Cherie Currie showed up to audition for The Runaways with the song “Fever,” which none of the girls knew how to play. Joan and Kim Fowley wrote “Cherry Bomb” on the spot for Cherie to sing. It remains their most well known song. Joan decided to re-record the song for her 1984 album Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth. While recording at the Record Plant in New York with Kenny and Thom Panunzio, they decided to put real cherry bombs on the track. They ran a mike and cable to the stairwell and started blowing up cherry bombs and firecrackers. The fireworks didn't sound deep enough so they got the idea to slow down the track, which allowed for the big explosion at the end of the song.
“You Drive Me Wild” was the first song Joan ever wrote. Joan says, “I can still see myself in my bedroom playing and writing this song, which projected a strong desire for intimate connection.”
Joan wrote “Schools Days” in 1978, while still in The Runaways. Joan and Kenny had been thinking about re-recording the track since 1979 and finally, after adding it to the Blackhearts' set in 2009, they recorded this amazing version.
Joan wrote “Love is Pain” while she was in The Runaways. The original had different lyrics for the chorus, with a similar sentiment, however, the song was originally called, “One of Them.” Joan rewrote the song once she began working with Kenny, and together they wrote the lyrics, “We are not ashamed, to say that love is pain.” The track appeared on 1981’s, “I Love Rock n Roll.”
“Bad Reputation” was almost not completed in time for the album. It was first recorded in 1979 and later re-released in 1981. The song has never been a single, yet it has evolved into a classic. “Bad Reputation” can be heard in countless TV shows and films and has been the theme song to Freaks and Geeks and American Chopper. The video, directed by David Mallet, is a re-enactment of what happened, when 23 labels rejected Joan Jett with “I Love Rock ‘n Roll,” “Crimson and Clover” and other hits. Kenny makes a cameo as the Warner Brothers executive.
“You Don't Know What You Got” was the first song Joan and Kenny wrote together. Kenny “fell in love” when Joan sang the “oh baby.” This began the 30 year collaboration as songwriting partners and Kenny at the production helm. Joan’s usually performs songs before going into the studio and recording, so most almost every song contains a stage ending. This song is one of only a couple of songs with a fade-out ending in the whole 30 years.
“I Want You” was written for a defunct Runaways’ project, which was a movie loosely based on The Runaways. Kenny was asked to write songs for this project after The Runaways had broken up and were being faced with a lawsuit unless they finished 6 songs in 8 days. Joan was the only Runaway left working on the film and this would be Kenny and Joan’s first collaboration. This session yielded the first song they ever wrote together, “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got,” as well as “I Want You.” At a time when Joan and Kenny were immersed in punk music, this high energy speed rock song personified the spirit of the moment. This 1979 recording was never officially released until now.
Joan wanted to record “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” for years. She finally recorded a version with Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols in 1979. Joan then re-recorded the now famous version with Kenny and with this recording, they tried to get a record deal. After 23 labels rejected “I Love Rock n Roll,” Joan and Kenny pressed up records themselves. This was the beginning of their now 30 year old label, Blackheart Records. Joan is one of the few lucky artists to own her recordings and she has the labels who rejected her, to thank. “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” is the # 27 biggest single of all time, according to Billboard.
“(I’m Gonna) Run Away” was the first song that was recorded after guitarist Ricky Byrd joined the Blackhearts, following Eric Ambel’s departure. The energy was so great that the band decided to re-record a lot of the I Love Rock ‘n Roll album.
Joan found “Crimson and Clover,” by Tommy James and the Shondells in Kenny’s record collection. Kenny had been a Shondell and played on the original recording, so Joan started playing it at a soundcheck as a joke. What started as a joke, became anything but, as people loved it! The hit single was a rare recording as Joan sang and played the song live with the band in the studio. There are no overdubs and the recording is essentially a live recording, just as musicians in the ‘50’s had done.
Joan first discovered Gary Glitter as a teenager at Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco in Hollywood, which was the center of the Glitter Rock movement in LA. This is where she would meet Sandy West and Kim Fowley, which would result in the formation of The Runaways. Joan covered Gary Glitter’s “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)” for her 1981 release, Bad Reputation. The track reached number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1982.
Joan and Kenny had written all of “The French Song,” except the chorus. They wanted to write a song about a ménage a trios, with the chorus in French. Mike Winter, Joan’s guitar tech in the early 80’s and had been in the French band Shaken Street. Joan and Kenny were attempting to write the chorus in French, and were having trouble translating correctly. Luckily, Mike was able to help them and came up with the lyric that translates to, “I love to make love, especially with three.” Mike then came up with a pronunciation of “trois” the French word for “three,” so one could not tell if Joan was singing “three” or “you,” leaving it ambiguous in case anyone was offended by the idea of a ménage a trois.
