The author of Kurt Cobain bio Never Fade Away Dave Thompson just released Bad Reputation: The Unauthorized Biography of Joan Jett. The book claims to tell her complete and uncensored story, from her days as a 14-year-old berated by Runaways producer Kim Fowley to her solo career and work with the Blackhearts.
Though it contains more about her music than her personal life, there are a number of passages that really reveal Jett's character. Here are four revelations from the work.
You didn't fuck with the the Runaways.
One night at Jett's apartment, some guy was over and started messing with the band. They decided to give him a popsicle that was 10% lemonade and 90% pee. As the Runaways smoked a joint, the poor guy licked his popsicle and made a face. “This tastes like shit,” he said. Without missing a beat, Jett responded, “You're getting close.”
If she wanted something she was going to get it, even at the expense of her bandmates.
Towards the end of 1976, the Runaways settled in to record their new album, Queens of Noise. While the rest of the band indulged in the drugs and alcohol, the pregnant Cherie Currie had to abstain, leading to tensions in the band. Halfway into the sessions, she took a leave to get an abortion.
When she returned two days later, she discovered that the song that she had earmarked for herself — “Queens of Noise,” penned by Fowley discovery Billy Bizeau — had been stolen by Jett, who had recorded its lead vocals while Currie was in the hospital.
She worked so hard that she nearly died.
On top of making music, Jett agreed to make the low-budget B-movie We're All Crazy Now, a film about the antics of an all-teen girl rock band.
But it was too much and she became sick. Her mysterious illness continued to get worse until her fever was so high that she finally allowed herself to be taken to the hospital. There she was diagnosed with pneumonia, and then a rare-but-potentially-fatal heart infection, which kept her bedridden for a month in a half.
As the Runaways gained notoriety, magazines contended that Jett might be a lesbian.
When asked about their lesbian fanbase, Jett told one reporter, “I heard something about that … I don't give a shit if they're transsexual or bisexual, gay. I don't care, just so long as they like it and enjoy it.” And when her own preferences were questioned, all Jett would reveal was that she “buys every dirty magazine in the world. I like to read them … A lot of the magazines have really good articles. I always buy Hustler because they're tasteless.” Thompson asked, “You check out the girls?” “Well, what the hell are you supposed to do, close your eyes?” Jett replied.
Jett recorded a tribute to a woman she had never met to raise the profile of her unsolved rape and murder.
In 1993, the raped, beaten, and strangled body of 27-year-old Gits lead singer Gits' Mia Zapata was found on the side of the road in Seattle, where Jett was living at the time. The police had little evidence against anyone, and the murder remained unsolved for over ten years.
Though she had never heard of the Gits, the case resonated with Jett, who had spent a lot of time hanging out with Kathleen Hanna and Kat Kjelland of Babes in Toyland that year. She and Hanna wrote “Go Home” for Zapata; the video featured a barely-recognizable Jett attacked by a stalker, and was dedicated to Zapata.