Love Rock
‘n’ Roll). But things were not really happening; the Sex Pistol boys had
management hassles, and really were not that keen to get out on the road again
after their last depressing experiences. So Joan came back to the American home
of rock ‘n’ roll, New York, and hooked up with Kenny Laguna and his wife
While Joan was in England and on the final tour with the
Runaways, she saw a little known band called the Arrows playing the B-side to
their latest hit on a kid’s T.V. show lift off - that song was ‘I Love Rock
‘n’ Roll’. They wouldn’t let Joan record it with the Runaways. Once in
the studio with the Lagunas, all that changed. An album was recorded, a red hot
young band was put together to go out on the road, and, as they say, the rest
By the end of 1981 ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll’ had been a
number one hit all over the world with an eight week stay at the top of the
American charts. For the next eight years Joan toured the world to sell out
audiences, each album charted, and the hit singles just kept on coming. She
formed her own record label called Blackheart Records - naturally.
Until in 1988 she released the ultimate Joan Jett and the
Blackhearts album and single. Both went top five across the world. The album
‘Up Your Alley’ is crammed full of Blackheart anthems, whilst the single
‘I Hate Myself For Loving You’ is up there with ‘Brown Sugar’ by the
Stones to guarantee to get your party going.
Three years after the release of ‘Up Your Alley’ came
this great collection of rock ‘n’ roll, ‘Notorious’ (1991). It opens up
with the first single from the album ‘Backlash’. The guitars just jump out
of your speakers and the music immediately makes you want to clap along with
the band. The lyrics are a tribute to Joan’s heroes of the past, perhaps
herself admitting that it was time to take a less forward seat. The girl does
have a wicked sense of humor though, when she dumps her man in ‘The Only Good
Thing’. You can’t help but feel a little sorry for the poor bloke being
shown the door after a poor one night stand performance.
Joan can show that she doesn’t always want the truth
herself. In ‘Lie To Me’ she pleads for someone to be kind to her just for
one night. But Joan also shows her strong, serious minded side with the song
‘Don’t Surrender’, a touching tribute to her friend Jill Ireland, who had
succumbed to the dreaded cancer that year.
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts still play over 150 concerts a
year. Joan has also branched out into film work, starring in ‘Light of Day’
with Michael J. Fox, and still finds time to write smash hit singles like
‘House Of Fire’ for Alice Cooper. So do not be surprised if you suddenly
see Joan Jett and the Blackhearts crashing back into the charts any day now,
and if you have the chance to see them live in concert, do not miss it.