“I Love Rock And Roll” - Joan Jett The Blackhearts
Album: I Love Rock And Roll
This was originally recorded by a British group called The Arrows in 1975, and it was written by their lead singer Alan Merrill and guitarist Jake Hooker. Merrill explained in a Songfacts interview how this song came about: “That was a knee-jerk response to the Rolling Stones' 'It's Only Rock 'N' Roll' .' I remember watching it on Top of the Pops. I'd met Mick Jagger socially a few times, and I knew he was hanging around with Prince Rupert Lowenstein and people like that – jet setters. I almost felt like 'It's Only Rock and Roll' was an apology to those jet-set princes and princesses that he was hanging around with - the aristocracy, you know. That was my interpretation as a young man: Okay, I love rock and roll. And then, where do you go with that?”
The song was released as a B-side with The Arrows' “Broken Down Heart” . The group was recording for RAK Records, which was run by Mickie Most. As Merrill explains, “I Love Rock And Roll” didn't suit his current tastes, as during that time Most prefered ballads and blues. Most's wife Christina Hayes encouraged him to flip the sides, but the song didn't catch on, as it suffered from a poor run of luck at the time of its release. First, it had to be re-released as an A-side. Second, the song came out during an English newspaper strike, so new songs weren't getting the exposure they'd normally get. Third, notorious feuds were occurring between The Arrows and their record label. As a result, the song barely scratched the top 50 charts.
All was not lost, however, as The Arrows performed this song when they were guests on the UK TV series Pop 45. The show's producer, Muriel Young, was so impressed that on the strength of this performance, she gave them their own TV show, simply called The Arrows Show, which ran from 1976 - 1977 in the UK for two full 14-week seasons on the ITV network. It was this show that Joan Jett saw in 1976, which prompted her to acquire a copy of “I Love Rock and Roll” and later cover it in 1981, producing what is arguably one of the most successful covers in Rock history.
Jett was touring England as a member of an all teenage girl group called The Runaways when she discovered this song. She wanted to record it with The Runaways, but the other members didn't like the song and made the mistake of passing it up. So, in 1979, Jett recorded it with Paul Cook and Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols and released it as a B-side. Finally, in 1981, Jett recorded the song with her band The Blackhearts, resulting in a monster hit.
Jett recalled to Uncut August 2010 her version with the Pistols duo: “I did a very early version with them, it was great working with them, and no, there was no sense of trepidation on my part, despite the fact that everyone was telling me they were the most notorious band on the planet.”
Alan Merrill: “I had the chorus, which to me sounded like a hit. And I thought, I'll do something really unusual. I'll write it that this is a song separate from the verse. So the actual chorus is something that's coming out of a jukebox, and the two kids in the disco who are flirting are hearing this song that's a hit. It felt like The Twilight Zone. I was so sure 'I Love Rock and Roll' was gonna be a hit for the Arrows that I thought, Well, when we have a hit with it, it's gonna be a hit within a hit. A fictional hit coming out of the chorus with the kids singing it as their favorite song in the verse of the song. So when it actually became a huge hit for Joan Jett, my Twilight Zone concept came true. And I don't think too many people get that about the song, you know? They just like the melody, and it's catchy. But it was actually a pretty clever stroke, one that I'm proud of.”
When The Runaways broke up, Joan Jett and her producer Kenny Laguna put her first solo album together with studio time and travel arrangements fronted by The Who. They struggled to get a record deal and had to form their own label, Blackheart Records, to release the album in America. Jett and Laguna both thought “I Love Rock And Roll” was a great song, but since they didn't have the backing of a major label, they held off on it until they could establish themselves and get better distribution. When “Do You Wanna Touch Me” and “Bad Reputation” started getting airplay, they got a deal with Boardwalk Records. That first album, which was called Joan Jett, was remixed and renamed Bad Reputation. Now that she had a record deal, Jett released “I Love Rock And Roll”, which was her first single on a major label and was included on her second album.
