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Sunday, April 13, 2014

I Love Rock 'n' Roll

I think that for today's edition of the Sunday Jukebox, I've chosen a song that most everybody will love.  And it happens to be a song that topped the charts over thirty years ago.

In fact, why don't we go back in time exactly thirty-two years ago to the year 1982 for this one?  Doesn't that sound like a fun year to visit?

Okay, so what was the trend on the charts for 1982?  Well, apparently 1982 was the year in which it became quite difficult to get a #1 hit.  A grand total of fifteen songs hit the top of the charts that year.  Only 1996 and 2004 were tougher to have a chart-topper.  Just put that into perspective here.

And, just what types of music topped the Billboard charts in 1982?  With the exception of the instrumental "Chariots of Fire", and slow jam songs by Lionel Richie, Chicago, Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, and Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, the charts that year were all about rock and roll. 

With artists such as The J. Geils Band, Hall and Oates, Human League, Toni Basil, Steve Miller Band, and Survivor topping the charts, it became clear that disco was dead and buried and that rock and roll was here to stay.

And certainly one anthem best described the turning tide of music during that time period. 

Just have a listen.  You'll know what I mean.

ARTIST:  Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
SONG:  I Love Rock 'n' Roll
ALBUM:  I Love Rock 'n' Roll
DATE RELEASED:  January 20, 1982

Ah yes...the song that made everybody put another dime in the jukebox baby!  A song that seems horribly out of date when you realize that jukeboxes take quarters now...and when you realize that all people have to do now is click on the "shuffle" button on their iPods to listen to rock and roll.

This was a huge hit for Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.  The song spent seven weeks at the top of the charts between March 20 and May 7, 1982, and certainly established Joan Jett as one of the first ladies of the 1980s rock movement right alongside Blondie's Debbie Harry and The Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde.

But I have a bit of shocking news for you all.  Some of you may know this piece of trivia already, but for those of you who do not, here's the news.  Apparently, "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" is NOT an original composition by Joan Jett and the Heartbreakers.

(But then again, it doesn't come as that much of a surprise, given that another one of the band's success stories was their cover version of Tommy James and the Shondells' "Crimson and Clover".)

No, the truth is that "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" was originally recorded a full seven years before Joan Jett made it famous.  In 1975, a British/American group who went by the name of Arrows released the song first - a song that was written by Arrows band members Jake Hooker and Alan Merrill.  Merrill explained that the song was written as a "knee-jerk response" to a Rolling Stones single "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It)".  Originally intended as a B-side, the single was flipped to A-side status on future record releases.

(See, back in the olden days in which there were no CD's and mp3 players, people listened to music on records and tapes.  Each record and tape had an A-side and a B-side.  A-sides were reserved for #1 hits or songs that record companies felt would be commercially successful.  B-sides were mostly forgotten songs that while still good, producers felt weren't strong enough to promote as much as an A-side song.)

Here.  I'll post the Arrows version below.  Let you get a feel for the record.

Now the original version by the Arrows didn't really do as well as anyone had hoped it would.  On the British charts, it didn't really make much of an impression, and it was virtually unheard in the United States - largely in fault of the band's record company which dropped the ball on promoting the single.  However, it wasn't a complete loss.  Because the band performed the single on the British television series "45", producer Muriel Young offered the band a weekly television series, which debuted in March 1976.

And, it was because of this television show that a then seventeen year old Joan Jett first heard the song that would help catapult her to the top of the charts in the early 1980s.  At that time, Joan was experiencing the London club scene while touring with her then band "The Runaways" in 1976.  She caught the band performing the single on that show, and made it a mission to do her own version one day.

In actuality, she recorded the single twice.  The first time she recorded it was back in 1979, and she had help from a couple of real sex pistols.

(Seriously, "Sex Pistols" band members Steve Jones and Paul Cook helped Joan Jett record her first version.)

Of course, most people never knew that such a version existed.  You see, even though the single was recorded in 1979 and released on vinyl, it was as a B-side and not very successful.  It actually took another fourteen years for that version to be released on CD format.  Let's see if I can even find this version.

Well, I'll be damned.  It does exist.

Anyway, Joan Jett decided to release another version...this time recording it with her band, The Blackhearts.  It became a part of her 1981 album of the same title, and because of the fact that MTV had just debuted months before the single was released, it was decided that to help promote the single, a video would be filmed as well.

And, certainly the black and white tinted video showing Joan and her band in a dingy dive bar performing the single to the rowdy crowd inside certainly helped the song's popularity.  It was a video that was firmly in MTV's rotation for at least two years running, and it likely helped the song become song #484 on Rolling Stone's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".

TRIVIA:  Of course, the black and white video was actually a last minute decision.  It was originally planned for the video to be in colour with Joan Jett dressed in a red leather jumpsuit.  But when the video was finished, Joan was not very happy with her look at all, and the decision was made to take out the colour and make it black and white.  Ultimately, it was a good decision.  The video looked more artistic in black and white, and I honestly think that Joan Jett probably wouldn't have come across so powerful in bright red.

These days, Joan Jett is still going strong at fifty-five years old.  Although she hasn't really had many hits on the Billboard charts as of lately, she still tours and records music - her latest album being 2013's "Unvarnished".  She was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in October 2006, and although she has been nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as of 2014, it hasn't happened.  Yet.

But it's nice to know that Joan Jett made an impact on the charts with "I Love Rock 'n' Roll".  It may not have originally been her song, but she sang it with such power and passion that any hint of a "bad reputation" in the music scene was permanently eradicated from the minds of all doubters.

Of course...who knew that twenty years later, the single would become a hit once more - by a former Mouseketeer?  A singer who actually believed that Pat Benetar sang this song and not Joan Jett!  Because Pat Benatar and Joan Jett just sound SO similar...

ARTIST:  Britney Spears
SONG:  I Love Rock 'n' Roll
ALBUM:  Britney
DATE RELEASED:  May 27, 2002

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