Events Donations GuestBook Email Login

August 30, 2006 - NY State Fair - Syracuse, NY

Joan Jett's Lifelong Love of Rock & Roll

Joan Jett (b. Joan Marie Larkin) is a genuine Rock Star, with no less than nine Top 40 hit singles and eight Platinum and Gold records. Joan has been writing great rock music since she wrote the Punk Rock classic "Cherry Bomb" at 15 years old.
Few artists boast a wider appeal than Joan Jett. Beloved by punks, indie rockers, pop lovers, Riot Grrrls, metal heads, classic rockers, radicals and conservatives, she is a genuine icon and an influential, trailblazing musician. She has been touted as the "Godmother of Punk" and the "Original Riot Grrrl". By playing pure and simple rock & roll without making an explicit issue of her gender, Joan Jett became a figurehead for several generations of female rockers. She helped break down rock's gender barriers and helped pioneer Punk music with her teenage band, The Runaways, whose line-up was completed by Lita Ford, Cherie Currie, and Kari Krome (who was replaced by Micki Steele, who, in turn, was later replaced by Jackie Fox). Micki Steele later joined The Bangles in the early '80s and went on to huge success with songs like "Walk Like An Egyptian" and "Eternal Flame".

Lita Ford also went on to great success as a solo artist on Polygram in the '80s where she released several albums before pairing with manager Sharon Osbourne. She also had massive success with songs like "Kiss Me Deadly" and "Close My Eyes Forever", a haunting duet with Ozzy Osbourne.
While Cherie initially fronted the band, Jett also sang lead vocal in addition to playing rhythm guitar. (Joan is left-handed, but plays the guitar right-handed.) She wrote or co-wrote much of the band's material. She is credited with writing the band's most popular tune: "Cherry Bomb" which appeared on their self-titled debut. The Runaway's second album, Queens of Noise was released in 1977 and the band began a world tour with bands such as Tom Petty, Van Halen, The Talking Heads, Television, and Cheap Trick opening up for them. In the summer of 1977, when Joan was only 17, The Runaways arrived in Japan for a string of sold out shows.

The Runaways were the #3 imported music act in Japan, trailing behind only Led Zeppelin and Kiss. The girls were unprepared for the onslaught of fans that greeted them at the airport. The mass hysteria would later be described by Jett as being "like Beatlemania." While in Japan, The Runaways had their own TV special, did numerous television appearances, and released a live album that went Gold.
The Runaways quickly became lumped in with the rapidly/rabidly growing Punk Rock movement. The band (already a fixture in the West Coast Punk scene) formed alliances with East Coast Punk bands such as Blondie, The Ramones, and The Dead Boys through New York City's penultimate Punk club CBGB's. The band also befriended many in the UK punk scene by hanging out with the likes of The Damned, Generation X, and The Sex Pistols. Due to the band's constant touring, they were in the unique position of being in the middle of the Punk scene as it was breaking in two different countries, on two continents, thus firmly cementing their permanent place in Punk history.

(As a cool Punk Rock side note: Joan Jett was in attendance on August 22, 1978 at the Electric Ballroom in London for the final live extravaganza, by the one and only Mr. Sid Vicious, which was billed as "Sid Sods Off." Two days later, he sodded off to New York City where, after being charged with the death of his Girlfriend/Dealer/Manager Nancy Spungeon, he eventually overdosed and died.)

While The Runaways were popular in Japan, Europe, Australia, Canada and even South America, they could not garner the same success in the U.S. It seemed that the United States, especially the music press, was not ready to take the music of female teenagers seriously.
Widely believed at the time to have been a novelty act formed by producer Kim Fowley, who thought the notion of five teenage girls dressed in leather and lingerie performing rock and roll music was highly marketable, the truth of the band's origin is actually that the individual parts that made up the whole, began with the most pure rock 'n' roll intentions.
Despite the apparent "jailbait on the run" gimmick pushed by their manager, the girls in the band were proficient at playing their instruments and wrote or co-wrote most of the band's material and, as it later became obvious, were serious about their music.
After Cherie and Jackie left the band (to be replaced by bassist Vicki Blue, who was then replaced by Laurie McAllister), Joan and the others released two more albums, "Waitin' for the Night" and "And Now...The Runaways".

