In honor of Joan Jett’s birthday today, the song of the day is “Bad Reputation”. Joan Jett wrote this song with Kenny Laguna, who produced the album and helped her establish a solo career after her group, The Runaways, broke up. In a Songfacts interview with Laguna, he said: “It’s about Joan having been kind of a wild woman in The Runaways, and us trying to make a record deal, going around having people say, ‘No, she’s too crazy, like the punks and nazis.’ Joan had this bad reputation, no label would sign her – that’s why we own the records. It was so frustrating, we thought we should write a song about it. One day Joan said something and I said, ‘You shouldn’t do this.’ I was trying to give her the advice of an old man, but she was a teenager at the time, and she says, ‘Look, I don’t care about my bad reputation.’ I said, ‘Whoa, there’s the song.'”
Speaking with Rolling Stone in 2022, Jett talked about her bad reputation. “I always wore it as a badge of honor,” she said. “Because what people were saying to me was I had a bad reputation because I played an electric guitar and I had black hair and a leather jacket, and maybe I swore… So I turned around the meaning of it, and I’m proud of my bad reputation.”
This song made a very bold statement, establishing Jett as an independent-minded rocker with no concern for traditional gender roles in rock. Her co-writer Kenny Laguna told us: “‘I don’t give a damn about my reputation, it’s a new generation,’ that was the whole thing, a girl could do what she wants to do. When she was singing those lyrics, it was radical because there were no girls doing anything other than what they were supposed to do, they were all supposed to be like the girl groups. They were supposed to be dainty, wear dresses. They weren’t supposed to play instruments. The song was definitely autobiographical.”
This anthem for any punk, freak, or misfit, only charted moderately upon release (however, it peaked at number eight on the Billboard Japan Hot 100). This is unsurprising as Joan Jett was ahead if her time. However, this is one of Jett’s signature songs, and had a bit of a resurgence as it was the theme song of the incredible television show Freaks and Geeks, which ran for only one season, from 1999-2000.
Joan Jett is a pioneer and icon who is still rocking today!