The Truth About Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation

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Joan Jett is a musician, singer, songwriter, composer, record producer, and actress who is mostly known for her work with Joan Jett & The Blackhearts as their frontwoman, and for founding and playing with the Runaways. During her tenure with the Blackhearts, Jett became prominent with her rendition of ‘I Love Rock N’ Roll.’ Moreover, she also has other significant songs in her music catalog including ‘I Hate Myself For Loving You,’ ‘Dirty Deeds,’ ‘Crimson And Clover,’ and ‘Bad Reputation.’

While working on the film ‘We’re All Crazee Now!,’ Joan Jett met producer and songwriter Kenny Laguna. Soon after that, they became friends and decided to work together. The pair then entered the studio, and Ariola Records released Jett’s self-titled debut in Europe on May 17, 1980. In the US, however, the album was rejected by 23 major labels. Due to that, Jett and Laguna released the record on their new Blackheart Records label independently.

Later on, Joan Jett formed The Blackhearts. After touring for some time, the band started to rise in prominence, but they struggled to remain financially stable. Jett and Laguna used their own personal savings to press copies of Jett’s album. Finally, Neil Bogart signed Jett to Boardwalk Records and re-released the ‘Joan Jett’ album as ‘Bad Reputation.’ But, why did they rename the album as ‘bad reputation’? Let’s learn the reason.

Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation Comes From Being A Strong Woman In The Rock Music Industry

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Joan Jett got hold of her first guitar when she was 13. Following that, she moved to LA and pursued a music career. In 1975, she met the drummer Sandy West and decided to form The Runaways. Although they gained a wide audience in the UK and Japan, the band didn’t receive the same level of success in the US. This was mainly due to being alienated by the male music critics and the American audience that wasn’t ready to see women in rock.

Following the Runaways’ disbandment in 1979, Jett decided to pursue a solo career. Moreover, she began working on her self-titled debut in 1980 with the assistance of Kenny Laguna. Jett then took her record to several major record labels, but none of them were interested in releasing the album. Soon after that, Jett and Laguna decided to release it themselves on their Blackheart Records.

At that time, Laguna and Jett struggled financially to fund the pressing of ‘Joan Jett.’ In fact, Laguna even took his car to the concerts at that time and sold the record directly to the concert-goers out of his trunk. After the album gained a reputation, Broadwalk Records decided to re-release it as ‘Bad Reputation.’ Recalling those times, Kenny Laguna said that the album was renamed as ‘Bad Reputation’ due to Joan’s being ‘a crazy woman’ in The Runaways.

According to The HollyHobs, Kenny Laguna said about the album and the song ‘Bad Reputation’ the following:

“‘It was about Joan having been kind of a wild woman in The Runaways, and us trying to make a record deal, going around having people say, ‘No, she’s too crazy, like the punks and the nazis.’ Joan had this bad reputation, no label would sign her. That’s why we own the records. It was so frustrating [that] we thought we would write a song about it.

One day Joan said something, and I said ‘You shouldn’t do this.’ I was trying to give her the advice of an old man, but she was a teenager at the time, and she says, ‘Look, I don’t care about my bad reputation.’ I said ‘Whoa, there’s the song.'”

Joan Jett, on the other hand, revealed her thoughts on the meaning of ‘Bad Reputation’ during an interview with SiriusXM. She said that the song ‘Bad Reputation’ which appeared on the album is autobiographical, and it reveals the way she was treated. The ‘Queen Of Rock N’ Roll’ then added that if her reputation is ‘bad,’ it’s for being a strong woman who thinks she could be whatever she wanted.

In the interview, Joan Jett told Sirius XM the following:

“It rang my bell in a lot of ways. But I didn’t know that it was gonna necessarily have that sort of impact or if people would relate as much as they do to the song. But I knew, and this is part of the therapy. When I was laying my life out to Kenny Laguna. I mean, really if you listen to the lyrics, it’s autobiographical.

It’s really what happened, right down to the video, how we follow what happened, and the way I was treated. See, the way I look at it is ‘Bad Reputation,’ it’s not like I’m out and shooting people or being bad. It’s not a hurtful bad reputation, it’s not ‘bad’ in the sense that people think of the word ‘bad.’

I’m kind of being sarcastic; my reputation; if it’s ‘bad,’ it’s for being strong, and my parents told me when I was five that I could be whatever I wanted as a girl, I could be anything. I believed them. I guess that is kind of the ‘bad,’ being able to say, ‘I’m gonna do what I want and you can’t tell me ‘no’‘ – especially if I’m not hurting people.”

Below, you can watch the interview where Joan Jett talked about ‘Bad Reputation’ and listen to the song itself.