Altogether, The Runaways produced five LPs before their break-up in 1980, including one of the biggest selling imports in U.S. and U.K. history. Although The Runaways may never be inducted into the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame, their place in music history as the first all-girl Punk Rock band is secured.
In the spring of 1979, Jett was in England pursuing a solo career. While there, she cut three songs with Sex Pistols Paul Cook and Steve Jones (one of which was an early version of the song "I Love Rock N' Roll," originally written and performed by The Arrows).
Later that year, she moved to Long Beach, NY and ultimately, Los Angeles, where she reluctantly began fulfilling an obligation to complete a film loosely based on The Runaways' career. Shooting was canceled halfway through production.
Also in 1979, Jett produced the debut (and only) album by L.A.'s legendary Punk band The Germs entitled: G.I. The album has often been compared to Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols.
In 1984, after Jett had become a major star, producers were looking for a way to make use of the footage from the uncompleted film. Bits of the original movie were re-edited in a never commercially-released underground movie called "DuBeat-Eo", produced by Alan Sacks (producer and writer for the television shows Welcome Back, Kotter and Chico and the Man). It was during this time that Jett met songwriter and producer Kenny Laguna who was formerly one of the Shondelles, Tommy James' backing band.

They became instant friends and decided to work together. During that time, Jett inadvertently became the first female performer to start her own record label. The company was forged while trying to get a record deal after The Runaways.
After being rejected by more than 25 labels, Joan and her songwriting partner and producer, Kenny Laguna, decided to be the masters of their own fates and used their personal savings to press up records and set up their own system of independent distribution, sometimes selling the albums out of the trunk of their car at the end of each concert. Laguna was unable to keep up with demand for her album.
Eventually, old friend and founder of Casablanca Records, Neil Bogart, made a joint venture with Laguna and signed Jett to his new label, Boardwalk Records, which reissued the album under the title Bad Reputation. It climbed to number 51 on the American charts.
After a year of touring and recording, The Blackhearts recorded a new album for the label. With Laguna's assistance, Jett formed the Blackhearts between Bad Reputation and the release of her second album, 1981's I Love Rock N' Roll.

The new single was a re-recording of the title track, "I Love Rock N' Roll", which in the first half of 1982 was number one on the Billboard charts for eight weeks in a row. It spurred 10 million sales of the LP and is now listed as Billboard's #28 song of all time.
A string of Top 40 hits followed, including a cover of Tommy James' "Crimson and Clover", "Do You Wanna Touch Me", "I Hate Myself For Loving You", "Little Liar", and a cover of the Mary Tyler Moore theme "Love Is All Around." During this time Joan Jett and The Blackhearts did several sellout tours with The Police, Queen, and Aerosmith, among others.
Next, Jett released Good Music which featured appearances by The Beach Boys, The Sugarhill Gang and The Crystals lead singer, Darlene Love. Soon after that, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts became the first rock band to perform a series of shows at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on Broadway, breaking the record at the time for the fastest ticket sell-out ever.
In 1987, Jett had a hit with the song "Light of Day." It was the theme to the movie of the same name in which Jett starred opposite Micheal J. Fox. Bruce Springsteen wrote the title song especially for her and her performance was critically acclaimed.

Also in 1987, while on tour in Shreveport, Louisiana, Joan Jett first met Tom Carpenter (i.e. ME), a wild-eyed recent high school graduate, who would, several years later, go on to limited fame as the frontman for the Syracuse, NY Punk band Born Again Savages and founder of TomAroundTheWorld.com. Though, when asked about it, Jett has no memory of the meeting.
To be fair, I will admit that I only worked on Joan's stage crew for a few shows as an extra guy they picked up. I was one face in a billion that have passed before her, and I didn't really expect her to remember. But, I will never forget it…
Because I will also admit this: As a teen, I was in love with Joan Jett. I worshipped her. She was what I thought all girls should be like. So, for me the memory sticks out as a great time of my life.
During my brief time in Joan Jett's employ, I had several interesting conversations with her and the members of The Blackhearts. But something more came out of it… Joan Jett was the first Rock Star that I ever got to meet in person. She also gave me my first autograph. She signed a photo of her in a newspaper article about the show at Shreveport Speedway. I still have that autograph to this day and it is in a place of honor on page one of my original scrapbook.

