1980, Music

Joan Jett aka Bad Reputation (1980)

Joan Jett was pretty young when she made this record – only 19 or 20 – but it sounds like it was made by someone 10 years her senior. That’s often a compliment but it’s not here: like so many punk-adjacent albums of the late ’70s and early ’80s, this one is obsessed with the pop music of the 1960s (which Jett was a little kid for). As someone who grew up with this music but not because I lived through the era, I now find nostalgia for that music to be kind of annoying.

The albums gets off to a good start with the track that later became the title track when it was renamed (i.e. “Bad Reputation”). I’m embarrassed to say that, though I know the song, I didn’t know it was Joan Jett. But it’s a good, immediate track that sets us up for more of the same, only that’s not what we get.

Instead we get a mix of

  • songs worshipful of Motown and Phil Spector and Brian Wilson,
  • a couple of originals which feel like they fit Jett’s aesthetic,
  • unnecessary covers of ’60s garage rock classics and the odd pop song from the era,
  • and, um, Gary Glitter covers (?!?!?!).

Some of those covers are updated for Jett’s pseudo-punk aesthetic and some of which absolutely are not.

Honestly the worship of the past reminds me of a much better version of Mink DeVille only with a different source genre. (Mink DeVille like the late ’50s and early ’60s whereas it’s clear Jett and her band like music a little more recent.)

So why am I rating it as high as I do if it sounds like I hate it? Well, I can’t help but think they do a good job of it, even if I don’t really like what they’re doing. They sell it well, is what I’m trying to say. It’s a little like Alice Cooper or something. And that it’s incredibly important to sell your songs when you traffic in nostalgia as Jett does here. (Why she does it I have no idea.)

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