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39 years ago today, “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts was #1 for the fifth of seven weeks in 1982

BrianWilkins.org
April 15, 2021

Damn I’m getting old! I remember so vividly playing Pac-Man at the bowling alley down the street from my house in Marshalltown, Iowa when I heard this for the first time. I got the quarters to play the arcade game from selling golf balls. We used to go golf ball hunting across the street from the golf course, and golfers would buy them. That’s Gen X economics for kids.

Some argue “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” is the greatest song of the 80s. Billboard ranked it #56 of all-time in 2008. It’s a classic for sure, with lots of childhood memories tied to it. But many people don’t know that Joan Jett neither wrote the song, nor originally performed it. Those honors go to 1970s glam rock band The Arrows. Lead singer Alan Merrill and guitarist Jake Hooker wrote the song and first performed it in 1975.

Both are from the USA (New York and California, respectively). But The Arrows were labeled as British because the song was first performed on a British television show in 1975. The original “I Love ‘n’ Roll” was also produced by Mickie Most, a British icon who produced many other popular acts in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Arrows parlayed the song into their own weekly TV show. But “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” was only a B-side track and never charted. Joan Jett heard the song while touring in the U.K. in 1976. She recorded her version in 1979.

Britney Spears also made a version in 2002. It never charted in the United States, but peaked at #13 in the U.K. that year.

The Spears version is unfortunately associated with her trying to give Joan Jett props, but mistakenly referring to Jett as Pat Benatar.

The Arrows get credit for creating this awesome classic. But Joan Jett made it pop. The Joan Jett cover, however, almost never happened. Her first group, the Runaways, did not want to make the song at all. So Jett “held onto it” and did the song with the Blackhearts.

The rest, of course, is history.

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