That simple meeting has lead to a life-long quest to meet the rest of my heroes and helped me amass quite a collection of Rock & Roll autographs and memorabelia. But, I have digressed… Back to the story…
Jett's next release in 1988, Up Your Alley, went multi-platinum and was followed by The Hit List, which was an international hit.
In the 1990s, Jett and Laguna released Flashback, a compilation of her career so far on their own Blackheart Records. Her next release, Notorious (which featured The Replacements' Paul Westerberg) was the last with Sony/CBS as Jett switched to Warner Brothers. A CD single of "Let's Do It" featuring Jett and Westerberg was released and appeared in the movie Tank Girl which starred Lori Petty.
Jett produced several bands prior to releasing her Warner Brothers debut and her label Blackheart Records released recordings from varied artists such as Thrash legends Metal Church and Rapper Big Daddy Kane.

It was during the 1990s that the Riot Grrrl movement arose, of which Bikini Kill was a representative band, and many of these women credited Jett as a role model and inspiration. Another Riot Grrrl band, Bratmobile, covered the song "Cherry Bomb" as a tribute to her.
In 1994, the Blackhearts released the well received Pure and Simple, which featured tracks written with Kat Bjelland of Babes In Toyland, Donita Sparks of L7, and Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill. Near the end of the 1990s she worked with members of the punk band The Gits, whose lead singer and lyricist, Mia Zapata, had been raped and murdered. The results of their collaboration together was a live LP, Evil Stig and a single "Bob", whose earnings were contributed to the investigation of Zapata's murder. To this end, the band and Jett appeared on the television show America's Most Wanted, appealing to the public for information. (The case was finally solved in 2004, when Zapata's murderer was finally brought to trial and convicted.)
Jett reunited with The Blackhearts for the 1999 album Fetish. Though Jett has never been one to shy away from testing boundaries, the release was easily her most blatantly controversial material to date.
I saw the band live on that tour (or the subsequent tour) and Joan was nearly unrecognizable due to the fact that she had cut her famous black hair to little more than a brush cut and bleached it blonde. It was also obvious from her lack of body fat and washboard stomach, that she had been doing some serious weight training. Although her look was different, she still rocked as hard as ever.

In 2000, Joan Jett played the role of Columbia in the Broadway cast of The Rocky Horror Show.
In 2004, Jett and Laguna produced, "No Apologies" by The Eyeliners, a four piece pop/punk band from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Jett also guested on the track "Destroy" and made a cameo appearance in the music video. (I met The Eyeliners on tour with Social Distortion.)
In 2005, Jett discovered Cleveland punk rockers The Vacancies. She and Laguna produced their second album, A Beat Missing or a Silence Added. It went top 20 in the CMJ Music Charts.
In 2006 Joan Jett released her newest album, Sinner, on Blackheart Records. SINNER is, in short, a blasting, aggressive record that is a definite return to Joan Jett's punk roots. The album kicks off with "Riddles" and pulls no punches. It questions the intentions of those elected to run the country.

The provocative video for the song "A.C.D.C." features Carmen Electra, (who admitted that she grew up with a secret crush on Jett), as a woman that plays both sides of the fence.
To support the Sinner album, Joan and the Blackhearts hit the road with the 2006 Van's Warped Tour, where they appeared all summer on the main stage. Immediately after Warped Tour's end, the band began their fall headline tour.
It was the fall tour that brought them to the New York State fair to play two shows. The first of which was at four PM and the second at eight PM. Both shows were FREE with paid Fair admission.
After thinking for a short time, I came up with the conclusion that the only thing better that two free Joan Jett shows in one day is to walk into a room where three naked, horny supermodels are having a whipped cream fight.
There was no way I was missing the two shows.
So, when August 30th finally came around my boy, the Uber-chillin' super villain: Sven O'Neil and I headed out early in the day. Sven would have to leave in the afternoon to go to work, and Dawn would be joining me later when she got out of work, so I was in for a long day at the Fair.

