Before taking the stage for CBS-FM’s annual free concert, Jett spoke with Scott Shannon in the Morning and discussed the impact radio had on her career after The Runaways disbanded.
After the band split in 1979, Jett set out on a solo career, enlisting the help of Kenny Laguna as a songwriter.
“We’re songwriting partners first,” Jett says of Laguna. “It was right after The Runaways had broken up, so I was pretty much alone in the world. After we wrote these songs, I had nobody to produce them and he was a producer.”
With her new music partnership underway, Jett and Laguna looked to secure a record deal, meeting a lot of resistance along the way.
“People just didn’t want to sign me and as he [Laguna] tried to get me signed and was running into brick wall after brick wall, he started to get angry because he noticed and realized that it wasn’t anything to do with the music or anything else,” explains Jett, adding, “but it has something to do with the image or for whatever reason they didn’t want to sign me. So he kind of started fighting with me and became my manager at that point.”
Traditional means weren’t working for Jett and Laguna. But her music was still being heard and demand for more Joan Jett was beginning to steadily increase, thanks in large part to a dedicated fan base.
“The radio-listening audiences that helped so much,” says Jett. “Because at that time… radio still took requests from their listeners.”
The method of giving audiences what they wanted instead of what record labels wanted to distribute to them made reaching goals a slower process for Jett and Laguna, who had relocated to Long Beach, New York.
“Living in Long Island, we got played on a couple of the Long Island radio stations and on a couple of the New York rock stations,” says Jett. “And slowly, with several DJs help sort of spurring us on, we started to sell out clubs around the New York area and before you knew it, we started getting played on the radio.”
Laguna would help produce Jett’s solo albums from the early 1980s, Bad Reputation and I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll — and later establish Blackheart Records.
Listen to Scott Shannon’s complete interview with Joan Jett below.