In Los Angeles, Joan interacted with some of her idols, including Suzi Quatro, one of the first female rock musicians who played an instrument. Quatro was vital to Joan's career, and Joan adopted many of Suzi's qualities including her shag haircut and style. Jett would quietly wait in the lobby of various hotels that Suzi was staying in during her US tours, just to catch a glimpse of her. She wore wooden platform shoes with "Suzi Quatro" carved into the side to her favorite night spot, Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco. Joan was further introduced to the glam-rock style she so adored as this genre was explosive in the UK and Europe, but never quite took off in the US. Rodney's was the only place Jett could hear this style of music, and it certainly helped develop her image.
Jett is a founding member of The Runaways along with drummer Sandy West. Micki Steele (who was later replaced), Jackie Fox, Lita Ford, and Cherie Currie completed the line-up. While Currie initially fronted the band, Jett shared some lead vocals, played rhythm guitar and wrote or co-wrote a lot of the band's material along with Ford, West and Currie. The band recorded five LPs, with Live In Japan becoming one of the biggest-selling imports in U.S. and U.K. history. The band toured around the world and some of their opening acts included Cheap Trick, Rush, Van Halen and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. They found success abroad, especially in Japan.
While The Runaways were popular in Europe, Asia, Australia, Canada and South America, they could not garner the same level of success in the U.S. After Currie and Fox left the band (to be replaced by bassist Vicki Blue and later, Laurie McAllister), the band released two more albums: Waitin' for the Night and And Now... The Runaways. Altogether they produced five albums from 1975 until they disbanded in spring of 1979.
Soon after, Jett produced The Germs' first and only album (GI).
In the spring of 1979, Jett was in England pursuing a solo career. She recorded three songs there with Sex Pistols's Paul Cook and Steve Jones (one of which was an early version of a cover song called "I Love Rock 'n' Roll," originally written and recorded in 1975 by The Arrows).The song was hand picked for her by then manager Toby Mamis, who predicted it would become a "rock anthem" for her, which it did.
Later that year, she returned to Los Angeles, where she reluctantly began fulfilling an obligation of the Runaways to complete a film loosely based on the band's career called We're All Crazee Now!, with three actresses standing in for her departed band members, including the iconic cult star Rainbeaux (Cheryl) Smith, who was also a rock drummer. While working on the project, Jett met songwriter and producer Kenny Laguna, who was hired by Mamis to help Jett with writing some tracks for the film. They became friends and decided to work together and she relocated to Long Beach, New York where Kenny Laguna was based. The plug was pulled on the project halfway through shooting with Jett being ill, but in 1984, after Jett had become a major star, producers looked for a way to make use of the footage from the incomplete film. Bits of the original footage of Jett were used in a completely different project, an underground movie called DuBeat-Eo, never commercially released, produced by Alan Sacks.
Jett and Laguna entered The Who’s Ramport Studios with the latter at the helm. Jett's self-titled solo debut was released in Europe on May 17, 1980. In the US, after the album was rejected by 23 major labels, Jett and Laguna released it independently on their new Blackheart Records label, which they started with Laguna's daughter's college savings. Laguna remembers, "We couldn't think of anything else to do, but print up records ourselves, and that's how Blackheart Records started. Joan Jett was known as "the badass" of the group.
With Laguna's assistance, Jett formed the Blackhearts. She placed an ad in the L.A. Weekly "looking for three good men." John Doe of X sat in on bass for the auditions held at S.I.R. studios in Los Angeles. He mentioned a local bass player, Gary Ryan, who had recently been crashing on his couch. Ryan was part of the L.A. punk scene and had played bass with local artists Top Jimmy and Rik L. Rik. He had been a fan of the Runaways and Jett for years. Jett recognized him at the audition and he was in. Ryan in turn recommended guitarist Eric Ambel, who was also at the time part of Rik L. Rik. The final addition to the original Blackhearts was drummer Danny "Furious" O'Brien, formerly of the infamous San Francisco band The Avengers. This line-up played several gigs at the Golden Bear and Whisky a Go Go in Hollywood before embarking on their first European tour which consisted of an extensive tour of the Netherlands, and a few key shows in England including the Marquee in London.
Upon returning to the States, Jett, Ryan, and Ambel moved to Long Beach, New York. O'Brien stayed behind in England to pursue other interests. Auditions were set up and Lee Crystal, formerly of The Boyfriends and Sylvain Sylvain, became the new drummer. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts then toured throughout the US and built quite a following in New York. Jett and Laguna soon used their personal savings to press up copies of the Joan Jett album and set up their own system of independent distribution, sometimes selling the albums out of the trunk of Laguna's Cadillac at the end of each concert. Laguna was unable to keep up with demand for her album. Eventually, old friend and founder of Casablanca Records, Neil Bogart, made a joint venture with Laguna and signed Jett to his new label, Boardwalk Records and re-released the Joan Jett album as Bad Reputation. After a year of touring and recording, The Blackhearts recorded a new album entitled I Love Rock 'n Roll for the label. Ambel was replaced by local guitarist Ricky Byrd during the recording.
