Joan Jett Rumbles Back with 'Sinner' The hit song "I Love Rock and Roll" by punk rocker Joan Jett stayed at number one on the Billboard charts for seven weeks back in 1982. Now decades later, Jett and her band, the Blackhearts, are playing songs from her first album in a decade to a new generation of punk fans.

Joan Jett Rumbles Back with 'Sinner'

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It's DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Noah Adams.


And I'm Alex Chadwick.

And she is Joan Jett, the black-haired rocker probably best known for this song.

(Soundbite of song I Love Rock n' Roll)

Ms. JOAN JETT (Musician): (Singing) Next we were movin' on. He was with me, yeah me. Singin'…

CHORUS: I love rock n' roll, put another dime in the jukebox, baby. I love rock n' roll, come and take your time an' dance with me.

CHADWICK: I Love Rock n' Roll stayed at number one on the Billboard charts for seven weeks. That was back in 1982. Decades later, she's still singing that one and cuts from her new album Sinner, for this generation of punk fans. Joan Jett is on the Vans Warped Tour with her band The Blackhearts.

Earlier, DAY TO DAY's Madeleine Brand talked with Joan on the band's tour bus.


Do you sense a difference in terms of political consciousness now, these days with the Iraq war?

Ms. JETT: You know, that's a very good question. I can only go by what I see with the kids reacting to the other bands. There's one band in particular, Anti-Flag, very political. And it was very heartening to see the audience totally singing along, like every kid, every word, screaming it, hands up in the air. So, you know, that says to me to a degree certainly people are paying attention. I'm not sure if it's to a greater extent then say, you know, when I was in the Runaways, because I was not plugged in really at all. I voted. I wanted to do my part on that level, but I wasn't into the day-to-day issues.

(Soundbite of song Riddles)

Ms. JETT: (Singing) Whoa, oooh, oooh, oooh.

BRAND: And you have a political song, at least the first one is overtly political. Why did you decide to include that on your album?

Ms. JETT: When you write songs you're commenting on love, you're commenting on sex, relationships, whatever it is that you decide to write about it. And I've wanted to write about politics or spiritual ideas for years. But it's difficult to sort of bridge that. How do you do that without being corny or preachy, or how do you do it and just talk? So, it was a long time coming. This - certainly this song Riddles was like three years in the making.

(Soundbite of song Riddles)

Ms. JETT: (Singing) Talking, ever talking, but listen to what they say, how to sit in judgment and claim to know the way. If dreams can be dismembered and our works ignored.

Ms. JETT: As I was actually singing the words, things would come to me. I was doing adlibs in the solo and out came clear skies, baby. Then it sort of gave a direction to what we were trying to say. That were not spoken to clearly, you know, by our government.

(Soundbite of song Riddles)

Ms. JETT: (Singing) Can we do anything? The pieces of war, the rich are too poor, and they just speak at us in riddles. How can this be? Why can't you see that they just speak at us in riddles? Stuck right in the middle. Switch sides baby. Having fun. No child left behind. Wake up people.

Ms. JETT: It's not about saying, you know, the administration are morons or anything like that, because I think you - it's hard to have a dialogue when you're name-calling, you know. And it's hard to have respect. I can agree with conservatives on certain issues. It's just a matter of being able to talk about it.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: Let's go back to when you started. You started as a teenager, and you dropped out of high school to form this band. So, what was it like? You were probably the only all-girl punk band at the time, probably the only all-girl band period at the time. What was that like?

Ms. JETT: Very exciting. We were very naïve, you know, so we thought we were going to seriously change the world and that everybody would embrace us and love it. And we had a rude awakening, you know. And I was quite shocked, actually, even as a teenager, to see what we ran into.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. JETT: (Singing) (Unintelligible) …a better life, but you're feeling worse. And they say what you…

It doesn't say girls can't play rock and roll. I was like well, what do you mean? Women play cellos and violins in symphony orchestras. They're playing Beethoven and Bach. What do you mean they can't play rock and roll?

You're not saying they're not physically capable. What you're saying is they're not allowed to, socially, that rock and roll by it's nature - the roll in the word rock and roll implies sexuality. That's why they wouldn't show Elvis from the waist down or, you know, everyone thought Chuck Berry was going to steal their 16-year-old daughter, you know, and run off - you know, rock and roll is that threatening thing. And so a girl playing rock and roll, it's saying I own my sexuality and I'm going to tell you what I'm going to do. And I think people just find that threatening. I'm not really sure why. I've never been able to really get an answer or quite figure out who is threatened.

(Soundbite of song, A.C.D.C.)

Ms. JETT: (Singing) She got punk, but they call her a punk. She can't sing, you want to see her ding-a-ling. Well let's be in it together. I guess she'll be in it forever. You got to take it now and then, whoa. A.C.D.C., she got the mother-lover as well as me. A.C…

BRAND: Talk more about the sexual element of what you do and being a rock-and-roll star, because as you said, rock and roll is sex. And how do you play on that and how do you take advantage of your sexuality?

Ms. JETT: I don't wait till stage to use my sexuality. My zipper's down right now. I mean, I use it all the time. I'm always attacking, you know? I'm not the passive girl, you know. It's just, I don't think about it. It's not that calculated. I just do it.

BRAND: Several of your songs on your new album are quite explicit and sexually out there.

Ms. JETT: Yes, pretty much.

BRAND: What are you trying to get across with a song like Fetish, for example?

Ms. JETT: Well, if you can't understand what I'm trying to get across with Fetish, then…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. JETT: I don't know. I don't know if you can say that on the - no, it's not subtle. Fetish is a straight-up sex song.

(Soundbite of song, Fetish)

Ms. JETT: (Singing) Get off having rough sex. You are my fetish.

I think everyone's just so shocked that it's so blatant, and to me it's kind of amusing to see people get kind of squirmy about it.

BRAND: Do you like that? Do you like pushing people's buttons?

Ms. JETT: Yes, but not to make them uncomfortable. You know, it's not about discomfort, it's about connection. It's about all of us coming together over something and going yeah, you know, music is sexy and hot and we're all, you know, all just having this great time.

BRAND: I've read this in a couple of places, that writers have dubbed you a rock godmother. Do you like that?

Ms. JETT: I just find it kind of amusing. I guess I don't like it or not like it.

BRAND: I mean, because a lot of - I don't know, you know. A lot of women worry about getting older, and a lot of women worry about - especially female performers…

Ms. JETT: Right.

BRAND: …actresses definitely worry about age and losing their looks. Does that worry you at all?

Ms. JETT: Well, definitely I'm vain, so I'm certainly aware of it. But I know what you mean. You know, I want to embrace the word godmother so it doesn't have that connotation and sort of - oh, it means you're an old spinster. I wrote a song called Spinster once because I want to embrace the word. You know, there's nothing wrong with being single and not getting married and being, you know, just an old single lady. Who cares? You know, what's wrong with that? That sounds pretty cool to me. It's about just, you know, embracing it.

(Soundbite of song, I Love Rock and Roll)

Ms. JETT: (Singing) I love rock and roll. Put another…

CHADWICK: Joan Jett with DAY TO DAY's Madeleine Brand. You can hear cuts from Joan Jett's new album Sinner at our Web site,

(Soundbite of song, I Love Rock and Roll)

Ms. JETT: (Singing) I love rock and roll. Put another dime in the jukebox, baby. I love rock and roll. Come and take the time and dance with - I love rock and roll. Put another dime in the jukebox, baby. I love rock and roll. Come and take the time and dance with me.

CHADWICK: And there's more to come on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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