“Bad Reputation”

“Bad Reputation”

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Story Behind the Song

Joan Jett
“Bad Reputation”

Written by Joan Jett, Kenneth Laguna, Ritchie Cordell, and Martin Kupersmith
Recorded by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

This was one of the first songs that Kenny (Laguna) and I wrote together. It was in 1979, the same year I recorded it and it was released. With Kenny, someone finally got it and took up the fight with me. He’s my best friend; he’s creative and has a business head.

When I first met Kenny, the Runaways, the first band I was in, had just broken up. We were an all girl band of teenage rock and rollers pushing the boundaries of what girls could do. The press was actually pretty good to us, but radio treated us very harshly even though we were doing the same things as punk or rock boy bands. Women in rock n’ roll became a threat to the misogynists. Pop music is more tolerant of women. It’s hard to live a rock n’ roll lifestyle as a woman, most women can’t take it.

Record companies got scared of offending radio, so they backed off — from me in particular. The double standard was frustrating. We had a “Bad Reputation” for being who we were. It affected me personally and professionally. The lyrics are pretty autobiographical. Some people thought the song was a joke, so we didn’t take it too seriously.

Every member of the Runaways got a record deal at PolyGram except me. Maybe it’s because I was the guitar player and considered the rock ‘n roller. Kenny explains, “She was the first woman to head a rock n roll band with a #1 record and she was the first punk rocker to have a #1 record.” Punk rock, in general, scared people and being a woman in leather with black hair, well…. .

We wrote most of the song in London in a cool apartment (flat) that Kenny had on Kings Road. The album was almost complete. We wanted to write something fast — kind of Ramones-y. The fans got it. It was never a single, like (Led) Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven.” People, both guys and girls, relate to the song. It has the universal theme of the underdog.

The video is really autobiographical. It showed how record companies disdained music and didn’t take me seriously. Kenny played the record company guy in the video, which was filmed in London and produced by David Mallett. It had an impact on the industry. Since the song came in the wake of “I Love Rock N’ Roll,” MTV played the video for “Bad Reputation.” However, record companies put a lot of pressure on MTV to pull it, which they did.

Our record company, Blackheart Records, is the oldest indie label in the U.S. It was founded in 1980, starting with “Bad Reputation,” my first album after The Runaways. Twenty-three record labels turned down the record. We even offered it for free. The Who helped us get started by letting us use their studios and their travel agent. They fronted the money. The first album on the label was Joan Jett after it had been released on Ariola in Europe and became the #1 import. Kids were picking up on it in the sub-culture in the punk movement. In the beginning of Blackheart Records, Kenny and I were selling the records out of the trunk of a car at gigs.

Neil Bogart, who was a major player in the record business at the time, saw the names of the people involved in the record and got excited. He called and was coming to our show in L.A. Kenny adds, “He saw her and said she was a star.” Neil helped to make it a Top 40 hit. We did a joint venture and Casablanca Records, Neil’s company, distributed it until he died very young. At the funeral, his mother said that “Bad Reputation” meant more to him than any other song in his life because people said he couldn’t succeed at rock n’ roll. It was he who renamed the album “Bad Reputation” for his distribution.

“Do You Want To Touch Me” was a hit single from the album. It was an amazing time, an incredible time.

The most extraordinary thing was seeing Elizabeth Taylor walk on stage to “Bad Reputation” on her TV special in the late ’90s. The song’s had lots of interesting uses. It was the theme for Freaks and Geeks and for American Chopper and was used in Shrek.

“Bad Reputation”

I don’t give a damn ’bout my reputation

You’re living in the past it’s a new generation

A girl can do what she wants to do and that’s

What I’m gonna do

An’ I don’t give a damn ’bout my bad reputation

Oh no not me

An’ I don’t give a damn ’bout my reputation

Never said I wanted to improve my station

An’ I’m only doin’ good

When I’m havin’ fun

An’ I don’t have to please no one

An’ I don’t give a damn

’Bout my bad reputation

Oh no, not me

Oh no, not me

I don’t give a damn

’bout my reputation

I’ve never been afraid of any deviation

An’ I don’t really care

If ya think I’m strange

I ain’t gonna change

An I’m never gonna care

’bout my bad reputation

Oh no, not me

Oh no, not me

Pedal boys!

An’ I don’t give a damn

’Bout my reputation

The worlds in trouble

There’s no communication

An’ everyone can say

What they want to say

It never gets better anyway

So why should I care

’Bout a bad reputation anyway

Oh no, not me

Oh no, not me

I don’t give a damn ’bout my bad reputation

You’re living in the past

It’s a new generation

An’ I only feel good

When I got no pain

An’ that’s how I’m gonna stay

An’ I don’t give a damn

’Bout my bad reputation

Oh no, not me

Oh no, not

Not me, not me

Words and Music by Joan Jett, Kenny Laguna, Ritchie Cordell and Marty Kupersmith. © 1981 JETT PACK MUSIC (BMI)/Administered by BUG MUSIC. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.

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