After The Runaways split in 1979, Jett pursued solo career and met Kenny Laguna and soon released her self-titled debut.
Shortly after that, with Kenny’s assistance, Joan formed The Blackhearts with three obscure New York area musicians: Gary Ryan on bass, Eric Ambel (replaced shortly thereafter by Rick Byrd) on guitar and Lee Crystal on drums. After almost a year of touring, Joan’s first album with The Blackhearts, entitled I Love Rock’N’Roll came out in December of 1981. The album included a version of “Little Drummer Boy” on the pre-Christmas editions. The album’s impact on the music scene was immediate with the LP reaching the Top Five, while the single “I Love Rock’n’Roll” hit the very top of the Billboard’s Charts on March 20, 1982 and stayed #1 for 7 weeks. Joan Jett had come back from nowhere.
A string of Top 40 hits followed, as well as sellout tours with The Police, Queen, and Aerosmith, among others. Jett was the second American act of any kind to perform behind the Iron Curtain, the first one being Blood, Sweat & Tears in Romania in 1969. She was among the first English-speaking rock acts to appear in Panama and the Dominican Republic.
Forced label changes in the 80’s led to a decline in popularity. Despite the follow-up albums “Album” and “Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth” being praised by her devout fans, neither got the attention or radio play the first two albums received.
After receiving her own MTV New Year’s Eve special, Jett beat out a number of contenders to appear in the movie Light of Day with Michael J. Fox. It was about this time that Ryan and Crystal left the Blackhearts. They were soon replaced by the powerful rhythm section of Thommy Price and Kasim Sulton. Later that year, Jett released “Good Music”, which featured appearances by The Beach Boys, The Sugarhill Gang and singer Darlene Love. The album only spawned two minor singles which received little airplay. This label decided the band had to either take in outside help or they would lose their contract.
And so they did. Her next release, Up Your Alley, went multi-platinum and was followed by “The Hit List”, which was an international hit. Popular songwriter/producer Desmond Child was brought in, resulting in the release of album “Up Your Alley”. This album brought the band a resurgence in popularity, with top 10 singles “I Hate Myself for Loving You” and “Little Liar”.
This return to the spotlight would be short-lived, however. Follow-up album “The Hit List”, an all-cover songs release, spawned only a minor hit with Jett’s version of AC/DC‘s “Dirty Deeds”.
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts became the first rock band to perform a series of shows at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on Broadway, breaking the record at the time for the fastest ticket sell-out ever.
1991 and 1994 had two more releases, “Notorious” and “Pure & Simple”. But radio had started looking to grunge by this time, and neither album got the attention they deserved.
In the 1990s, Jett and Laguna released “Flashback”, a compilation of her career so far on their own Blackheart Records. Her next release, “Notorious” (which featured The Replacements‘ Paul Westerberg) was the last with Sony/CBS as Jett switched to Warner Brothers.
While a slew of hits packages, some with an occasional new or previously unreleased track were released following this, it would be 10 years before a new studio album would appear.
This would be 2004’s “Naked”, and thus far has been a Japan-only release. The album sees Jett returning to a more raw and experimental sound, closer to that of her first 4 releases than the polished material that began with “Good Music”.
Failing to get “Naked” released in other markets, Jett released on a more international level “Sinner” in June 2006, on Blackheart Records, her own label.. This album featured many remixed tracks from “Naked”, and a complete rewrite of “Stuck in the Middle” to new version “Riddles”. Lead-off single and video was a cover of “A.C.D.C.” by Sweet.
To support the album, the band appeared on the 2006 Warped Tour, and embarked on a Fall 2006 tour with Eagles of Death Metal. Various other bands like Valient Thorr, The Vacancies, Throw Rag and Riverboat Gamblers were to have joined the tour for a handful of dates each.
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