“A girl can do what she wants to do, and that’s what I’m gonna do.”
When you think of the ultimate 70’s rock babe, who else is there other than Joan Jett? And she’s every bit as feisty now at 59 as she was at 16 when she played guitar for the Runaways and led them to wild-child fame.
RUNAWAYS AND IDOLS
Starting as a power trio 1975, drummer Sandy West, guitarist Joan Jett found their 3rd member, singer/bassist Micki Steele, through producer Sandy West. The accidental rocker feminism of an all-women process was magic. Starting in the shadowy corners around Los Angeles, The Runaways eventually became an international sensation at home and as far away as Japan.
In the documentary Edgeplay: A film about the Runaways reveals each girl patterned herself after an idol: Currie on David Bowie, Jett on Suzi Quatro, Ford a cross between Jeff Beck and Ritchie Blackmore, West on Roger Taylor, and Fox on Gene Simmons.
Edgeplay: A film about the Runaways
Only a couple of years in Currie The Runaways lead singer, left after a blow-up with Ford, leaving Jett to take over vocals full-time. The band didn’t last much longer, but forever fierce and not one to wait for fate, Joan got to work immediately. After being rejected from 23 labels she started her own, Blackheart Records, becoming one of the first female recording artists to found her own label. Pushing the expectations for female cool with her jagged black shag, war-paint, and perfect rasp, Joan naturally stepped it up with owning her career as well as her look.
Described by Vogue in 1985 as a “ferocious tomboy, wide-eyed and fine-boned, with a snarl on her face”, endures as a testament to her authenticity.
A HAIRCUT THAT DEFINED AN ERA
Approaching everything with her signature “How dare you tell me what I can do” snarl, Joan didn’t let brutal criticisms stop her from doing what she wanted to do. Keeping her hair choppy, chunky and short was in no way an avoidance of sexuality. She dictated the script in her performances and turned overt female sexuality on its head with her tough-girl gaze. Versions of this shaggy mullet have gone on to epitomize anti-tradition in feminine allure.
“I was very against American society telling me what I could be as a woman.”
– Joan Jett (vogue)
THE RIGHT ATTITUDE
Joan’s values are as loud and clear today as they were when she was a teen. A few years ago, and in her 40’s, she decided to shave her head, smooth. She was called ugly and saw she was viewed as threatening to men with no hair.…
“I realized, Okay, here’s another one about women’s value: their hair. A woman with no hair has no value [in society]. All these superficial things about what makes a woman a woman, or important or valued, are so skewed and so dangerously unbalanced. It wasn’t just guys; it was women, too. That whole women-supporting-women thing sometimes is a lot of lip service, you know? We’ve got to be real about it.”