Joan Jett’s Best Albums: A Guide

Those with more rock’n’roll at heart than Joan Jett are rare. As a key founding member and creative driving force behind The Runaways and most recently as the instantly recognizable leather-clad gang leader in Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, the artist formerly known as Joan Marie Larkin (Jett being the surname from her mother’s ridiculously appropriate maiden) recalibrated the role model for women in rock.

If there was a poster for riot grrrl, it was Jett: self-determined, tough, uncompromising, his proudly flaunted “bad reputation” was surely something to aspire to. In the beginning was the word. And the word was ‘Quatro’. Suzi Q had a seismic effect on Joan J.’s style, attitude and laid-back appropriation of classic rock ‘n’ roll. Suzi in an entirely contemporary setting was a concept worth repeating: if Quatro could leather Elvis and Eddie for glamorous audiences, Joan could certainly add similar ingredients for the punk era.

Jett acquired a guitar at 14, moved to California, hung out at Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco and waited to be discovered. It didn’t take long. At least, that’s fiction. The patriarchal rock myth tells us that LA producer/setter/creator Kim Fowley turned the Runaways into puppets. Not so. Jett and drummer Sandy West had both approached Fowley and, recognizing like-minded souls, he connected them.

Fowley managed and produced the band (complete with vocalist Cherie Currie, bassist Jackie Fox and guitarist Lita Ford), but Jett was his own Svengali. The Runaways were trailblazers who got scalped. Young women (they were all 16 and 17) just didn’t form hard rock bands in the mid-70s and it was hard.

They conquered Japan, made inroads elsewhere, but Currie and Fox bailed out and the band broke up after three hugely influential studio albums. After the split, Jett met ex-Shondell Kenny Laguna.

After refining Joan Jett’s plan of what would become her Bad reputation the title track from his first solo and a cover of The Arrows I love rock n roll, Jett and Laguna unsuccessfully sold demos to 23 labels before creating Blackheart Records, recruiting the Blackhearts, conquering MTV, feminizing rock and, in 2015, being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Positive proof of a lifelong love.

And the one you should probably avoid

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