Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

I Love Rock N' Roll

Composed by Jake Hooker / Alan Merrill

Song Review by

Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" was a cornerstone single in the brave new world opened up for female rock musicians in the aftermath of punk rock. A massive hit that topped the charts for seven weeks in 1982, the song proved that not only could female artists record completely convincing hard rock, but that there was a large audience ready to snap up the results if they were catchy. And "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" is definitely catchy. It's extremely simple, too -- literally a three-chord rocker, with a barebones handclapping beat and a simple guitar lick repeated in between certain chord changes. Jett discovered the song while touring England, where she witnessed a relatively obscure band called the Arrows performing it on television. Dismayed that "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" had been relegated to the B-side of one of their singles, the Arrows happily gave Jett the go-ahead to cover it. Jett's version gives the tune a slightly punky flavor -- sort of the Ramones meets "Louie Louie" -- but the song's deliberate tempo and Jett's love of the big chorus hook set it squarely in the realm of hard rock. Throughout the song, Jett is the ├╝ber-confident sexual aggressor, lusting after a young stranger standing next to the jukebox and -- emboldened by the pumping music -- sauntering up to invite him back to her place. And that's all in the course of just two verses. Without even pausing to question, Jett wholeheartedly adopts the aggressive, traditionally masculine persona suggested by the song, as though female performers had been doing that for decades; you can practically hear her beating her chest with pride as she snarls, "When next we were movin' on, he was with me/Yeah, me!" The swaggering bravado of Jett's performance is so natural and so convincing that the song doesn't really come off as a statement about female empowerment; although that subtext certainly exists, there's just no trace of any self-conscious attempt to make a statement. It's more as if it never even occurred to Jett that a simple song about loving rock & roll and getting laid could be performed with anything less than raucous, butt-kicking, life-affirming enthusiasm. And that assumption was a revelation to many female musicians who followed Jett, particularly in the riot grrrl punk movement, which hailed Jett as a pioneer and a role model (not just for her music, but also her D.I.Y. ethic in forming her own band and label in spite of record companies' initial lack of interest in her solo career). At a time when traditional female roles in popular music were being subverted, re-imagined, or flat-out junked, "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" declared rock's sweaty machismo an integral part of the music itself, there to be claimed by any performer who wanted it.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
I Love Rock 'N' Roll 1981 JVC Compact Discs 2:55
Original Hit Collection 1994 2:55
Fit to Be Tied: Great Hits by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts 1997 Mercury / Blackheart 2:54