We arrived at the Fairgrounds a half hour after they opened. Even at 10:30 AM the place was already packed. We made our way through the various buildings checking things out and eating Fair Food, and sucking down big jugs of wine from the Fair's Wine Garden.
Around lunchtime we passed through the Center of Progress Building, where my daughter Kathy was working selling bulk candy, nuts, and other assorted sundries. Due to a sprained ankle, she was on crutches and it seemed a little hard for her to get around, but she assured me she was ok. I went and got her a personal pizza for lunch and picked up a pound of fudge for her Grandmother and soon returned.

She was jealous of the fact that I was going to see Joan Jett and she would be stuck working. I told her where we would be and that if she got out early she should join us. She agreed to find us if that happened. She was working, so we left her and continued our tour of the Fair.
Soon, Sven and I were in front of a "science fun" exhibit where the guys made ice cream right in front of you in thirty seconds using liquid nitrogen! As it turned out, the guys were all SU Students that recognized me from being a bouncer at Blue Tusk. We all shook hands and chatted while we waited for them to do their next demonstration. And when the ice cream was ready, who do you think received the first two cups? If you guessed Me & Sven, you were correct.
After that, we walked down the Midway, played a few games and checked out a few of the "Freak Show" exhibits. While wandering around, Sven and I bumped into my friend Sarah from Boston. She was in Syracuse working the Fair. At the time, she was assisting one of the living statues. After he finished his performance, we walked with her to the trailer that was her office and had a few ice-cold bottles of spring water and caught up on old times.
I told her we were there to see Joan Jett. As it turned out, she was working security for the 8 PM show and could get Dawn and I backstage later if we were interested. I nearly jumped out of my skin! It made it very obvious that I was interested and she told me to meet her at the side of the stage at 8:30.

It was getting to be close to 4 PM, so we made our way to the stage in the Fair's main courtyard. The place was packed. The crowd was a varied mix of people including a lot of older people that seemed to be using the area for rest rather than the show by Joan Jett and The Blackhearts. Sven and I found a place near to the front on the left hand side of the stage and a few moments later, Joan and her band appeared on the stage. The Blackhearts current line-up consists of guitarist Dougie Needles, bassist Enzo, and drummer Thommy Price.

Thommy has also drummed in Scandal and Mink DeVille, and on albums by Billy Idol, Blue Oyster Cult, Roger Daltrey, and countless others.
Joan stepped up to the mic wearing black leather pants and a black, silver studded leather, halter-top.
In the August heat and sun, she looked hot, both figuratively and literally.
The band began their set with the song "Bad Reputation" and was off to the races.
As the band moved through the songs "Cherry Bomb," "Victim," "Do You Wanna Touch Me?" and a cover of The Replacements' "Androgynous," it was apparent that the crowd was more interested in resting than paying attention. That fact that did not go unnoticed by the group.
Ms. Jett and company could obviously feel the lack of feedback from the crowd and didn't seem to be as into the set as they could have been. But they still turned in a great performance as they ripped through "Change the World," "Riddles," "A Hundred Feet Away."
About halfway through the band's performance, my daughter Kathy showed up and hung out with me. We watched as Joan and The Blackhearts rocked through "Love Is All Around," "A.C.D.C." and "Fetish."
To finish out her set, Jett broke out the best of her best. The final three songs were "I Love Rock N' Roll", "Crimson and Clover", and "I Hate Myself for Loving You".
When the last song finished, Joan Jett thanked the crowd and left the stage.

