Self-reliance, determination and purity of essence have been hallmarks of Joan Jett's career since she first set out -- after the demise of her first band, the Runaways, in the late 1970s -- to carve her own slice of the rock 'n' roll pie, which she most certainly did. Yet her influence easily transcends the impact of her handful of '80s radio hits. Her success in an overwhelmingly male-dominated industry kicked over the gender wall, inspiring God knows how many young women to take up guitars, form bands and perform their own songs.
Jett seems honored by that notion but has never made a big deal out of it. She's always insisted that her choice of career had everything to do with playing the music she adored and virtually nothing to do with making a political statement. As she codified in her biggest hit, Jett simply loves rock 'n' roll.
"The first concert I ever saw was the New York Dolls, when I was 12," she says. "I was in the front row, between where Johnny Thunders and David Johansen were standing. It was sensory assault on every level. I remember taking David Johansen's beer can off the stage. That was right when I was becoming a rock fan and getting turned on to music. Once I saw that, there was no question what I wanted to pursue."
And Jett is still serving notice. She's got a forthcoming new record, Naked, and a new tour that brings the iconic rocker and her band the Blackhearts to the Coeur d'Alene Casino next Thursday night.
The sounds that turned Jett on as a teenager -- three-chord rock played with passion and style by Chuck Berry, the Stones, T-Rex, the Pleasure Seekers, Gary Glitter and others -- formed the foundation for her own musical aspirations. When she was 15, her family moved from Philadelphia to Los Angeles and Jett began hanging out at local L.A. rock clubs. In 1976, guitarist Jett, drummer Sandy West and producer Kim Fowley put together an all-girl punk rock band called the Runaways with Cherrie Currie on vocals, Lita Ford on lead guitar and Jackie Fox on bass. The group recorded three albums in three years and toured extensively but found limited success stateside. America, it seemed, wasn't quite ready for a female rock band that played it hard.
"You couldn't have both,' says Jett. "People called us 'whores,' 'sluts" and 'dykes.' People said, 'Why don't you get off the stage? You're going to get hurt.'"
By 1979, the Runaways were kaput and Jett was doing it on her own again. She formed the Blackhearts, recorded new material and, with producer Kenny Laguna, shopped it around to 23 labels before releasing it herself (as Joan Jett) on her own independent label. That record, which would be eventually picked up by Boardwalk Records in 1981 and re-named Bad Reputation, launched Joan Jett and the Blackhearts in America on the strength of its two hits, the original title track and "Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)," a Gary Glitter cover. Her next album, I Love Rock N Roll, represented her commercial breakthrough -- while the title song became, as it remains, her manifesto.
Even today, Jett's continuance in the rock idiom is grounded and nourished by something infinitely more enduring than fame or fortune.
"I don't think like, 'I could make money doing this,'" she says. "Because there are no guarantees in this business. It's such a difficult business that if you're not doing what you love, then what's the point?"
Fat Tuesday's Finale -- It's been awfully quiet over at the Fat Tuesday's Concert Hall lately. For nearly two-and-a-half years, the venue -- located in the Riverwalk complex just east of Hamilton on Trent Ave. -- has hosted some of the best rock concerts to grace Spokane in recent times. Owner Ken DuPree has been largely successful in the venture, establishing a live-music venue that caters to both the all-ages and the 21-and-over crowds, providing a safe, non-smoking, drug-free haven for everybody, supporting local music and helping put Spokane on the map as far as high-profile national touring acts are concerned. So what happened? What gives? Why am I writing a story about the final show at Fat Tuesday's?
"We're basically done doing shows over here," confirms DuPree. "We were doing great, but the restaurants in here complained every time we did a show. That's the only reason we're closing."
Strange, since most folks I know who attend Fat Tuesday's concerts -- myself included -- make it a point to stop over beforehand at either Northern Lights or Riverview Thai (the two dining establishments in the Riverwalk complex) for a pre-show nosh and brew.
"We had a meeting with the property manager and the two restaurant owners and they told me that the minute the music starts, everybody leaves their restaurants. I was like, 'That's because everybody's down here to see the music.'"