The Runaways' bass player Michael Steele went on to join The Bangles, and their guitarist Lita Ford had a successful solo career, but Joan Jett emerged as their most famous alumna. Kenny Laguna plays a big part in her story, as he helped Jett get started as a solo artist and has worked with her ever since. In 1972, after working with acts like Tommy James & the Shondells and Tony Orlando, Kenny was looking for work and found it through Peter Meaden, who managed The Who when they were still known as The High Numbers. Meaden got Kenny a job working at Mobile Records in England, where he became friends with The Who and met The Runaways' manager, who asked him to produce what would be their last album. Kenny didn't work on that album, but when The Runaways broke up, he started working with Jett. Peter Meaden, who introduced Kenny to The Who and helped revive his career, was the manager of The Arrows, the group that wrote and originally recorded “I love Rock And Roll.” If Kenny had accepted the job and produced The Runaways' last album, there is a good chance he would have made them record it, since he thought it was a hit.
Jett's 1979 version of the song was owned by The Polygram company, who were not enthusiastic about Joan or the song. Laguna explains: “They could care less about Joan Jett, they were busy signing every other Runaway. They thought Joan was the loser and they signed the other girls, who we're all friends with, but I looked at the band and thought she was the Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the band. The company decided that if I would pay the studio cost of $2,300, I could have all the rights, and I got 3 songs. I got 'I Love Rock And Roll' with The Sex Pistols, I got 'You Don't Own Me' - they did a great version of the Lesley Gore hit, and they did a song Joan wrote called 'Don't Abuse Me' . So I buy these songs back. In the meantime, Joan has a couple of fans. Rodney Bingenheimer of K-ROCK, KMAC in Long Beach, BCN in Boston, LIR in Long Island, they were playing The Sex Pistols' kind of cruddy version of the song, and it was #1 on the alternative stations. It was really alternative music, they were way-out stations that would play some pretty adventurous stuff, that's why they would play Joan, because Joan was not getting a record deal, Joan was way on the outside, like a Fugazi of her day. We saw some kind of potential there. I remember these guys from the big record distributors in Long Island kept calling and saying, 'This is a hit record, we're getting so many requests for it.' So we cut it over and did a really good version of it.”
In the original version, the lyrics are about a guy picking up a young girl and taking her home, which was fairly typical Rock and Roll subject matter. When Jett covered this, however, it became a song about a girl who notices a guy next to a jukebox and brings him home to have sex. Other hit songs like “Physical” by Olivia Newton John and “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar also had sexual overtones, but Jett sang about aggressively pursuing the guy, which for many women made this a female-empowerment anthem. This song helped shape Jett's image as a tough, confident rock star and became an inspiration to many female musicians.
The line “Put another dime in the jukebox” was dated by the time Jett released her version, as very few jukeboxes took dimes. “Quarter” didn't sound good in the lyrics, and as jukeboxes slowly disappeared or became computerized contraptions accepting paper currency, it didn't matter anyway.
In the U.S., this was #1 for 7 weeks in 1982.
The video was shot in color, but they didn't think it looked gritty enough so it was converted to black and white to get the desired effect. The jacket Joan wears is actually red. The people in the crowd were all fans who turned up that day.
In an interview with Mojo magazine January 2008, Jett looked back on this song: “I think most people who love some kind of rock 'n' roll can relate to it. Everyone knows a song that just makes them feel amazing and want to jump up and down. I quickly realized, this song is gonna follow you, so you're either gonna let it bother you, or you gotta make peace with it, and feel blessed that you were involved with something that touched so many people.”
Rolling Stone magazine (biography) / Joan Jett & the Blackhearts official site / Rock and Roll Hall of Fame / Biography / All Music / Billboard / Song Facts / Wikipedia
Image: “I Love Rock 'n' Roll (album)” by Joan Jett
Joke of the Day
One Sunday morning George burst into the living room and said, “Dad! Mom! I have some great news for you! I am getting married to the most beautiful girl in town. She lives a block away and her name is Susan.” After dinner, George's dad took him aside, “Son, I have to talk with you. Look at your mother, George. She and I have been married 30 years, she's a wonderful wife and mother, but, she has never offered much excitement in the bedroom, so I used to fool around with women a lot.”
“Susan is actually your half sister, and I'm afraid you can't marry her.” George was brokenhearted.
After eight months he eventually started dating girls again. A year later he came home and very proudly announced, “Diane said yes! We're getting married in June.” Again his father insisted on another private conversation and broke the sad news. “Diane is your half sister too, George.”
“I'm awfully sorry about this.” George was livid! He finally decided to go to his mother with the news his father had shared.
“Dad has done so much harm. I guess I'm never going to get married”, he complained. “Every time I fall in love, Dad tells me the girl is my half sister.”
“Hee hee”, his mother chuckled, shaking her head, “Don't pay any attention to what he says. He's not really your father.”