Kathy had to leave because her Mom and stepfather were there to take her around the Fair, so she said her goodbyes and left with them.
And as if that wasn't enough, Sven had to leave as well to go to work. In a matter of ten minutes, three of the coolest people at the Fair at that time had just left me standing there alone. But, on the plus side, Dawn would be joining me soon.
I had a little bit of a wait because Dawn was stuck in the backed-up traffic that was trying to get to the State Fair, so I had a funny idea. I found a piece of cardboard and made a sign with Dawn's name on it and waited at the Main Gate holding the sign like a Limo driver waiting to pick up his ride. When Dawn finally arrived and saw the sign, she just rolled her eyes, laughed a little, and told me I was weirdo. Dawn and I explored more of the Fair and waited for the 8 PM Joan Jett show. I told her that we would be going backstage, and she was excited. So was I.

Around 7:30, we headed back to Chevy Court for the show. When we got there, our friends Mack, Kenny & Kat, and a bunch of others were there and had seats in the third row. They asked us to join them and made room for us on the aluminum benches. We all munched on several baskets of fresh-cut French fries, downed beers, and waited for the show to begin. My friend, Jeff Meyer, was one of the on-stage camera guys that shoot the show for the large video screens. He put us up on the screens often. It was really funny as Kenny and Mac mugged for the cameras. Soon, a bigwig from the Fair came out on stage to give away some prizes and then announced that the crowd for Joan Jett's performance was estimated at more than 15,000 people, making it the largest ever for a free concert at the New York State Fair. The crowd roared as he introduced the band and Joan stepped into the spotlight. She was dressed in her leather pants and a black, strapped leather bustier. She looked great! She welcomed us and launched right into "Five" and then The Runaway's classic "Cherry Bomb."

Unlike the afternoon show, the crowd was here for Joan Jett and it showed! The enthusiastic audience rocked out to every song. The band ripped through the tunes with passion that fed off the crowd that was into the performance, a stark contrast from the four o'clock show. One particularly rowdy group was located smack dab in the center of the third row! The Blackhearts went into "Light of Day" followed by "Do You Wanna Touch Me?" with the audience singing along on the "Yeah, Oh Yeah" chorus. Joan showcased some of her newer material with the song "A.C.D.C." which was followed by "Naked" and a cover of "Road Runner".

About that time, it was getting close to 8:30, so Dawn and I made our way to the stage gate. I asked for Sarah, and a few moments later, she arrived and brought us up to the side of the stage. She placed us right up with the VIP's and guests of the band. It was very cool. She had a few things to do and told us to enjoy the show. Dawn and I thanked her profusely.
Dawn and I stood close together and watched the show. As the band played "Luv is Pain", "Riddles", "Turn It Around", and "Fetish" as Dawn and I rocked out and snapped a few photos. Joan Jett ended the set with the hits "Crimson and Clover" and "I Hate Myself For Loving You". The crowd began chanting and calling for an encore. After a wait of only a few moments, Ms. Jett and her Blackhearts obliged them with the songs "Bad Reputation" and "Change" and then thanked us for coming out. She bid us goodnight and left the stage. The stage crew began tearing down the band's gear and I asked for the set list from the drum set. The guy brought it over and I got a double bonus…

The set list from the afternoon show was taped beneath the evening set! I kept the afternoon list and gave the other to Dawn. A short time later, the band came out and we got our set lists autographed. Joan came out a little while later. She got into a white SUV and rode to the gate where there was a crowd waiting to get autographs and photos with her.
We got in line and soon had our photos taken with Joan Jett. She also signed our set lists. I asked her if she might remember me from our long-ago meeting, but as I suspected, she did not. We laughed at that, and then we thanked Joan and left.

Leave A Comment
We walked along the Midway and went on a few rides, including the Giant Ferris Wheel, which offers a spectacular view of the Fair Grounds. It looked pretty cool and a bit romantic. Dawn and I held hands and enjoyed the ride, making sure to kiss at the very top.
After the ride, we made our way back up the Midway, back to the car, and headed home. It had been a great day.




Events Donations GuestBook Email Login