High Times Greats: Joan Jett

A rare interview with a 21-year-old Joan Jett from 1979.
High Times Greats: Joan Jett
Joan Jett by Michaels N. Marks

Behold, an early interview with Joan Jett of the Runaways—and subsequently, the Blackhearts—in a November, 1979 feature by Liz Derringer called “Women of Rock.” In honor of Joan Jett’s birthday on September 22, we’re republishing it below.

At 21, Joan Jett stars with Los Angeles’s all-female, heavy-metal punk combo, the Runaways. Joan is definitely part of the new breed of woman who can do what only men used to do. She’s a hot rhythm guitarist and if you were blindfolded you’d never guess that anyone so pretty could hit such nice power chords.

Was it difficult starting the Runaways and gaining acceptance as a band, since you were all females?

It wasn’t as hard starting the band as much as finding musicians, and it still is hard getting accepted as a female band.

Why do you think that is?

I don’t know. Sometimes they think we’re just joking. I’ve thought about it, and I can’t come up with any answers. People are really stupid. Because you’re a girl they think you’re weak. It’s physically true as far as we couldn’t pair off and beat the shit out of some guy. But we definitely tour as much and as long as any other band.

What do women do on the road? Do you go through the same grinding routine as other bands as far as after-concert activities—parties and such—go?

Depends on the night. Who feels up to what. Sometimes we go out to club, check out the hotel bar or just go to sleep.

Do you get hassled by male groupies? Do you think guys come to see musicians or to get off sexually by girls playing instruments?

In the beginning I think they come out of curiosity. They just heard about the Runaways—all girls. But now if they come to drool that’s their business, as long as they don’t do it on me. We’ve had guys run onstage with their cocks hanging out. They run up and put their arms around you while you’re in the middle of a song. Then the road crew throws them off the stage, which they love to do. But still it makes me feel good to know they’ll get so worked up that they’ll come out of the audience and jump onstage and make a fool of themselves because they like us so much.

Now that you are doing all the lead singing in the band, is there anything in particular you like singing about?

No, just something I can feel a relationship with—a love song, as long as you’ve had one in your life to sing for so you can always relate to it and put it in the right feeling. But it depends on what you’re singing about, being loaded or hating somebody or whatever.

Do you write a lot of lyrics?

Yeah, lately I’ve been writing a lot of political songs, takeover by the Russians and war. It scared me and I thought, Jesus Christ, it’s possible.

What kind of rock ‘n’ roll first appealed to you—the Beatles?

No, heavy metal. I always liked bands like Black Sabbath. I didn’t really get into it until I was about 14, the Suzi Quatro era. I really like her.

Do you think the business has changed much for women over the years?

No, not when you still have to talk with certain pig-headed record people. Women may be liberated in other things but not in the music business. It’s going to take longer to be accepted, for people really to sit down and listen to what you’re doing and make an effort to watch your show. I don’t know why, but for some reason where women are accepted in other areas, they’re not as much in a rock ’n’ roll band.

Is it fun jamming with male musicians?

I never jammed with anybody. The only guy I ever played an instrument with was Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols.

What lies ahead for rock ‘n’ roll?

That’s a hard one. I think about it, what the hell else could happen? Rock ’n’ roll can’t die. Classical and jazz music never have, even though it may not be the most popular in thing. I think it’s going to always exist.

How’s life for you when you’re not touring or recording?

Lately I haven’t been doing a fucking thing. I swear, I’ve just been sitting in my bedroom watching TV. I can watch TV from seven in the morning till it goes off. There’s nowhere special to go or anyone to see. It’s boring. I’ve been reading all sorts of James Bond books, I love him! I’d love to be a spy. The CIA put an ad in the L.A. Times that said they were looking for people. I wanted to apply.

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