Sunday, January 19, 2014

Guitar Center Sessions: Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

(Audience Network, 2013) Before Netflix and Hulu started creating budget conscious shows and licensing British programs to create a slate of “original” programming, DirectTV was doing the same thing on their Audience/101/Freeview channel, but there ain’t no Orange is the New Blacks in their holster. The worst show I saw had Jason Priestly charmlessly playing a blackhearted cad, proving how utterly awful dark “comedy” with no sense of humor can be. Speaking of black hearts, one easily avoidable show on the channel is Guitar Center Sessions, where new and vintage bands rock out in a sterile studio, audience free, capturing all the charm of hanging out in a Guitar Center. No matter who the guest was I have never been able to watch more than minute, but the last episode was Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and I couldn’t miss it. Jett is my all-time rock ‘n’ roll crush for so many reasons, the number one being that she simply has my favorite singing voice ever. While it doesn’t have range and is awash in what some might consider imperfections, it is a voice that is simply perfect for rock ‘n’ roll, and I’m thrilled every time I hear her gsynthesize punk, glam, and garage in her distinct, gritty, unornamented, blunt, sexy tone. As Jett and her boys rocked through a half dozen or so songs in clinical HD that voice was absolutely perfect, she has not lost anything over the decades and I still love to hear her. I’m a little ashamed to speak about my other reason to love Joan, which is her face, and not because I’m embarrassed to have always found Jett’s visage (and generosity of eyeliner application) absolutely enchanting. Jett, in part because of the attitude in her eyes as both a tough teen and a confident woman, is eternally the great punk rock beauty to me. What I am ashamed of is my forthcoming critique of her seemingly augmented face, her taut skin making her face look just different enough that I had trouble really looking at her close-ups. But fuck it, as a pr-teen/pre-Joan loving boy my rock ‘n’ roll crush was Debbie Harry, and her face seems to have dealt with all kinds of “adjustments,” over the last 20 years, but when I watched her from near the front row last year I couldn’t see anything but a masterful, beautiful rock ‘n’ roll diva, so I shall still go see JJ I concert any time I can, but may limit my HD close-up TV viewing of my heroine. That said, the interview segments on this episode were amazing. Though Jett was given nothing but un-insightful, insipid, softballs by KCRW deejay Nic Harcourt she responded with thoughtful, lengthy, detailed answers laying out her musical history with impressively articulate intelligence. Sure, she may have (with prompting from Harcourt) restated the same answer about “girls can rock, too” a time too many, but anyone who has seen the Tomorrow episode where she is a charmingly inarticulate teen being shamed by Paul Weller’s British speechifyin’ would not have seen these wonderful monologues coming. Obviously Harcourt never challenges her about her difficult relationship with former Runaways, or pushes her to explore her collaborations with Kenny Laguna, Kim Fowley, Kathleen Hanna, The Gits, or pretty much anything beyond obvious stuff, but I loved hearing Joan talking (her speaking voice as awesome as her singing voice). That Harcourt constantly wanted to talk about “I Love Rock n Roll” (without ever asking about the original Arrows version, btw), and then it wasn’t performed was weird, but the band killed “Bad Reputation,” “Crimson and Clover,” “Cherry Bomb” and strong new material. Not sure I will watch this show again, but glad I watched this one. And for the record, I still (after thousands of listens) insist that the “Cherry Bomb” chorus hook is one “ch” too short.

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