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“If you want to know about sex, it’s in the songs.” – Joan Jett

“My image was my armor. It’s not like I went around punching people, but people were intimidated.”

When Joan Jett was 13 years old, she had her first lesson on the electric guitar her parents had given her for Christmas. “I went in there all excited and said to the teacher: ‘I wanna play rock’n’roll,’” she says. “And he said to me: ‘Girls don’t play rock’n’roll. Let me teach you [the folk song] On Top of Old Smokey instead.’” Jett never went back for a second lesson – instead, she bought a book and taught herself to play. It wouldn’t be the last time a man tried to put her in her place: “It’s the hand in the face telling you ‘You can’t do this’ or ‘Don’t do that’,” she says. “And it’s not just in rock’n’roll, it’s everywhere.”

This year marks 40 years since I Love Rock’n’Roll, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ cover of a song originally by the Arrows, reached No 1 in the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for seven weeks. The Blackhearts were Jett’s second band; her first, the Runaways, in which she played rhythm guitar, had barged their way on to the Los Angeles punk scene in 1976, making their debut with the raucous single Cherry Bomb. By 1979, they had split up. Since those heady, chaotic early years, Jett has barely stopped. At 63, she continues to release albums on her label, Blackheart Records, and, pandemic notwithstanding, tours relentlessly. As the decades have passed, veneration of Jett as a feminist pioneer and all-round force of nature has grown. In 2010, Kristen Stewart played her in the biopic The Runaways (with Dakota Fanning as the band’s singer, Cherie Currie), while in 2018, Bad Reputation, Kevin Kerslake’s documentary named after one of Jett’s signature songs, traced her rise from snarling teen to rock’n’roll grande dame… read more >

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