“I grew up in a world that told girls they couldn’t play rock ‘n’ roll.“
“I figured out it was a social thing, what women were allowed to do. At a very young age, I decided I was not going to follow women’s rules.” -Joan Jett
Joan Jett’s 1980 debut solo album may not be the greatest, most influential, or most tightly composed rock album of all time, but I’d be lying if I said that it doesn’t absolutely rock. Joan Jett is so ferociously punk and always has been but on this album she starts her solo career in just about as loud and confident a fashion as you could possibly ask for. This is another one that I don’t really have to stretch to fit it in with this month’s theme, I mean Joan Jett more or less spends 38 and a half minutes saying “I don’t care what you think, I’m gonna rock”. I mean just look at the lyrics in the now iconic titular opening track: “A girl can do what she wants to do and that’s what I’m gonna do.” So simple, so striking, so indicative of Jett’s career, and such a wonderfully empowering message.
Bad Reputation is not entirely made up of original songs, though. Jett picks her covers carefully, showing off her love of Rock and its roots with the delightfully punk covers of “Shout”, “Wooly Bully”, and the thematically relevant Lesley Gore classic “You Don’t Own Me”. The last of these 3 is the most important to this blog because, uh, duh, it’s a song about women being independent and valuable, not just the property of their significant other. On the course of this album Joan Jett sends a message in more ways that one, to say the least.
True to Rock n’ Roll, which some say is a euphemism for sex and drugs, Joan Jett isn’t afraid to be inject some sexuality into the album. Consistent with the album’s themes, though, Joan’s sex appeal is not of the soft-lit, docile, classic Hollywood type. She’s confident and strong, and we see this the clearest on the track not so subtly titled “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)” on which Joan asks some unnamed party “Do you wanna touch me?” which is met with the enthusiastic response: “Yeah!”
I will admit it isn’t the most clever, but hey, its still a hell of a lot subtler than modern day women’s empowerment anthem WAP.
In terms of the actual music, and I have to preface this by saying that I just love rock and roll so this works for me, but this whole album rocks. Joan Jett actually gets the music, and she loves it, and you can feel that between the notes. This album’s hard rock influences are clear and shine through, but listening to it in retrospect, it would also end up having a fair amount of influence on punk rock, hard rock, and the women who would take up the reigns moving forward. It is safe to say that in the year 2021, Jett is Rock and Roll Royalty. You can what you will about what might have or might have not happened in music without Joan Jett, but I can certainly make the statement that we would be missing out on a handful of awesome songs and at least 1 killer album without her.
Rock on, thanks for reading.
Benny the Jett, Rolling out to tomorrow’s album.