Despite misgivings, DuPree capitulated to his neighbors' concerns. This Sunday's show featuring Hatebreed with Unearth and Endustry will be the last show ever at Fat Tuesday's. After this weekend, the concert venue will quietly revert to a banquet hall. But DuPree's club is certainly going out with a bang -- a rather large bang, in fact, fleshed out with punishing guitar riffs and a heavy bottom end. Headliner Hatebreed is fronted by vocalist Jamey Jasta (host of MTV2's Headbanger's Ball) and trades in a mighty visceral form of hardcore, one that recalls vintage death metal and thrash-punk. The band (with Jasta, guitarist Sean Martin, bassist Chris Beattie and drummer Matt Byrne) is currently touring the country in support of its latest album, The Rise of Brutality.
Shows at Fat Tuesday's began noticeably falling off around the first of the year, about the same time the Big Easy Concert House was opening up downtown, leading many scene-watchers to speculate that the latter was sucking the life out of the former. Not at all, says DuPree.
"I've been offered great shows here," he says. "Death Cab for Cutie wanted to play here again. They don't like big corporate shows. Couldn't do it. The Reverend [Horton Heat] wanted to play here again, too, and I couldn't do it. It's ironic because Northern Lights did great the last time he played here."
DuPree says he is currently on the hunt for a new venue, looking at established clubs as well as entirely new, undeveloped spaces. Stay tuned.
He's Gone Country -- Here are a few reasons to hate America: preemptive invasions of Middle Eastern countries, widespread obesity, ignorant citizens, an artillery of nuclear weapons and an obsession with ridiculously lavish lifestyles. Perhaps it's that last reason that makes America the world's current bad boy. If it isn't hard enough to watch no-talent blondes like the Hilton sisters parade around the world for the sole reason of trying a martini on every continent, the world must want to scratch its collective eyes out at the mere sight of Kid Rock.
The pasty, malnourished 33-year-old rapper from the outskirts of Detroit, Mich., lives loudly and proudly -- reminding the world with his middle finger at every chance he gets that, dammit, he's an American. Correction: he's an American Badass, and he'll kick your ass if you don't think so. Hell, he'll kick your ass anyway.
But no matter what he might tell you, Kid Rock wasn't born a badass, and his career certainly hasn't always been badass. Hailing from the lily-white Detroit suburb of Romeo, Mich., Kid became interested in the Detroit hip-hop scene at an early age. Overcoming the odds, he toted his turntables around Motor City, quickly making a name for himself as the white kid who could rock -- hence the name, Kid Rock.
Though he didn't hit the national airwaves until the late 1990s, Kid Rock released his first album, Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast, in 1990 on Jive Records. But the album caused more trouble than the money it earned. Grits was quickly dubbed a rip-off of the Beastie Boys' Licensed To Ill, and frequent airtime of the oral sex anthem "Yo-Da-Lin in the Valley" brought a $24,000 lawsuit against a New York college radio station. Afraid of any more problems, Jive dropped Kid Rock with only one record under his belt.
Fueled by the American Dream, Kid recorded three more records in New York City before moving back home to Detroit. It was there that he assembled the Twisted Brown Trucker Band -- Kid's circus sideshow disguised as a back-up band. TBT featured the talent of deejay Uncle Kracker, female drummer Stefanie Enlenberg and Joe C., a three-foot, 10-inch rapper.
After gathering a devoted following in his hometown, Kid was finally picked up by Atlantic Records. He released his 11-time platinum release Devil Without a Cause in 1998. By laying his gritty rhymes over the TBT's solid rock sound instead of a traditional hip-hop beat, Kid showed that the defined lines of rap could be blurred -- even by a white guy. His Ted-Nugent-meets-Too-Live-Crew sound was fresh, and it earned him widespread popularity.
He went on to release two more trailer-park-rap albums -- but now says that he's sick of hip-hop. His 2003 self-titled release features more of Kid on the guitar than the mike, and even includes a cover of Bad Company's "Feel Like Makin' Love."
While his sound might have mellowed a bit, that doesn't mean his image has. Often seen toting Playboy bunny Pamela Anderson on his arm, with a joint behind his ear and a cigar hanging from his lip, Kid Rock still maintains his fat-cat American image by frequently flashing his skinny middle finger and drenching himself in gaudy jewelry and American flag ponchos.