Archive for the ‘Joan Jett’ Category

Fun, but frustrating. That, in a nutshell, summarizes my reaction to the Facebook challenge of naming 10 all-time favorite albums over the course of 10 days. I have far more than 10 all-time favorites, many of which are equally weighted on the scale I employ to rate records. (Among my measurements: “wondrous,” “wow. just wow,” “sublime,” “mesmerizing,” “transcendent” and “it takes you there, wherever there is.”)

Selecting them also meant adopting a different mindset than when choosing my ballyhooed Album of the Year honor. There, I look back at what I’ve bought and played most often during the previous 12 months, and gauge what resonated with my soul at such a deep level that I know, just know, I’ll be listening to it for the rest of my life. (Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong.)

Memes weren’t created to be fair, however, but to entertain. And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: 10 All-Time Favorite Albums, Part 2. (Part 1 can be found here.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 6: Juliana Hatfield – in exile deo. I’ve yet to feature this album in my “Essentials” series, but will at some point. It’s one of Juliana’s best albums – and her second to nab my esteemed Album of the Year honor.

Day 7: Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – I Love Rock ’n Roll. It may not be Joan’s best album (her debut, Bad Reputation, is likely that), but it’s her most important – and, in my estimation, one of the most important albums in rock history. Thus, its “Essential” status. 

Day 8: 10,000 Maniacs – Our Time in Eden. As perfect an album ever released, in my opinion. And another “Essentials” pick.

Day 9: Stephen Stills – Manassas. A two-LP (now one-CD) gem. Another “Essentials” pick.

Day 10: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – Darkness on the Edge of Town. This 1978 album is one of the greatest albums of all time. What’s amazing about it, to me, is that the themes that Springsteen explores, both lyrically and musically, speak to their time and to all times. (It’s a future “Essentials” pick, in other words.)

And a three non-Facebook bonuses…

Day 11: Dusty Springfield – Dusty in Memphis. Another perfect record. And another “Essentials” pick.

Day 12: The Jam – Snap!. One of the greatest best-of compilations to be released on vinyl, and a set I’ve listened to as much in the past year as I did in the first year I bought it. It never grows old. (It’s an “Essential,” in other words.)

Day 13: Courtney Marie Andrews – Honest Life. It may be a relatively recent album, and as such doesn’t qualify for “essential” status just yet (my homegrown rule is an album has to be at least five years old for that), but it shot to the top of my internal charts the moment I heard it, and hasn’t left. It’s everything good about music. 

Every Monday, we rolled out of bed, ate breakfast while scanning the sports section of the morning newspaper, and headed to the bus stop, where we waited with a motley crew of kids from the neighborhood. At school, we navigated the halls on the way to and fro’ class, and fled at day’s end unless we had an after-school activity of some kind. The next morn, we did it again. And again after that, times three, until summer break came.

After school, depending on weather and mood, we played in the street or the park, rode our bikes or walked to independently owned music and book stores in our small town’s business district, or hiked the long hill to the Village Mall, where we browsed the chain-store versions of the same. The main difference: the folks behind the counter at those independent stores knew my name. At the chain stores? They only knew my cash.

In 1982, social media would have meant talk radio. Cable TV was around, but channels weren’t many. In the Philly area, the most important to get was PRISM, an HBO-like premium channel that, in addition to movies and specials, carried the home games of the Flyers.

In some respects, life was less hectic. The news cycle played out in drips and drabs via the newspapers and evening newscasts, not the incessant drumbeat of disagreements that fill our Facebook and Twitter feeds. But, make no mistake, life was no less difficult then as now. June 1982, for example, saw America stuck in a wretched recession: Inflation clocked in at 7.2 percent while unemployment was 9.8 percent.

I was 16, going on 17.

New movies released this month include Poltergeist, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, E.T., Grease 2 and Blade Runner. True story: one day later this month, after school had let out for the summer, a friend and I trekked to the Village Mall, which was home to an two-screen Eric movie theater. He took in Poltergeist. I took in…Grease 2. That’s just how I rolled.

