Tuesday, September 07, 2010

I Love Rock 'n' Roll

JJ courtesy of Lorena

Yes, well, I know it's been a while. Close to five months, actually. But Dearest Friends, I'm not going to spend oodles of e-screed explaining where I've been or where my blog-o-mojo went. It's all good, I'm all good, good to be back. But what brought me back, you ask? That's a fair question, and one deserving of an answer. Rock 'n' roll brought me back, Dearest Friends, and to be more specific: Joan "F**king" Jett. Oh, yessssss...

Back in May I watched The Runaways while I was 30,000 feet over the Canadian prairies. Suddenly, Air Canada booze and reheated chicken lost it's appeal; I wanted to rip my tiny screen out of the seatback, undergo a sex change, piss on the stewardess, and play whirling air guitar while belting out "Ch-ch-Ch-ch-Ch-ch-Ch-ch- CHERRY BAWWWMBB!!"at the top of my lungs. But I restrained myself, and consequently remain off the "No Fly" list. That said, the film became firmly cemented in my Top Ten faves and may well be the best rawk film I have ever seen. And henceforward I will never be able to hear The Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog" without getting a warm, tingly,throbbing feeling down there. You have been warned.

My first exposure to Joan Jett (no, not THAT kind, you pervy lot) came in the early 80s with her & The Blackhearts's version of "I Love Rock & Roll." Pretty standard for all sniveling brats of my era, I supposes, but I was taken by JJ's attitude and snarl. Over the course of my subsequent musical education, I became acquainted with and appreciative of various bits & pieces of the Runaways story, hagiography, and oeuvre. But the film really pulled it all together and put everything into place; the lineage from glam to punk, the hard graft, the shit, the dedication, the insecurity, the passion, the attitude.

So when I saw that Joan Jett & The Blackhearts were playing the PNE in my Beloved Vancouver on 27 August, well, I just had to go, didn't I? So my chum Dearest Lorena and I and headed out to enjoy all that the Fair had to offer - landmines, pigs, newborn calves ripped from their mothers at Safeway Farmland (vegetarianism beckons), deep-fried Mars Bars, and the finest rock 'n' roll going. JJ took the stage looking small and tough in skinny black jeans and Chuck Taylors to a screaming audience comprised of small children, fortysomethings, lesbians, and me. The crowd went wild, and JJ greeted it by dedicating the show to her mother, who had died the previous morning.




Pins drop. Clangingly.

And then she rips with no quarter into "Bad Reputation," followed by "Cherry Bomb." I cream my jeans, along with every little nobody shit in the crowd. Each number is a stormer, from the earnest, self penned "Change the World" to the plethora of covers on which JJ&B have built their kick-ass reputation.

The following day I found myself in Vancouver's mighty Neptoon Records, chatting with the owner while negotiating the purchase of a Fall album and some obscure 60s garage compilation. He relates that some friends of his who had attended the gig reported arsely that JJ really doesn't have enough original material to sustain a full show. I venture that they were fucking prog rock geeks who had missed the fucking point. Sure, much of what JJ & co played covered hallowed ground ("Crimson & Clover," 'I Love Rock & Roll"). But it was played with heart, verve, passion, and belief that exceeded everything the songs' progenitors had ever put into them. And her original compositions, while perhaps not always up to the technical perfection of those of her ancestors, were heartfelt, honest, and fully meant. So fuck you, friends of Neptoon Records owner. JJ means it, maaaaan.

When I got home that night, I picked up the dust-coated guitar my Dearest Father-in-Law had given to me two years ago, plugged it into my heretofore dormant amp, turned everything up to eleven, and for the first time ever strummed out a few discordant, uneducated chords. It felt electric good, like nothing else ever.

I love rock & roll. And Joan Jett.

Joan Jett with Evil Stig - Crimson & Clover (buy here or e-here)
Cover of a cover born of a benefit collaboration between Joan Jett and members of Seattle's The Gits in memory of the group's lead singer, Mia Zapata, who was raped and murdered.

Joan Jett with Steve Jones & Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols - I Love Rock & Roll (buy here or e-here)
I know, all you 80s brats out there think this here song was penned by JJ herself. Well, it was actually written & recorded in 1975 by a UK band called The Arrows. Joan wanted to record it with The Runaways, but her bandmates weren't keen. So in 1979 she partnered with Messrs Cook & Jones to record it. Though this version never got a release, it got heavy rotation and wild audience appreciation on the mighty 92.7 WLIR.

And finally, here's a tune I had clear forgotten about until Joan launched into it at the PNE. Penned by La Jett along with Paul Westerberg, it's a beaut: