Who Did the Song "I Love Rock n' Roll" First Before Joan Jett?

Song: I Love Rock 'n Roll (1982)

Artist: Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

Album: I Love Rock 'n Roll (Boardwalk)

Writers: Jake Hooker, Alan Merrill

Joan Jett has had a storied career. Before she was the frontman of her own band, she was a part of the band The Runaways, famous for such songs as "Cherry Bomb." The song she is most known for, however, she did as part of Joan Jett & the Blackhearts: I love Rock 'n Roll. In March 1982 it was a number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100. It also hit number one on the Billboard Top Tracks and Hot Dance Club Songs charts. It also charted in six other countries, reaching no. 1 in four of them. It became the band's most requested song on tour, the single itself went platinum, and it is a classic rock radio mainstay to this day. You could not find a bigger hit.

The Arrows: Original Recording of "I Love Rock 'n Roll"

The song was actually written by Alan Merril and Jake Hooker of the band The Arrows, in 1975. The Arrows were an Anglo/American band, which is fancy talk for a band consisting of both English and American members. Merril wrote the song as a response to the Rolling Stones recently released "It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)." Merril thought, that although the Stone's hadn't meant the song in a derogatory way, that it minimized the genre, which he was so passionate about. Upon hearing the song, Merril recalls thinking "What do you mean it's only rock and roll but you like it? I love rock and roll!" His song, he said "sort of snowballed from there" and too about a half hour to write, along with his bandmate Jake Hooker, the guitarist, who collaborated on both the lyrics and the music.

Merril was passionate about the song. He knew it was a hit. Like many potentially hit songs that had come before, however, the producer did not agree. Mickey Most, their producer at the time felt that the song was only "okay" but not a hit. He let the band record the song but the recording was not good enough for an A-side. It ended up the B-side for a British release.

Then in 1976, the Arrows had a television show in the UK, called Arrows, which ran for two seasons (two series, in Britain) with 14 shows each. During this time, due to a conflict between Most and the band's Manager Ian Wright, Arrow recorded no new songs. However, they did record an improved version of I Love Rock 'n Roll at the Granada Television Studios, for use on the show.

The Runaways

Joan Jett was touring England with the Runaways when they saw the Arrows perform the new and improved version of the song on their show. Jett called Hooker to ask him if he would mind if she recorded the song. Hooker responded "Why not? You've got to do a better job than we did." The rest of the Runaways, however, did not like the song as much and she could not convince them to record it.

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

After the Runaway's disbanded, Jett recorded "I Love Rock 'n Roll" but it was only released in Holland as the B-side of a cover version of "You Don't Own Me" by Lesley Gore. Then, she formed the Blackhearts, which toured Europe for a while. Jett felt, at the time, that they would not be taken seriously in America. When they returned to America, Hooker pestered her about recording the song again, which they did, as part of their first studio album together. The new recording pleased Hooker very much, who felt that it was exactly as he had always dreamed it would be. Just as he thought, it went to number one and became the band's signature song.

The "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" album was released on Neil Bogart's Boardwalk label on November 18, 1981. It became the label's most successful album and sold over ten million copies. Incredibly, when the song was first released, many rock stations didn't want to play it because it was "too punk." Go figure.

1. Bronson, Fred. The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits. Billboard Books, 2003.
2. Ermilio, Brett, and Josh Levine. Going Platinum: KISS, Donna Summer, and How Neil Bogart Built Casablanca Records. Lyons Press, 2014

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