Joan Jett is nothing short of a rock icon. Since her earliest days with the Runaways to her latest work as a solo performer, she’s been showing that women can rock just as hard as men and not have to apologize for doing it. This is an artist who doesn’t just know how to write a great song, but who knows how to deliver it; who knows when to reign it in and when to let it go. Now aged 62 years old, Jett has been gunning it for over 40 years and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Get ready to re-embrace your love for rock and roll as we count down the ten best Joan Jett songs of all time.
10. Fake Friends
If Jett was running out of ideas for album titles by 1983, she wasn’t running out of ideas for classic songs. Taken from the very straightforwardly titled “Album,” “Fake Friends” has enough rock, enough pop, and enough glam to rank among her best work. It didn’t sell too well at the time, but in retrospect, it probably should have.
9. Do You Wanna Touch Me?
These days, the thought of Garry Glitter singing ‘Do You Wanna Touch Me?’ to an audience of screaming young fans is enough to send shivers down your spine. But before his predatory predilections turned him into a pariah of the worst kind, it was his talent for crafting a catchy chorus that grabbed all the attention. Jett was a fan, but rather than simply emulate her hero, she went one step further and bettered him. Glitter’s version of “Do You Wanna Touch Me?” is decent enough, but it’s essentially standard glam rock fare. Jett’s version is bigger, shinier, glossier, and much, much deserving of a place in rock history.
8. Dead End Justice
Joan Jett was never like other teenage girls. Neither were the rest of the Runaways. Not the teenage girls most of us have either been or encountered anyway. Their drive, their mentality, and their attitude set them apart. It also helped them deliver one of the finest rock and roll albums of the 1970s in “The Runaways,” and one of the finest rock and roll songs in “Dead End Justice.” The track, which was written by Jett and sung by both her and Cherie Currie, may play out like a teen soap opera, but its jams and its hooks and its riffs are very adult, very catchy, and very, very good.
7. I Hate Myself For Loving You
Described by Society of Rock as a kickass song that showcases all the things we love about Jett, “I Hate Myself For Loving You” is a no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners rocker that might draw inspiration from Jett’s heroes, but which is unmistakably and unrelentingly Joan Jett. No one had managed to deliver such a stomping take on ’70s glam rock before. It’s unlikely anyone will again.
6. Activity Grrrl
In 1994, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts released the album “Pure and Simple.” For whatever reason, it didn’t chime with a ’90s audience and bombed. But just because an album bombed in 1994 doesn’t mean it’s not a fine album. And it certainly doesn’t mean it doesn’t include some great songs. “Activity Grrrl” is one of them. Fiery, full of attitude, and guaranteed to make you shake your moneymaker, it deserves a lot more credit than it got at the time.
5. Love Playin’ With Fire
In 1983, Jett re-recorded the Runaways “Love Playin’ With Fire” for her third solo project, “Album.” It was a good enough take, but it’s the original that got us all shook up first, and it’s still the original that’s shaking us up now. A heady, heavy thunderclap of a song, “Love Playin’ With Fire” didn’t just make you tap your toe. It didn’t just make you nod your head along politely. It made you stamp, clap, and abandon every inhibition you probably never had anyway. If you weren’t rocking by the end of it, you weren’t listening to begin with.
4. You Don’t Know What You’ve Got
She may be the Godmother of Rock, but Jett can still turn her hand to other genres when she wants to. In 1981, she was clearly in the mood for something a little lighter than usual. Heavily inspired by the sounds of the mid-60s, “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got” is a tangy piece of pop candy that’s got just enough of a bite and a crunch to remind you it’s still Jett you’re listening to.
3. I Love Rock and Roll
It might be obvious and it might still be in recovery from its treatment at the hands of Britney Spears, but “I Love Rock and Roll” still counts as one of Joan Jett’s best songs. As ultimateclassicrock.com writes, this is the song that marked Jett’s transition from an upstart teenager to a fully-fledged, bone fide rock star. First recorded (without success) by the Arrows, Jett took the song, shook it up, reshaped it, and presented it to the world as her signature song. It’s got life, it’s got rhythm, and it’s got more rock than Brighton.
2. Bad Reputation
Taken from the 1981 album of the same name, “Bad Reputation” gives us Jett at full throttle. With a strut and a style that female artists simply didn’t ‘do’ in those days, she gave it everything she had and proved herself a contender in the process. When the ’90s cult TV show “Freaks and Geeks” decided to use the song as its theme tune, it bought Jett’s anthem for the young and the disaffected to an all-new audience. But even before that, it was a classic, and it remains a classic to this day.
1. Cherry Bomb
As recording-history.org says, “Cherry Bomb” is one of the most popular rock and roll songs ever released. It’s also one of the most incendiary, explosive, and downright visceral tunes you’ll ever have the pleasure of cocking an ear to. Bristling with attitude and oozing with power, it kicked off the Runaway’s debut album with more force and more potency than a group of five teenage girls had any business dealing with. But make no mistake – this wasn’t a simple piece of teenage angst. There was nothing juvenile about the way Cherie Currie spits out the lines, nothing cocksure about Jett’s riffs. This was mature, it was poised, and it was masterful. If you were looking for Jett’s finest moment, you’ve found it.