“Everyday People” was the last song that was recorded for Album. They decided it would be great to mix the horns in with the guitars. The Uptown Horns, a great horn ensemble from New York, came in to double the guitar parts. Everyone was so happy with how it turned out, that when Joan Jett and the Blackhearts were asked to perform on the first live concert on MTV, the Uptown Horns joined them. The live show aired New Years Eve 1984 and they became the first band to perform live on MTV.
Joan and Kenny were both writing for Album separately. When they began to talk about ideas, they realized they were both writing a song on the same theme: how people tend to treat you differently when you begin to have success. Kenny’s song was “Losing Friends” and Joan was writing “Fake Friends”, which they then combined into what is now “Fake Friends.” The video for this Top 40 Billboard hit was directed by the legendary David Mallet.
When Paul Schrader wrote a screenplay based on his upbringing, he called it ”Born in the USA.” He had a dream that Bruce Springsteen would play the part that was based on Paul. Bruce had a tradition of writing great songs based on movie titles, e.g., “Thunder Road.”
Bruce offered to write a new title song for Paul's movie project. He waited to see who would play that part, and when Joan Jett got the role, Bruce sent ”(Just Around the Corner to the) Light of Day”. The recording was on the Top 40 Billboard chart in 1987. The video, co-starring Michael J. Fox, was Top Ten for the year in 1987 on MTV. Benmont Tench from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played the Hammond organ on the track.
This song was originally called “I Hate Myself ‘Cause I Can't Get Laid.” It is truly amazing that such a classic title wasn’t written before. You can hear Mick Taylor, of the Rolling Stones, playing the amazing solo, and most of the guitar licks. The song spent 26 weeks on the Billboard Chart and reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2006, the song was adapted as the theme song for NBC’s Sunday Night Football and has been sung by Faith Hill for the past several years. It is also featured in the 2008 video game Guitar Hero: Aerosmith.
Joan and Kenny met Paul Westerberg of The Replacements, and fell in love with him. They all agreed to try to write a song. Joan had the title and they met on the road in a hotel. They got the song started, but couldn't finish. So, Paul took it home, finished it, and sent this amazing tune to Joan and Kenny.
Paul later came to New York and played guitar on the record, and also appeared in the video. This song was a Top Ten Modern Rock Billboard track in 1991, though it was never released as a single to pop radio. It is a rare gem.
Joan wrote this song about her first encounter with the Riot Grrls, who often cite Joan as a major influence. After attending a Bikini Kill show, Joan noted that “it was so intense, and it taught me something, so I wrote the song the next day.” Shortly thereafter, Joan and Bikini Kill front woman. Kathleen Hanna began working together. Joan produced Bikini Kill tracks including “New Radio” and “Rebel Girl”, and Kathleen co-wrote songs for Joan’s 1994 release Pure and Simple and 2006’s Sinner.
Initially, Joan was resistant to cover “Love is All Around” when the request came in from ESPN for the Women’s College Basketball Championships. Joan rarely did this kind of promo, but after much persistence on the part of ESPN, she became convinced that since women's basketball was on the upswing and affecting young girls in a positive way, that she would join the players who did it for ”the sisterhood.” Amazingly, the 1-minute promo spot led to fans calling radio stations and it becoming the most requested song on stations like ABC Radio. Joan and the Blackhearts raced into the studio to make a full-length version, and actually wrote a 3rd verse to the song.
After appearing on stage with producer Bob Rock during a charity event, Joan, Bob and Kenny decided they would like to work together. However, at the time they did not have a track written, so Joan came up with the idea to record “Androgynous”, and the Blackhearts learned it on the spot. Six months later, they went into the studio again, this time with Teddy Templeman, to re-cut the track. When the song was finally released on the 2006 album Sinner, Morgan Higby Night, an LA director, took interest and wanted to create a video commenting on human rights. The video stars actor and musician, John Doe of the legendary band X as well as skateboarder and punk rocker, Duane Peters.
The Sweet was the seminal glitter rock band from England and Joan had wanted to cover a Sweet song for many years. She decided to go with this lyrically controversial song for 2006’s Sinner. The video has cameos by Carmen Electra, Chuck Zito and Kathleen Hanna, and was directed by Greg Olliver. It was shot on the lower east side of Manhattan.