While it’s hardly the most pertinent detail to share about the life and career of Joan Jett, the fact that I’m typing this out while seated in a coffee shop in Wisconsin’s capital city makes me feel obligated to begin with the following: Jett is a lifelong Green Bay Packers fan. She reported falling in love with the team as a kid, based almost entirely on the image on a Sports Illustrated cover. Her affection for the Baltimore Orioles was even more pronounced, leading her to add a liner note dedication to the team when she reissued her self-titled solo debut as Bad Reputation, in 1981. The song that provided that album title had a straightforward inspiration. Following the dissolution of her band the Runaways, Jett’s attempts to land her own record deal met with only resistance. By her count, she was rejected by twenty-three labels before deciding the best route was to simply form her own: Blackheart Records. “Bad Reputation” was Jett’s direct response to constantly overhearing her name followed by the gossipy addition “I hear she has a bad reputation.” When Jett was eventually able to make a music video for the song, it was centered on a spoofing depiction of the disdain the recording industry felt for her, at least until she delivered a huge chart-topping hit. Just as I was required to start with the Packers, I must close by noting that “Bad Reputation” later became a central component of the greatest television series opening title sequence of all time.
By the time the Knack recorded “Good Girls Don’t,” Doug Fiegler was sick of it. He’d first written and recorded the song in 1972, and figured he’d taken at least three other demo passes at it, all them rejected soundly by any label on the receiving end of a pitch. Producer Mike Chapman, though, believed it was strong enough to deserve a spot of the band’s debut album, Get the Knack. Chapman convinced Fiegler to give it a try in the studio with the band performing it together, complete with vocals, and if they didn’t get it on the first take, the song would be set aside and they’d move on to other things. That’s the exact recording that closes side one of the record. It also became the second single from the album, despite certainty from many that the track would never make much headway on radio because of the salacious lyrics (“She’s your adolescent dream/ Schoolboy stuff, a sticky sweet romance/ And she makes you want to scream/ Wishing you could get inside her pants” are the opening lines, and it only gets raunchier from there). “Good Girls Don’t” also had the daunting task of following up “My Sharona,” which was not only a huge hit, but indeed the biggest single of 1979. “Good Girls Don’t” was respectable chart success, peaking at #11 on the Billboard chart, but it couldn’t help but look a little feeble held up against its immediate predecessor. As for the creepy male fantasy bound to in the song’s admittedly stellar musical hook, Fiegler’s chief defense would have surely been a repeat of the claim that it was based on a true story. Supposedly, a young woman had once hit him with the come-on line “Good girls don’t, but I do.” Why he would have thought to spin that into a song that he imagined being sung in Johnny Cash’s voice, a tactic he reported as key to that particularly songwriting process, is a whole other mystery.
Here’s an oddity in the list, speaking to a bit of a proofreading problem in the production of the CMJ anniversary book from which it is drawn. There is no song at #197. Instead, the chart glides from one even number to the next at this point in the tally. Since this week’s entry happens to coincide with a very tiring travel weekend for me, I’ll take advantage of that decades-old oversight to close down this week’s countdown a little early.
As we go along, I’ll build a YouTube playlist of all the songs in the countdown. The hyperlinks associated with each numeric entry lead directly to the individual song on the playlist. All images nicked from Discogs.