How can something so 80’s, so smoothed off and over produced sound so gutteral?
Those slowed down 70’s glam rock drums and hand claps are pure glitter scene. The effects of Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco echoing up through the decades and into 1988. And yet the real killer bit is the guita… is that a guitar? Is that just a guitar? Is that a synth set to Bassoon brass FX played through a guitar? Why does that axe sound so horney?
It’s slow and low and sliding around like unsecured ballast in a small fishing boat’s galley during a storm.
“Midnight getting uptight but where are you? You said you’d meet me but it’s quarter to two”
That’s ridiculous of course. The idea that anyone would stand Joan Jett up is a scientific impossibility. She’s beaming this down from Planet Cool for the rest of us to help us get through our own messy stuff. She’s the boat, we’re the ballast. Let’s slip about to this.
“Hey Jack, it’s a fact they’re talkin’ in town I turn my back and you’re messin’ around I’m not really jealous, don’t like lookin’ like a clown”
After The Runaways, after Bad Reputation, Joan had already had some hits in her own right (including the megahit I Love Rock And Roll). This was the era ex-Runaways band mate Lita Ford was making 80’s heavy metal ballads with Ozzy Osbourne and getting her Deadly Kissed*.
Joan’s 1988 album Up Your Alley found it’s way into my record collection pretty close to it’s release. I was 14. She was the coolest rock star I’d ever seen. The jacket, the guitar, the hair. Damn Man. Just… Damn.
That slide guitar riff and that down beat delivery. This is a teen anthem for the not to be messed with. Joan Jett is still the coolest of the cool. She hangs with Alice, she fills in for Kurt, she toasts Lemmy and she still slays live.
Those ‘Uhs’ that punctuate the riffs from the verses are pure rock and roll theater. The ‘Ow’ before the solo so casually tossed out there it makes the whole thing look incidental. It’s not. It’s as precision tooled as the layers of synth and the smoothed out low end riff.
The song is one of the hidden gems of it’s era. In plain sight. 1988 made them contemporary’s of The Cult, Guns N’ Roses and The Sisters Of Mercy. This band are untainted by the excesses of any of that eras downsides but elevated by the perennial ease of being a bit punk, a bit pop, a lot cool… and no one ever criticizes Joan Jett And the Blackhearts.
*It’s a dumb pun but if you think the title of Kiss Me Deadly in a northern English accent it sounds like her Deadly is part of her body. This has been making me laugh for 30 years.