The top TV shows for the just-concluded 1981-82 season included Dallas, 60 Minutes, The Jeffersons, Three’s Company, Alice, The Dukes of Hazzard, Too Close for Comfort, M*A*S*H and One Day at a Time. (Of those, I only watched the last two on a regular basis.)

In the world of music, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder were atop the charts with “Ebony and Ivory” – a 45 I still own – for all of June. Other hot hits included Rick Springfield’s “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309/Jenny,” the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts’ cover of “Crimson & Clover.” (As always with all things charts, I rely on Weekly Top 40.)

Which leads to today’s Top 5: June 1982 via Creem. Joan Jett graces the front cover of the issue and, via an ad, the back.

1) Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – “I Love Rock ’n Roll.” The Iman Lababedi-penned cover article chronicles Joan Jett’s ascent from the generally ignored Runaways to this point in time, when she was on a roll, having finished a seven-week run at No. 1 with “I Love Rock ’n Roll” on May 1st, and then cracking the Top 10 again this month with “Crimson & Clover,” to say nothing of her platinum-selling I Love  Rock ’n Roll album.

2) Quarterflash – “Harden My Heart.” “In the United States, statistics show, a girl is walking out on her no-good man every 15 minutes. Statistics also show that 15 minutes later they’re going out and buying the Quarterflash record.” So begins music journalist Sylvie Simmons in this in-depth profile of the Portland, Oregon, band, which – to my ears – always sounded somewhat like Pat Benatar. Interestingly, the songs weren’t written by singer (and saxophonist) Rindy Ross, but her husband, guitarist Marv Ross.

3) The Jam – “A Town Called Malice.” Penny Valentine checks in from Britain with a good piece on the Jam. “Not since the Specials’ ‘Ghost Town’ has a record so well captured an urban mood and sent out its own warning: ‘Better stop dreaming of the quiet life/‘Cause it’s the one we’ll never know/And quit running for that runaway bus/‘Cause those rosy days are few.’”

She also delves into the album the song springs from. “So ‘Gift,’ an indecisive, incomplete, somewhat directionless collection musically and a set which reflects Weller’s own confusion between a salvation that lies with love and individualism or collective action, somewhat accidentally reflects exactly the political climate at the moment.”

4) Van Morrison – “Cleaning Windows.” Richard Riegel has the lead review, of Van Morrison’s Beautiful Vision, in the Records section. Of this song, he writes that “‘Cleaning Windows,’ which opens Side Two of Beautiful Vision, picks up some of the threads of ‘Summertime in England,” and is the most interesting song on the new set as a result. ‘Cleaning Windows’ stars Van Morrison as a repatriated Belfast window washer, who measures his life in the number of sparkling panes he’s left behind…”

He also laments that “nowhere else on Beautiful Vision does Van Morrison allow us such crystalline metaphors for his life. All 10 cuts have his trademark beautiful-vision melodies but lyrically too many of the other songs celebrate those vague bromides favorited by Bob Dylan in recent years, songs in which the satisfaction of the singer’s belief is supposed to substitute for acute lyric detail.”

5) The Call – “War-Weary World.” Riegel also contributes his take on the Call’s eponymous debut to the Rock-a-Rama roundup: “Clenched-jaw, urban-melodrama-verging-on-paranoia, a la Talking Heads, but far icier and more detached music than David Byrne would ever allow his disciplined-to-funk urban soul to express.”

(As noted in my first Essentials entry, this is an occasional series in which I spotlight albums that, in my estimation, everyone should experience at least once.)

The pages of history textbooks are filled will legions of folks who shaped the world, but – academia being what it is – many important people receive cursory mentions or none at all. Like Joan Jett.

