I went to see Bad Reputation, a new documentary on Joan Jett, on a rainy Wednesday evening recently. When I got home from work, the idea of driving almost an hour to the theater where it was playing wasn’t too appealing, but my wife and I made the trip, as it was a one-night only showing at a cool place called the Violet Crown in Charlottesville, VA. Man, am I ever glad we went. On the drive there, I told my wife that I hoped the movie would not be too Runaways-centric and spend more time on her career with the Blackhearts. I was also kind of hoping to hear a little about her childhood since I knew she lived in Rockville, MD and went to Wheaton High School, not that far from where I grew up.
The movie started straightaway with the Runaways story, so I didn’t get any childhood info, but it continued well into the Blackhearts era, and right up to the present. There was a ton of screen time with Joan (in the present) talking and recounting how things went, and I really liked that—hearing it directly from her. There were also many others on-screen talking about Joan, including some of my rock n roll heroes. Debbie Harry of Blondie was featured. Ian Mackaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi) & Kathleen Hannah (Bikini Kill) were also very prominent, and since they are from the DC music scene I grew up in, I greatly enjoyed that. Mike Ness was interviewed. There was also some great footage of both the Runaways and the Blackhearts throughout.
One highlight for me was some footage from the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in which Joan fronted Nirvana. I am sure that is readily found on YouTube, but I had not seen it before. At the end of the film, after the credits rolled and most of the theater was empty, there was some never-before-seen footage of a few Blackhearts songs being played live during a sound check somewhere. We stuck around the extra ten minutes to take that in. I highly recommend that you make an effort to check the film out, if you like rock & roll documentaries. The main takeaway for me was what a pioneer Joan Jett really was. I have always considered her to be important, but I may not have been giving her enough credit for her place in history.
I got to seen Joan Jett and the Blackhearts in Bethesda, MD at a little place called the Psyche Delly right when the first Blackhearts record came out. There was Joan and the band, clad entirely in black leather, blasting out “Bad Reputation” about ten feet from me. I count myself very lucky to have witnessed that show. I have since seen her in larger venues, but it was never as good as it was that night.
For an entirely superfluous (but somewhat related) live review of Joan Jett from 2012, check out Joan Jett & the Blackhearts Live at the Obetz Zucchini Festival from Ricki C’s old blog.
Ricki C. and JCE (John, to his friends & family) first bonded over their shared mutual love of Boston's Finest Sons - The Neighborhoods - and everything extended out from that rock & roll ripple. JCE lives in Culpeper, Virginia with his wife & daughter, and thinks a long-rumored new Neighborhoods record being released in 2018 would make this a perfect year.