Bad Reputation

Music review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
Bad Reputation Music Poster Image
Joan Jett claims rock 'n' roll for women in fierce debut.

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The parents' guide to what's in this music.

Positive Messages

Joan Jett set out to prove to herself that she could rock like a man, and she definitely does on Bad Reputation. She was, and is, a rock 'n' roll individualist with her own ideas about music, style, and attitude. The title track on this album says it all: "I don't give a damn 'bout my bad reputation / You're living in the past it's a new generation / A girl can do what she wants to do and that's/What I'm gonna do."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Joan Jett's first band was called The Runaways, which many would consider negative role-modeling in itself. However, it's worth noting that The Runaways were the very first all-girl rock 'n' roll band in the United States (and they were girls, ranging in age from 15 to 17 at the time). Also, when Bad Reputation (her first solo album) failed to generate any real interest from major labels, Jett started the country's first woman-owned record label, Blackheart Records, and released the No. 2 album I Love Rock N' Roll, leaving the guys who turned her down in the dust. She continues to be a strong female rocker who writes her own story, even if some of the words might be a little unsavory.


One of the bonus tracks on the Bad Reputation reissue, a cover of The Who's "Call Me Lightning," mentions a "noose tightening around us," but it's a metaphor for emotional commitment. Likewise, mentions of "pain" in other songs refer to emotional pain. Also, note that the song "Don't Abuse Me" is written from the point of view of a star who isn't sure how to tell if she is being used for her fame rather than being wanted for herself; it's not about physical abuse.


Considering Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation" (the title track), there is little to no mention of sex in this collection of original and cover tunes. The only overtly sexual song is a version of Gary Glitter's "Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)," which repeats the line "Do you wanna touch me there?" That song also asks, "Don't it turn you on?" and "Don't it make you feel so fine?" "Make Believe" mentions kissing, and the singer loves "your love." Other songs touch on love or relationships gone bad, but do not mention sex, unless listeners think the cover of the Tommy James song "Hanky Panky" (another bonus track) is risque.


The original tracks on Bad Reputation include only one curse word: "damn," as in "I don't give a damn 'bout my bad reputation." However, the reissue CD includes a bonus live version of the song in which Jett changes "damn" to "s--t."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The Gary Glitter song "Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)" mentions "whiskey and rye," but this seems more like searching for a rhyme, as there's nothing else in the song about alcohol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Bad Reputation was the debut solo album by Joan Jett, the first record she made after The Runaways disbanded. Jett's fierce independence as a woman rocker is the strongest force on this album, and the strongest theme in the original and cover material. For example, Jett covers include the old Leslie Gore song "You Don't Own Me" and the Gary Glitter song "Doing Alright With the Boys." Jett also covers Glitter's "Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)," which is clearly about sex and includes the lines "Don't it turn you on?" and "Don't it make you feel so fine?"); this track also mentions "whiskey and rye," though it's not about drinking. The original album tracks include one curse word ("damn"), but a bonus live version of the title track switches the word "s--t" for "damn."

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Kid, 11 years old May 29, 2013

Joan Jett May Be the Best Classic Rock Band

Joan Jett is a great artist. She's even better with The Blackhearts (Joan Jett and the Blackhearts). It may have some minor sex references, but the song... Continue reading

What's the story?

BAD REPUTATION (1981, Boardwalk Records) was the first solo album by Joan Jett after her band The Runaways disbanded. The record has a lot of the same attitude The Runaways had (girl power, powerful female sexuality), but even more independence. Like a lot of early punk artists, Jett also covers a lot of early rock 'n' roll songs that fit with her sensibility. Though the title track, \"Bad Reputation,\" and her cover of Gary Glitter's \"Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)\" were minor hits, the major labels turned Jett away, so she started her own label, Blackheart Records: the first woman-owned record label in the U.S. Her first album on Blackheart was the No. 2 hit album I Love Rock N' Roll, which yielded two Top 10 singles: the No. 1-selling title track and \"Crimson and Clover,\" which rose to No. 6 on the Billboard chart.

Is it any good?

Bad Reputation has its high and low points, but the best songs on the record make it well worth owning. "Bad Reputation" -- which rose only to No. 48 when the album was first released -- has become an anthem for Joan Jett; it's a near-perfect Ramones-style punk song with Jett playing buzzsaw guitar and singing endearing lines like "A girl can do what she wants to do and that's / What I'm gonna do." Jett's version of Gary Glitter's "Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)" rocks a lot harder than the original and sounds more provocative coming from a woman singer. On "Too Bad on Your Birthday" and "Let Me Go," Jett doesn't seem to put the same heart into her singing; the arrangements end up sounding more like regular rock records. But she does sing the heck out of "Wooly Bully," of all things, and she really does something new with the Leslie Gore hit "You Don't Own Me," selling it in a much tougher way. Joan Jett doesn't have Chrissie Hynde's pipes or Patti Smith's artistic genius, but she claimed rock 'n' roll for women in a huge way in the 1970s, and this release successfully established her strength as a solo artist.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the song "Bad Reputation." Do you think women are taken more seriously by the music industry now than they were in 1981 when Joan Jett made this album?

  • Why do you think Joan Jett covered Gary Glitter's "Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)" on Bad Reputation? How does the sexuality of that song tie in with Jett's themes of independence and woman power?

  • Why do you think Joan Jett was an important artist in her time?

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