Joan Jett: Still Fierce at 50


Yesterday, one of Rocks Off's favorite rockers evar hit the big five-oh. For my money, they don't get any more rock and roll than Joan Jett - just ask her and she'll tell you how much she loves it. That song, a cover of a once-obscure B-side by '70s British group the Arrows, spent seven weeks at No. 1 in spring 1982 and was absolutely everywhere. It's one of the first songs my then-seven-year-old ears remember hearing on the radio, and in retrospect, probably has a lot to do with my chosen career. To this day, when it comes on the radio - which is about once a day if you listen to Jack FM - I turn it up as loud as it can go. Which is pretty loud.

Jett in 1976/ photo by Brad Elterman

Jett, born near Philadelphia and a member of infamous Kim Fowley-controlled girl-band the Runaways as a teenager, has a much deeper catalog than just "I Love Rock and Roll," of course. She also hit with "Bad Reputation," Tommy James & the Shondells cover "Crimson and Clover," "I Hate Myself for Loving You" - which my good friend Ashleigh Daniel's Austin band the Secret Weapons do a killer cover - and "Light of Day," the title track of the 1988 Jett/Michael J. Fox movie, a song no less than Bruce Springsteen wrote expressly for her.

Jett is a gifted cover artist herself, turning in memorable versions of the Replacements' "Androgynous" and The Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song "Love Is All Around," written by Texan and former Cricket Sonny Curtis. Her most recent album, 2006's Sinner, is as gritty and rock-fueled as anything she put out in the '80s.

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, "Light of Day," live on True Colors 2008 at the Woodlands

I first saw Jett live in 1996 at Austin's tiny Electric Lounge, a period when riot grrrls like Babes in Toyland and Bikini Kill openly acknowledged her influence (and recorded with her), and she absolutely blew the doors off the stupid-packed railroad-trackside club. Jett, who last visited Houston on the True Colors tour last year with Cyndi Lauper, the B-52's and comedienne Wanda Sykes, also produced L.A. punk wastrels the Germs' first album, 1980's GI, and appeared on Broadway for three years in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. She runs her own label, Blackheart Records, whose roster inclues San Antonio trio Girl In a Coma, who play Fitzgerald's Saturday. Happy 50th, Joan! - Chris Gray

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray