(London Film Festival, October 13th, 2018, Prince Charles Cinema, 18:15)
A look at the life of Joan Jett, from her early years as the founder of 'The Runaways' and first meeting collaborator Kenny Laguna in 1980 to her enduring presence in pop culture as a rock ‘n’ roll pioneer.
When a precocious 13 -year-old girl in a sleepy suburban town put a 'Sears Electric Guitar' at the top of her Christmas list in 1971, no one could have predicted how the gift would change the course of history. Joan Jett wants to make some noise. She wants to start a band. An all-girl band. Never mind that the only viable path forward for aspiring female artists in the male-dominated music industry was as a singer-songwriter on an acoustic guitar. Jett wants to plug in, and nothing is going to stop her. Following the break- up of 'The Runaways', Jett met songwriting partner and producer Kenny Laguna, and formed 'Joan Jett & The Blackhearts'. After being rejected by twenty three labels, Laguna and Jett formed 'Blackhearts Records', selling records out of the trunk of Kenny’s Cadillac. Then, 'I Love Rock n Roll' went number one all over the world. The friendship and tenacity exhibited between Jett and Laguna proves to be both entertaining and inspiring. Jett ’s relentless passion for music and her revolutionary spirit has allowed her to defy great odds and find success, credibility and respect among her peers.
Joan Jett is an originator, an innovator, and a visionary. As the leader of the hard- rocking 'Blackhearts', with whom she has become a 'Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame' inductee, she's had eight platinum and gold albums and nine Top 40 singles, including the classics 'Bad Reputation", 'I Love Rock 'N' Roll', 'I Hate Myself For Loving You', and 'Crimson and Clove'. Her independent record label, 'Blackheart Records', was founded in 1980 after she was rejected by no less than 23 labels. 'Blackheart' is one of the longest running indie labels and continues to give voice to new bands. Jett has acted in movies and television, including 1987's "Light Of Day", and in a Broadway musical, 'The Rocky Horror Show'. She has appeared on such television shows as 'Oprah' and 'Law and Order'. As a producer, she has overseen albums by 'Bikini Kill', 'Circus Lupus', as well as 'The Germs'. Her music has become a permanent force in mainstream culture. A version of 'I Hate Myself For Loving You' was reworked for 'NBC's Sunday Night Football' theme song. Her music is heard in countless films and TV shows including 'Easy-A', 'The Runaways', 'Shrek' and 'Baby Mama'. Since co-founding 'The Runaways', the pioneering all-girl punk quintet, at age 15, Jett's determination and drive have kept her in the public eye. Jett and 'The Blackhearts' released their latest record, 'Unvarnished', in 2013 and continue touring the globe to throngs of adoring fans. Joan Jett has spent her lifetime breaking barriers and challenging expectations, this is, after all, a woman who's both a spokesperson for 'PETA' and a devoted supporter of 'The US Military'. She's fought hard for all of her historic accomplishments, yet she remains humble and appreciative.
Kenny Laguna has been in the music industry as a musician, songwriter, singer, and producer, for nearly five decades. His resume is as diverse as his talents, including 'Bubblegum', 'Punk Rock', 'Indie Rock', and 'Blue-Eyed Soul'. He has produced the soundtrack to 'The Andy Warhol' movie "Lonesome Cowboys". He's Joan Jett's longtime producer, songwriting partner and partner in their label, 'Blackheart Records'. Starting at the tender age of 12 years old, Kenny was playing keyboards for New York radio high school hops, for twenty dollars a day, when he was recognized by an industry bigwig. This led to other doors that Kenny kicked open, and eventually he found himself producing and playing in 'Bubblegum' bands like 'The Ohio Express'. By 1972, Kenny had played and sung on over '50 Billboard Top 40' hits. After the demise of 'Bubblegum', he was given the opportunity to produce for 'The Who's' label in London, which would prime him for the next phase, 'Punk Rock'. Soon after that, Kenny was asked to help write and produce six songs in 8 days with a young singer named Joan Jett.
Her former band, 'The Runaways', had broken up, but they're still contracted to do a project that was yet unfinished. Kenny and Joan immediately found they're kindred spirits, and have collaborated on every Joan Jett album and hit ever since. Kenny wanted to help Joan get a record deal, so they submitted 'I Love Rock N' Roll' and 'Bad Reputation'. They're turned down by every one. Despite this, they didn't give up; Kenny and Joan manufactured the record, 'Bad Reputation' and sold the album from the trunk of 'Kenny's Cadillac'. This was the beginning of 'Blackheart Records'. 35 years later, 'Blackheart' is still the home to Joan Jett and 'The Blackhearts'. Kenny served as 'Executive Producer' of 2010's, 'The Runaways', bringing the story of the band to life on screen. After 35 years of creating music together, he and Jett are still touring the world, writing and recording new music. Kenny Laguna's vast career is a testament to his talents and tenacity. His body of work is as diverse as his talents. His lengthy career has been driven by passion for what he loves to do best; create music.
Carianne Brinkman spent her first 5 years traveling all over the world with rock n roll bands and then retired from the tour life to start kindergarten. Having grown up in the music industry, she was destined to follow in the formidable footsteps of her father, Kenny Laguna, a music business legend, and her adopted aunt, Joan Jett. After attending college, she joined the family business, 'Blackheart Records', and began to plot how to bring the label into a new era. 'Blackheart' was started after 23 labels rejected Jett and Laguna, before they found success with 'I Love Rock n Roll'. Brinkman rebranded 'Blackheart'' to reflect Jett's authenticity and rock n roll spirit. The label has become one of the longest running and most respected indies. By bringing Jett's catalog into the digital space, and focusing on Jett's unique brand and influence, Brinkman helped propel Jett from rock star to icon. In addition to infusing new life into the over 35 year old label, by signing and championing unique and diverse artists, she has been an integral part of Joan Jett's management team and was key in ushering in a new era for Jett. Jett credits Brinkman as the secret to her current success. After 13 years as 'SVP Of Blackheart', Brinkman began to expand into film. She was an associate producer of the 2010 film, 'The Runaways'.
"Bad Reputation" chronicles the life of Joan Jett, from her early teenage years as founding member of The Runaways to her enduring presence over four decades later as a rock ‘n’ roll icon. Joan is so much more than "I Love Rock 'n' Roll." It's true, she became mega-famous from the number-one hit, and that fame intensified with the music video's endless play on 'MTV'. But that staple of popularity can't properly define a musician. Jett put her hard work in long before the fame, ripping it up onstage as the backbone of the hard-rock legends 'The Runaways', influencing many musicians-both her cohort of punk rockers and generations of younger bands-with her no-bullshit style. The film gives you a wild ride as Jett and her close friends tell you how it really was in the burgeoning '70s punk scene, and their interviews are laced with amazing archival footage. The theme is clear, even though people tried to define Jett and keep her stuck to one hit, she never compromised. She will kick your ass, and you'll love her all the more for it.
The film shows the evolution of a young girl with a radical notion that girls could play electric guitars into a woman whose place in history will be marked by perseverance, authenticity and incredible rock n roll. Jett’s activism and commitment to all living beings are captured in her work on behalf of animals rights, travels to warzones to entertain the troops. Her humanity and candid reflections reveal a side seldom seen of the seminal rock star. Joan Jett is the essence of rock and roll. A dark and dingy club filled with the hormonal roar of longing and desperation and fuck yes. A stadium filled with hundreds of thousands of fans with their fists in the air. A dyed in the wool musician working on a song alone in her bedroom who won't let a lick or lyric rest till it's just fucking right. A machine who has such perfect timing that she don't need no stinking click track.
An alley cat whose iconic howl is either mother's milk or a call to arms or both for millions of people all across the world. An atomic, three chord burst of guitar that's a thousand punches in the gut. A poet who speaks screams whispers of things that go bump in the night with such insight and finesse that the pain somehow just goes away. The highest of all hi-priests and priestesses who preside over a ritual that's still the gold standard for all art forms when it comes to moving masses. A fight against injustice of every stripe. A voice for the voiceless. A champion of champions and defender of the underdog. A feminist manifesto in the flesh. A paver of ways for little girls all acrothink pink was their color and even for those who did. A defiant, never-say-die general and foot soldier who tore down the old world patriarchy so that little girls could plug in and play it loud.