She’s been called everything from innovator, to pioneer, punk forerunner and visionary – yet Joan Jett doesn’t necessarily see herself rocking out on a level playing field.
Some of that feeling, as Jett recently told the L.A. Times, comes from the mass media appropriation of the edge that surrounds the best rock ‘n’ roll.
“The media took the word 'rock.’ Everything rocks: Food rocks, clothes rock, everything rocks except rock,” she said.
As Jett’s longtime producer and writer Kenny Laguna notes, those issues are hardly new. “When she started the Runaways, because she’s a girl, the amount of hostility she was just unreasonable,” he said.
Then again, the world seems to have slowly caught up with Jett’s brand of unapologetic, double-barreled, take-no-prisoners style of rock ‘n’ roll. Sony Pictures’s film, The Runaways (2010) -- which recounted the story of Jett’s first band, and early struggles – helped Jett to reach a whole new audience.
Last year, Jett’s profile took a quantum leap with her induction – along with her longtime band, The Blackhearts – into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. The standing ovation that she got, as she recalled for the Times, proved overwhelming – having dealt with so many people “who didn’t think I was worth much for most of my career,” said Jett.
“To me felt not like vindication — because that's not humble and you have to have humility in this — but just a recognition of what I've done or what we've all done,” she said.
Then again, in a field stocked with manufactured pop idols and one- or two-hit wonders, Jett is an outspoken, unapologetic old school rarity – the kind who simply rolls up her sleeves, and gets on with the work, which keeps the fans coming back for more.
So far, Jett has racked up eight gold and platinum albums, along with nine Top 40 singles – including “Bad Reputation,” “Crimson And Clover,” “I Hate Myself For Loving You,” and “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll.” Her latest album is Unvarnished (2013), which broke a seven-year gap, and – for critics like Tim Sendra, of the All Music Guide – signaled a welcome return to the punchier style of her earlier work, before “she took an unfortunate turn toward the mainstream in the late ‘80s,” he said.
“It’s not exactly a comeback, because she never went away. It's more of a rousing welcome to anyone who might have forgotten how great she was in her prime,” said Sendra.
Ultimate Classic Rock voiced similar sentiments, suggesting that Unvarnished is the sort of album that longtime fans hoped Jett would make again “At times, Jett’s vocals come off as a little understated. That aside, it is a fine album and worth the near decade long wait. Jett fans with be loving every moment of it.”
Such positive verdicts didn’t prevent Unvarnished from slipping under the radar, although the battle to get heard is no easier today than the climate that Jett and her fellow Runaways first encountered, as she told theTimes.
“I'm not sure how the radio play breaks down, or the Internet play. We're in a different climate and we recognize that. You just have to do your best,” she said.
This year’s agenda, however, focuses on touring, touring, and still more touring – including a 31-date outing with Cheap Trick and Heart, which will keep her and the Blackhearts busy through the summer. (The Four Winds date is rescheduled from October 2015; all original tickets will be honored.)
If her concert writeups are anything to go by, Jett’s not turning down the heat any time soon.
As the Hey Reverb blog noted of a June 2015 show in Houston, Jett “remains a spitfire on stage. Clad in tight black leather, slashing at her guitar, Jett still perfectly delivered her vocals in the defiant sneer of a hungry young rocker.”
Then again, as Jett told the Cleveland Plain Dealer last year,she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I do still enjoy it. The part that feels like a job is the traveling aspect, but getting onstage never feels like a job to me. It's an honor to be able to do this,” she said.
Live: February 26
Four Winds Casino
New Buffalo, MI.
Tickets: $65 to $100 (rescheduled
from October 2015; all original tickets will be honored). Available www.ticketmaster.com.
More Information: http://www.fourwindscasino.com/,