JOAN JETT: NYC Punk, Rock Icon, Babe

Originally written for snmag.com

With unforgettable hits like “I Love Rock n’ Roll” and “Touch Me,” it’s easy to steal a ride on your past laurels, especially if you just so happen to be the primary Girl Power! iconoclast of rock music, predating any Spice Girls proclamation. JOAN JETT has not only been the primary trendsetter of chick rock n’ roll in breaking through the ‘80s record industry’s male-driven tendencies, but her groundbreaking brand of rock n’ roll helped inspire and propel innumerable music trends. Rooted from the first wave of punk and spreading to the ‘90s riot grrrl acts Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney, JOAN JETT’s influence has prevailed through the decades.

And what do you do when Britney Spears throws it all to shambles by doing an obnoxiously over-produced cover of your most famous song? “You keep making music,” said JOAN JETT. “Otherwise, life gets boring.”

I wanted to ask you about your song “Naked” on SINNER. What does it mean personally to you?

It’s about self inquiry, introspection, and the desires of your own self. Being naked to yourself is knowing the truth about yourself.

What did it feel like being immersed in the NYC punk movement?

Well it was really, really intense. New York is such an overwhelming city in general; there’s so much going on, so much action on the streets. The New York scene really embraced us and always treated us really well.

Then are you sad to know CBGBs is closing its doors in a month?

Well, I think it’s sad because it represents to many things to people. This sense of rebelling in punk rock, it’s its home and it’s the birthplace of so much great music. But in another sense it’s just the way life is, things change, a lot of great venues close down over the years. And luckily I have good memories of the place so that’s what I’m carrying on with me.

Were you annoyed when Britney Spears covered “I Love Rock n’ Roll”?

I remember when I heard about it thinking, ‘What was she thinking?’ I never even listened to that song.

A lot of bands took your brand of rock n’ roll and pushed with it. Bikini Kill, even Swedish pop act The Sounds. Did you know you were being groundbreaking at the time?

I knew there weren’t any other girls out there doing this stuff. I thought it was going to be shocking. You gotta remember we were teenagers, we were like 16, so we thought in our naiveté that people were going to love it, we thought people were gonna go, ‘Oh wow! Look at that, teenage girls playing rock n’ roll!’ We thought people going to be blown away. So we were I wouldn’t say shocked when people weren’t, we did expect some negativity, but it certainly didn’t work the way we expected it to. We ran into a lot more obstacles than we had anticipated.

What does it feel like to be the first female icon in rock n’ roll?

It was really an incredible feeling to have been rejected by the record industry and by certain segments of the press. They never saw the girls playing rock n’ roll thing as being important or necessary and I did so after I did “I Love Rock n’ Roll,” it really felt great to feel I was right, that there were definitely people out there who wanted to hear this music.