Don’t get me wrong – there were important women rockers before her, and any music fan worth his or her salt should be able to list them – and she shared space in the record racks and ink in the rock magazines with a number of equally important contemporaries, albeit ones who were blazing trails in different genres. But few, male or female, rocked as consistently hard and steady as Joan Jett during the ’80s. Beginning with the I Love Rock ’n Roll album, which was released on November 18th, 1981, she taught a generation of gals and guys that either gender could make like Chuck Berry.

It was a long time coming, of course. She first dented the door to the men’s room that was rock ’n’ roll in the mid-1970s with the Runaways, though – success in Japan aside – they never transcended to popular acclaim. Her first solo album in 1980, originally a self-titled release before being rechristened Bad Reputation in January 1981, did achieve greatness – but few heard it. She finally kicked down the door in early 1982 with help from MTV, and the video for the chart-topping title track to her second LP. (Rock radio, at least in my neck of the woods, ignored her until then.)

The song, as the album as a whole, mixes elements of new wave, punk, glam rock and old-fashioned rock ’n’ roll into a delectable whole. It’s hot, heavy, loud and gritty or, as my mother-in-law might say, “it’s rough, it’s tough, and it’s got the stuff.”

The cover of Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Crimson & Clover,” which peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard charts, is equally audacious.

It’s also the album’s slowest song.

What makes an album great – and essential – isn’t any one song, of course, though some may be better than others. It’s the album in total. And in the case of I Love Rock n’ Roll, that means the other eight tracks on the LP – and they’re as solid as the two singles. What teenager (or adult, for that matter) couldn’t identify with “Victim of Circumstance”?

And who hasn’t known a “Nag”?

Like the title track, “Crimson & Clover” and several others on the LP, it’s a cover song, in this case one by a doo-wop group called the Haloes, who had a No. 25 hit with it in 1961. One of the other covers is one of Joan’s own, the Runaways’ “You’re Too Possessive” (from that band’s overlooked 1977 Waitin’ for the Night album):

There’s also the original “(I’m Gonna) Run Away”…

…and “Love Is Pain”:

On the original pressing of the LP (which I had), there was this Christmas treat –

After the holidays, Boardwalk replaced it with Joan’s own “Oh Woe Is Me,” which had been the b-side to “Crimson & Clover.”

The success of the album, which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard charts, led to a resurgence of interest for Bad Reputation, and paved the way for her strong third and fourth albums, Album (1983) and Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth (1984). True, they followed a similar pattern – a mix of killer new songs and choice covers – but it’s a pattern that didn’t grow old then, and doesn’t sound old now when or if you listen to them.

Side 1:

  1. I Love Rock ’n Roll
  2. (I’m Gonna) Run Away
  3. Love Is Pain
  4. Nag
  5. Crimson & Clover

Side 2:

  1. Victim of Circumstance
  2. Bits and Pieces
  3. Be Straight
  4. You’re Too Possessive
  5. Little Drummer Boy

IMG_1159In the Philadelphia region, like elsewhere in the northeastern U.S., the winter of 1976-77 was cold. How cold? According to Jon Nese and Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz, from December 1976 through February 1977, we experienced 54 days when temperatures dipped beneath 20 degrees; and, on 35 of them, temperatures never inched above the freezing mark. In fact, that January was the coldest month, ever, for the Delaware Valley.

For a kid a mere two years removed from a hot desert climate, it felt like a frigid hell. About the only saving grace: the lack of snow. We narrowly escaped the Blizzard of ’77, which slammed New England and, for the winter as a whole, amassed less than eight inches.

There were less pluses when it came to the economy. It wasn’t as awful as, say, 1974, but it wasn’t good. Unemployment was 7.8 percent and inflation was 5.2 percent. Yet, despite those stats and weather, optimism lingered in the air for a variety of reasons, including one of the greatest feel-good movies of all time, Rocky, which was released the month before; and Jimmy Carter, who was sworn into office as America’s 39th president on January 20th. It was a new day—and, ever so briefly, a new politics: at the start of his inaugural address, Carter thanked Gerald Ford, his predecessor, for all he had done to heal a land torn asunder by Watergate. The two shook hands.

