Joan Jett: Bad Reputation (1980)

Joan Jett is a freakin' national treasure.  The Tom Hanks of rock & roll.  Yet it seems a lot of us take her for granted.  She's been around forever, and a couple of her songs are ubiquitous on the radio and in pop culture generally, and she's probably done more as a role model for women and LGBT musicians than pretty much anyone; but how often to you see people pull out a Joan Jett album, or gush ad nauseum about her in the music press?

Or maybe I'm just missing it.  Yeah, she was the subject of a fawning (and great) documentary a couple years back (if you haven't seen it, go stream it NOW).  Still, I just never feel she gets the cred she's earned.

I mean, her albums are just great.  Even the weaker ones, some of those 80s releases bogged down by dated production, have moments of brilliance; but there's no Joan Jett album you can pull out and not be like, yeah, this is totally solid.  And sure, she's arguably more consistent as an interpreter of others' works than as a songwriter, but that doesn't diminish that her covers almost invariably kick serious ass (and are often incredibly inspired choices, everyone from the Replacements to the Modern Lovers to AC/DC).

Anyway, yeah, I love Joan Jett.

Pressed to pick a favorite album, I'd probably go with her self-titled, self-released 1980 debut (reissued as Bad Reputation the following year).  In a break from the punk-tinged hard rock from her Runaways days, the album is more radio-friendly power pop with energetic glam touches, total ear candy.  The title track, while perhaps drawing a little too much pop culture saturation courtesy of Shrek, remains just drop-dead perfect.  Can you hear this and not want to crank up the stereo to maximum volume?  (No.  No, you can't.)  But there's also the pure bubblegum of "You Don't Know What You've Got" and "Let Me Go" and "Jezebel" (some of her finest originals); and some well-handled covers, notably "Shout" and a pair of (ugh) Gary Glitter tunes.  The CD appends some nice bonus tracks as well, particularly a perky take on The Who's "Call Me Lightning."

Bottom line, this fucker is pure unadulterated fun, but really, that pretty much goes for most of her records.  Buy 'em all!

Here's that title track (live on Letterman):
...and "You Don't Know What You've Got":
...and "Make Believe":
And here's a live take on "Do You Wanna Touch Me," helpfully paired with her cover of the Replacements' wonderful "Androgynous":