Joan Jett and Kenny Laguna — her longtime producer and songwriting partner, as well as the keyboardist in her band, the Blackhearts — know they are still making good music. They just wish more people would get to hear it.
“We’re trying to figure out a way to work on the single ‘Fresh Start,’ which I think is the best thing we’ve done in years and years,” Laguna says of the theme song from the Jett documentary “Bad Reputation,” released last year. “It’s very hard for people of our era to get on mainstream radio. … I don’t resent it at all, like some of our friends. People who are so iconic, like the Stones or Bruce Springsteen — they’re not getting on the radio. When I was a kid and buying rock and roll records, my parents were freaked out that their idols were off the radio. No more Doris Day, sorry. That’s what happens.”
“We keep trying,” adds Jett, 60, who has called Long Beach home for decades. “What else are you going to do? You just have to try. Keep fighting.”
After all, that’s what the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has been doing for pretty much her entire career. So why stop now?
“We keep waiting for our George Foreman moment,” says Laguna, referring to Foreman knocking out Michael Moorer in 1994 to regain the title of heavyweight champion of the world at the age of 45.
For Jett, though, getting another hit isn’t the point. “You realize that the idea of ‘a hit’ is a whole business thing going on that has nothing to do with what is the best, the most fun songs that people want to hear,” she says. “It just doesn’t work that way.”
“Joan never had a hit,” Laguna begins.
“Without a struggle,” finishes Jett.
Her commercial successes like “I Love Rock 'n’ Roll” and “Do You Wanna Touch Me?” only came after fans demanded that radio play them. “The song had to be unstoppable,” says Laguna. “Like when radio played ‘Do You Wanna Touch Me?’ the phones lit up. … ‘Crimson and Clover’ probably wouldn’t have existed if ‘I Love Rock 'n’ Roll’ didn’t come first. They only had to play it once and they would get the requests.”
Nevertheless, Jett has always connected most with her fans through her tours. And this summer will be no different, as Joan Jett & the Blackhearts hit the road with Heart.
“It’s a good bill,” Jett says. “It wasn’t in the forefront of my mind that it was all women. That wasn’t my initial response. I was just into it. It should be a blast.”
“Before Joan was an iconic star or even had a hit, when we’d run into them on different shows, they were always especially nice,” adds Laguna. “Not every act was. So they stood out. They got what Joan was doing.”
Jett says the Heart tour currently doesn’t have a Long Island stop, but she is hopeful that the band will play the area sometime this year.
However, Laguna says that after playing Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater for the past three years, they wanted to skip it this summer. “I don’t want it to feel like we’re the house band there,” he says. “You gotta watch that stuff. You want it to keep it special.”