The time: September, 1984. I had just begun my junior year at Georgetown University, having taken over the job as music director at WROX, the campus radio station, and arts editor at the Georgetown Voice, the campus alternative weekly.
Even though my grades were sure to suffer (and they did), I was determined to make the most of my opportunity to become BMOC when it came to hooking up with music VIPs.
Pulling a few strings, I managed to arrange a phone interview with Joan Jett, shortly before she and the Blackhearts were about to release Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth.
Three years earlier, Jett had sat atop the pop world with her hits “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “Crimson and Clover.” It was never a perch that was apparently very comfortable for her. The idea of being a pop star didn’t exactly square with an artist who started out playing raucous live shows in cheap bars – and never got over that adrenaline rush.
By 1984, the fervor had died down and Top 40 radio had forgotten about Jett. In fact, the only places where she got regular airplay were adventurous AOR stations and college radio outlets like ours.
The interview didn’t exactly start out auspiciously. Phone-line hook-ups at our small carrier-current facility were never a breeze. Whatever Jett started out saying was not being recorded, but I didn’t want to waste her time. So we started talking about her recent concerts in Eastern Europe, which was still under Communist control.
According to Wikipedia, Jett was only the second American act of any kind to perform behind the Iron Curtain (The first? Believe it not, Blood Sweat & Tears in Romania in 1969). Towards the end of that conversation, the difficulties had been solved and you get to hear about the kind of crazy reaction she and the Blackhearts received.
Mostly, however, we spend our time talking about her new album, which many now regard as one of Jett’s finest. She talked about how “Frustrated” and “Talkin’ About My Baby” were her two favorite tracks at that time – even admitting that the latter tune was pretty sexual in nature.
“Talkin’ About My Baby” (download)
I asked her about cover tunes, expecting her to talk about the closet thing to a hit that the album would have, her “remake” of the song she made famous with the Runaways “Cherry Bomb.” Or at least Gary Glitter’s “I Love You Love Me Love.”
Instead, she discussed “New Orleans” and an interesting story I had all but forgotten about until I heard the tape.
Apparently, the subject of the Gary U.S. Bonds original arose and everyone was talking about how much they liked it.
Except no one remembered all the lyrics.
By sheer coincidence (and I have my doubts that it was a true coincidence) Bonds happened to be around the studio one day. And the band got up the nerve first to ask him to write out the lyrics and secondly, to sing backing vocals on the song. “That was a real thrill,” she said. “That was a lot of fun.”
“New Orleans” (download)
The final part of our interview featured Jett struggling with our station ID – basically because the doofus on the other end of the phone (that would be me) kept on offering inane suggestions. Listen to how reluctant she is when I ask her to say something like “I love WROX” a la “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Clearly, she hadn’t made her peace with that tune yet. She did come up with an ID, but sadly it was cut off at the last moment –because I taped a subsequent station ID with someone else over it. (Don’t worry. You’ll hear that too in coming weeks – and it’s a doozy)
Like I said, I’m a doofus.
I wound up editing down the interview for the newspaper, but I can’t remember whether it ever made the air. In any case, here’s a chance to hear the queen of rock ‘n’ roll talk shop during her prime.
Joan Jett interview: (download)