Recently I was lucky enough to walk away with six Joan Jett and the Blackhearts records. One of my favorite vinyl shops, Monkey Feet Music, has just received a lot of 6,000 records. Needless to say when I get paid, I’m making another trip.
One of the albums I picked up was Bad Reputation. After doing research, I found that this album was actually Joan Jett’s self titled solo debut. This album is her first album after leaving The Runaways.
The album’s opener is the Jett classic “Bad Reputation.” This is one of my favorite Jett songs and is a great anthem to sing while driving to work. There is nothing like yelling, “I don’t give a damn about my bad reputation!” right before walking into a dreaded business meeting.
Although what really stood out to me on this album was Jett’s covers of the 1960’s classics “You Don’t Own Me,” “Shout,” and “Woolly Bully” (Technically “Shout” was released in September 1959, but I figured it was close enough). These songs were recorded off the heels of rockabilly, so it is only natural that Jett would pay homage to these founding songs years later.
When listening to anything that Jett touches, you must remember there is rock and roll and then there’s Jett’s version. Her version mixes a punk image with a rhythmic guitar rift and gritty vocals. It’s quite unpredictable.
This is evident on her version of “Shout.” No longer is this a cheery pop song, but it’s a rock anthem of rebellion. I love Jett’s clever rewording of the song, “Take my pants off and shout!” I could easily see myself at a Jett concert or in the comfort of my own home hopping around, beer in hand, screaming these words with or without pants. The same goes for “Woolly Bully.” This song was “dirty” for the time, pushing the limits when it comes to content. Naturally, Jett just piles on all the dirt it needs with a dash of her brand of sex appeal creating a version that definitely wouldn’t be allowed in 1969.
Yet, the true gem out of these tunes is Jett’s cover of “You Don’t Own Me.” This song was originally sung by Lesley Gore who I would consider sweet, wholesome, and just plain cute. Those are some sentiments Jett quickly turns around in her version.
Jett gives this song a completely new persona proving that lyrical content often lies in the hands of the vocalist. No longer was it a sweet girl you felt sorry for, this was a girl you were scared of! She became the girl the boys had to fight for and treat right. Jett played by her own rules and she was not afraid to swing a few punches.
In many ways this album and her 1960’s covers only foreshadows the rest of Jett’s trailblazing career. She was already a bull out of the gates with songs like “Bad Reputation” and “You Don’t Know What You Got,” but it is the little things that remind you of the Jett’s true musical genius and artistry.
For her to go back and cover three 1960’s song on her first effort after the Runaways is brilliance. This shined a light directly on her pure musical talent. It shows Jett’s respect for those who came before her, but it also showed she had a complete style all her own, a style only she is capable of.
It’s safe to say Jett truly loves rock and roll and it’s foundation, but she gives it a new reputation.