Nicknamed the godmother of Punk Rock, Joan Jett shot to fame as a founding member of The Runaways, a rock band made up of Jett, Sandy West, Jackie Fox, Lita Ford and Cherie Currie, a group of precocious and in-your-face teenage girls who were set to take the late 70s rock world by storm. In his new film Bad Reputation, music video director turned documentarian Kevin Kerslake (As I AM: The Life and Times of DJ AM, Bob Marley Legend Remixed Documentary) attempts to shine a light on the legend of Jett and the ups and downs she suffered throughout her rocky career, and how she came back from the brink to become one of the most iconic female rock stars of all time.
Discovered at 15, Joan Jett cut an impressive figure amongst the remnants of the deeply uncool hippy era when she and the rest of The Runways broke onto a scene which didn’t know what to do with them. Exploding onto the airways with songs such as their brilliant 2:49 minutes hit Bad Reputation, The Runaways were fierce, feisty and effortlessly cool. Famously disliked by Rolling Stone Magazine for their punk rock antics, the band had a short run at being rock stars before splitting and going their separate ways.
Speaking candidly about her own failures and what it took to bring her back from certain death, Jett’s mantra has always been “tell me I can’t do something and you’ll make sure I’m gonna be doing it”. Refusing to accept the sexy rock chick image being foisted on her by her management in the early days, Joan Jett fell onto drink and drugs which almost killed her, and was only saved after a trip to the UK brought her closer to her punk rock origins.
With talking heads from Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, Blondie’s Debbie Harry, Ian MacKaye (Fugazi), Iggy Pop, and countless other music legends singing her praises, we soon get a clearer image about the real person behind the headlines. Elsewhere Kerslake also talks to actor Kristen Stewart, who played Jett in the hit movie The Runaways, about what the singer meant to her as a young woman.
Overall, Bad Reputation offers a detailed account of global fame and struggle to cope with it from the perspective of a woman whose main goal was to play the music she wanted to play away from all the superficial stuff that comes with being a huge rock star. Jett was heartbroken by the demise of her band, but later went on to become symbolic of the MTV generation, but to understand who she became, one has to go back to her early days as a punk rocker, and Kevin Kerslake has ultimately managed to do just that in this expertly executed documentary which reads like a love letter the Jett herself.
Bad Reputation will be released in cinemas & on demand on 26 October 2018