A SOUTH BANK video studio, my first
glimpse of Joan Jett comes when she is
wandering around between takes. She looks
the kind of thing one might find washed
up on a beach after a particularly
drastic oil spillage. She has a covering
of black (leather, hair, face make up
which intensifies the pallor of her
flesh), has arms folded, is shivering and
drawling complaints. Shaking hands with
her is like holding a piece of ice. The
reasons behind the appearance, however,
become apparent later.
for Joan to take an interview-length
break, I sit in the dressing room with
manager/producer Kenny Laguna. Brash,
semi-crazed and attending to business,
both on and off the phone he relates a
torrent of tales concerning the lack of
belief in the Blackhearts displayed by
employees of record companies. Especially
"They're all a bunch
of arseholes," he observes,
"guys who couldn't get laid in high
school." He sticks a digit in the
dial, still pursuing the original tape of
the 'Bad Reputation' LP to which they own
the rights but can't possess the actual
article due to Broadway Records going
bust. Concurrently a song, 'Little
Drummer Boy', is astray somewhere in
Meanwhile, this video has
to be paid for today in cash (ten
thousand dollars) and a fellow is
despatched with a platinum American
Express card to collect the notes as
Kenny wrangles with the video company
chief for a discount.
All this bustle at the
heart of the Blackhearts stems simply
from Joanie's desire to play
"straight down the line rock and
roll to the people of the world."
They've toured continually for three
years and one gets the feeling that if
the constant motion was to cease the
whole enterprise would collapse in rather
a dramatic style.
Things are kept at a boil
which explains why JJ hasn't slept for
two nights, began filming today at 6am
and doesn't plan on finishing until 4
tomorrow morning when she and her
Blackhearts also catch a plane to Munich
to begin a six week European tour.
Perhaps graciously in the
circumstances, I am found time and Joan
and I adjourn to the warmth of the tour
While staggering around in
a nearly somnambulist state when not
required specifically to do anything
as if she's gained the necessary
discipline of being able to sleep on her
feet she wakes up almost
spectacularly when necessary.
I nibble on a biscuit and
switch on my tape recorder. She fiddles
with the top of an American Ginger Ale
"When I was 11 or 12
I finally got the balls to say 'Mom, Dad,
I want a guitar for Christmas and I don't
want no folk guitar."
The world shudders at the
thought of Joan Jett playing a folk
"I was always
aggressive, determined as a child,
something of a tomboy, I loved sports,
was very athletic. Me wanting a guitar
didn't come as a shock to my parents. I
mean, I wanted to be the first girl on
the moon, the first female major league
baseball player. There was something
about being the first that motivated me.
Besides, if my parents hadn't got me a
guitar I probably would have run
Instead, at 14, she became
"The main thing that
attracted me about being in a band was
seeing the lights and all the kids
yelling and screaming and I thought God!
You can make all those people happy at
once. That's still the main attraction.
It wasn't the money and limousines
I was very naive then!
"But there was a time
when I was very depressed. Between the
Runaways and the time I met Kenny (like
he'd been waiting for the cue, Kenny
walks in, sits down, gets up to leave,
"I was waiting for the cut
down" it doesn't come), just
wanted to be in a band and on stage. I
couldn't have settled for a job at a
Sum-up the Runaways in a
"Probably the biggest
influence on female rock and roll
musicians that there will ever be. I'm
the sort of person that reads a lot of
mail. I found out that our music inspired
tremendous amounts of girls to form
bands, guys too. The fact that we could
inspire people made me very happy."
Can pop music still be
"Yes. But popular
music is splintered into several
different media terms. I consider us to
be a rock and roll band ... straight down
the line. I don't give a damn about my
bad reputation, fake friends, sycophants.
Oh yes, our music is rebellious in the
traditional sense á la Chuck Berry,
Elvis,these people are our idols."
The Blackhearts' touring
itinerary has incorporated East Germany,
Panama, Venezuela (their British tour is
remembered by Kenny as "taking in
about 20 cities, that's about how many
people came") and a special highly
secret appearance at the Olympics for the
"It was great to see
all those athletes groovin'! All together
from Sudan to Australia they got up and
started dancing. Like the world had been
brought together by rock and roll, it was
just mind boggling. There were people
dancing who'd never seen in the flesh
rock and roll. American rock and
Their Olympic invite tends
to endorse the theory that the
Blackhearts' take their 'straight down
the line American rock and roll' around
the world as (sort of) ambassadors of USA
Tell me Joanie, are you
proud to be an American?
"Of course! Freedom
of speech, freedom of a lot of things.
There's a lot you can do in the States
that you can't do in other countries.
Even the most mundane things.
"This is an election
year and my vote is already in. I refuse
to talk about politics but I'm aware of
everything that goes on. I'm used to all
the slang terms that everyone calls
Americans but we've got some pretty good
ones for other people. I'm a
On her tombstone Joan Jett
would like to have engraved: 'This girl
did something extremely important for
rock and roll.'
She's uncertain as yet
whether this has been achieved.