Joan Jett & the Blackhearts are a rock institution. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015, the group has sold millions of records and landed eight albums on Billboard’s Top 200 charts. The band led by singer-guitarist Joan Jett released their third LP, Album, 40 years ago this year.
Jett pens some of her own material (usually with co-writers like Kenny Laguna), but has built much of her career upon (shall we say) celebrating rock’s history: many of the band’s biggest hit songs have been covers of tunes made popular by other artists. Here’s a rundown of the five top smash hit singles from Joan Jett & the Blackhearts.
“Do You Wanna Touch Me”
While the pop star born Paul Gadd has (for very good reasons) largely been written out of pop culture history, there’s no denying that his popularity was substantial in the early ‘70s. Glitter’s first ten singles all soared to the Top Ten on the UK charts, making him one of the era’s biggest stars and paving the way for the glam success of other acts to follow in his wake. His third single, “Do You Wanna Touch Me” featured a flip with a title that seemed to provide an answer (“I Would If I Could But I Can’t”). Jett covered the a-side on her 1981 debut solo album Bad Reputation; the single reached #20 on the U.S. charts.
Before collaborating with Joan Jett, songwriter Desmond Child had long since established himself as a pop force with his own group, Desmond Child & Rouge; that group scored a minor hit single with 1975’s “Our Love is Insane.” A highly in-demand composer, Child has lent his talents to a wide array of pop acts, writing or co-writing for Cher, Kiss, Ricky Martin, Meat Loaf, Roxette and many others. Taken from Joan Jett & the Blackhearts’ 1988 LP Up Your Alley, his 1988 power ballad co-write with Jett made it to #19 on the U.S. singles charts.
“I Hate Myself for Loving You”
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts’ sixth album Up Your Alley scored the group not one but two hit singles; the record was also notable for is lack of reliance upon cover songs. A reading of the Stooges’ classic “I Wanna Be Your Dog” would be the record’s only non-original. The rest of the tunes were written by Jett and a variety of outside co-composers. “I Hate Myself for Loving You” is one of three Child-cowrites on Up Your Alley; the song – which features a riff uncannily similar to The Kinks’ 1979 hit “(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman” – soared to the #8 spot and earned a Grammy (Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal).
“Crimson and Clover”
Tommy James and the Shondells were successful right out of the gate with their 1966 debut single, “Hanky Panky.” As they went along, the group from Niles, Michigan scored again and again with hit singles; each release seemed to signal musical growth and increased maturity. The classic “Crimson and Clover” was a pop-psych masterpiece, soaring to the top spot on the singles chart in 1968. Fourteen years later, Joan Jett nearly repeated that feat with her faithful cover of the song, making it to the #7 spot. The track was a highlight of 1982’s I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll LP.
“I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”
The biggest hit single from Joan Jett & the Blackhearts was also their first to crack the Top 40. Released in 1982 as the title track of the first album credited to the band, “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” was first recorded by UK band The Arrows. That band hosted a weekly television show in England; it was while on a tour with her band The Runaways in 1976 that Jett first heard the song. She first recorded it in 1979, but that version failed to chart. With a new recording featuring the Blackhearts. Jett hit the big time; the song climbed to the #1 spot on singles charts in the U.S., Australia, Austria, Canada, New Zealand and Sweden, top-tenning in four other countries. Almost overnight, Joan Jett had become a worldwide superstar.
With a background in marketing and advertising, Bill Kopp got his professional start writing for Trouser Press. After a stint as Editor-in-chief for a national music magazine, Bill launched Musoscribe in 2009, and has published new content every business day since then (and every single day since 2018). The 4500-plus interviews, essays, and reviews on Musoscribe reflect Bill's keen interest in American musical forms, most notably rock, jazz, and soul. His work features a special emphasis on reissues and vinyl. Bill's work also appears in many other outlets both online and in print. He regularly hosts lecture/discussions on artists and albums of historical importance (including monthly events Music to Your Ears and Music Movie Mondays), and is a frequent guest on music-focused radio programs and podcasts. In Spring 2023 he taught a history of Rock 'n' Roll at UNC Asheville's College for Seniors. He also researches and authors liner notes for album reissues -- more than 30 to date -- and co-produced a reissue of jazz legend Julian "Cannonball" Adderley's final album. His first book, Reinventing Pink Floyd: From Syd Barrett to The Dark Side of the Moon was published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2018, and in paperback in 2019. His second book, Disturbing the Peace: 415 Records and the Rise of New Wave, was published in 2021 by HoZac Books. His third book, What's the Big Idea: Great Concept Albums will be published in 2024. Read even more about him here.