If the phrase “unauthorised biography” largely conjures up images of a superficial cut’n’paste hack job, then Dave Thompson’s excellent study of Joan Jett is at the other end of the spectrum: the labour of love. Part of Jett’s story is now pretty well-known, thanks to the recent Runaways movie, but this book is a reminder of the fact that, even when The Runaways and their sporadically excellent discography was all but forgotten, Joan Jett herself was, if not a household name, at least an established artist.
Since the dissolution of the band, Jett’s career has been one of highs and lows. As Bad Reputation documents, her consistency means that, when fashion is receptive to a punk-ish vision of rock’n’roll, without its sometimes overblown aspects, Joan Jett tends to do well; when artificiality or stadium pomposity are in vogue, she suffers accordingly.
If there’s a down side to Thompson’s stylish, passionate book it’s perhaps that he tends to exaggerate Jett’s importance. On the other hand, his enthusiasm is such that he may just sway you.