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In honor of the HBO broadcast of this year’s Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction, we’re digging deeper in to the legacies of the folks who made it in and some that didn’t.
When we watch Joan Jett get ushered in to her long deserved spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert (airing this Saturday) we’ll be celebrating the moment by recalling her groundbreaking snarl, the handful of anthems she’s kicked out over the years, and her undying, unwavering commitment to her music. After all, the woman not only helped introduce feminism and a paired-down punk aesthetic to a the often misogynistic and bombastic world of 70’s arena rock with The Runaways, but she also helped bring the gospel of punk to wider attention by producing albums by the likes of the Germs and Bikini Kill. And songs like “Bad Reputation” and “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll” helped make the Billboard charts safe for women who dared create their identity and aesthetic on their own terms. And while those records cemented her legend, there’s more to Joan Jett than those two hits.
But for all her pioneering, perhaps the thing we most admire about Joan is her ability to craft perfect and perfectly uncompromising pop songs— even when the pop world was paying little attention to her efforts. Exhibit A: the melody rich and deeply attitudinal shoulda-been-hit from 1986, “This Means War.”
A single off both her Good Music album and the soundtrack for Light of Day, the Paul Schrader film in which she starred alongside Michael J. Fox and Gena Rowlands, 1986’s “This Means War” had all the elements for airplay at the time and canonization in the years since. Yet despite a crunchy, pulsing guitar riff that hammocks a sing-song melody that leaves plenty of room for plenty of attitude, this song has gone unjustly neglected.
First it was the pop world of ’86 that ignored Joan’s complicated ode to loving through hating, preferring at the time the reassuring sincerity of Lionel Richie and Whitney Houston. And then it was Joan herself, whose various greatest hits compilations have opted for her covers from the period (Springsteen’s “Light of Day”; Jonathan Richman’s “Road Runner”) rather than this original, which she wrote with her longtime managing and producing partner Kenny Laguna.
We have no problems with her takes on other people’s material, but for us, Joan Jett is at her finest when she was chiseling her own rage and frustration into songs like this. It’s high time that someone return the favor and cover this mid-’80’s lost track and give it another shot at the glory it richly deserves.