||JOAN JETT AND THE BLACKHEARTS
Rebuilding The Revolution
By Todd K Smith
Joan Jett loved the Sex Pistols. Punk was on the outer fringe of the youth of 1979, a counter culture to the glitter of disco and for Jett, it was true liberation. As a member of the Runaways, the teenage Jett lived and breathed rock n roll. With her band mates she pushed the lifestyle of rock star to its very edge redefining teenage rebellion and blazing the way for women in rock. However, three years of constant turmoil and a dispute over a movie deal brought the curtains down on what was left of the Runaways. Jett was tough, her "bad reputation" with the Runaways was notorious, but now she was faced with going it alone.
The Sex Pistols had broken up that same year so Jett rang Steve Jones and Paul Cook asking if they wanted to cut a couple tracks together. The recording session produced three songs, You Dont Own Me, Dont Abuse Me and I Love Rock n Roll ,a song shed tried to record with the Runaways. The three songs opened the door for Jetts solo career.
Over the last eleven months, Blackheart Records (Jetts label) has been re-issuing her entire back-catalog completely remastered and restored with the original art work. In the case of the first two albums, Bad Reputation and I Love Rock n Roll extensive liner notes have been added by Danny Solazzi, the reissue director, mapping out her first few crucial years as a solo artist. Sadly Album and Glorious Results Of A Misspent Youth suffer from the lack of biographical notes eliminating the opportunity for real detail during the albums recording. They were prolific years for Jett and with no additional comment their stories may go forever untold. However this is the only negative to the package as a whole.
Extra tracks have been added to each of the first four records including B-sides and unreleased tracks. Rare pictures and single sleeves have also been added to the booklets, some of which have never been published before. Yet, most important is the music and that must surface as the definitive ranking of these recordings. Long time manager, producer and collaborator Kenny Laguna has spent years helping to perfect Jetts presentation. With the remasters, his watchful eye maintains its steady directness over the project.
Mastering was done by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering Studio in Portland Maine. The pure nature of Jetts energy is enhanced and sublime. Bad Reputation virtually explodes with its command of Jetts frontal assault. Raw, raunchy and powerful, it painted the perfect picture of the direction Jett was heading for. Her band was yet to be assembled so much of it was handled by session musicians while songwriting was split between cover tunes (Gary Glitter, the Who and Tommy James and the Shondells) and co-writers.
Missing from her debut package was, I Love Rock n Roll. The single was given an over haul and used as the title track on Jetts next record. It went gold in a matter of days and spent eight weeks at the #1 position on the Billboard charts. It helped move nearly ten million copies of Jetts sophomore album in less than three years. Jetts sound was now entrenched, a handy use of muscle guitar, raspy vocals on top of a thick bottom-line.
Jett was now on the road full-time. Her road band of Rickey Byrd (guitar), Lee Crystal (drums) and Gary Ryan (bass) built up their chops and fan-base through shear guts and determination, touring whenever and wherever a gig popped up. Album and Misspent Youth both went gold. Albums Coney Island Whitefish became a crowd favorite while Misspent Youth revitalized the Runaways hit Cherry Bomb. Both reissues pack in half a dozen bonus tracks with detailed song-by-song information.
In 1993 Jett released Flashback, a collectors look at her auspicious career from 1979 to 1992. The reissue takes it one step further with a date line and added production. The detailed booklet is back mirroring the first go around. The set magnifies Jetts stature as an icon for pop music and a hero to her fans.
As one of her fans and her re-issue director, Danny Solazzi has emerged as a grass-roots hero in preserving the legacy that is Joan Jett. His outside project, The Characters, celebrates the friendship between the two on his song, Last Of A Dyin Breed. Also available on Blackheart Records and viewed as a complement to the talent Jett attracts to the label. The Characters is very well done for an independent release. Its sound is amazingly fresh with fat open chords such as in Miss America, MaryAnn and the outstanding I Have Not Yet Begun To Fight.. A Little Bit More Rain comes dangerously close to Black Crowes territory while She Looks Like A Wild Time makes nice use of sax. Solazzi proves to be an adept student of Jetts style and delivery and a compliment to her musical muscle as well as a gifted musician in his own right. The two would make a great bill.