Not that the speech lent itself to greatness; if anything, its prosaic language foreshadowed what would become a prosaic presidency.

IMG_1160In any event: Circus. It’s not a music magazine I read with regularity and, at this stage of my life, I wasn’t reading any, period. I was 11 /12, attending a public middle school (6th & 7th grades; there was a second middle school for 8th & 9th) that banned denim jeans, and was gung-ho for pro ‘rassling. On TV, in addition to the WWWF on weekends and Sunday football, I watched The Six Million Dollar Man, The Captain & Tennille, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, The Bionic Woman, Welcome Back, Kotter and Donny & Marie. I watched tons of reruns, too, including The Brady Bunch, The Monkees and The Partridge Family. (The addition of the second addiction/obsession, i.e. music, came later that year.)

Anyway, my main memory of Circus, which is from a few years later, is that it was (basically) a heavy-metal monthly, minus the cool art and stories that accented the real Heavy Metal magazine. So I was taken aback, last weekend, to discover this issue, dated January 31st, in a rather cool ephemera store about a 30-minute ride away from my home.

IMG_1161The tag beneath the title, as seen in the first picture, calls it “the leading rock & roll biweekly.” According to Wikipedia, “[i]n the late 1970s, the magazine started focusing on pop culture as a weekly in the vein of People Magazine, which caused a drop in sales.” This issue doesn’t read like People to me, but it does have several non-music articles – one on Raid to Entebbe, an NBC-TV movie starring Charles Bronson; another on Roots; and a profile of actress-writer Mary Kay Place, who was hot thanks to Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, and her first (and only) album. There’s also a quick-hit section called Front Pages that features reports on David Soul, 40-band CB radio, NASA and TV odds-and-ends; and the quick-hit Back Pages, which focuses on music. This issue, that means mentions of Paul McCartney & Wings, Queen, Boston, the Runaways, Alice Cooper and Bob Seger.

Here’s today’s Top 5: January 31st, 1977 (via Circus):

IMG_11621) Jackson Browne – “The Pretender.” Kit Rachlis reviews begins the review of Jackson’s fourth album with an excellent paragraph: “Three people haunt almost every word and note of Jackson Browne’s The Pretender: his wife, Phyllis, who committed suicide last spring; his three-year-old son, Ethan; and his father Clyde, who left his family when Browne was a child. In one sense, The Pretender can be seen as Browne’s attempt to come to terms with his own family—a family shattered by death and separation, renewed by the birth of his son. ‘Daddy’s Tune’ and ‘The Only Child’ are for his father and son. ‘Here Comes Those Tears Again,’ written with his mother-in-law, and ‘Linda Paloma’ are clearly intended for Phyllis. But it would be a mistake to view the album as functioning solely as autobiography. That assumption can only lead to the worst kind of psychological speculation. (Is ‘Your Bright Baby Blues,’ most of which was written five years ago, about Phyllis?) Moreover, such perspective limits the album’s scope and undercuts its accomplishment. Instead of being about Phyllis and Ethan, The Pretender is about death and birth, about understanding the past and claiming the future—mostly, it’s about redefining romanticism in the face of disillusionment and tragedy.”

As a whole, the review is a thoughtful rave that calls The Pretender “Browne’s best album.” (He’s wrong there, of course; that honor goes to Late for the Sky.) Rachlis also says that it’s “not the culmination, but an extension of Browne’s previous work. Almost every song has a counterpart in the earlier albums. The title cut, the most important and ambitious song on the LP, belongs in the line of ‘Rock Me on the Water,’ ‘For Everyman,’ and ‘After the Deluge,’ all of which stake out Browne’s position in relation to society. Each declares his defiance of categorization and grand schemes. Rather, his is a search for solace within himself or with those around him—whether in ‘the kindness of my baby’s eye’ or ‘the light in your lover’s eyes.’ Perhaps for Browne, the search itself provides its own solace.”

2) Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – “Rock and Roll Never Forgets.” John Swenson writes that Night Moves “is already one of my favorite albums of the year, and I haven’t even been listening to it for more than a week. This comes as a big surprise to me because I’ve always taken Seger for granted. Certainly it’s been easy to say I’ve liked him, but it’s always been that casual kind of approval usually accorded to marginal figures who please without impressing.”

IMG_1163Swenson explains: “Not that Night Moves hits me with the emotional impact of The Who Sell Out or Beggar’s Banquet or Gasoline Alley—my reaction to those records was definitely a function of how I saw myself at the time, and very little can match their impact these days. Night Moves doesn’t affect me like that—it’s too derivative (but not in the sense that it shows its influences, because all great rock & roll has been influenced by something). This LP is emotionally derivative, which leads me to suspect that someone who didn’t grow up listening to The Who Sell Out, Beggar’s Banquet, or Gasoline Alley would find it as much of a revelation now as I found those records then.”

He then compares Seger to Rod Stewart (a bit of a stretch, I think), and says “[y]ou could bring Stewart in to sing ‘Rock and Roll Never Forgets,’ and it would be a perfect Faces classic, with all the unpretentious abandon that characterized that band’s best performances.”

(There’s also an excellent article about Seger in the Up Starts section; click on the above pic to read it.)

IMG_11653) The Bee Gees – “You Should Be Dancing.” Saturday Night Fever was 11 months away and, yet, the Brothers Gibb were already on a roll. According to writer Stephen Demorest, “After half a decade in the phantom zone of worn-out pop groups, the Bee Gees have rebounded mightily in the last two years with a stunning string of five hit singles and two platinum albums strong on disco flavoring. And now 1977 promises to be the hottest year in their entire 20 year career.”

On their agenda: the soundtrack to the Sgt. Pepper’s film; and their followup to Children of the World (which would be bastardized for Saturday Night Fever). This song, which features on that soundtrack, hails from Children; and was a No. 1 hit in September 1976. One piece of trivia related to it: Stephen Stills (yes, that Stephen Stills) plays percussion on it.

This video is from Soul Train, where the song was used for a line dance…

IMG_11714) Lou Reed – “I Believe in Love.” In an “as heard by Scott Cohen” article titled “Pitter Patter: Lou Reed’s Rock and Roll Heart…,” Lou says “[b]eing sentimental is my weakness. I’ve got a drawer full of old love letters to prove it.” He also says, “I believe in good times, good-time music, good-night kisses, crosses, fresh starts and most of all—like I say in ‘I Believe in Love’—I believe in love.” And, of the song itself, he talks about how “[t]he words…came to me while singing in the shower. I wanted to say ‘I’m on the outside looking in/on the inside of you looking out/at me’ but couldn’t work it in.”

And, of his past, he explains that “[b]efore the Velvet Underground, I had a band in England called the Beachnuts and sang ‘Sally Can’t Surf.’ Before that I sang with Garland Jeffreys at Syracuse University.”

IMG_11675) The Runaways – “Queens of Noise.” The Runaways promote their second album, Queens of Noise, in the Back Pages section. “It’s a weird kinda song,” Joan Jett says of the title song of the Runaways’ second album. “It’s heavy, but it could be a Top 20 hit; it’s got a happy-type melody.”

The un-bylined article also details the band’s shift to an improved recording technique. “It’s certain that the ‘noise’ won’t be refined out, however. ‘It has to have that raw edge,’ said Jett, ‘but sound better. I liked The Runaways for what it was. If we’d come out sounding like a Queen production, it wouldn’t have let us go anyplace.’ Refusing to disparage their debut album, she added, ‘Even though a lot of critics said it wasn’t produced well, we’ve gotten a lot of fan mail saying it’s the best album they’ve ever heard. And as long as the people buying albums like it, I think we did it right.”