I recently watched snippets of the 2014 Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame show and was reminded of my daughter’s so far unsuccessful, but entirely justifiable, on-line crusade to get Joan Jett inducted.
Lately the organization seems to have been interpreting Rock pretty loosely in choosing honorees. This year Cat Stevens got in. Previous questionable inductees include Donovan, Abba, Laura Nyro, and various rappers. What’s next, Jim Croce, Julio Iglesias, Patti Page, Mitch Miller?
Most such inductees would probably qualify as musicians, bur Rock ‘n’ Roll? I don’t think so. It’s as if the Football Hall of Fame started inducting curlers, yachtsmen and polo players. They may be sportsmen, but they couldn’t tell a gridiron from a griddle. And Cat Stevens couldn’t rock if you put him in a hammock.
Whereas Joan Jett is unquestionable the real deal. Perhaps fifteen years ago at a street fair in the Midwest, alongside a Ribfest or Chile Cook-off, there was an outdoor stage and on came Joan Jett and the Blackhearts to do a free concert.
My daughter was then in Middle School or early High School and this was the era of neurotic angst-ridden warblers like Alanis Morisette or teeny-bopper throwbacks like the Spice Girls. My daughter was blown away. She had never seen a female performer like Jett, contemptuous of machismo, aggressive, tougher than several boy bands put together, a cheerfully anarchic, guitar-slinging, leather wearing, female proto-punk you wouldn’t want to mess with but would follow anywhere.
And her songs had the “who gives a flip” attitude of the real Rock. Jett didn’t give a damn about her “Bad Reputation” and rather than write lovelorn ballads blasted out “I Hate Myself For Loving You.” She tauntingly asked “Do You Wanna Touch Me?” And you knew if the answer was ”yes,” her reply would probably be “Not a chance, Clem.” She was a “Cherry Bomb.” Hell, she was a bunker buster. In short a transgressive outsider, a chick from the wrong side of the tracks and proud of it, the sort who hated high school regimentation, hypocrisy and brain death only slightly less than the assistant principal hated her. Holden Caulfield in high-heeled boots with an amp.
If she isn’t the spirit of rock, nobody is. So why isn’t she in the Hall? My theory is that the clubby old boys who pick the inductees are about as scared of her as the assistant principal was. They have no problem with the males who serve as their fantasy role models — The Stones, the Who, The Sex Pistols, Bruce, Dylan, Elvis. But an equally take-no-crap female freaks them out.
So they have inducted women who don’t threaten their masculinity or male hegemony — Brenda Lee, The Ronettes, Blondie, Aretha, Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell, Gladys Knight. If encountered, they would probably be amiable or possibly prickly, but not downright scary, not challenging, not likely to look you up and down and laugh at your obvious inadequacy. You know, like that girl in High School did. Hell, Jett might break your Rock critic typewriter just to see it bleed. I’m talking to you, Jann Wenner.
It can be argued that Jett is all about sex, anger and sweaty fun with no heavy thoughts or agenda and the hell with anybody who doesn’t like it. Duh. That is Rock, isn’t it? Or was before they started inducting troubadours and poets and politically committed voices of their generation. Get over it boys and put her in, or she just may be forced to come over to your house and see who’s the real rocker. Or could it be you’re afraid she might not want to join any club you’re in charge of?
Well, that would be fun to see, wouldn’t it? So go to the Facebook page my daughter invented — Joan Jett Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Petition — cast your protest vote.