Bad Reputation: The Unauthorized Biography of Joan Jett

Dave Thompson. Backbeat, $19.99 trade paper (280p) ISBN 978-0-87930-990-9
To trace the trajectory of singer-songwriter-actress Jett’s rocket rise to fame, Rolling Stone contributor Thompson begins with her 1958 birth as Joan Larkin in Pennsylvania, followed by her family’s move to L.A., enabling her at age 16 to dig the glam rock scene at Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco. Absorbing Suzi Quatro’s look and style, Jett was 17 when she launched her career with the Runaways, “the first all-female band to play high-energy rock ’n’ roll.” They encountered hostility and sexist taunts, but toured internationally until “personal differences” split the band apart in 1979. Jett reinvented herself, holding auditions for the Blackhearts: “I want guys in the band—I just love the Runaways too much to do another girl band.” When major record labels rejected the new group, they formed Blackheart Records and sold direct to fans. Success came in 1982 when “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll” climbed to Billboard’s #1 spot, prompting her comment, “The Blackhearts were this punk garage band that nobody would even deal with; then, all of a sudden, we have this #1 song and we’re mainstream. It’s all perception. We didn’t change a thing.” Thompson’s narrative moves at a fast clip, highlighting producers, band members, fans, films, rival groups, albums, and videos, as he details how Jett fueled a high-octane frenzy with her confidence, drive, and blistering performances. (Oct. 11)
Reviewed on: 08/08/2011
Release date: 08/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
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