With Byrd on guitar, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts recorded their hit album. The new single was a re-recording of the title track, "I Love Rock 'n Roll," which in the first half of 1982 was number one on the Billboard charts for seven weeks in a row. It is Billboard’s #28 song of all time.
A string of Top 40 hits followed, as well as sellout tours with The Police, Queen, and Aerosmith, among others. Jett was the second American act of any kind to perform behind the Iron Curtain, after Blood, Sweat & Tears in Romania in 1969. She was among the first English-speaking rock acts to appear in Panama and the Dominican Republic.
After receiving her own MTV New Year's Eve special, Jett beat out a number of contenders to appear in the movie Light of Day with Michael J. Fox. Bruce Springsteen wrote the song "Light of Day" especially for her, and her performance was critically acclaimed. It was about this time that Ryan and Crystal left the Blackhearts. They were soon replaced by the powerful rhythm section of Thommy Price and Kasim Sulton. Later that year, Jett released Good Music, which featured appearances by The Beach Boys, The Sugarhill Gang and singer Darlene Love.
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts became the first rock band to perform a series of shows at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on Broadway, breaking the record at the time for the fastest ticket sell-out. Her next release, Up Your Alley, went multi-platinum and was followed by The Hit List, which was an album consisting of cover songs. During this time, Jett co-wrote the song "House of Fire," which appeared on Alice Cooper's 1989 album Trash.
Her 1991 release Notorious, which featured The Replacements' Paul Westerberg and former Billy Idol bassist Phil Feit, was the last with Sony/CBS as Jett switched to Warner Brothers. A CD single of "Let's Do It" featuring Jett and Westerberg was also released during this time and appeared in the song credits for the movie Tank Girl. In 1993, Jett and Laguna released Flashback, a compilation of various songs on their own Blackheart Records.
Jett produced several bands prior to releasing her debut and her label Blackheart Records released recordings from varied artists such as thrash-rock band Metal Church and rapper Big Daddy Kane.
The press touted Jett as the "Godmother of Punk" and the "Original Riot Grrrl." In 1994, the Blackhearts released the well-received Pure and Simple, which featured tracks written with Babes in Toyland'sKat Bjelland, L7'sDonita Sparks and Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna. 2004-2006 found Joan working on various side productions and projects.
In June 2006, Joan Jett released her album, Sinner, on her own label, Blackheart Records. To support the album, the band appeared on the 2006 Warped Tour and on a fall 2006 tour with Eagles of Death Metal. Various other bands like Antigone Rising, Valient Thorr, The Vacancies, Throw Rag and Riverboat Gamblers were to have joined the tour for a handful of dates each.
Following The Dave Clark Five's induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, on March 10, 2008, Jett, as part of the ceremony, closed the program with a performance of the DC5's 1964 hit "Bits and Pieces." She was introduced by actor Tom Hanks, who said, "Ladies and gentlemen — at one time, if I had been lucky, one of the most beautiful 'Mrs. Tom Hanks' you can imagine, but I'm not complainin' — Joan Jett!"
Jett was an executive producer for the film The Runaways, which chronicled the Runaways' career. Floria Sigismondi, who directed videos for Marilyn Manson, the White Stripes and David Bowie, wrote and directed. Production of the movie began filming around Twilight's Kristen Stewart filming schedule (i.e. of the sequels New Moon and Eclipse). Stewart played Joan Jett in the film. In order to prepare for the role, Stewart met Jett around the 08/09 New Year. In a recent interview, Stewart revealed that she hopes to be able to sing some of the songs in the film. The film explores the friendship and falling out between Jett and Runaways lead singer, Cherie Currie, played by Dakota Fanning, and premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 24, 2010.
March saw the release of a 2-CD Greatest Hits album with 4 newly rerecorded songs, 3 of which are Runaways hits, and one a track from her I Love Rock 'N' Roll album. March 2010 also saw the release of a hardcover biography and picture book, spanning her career from the Runaways to the present day.
Joan Jett (born Joan Marie Larkin; September 22, 1958) is an American rock guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and actress.
She is best known for her work with Joan Jett & the Blackhearts including their hit cover "I Love Rock 'n' Roll", which was #1 on the Billboard charts from March 20 to May 1, 1982, as well as for their other popular recordings including "Crimson and Clover," "I Hate Myself for Loving You," "Do You Want to Touch Me," "Light of Day," "Love Is All Around," "Bad Reputation," and "Little Liar."
Her musical and songwriting approach is heavily influenced by the hard-edged, hard beat-driven rhythms common to many rock bands of her native Philadelphia, often featuring lyrics surrounding themes of lost love, criticisms of insincerity, the quest for authenticity, the struggles and resolutions of the American working class.
Joan Jett was born at Lankenau Hospital in Wynnewood, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She moved to Rockville, Maryland, in 1967 where she attended Randolph Junior High and Wheaton High School. In her teens, Jett would sneak out at night to go to concerts with friends. She got her first guitar for Christmas from her father at the age of 13, and she mostly spent time after that writing songs. She also became involved with a bartender at a club from the town, at which point her family then re-located to West Covina, a suburb of Los Angeles, providing Jett the opportunity to pursue her musical endeavors.