It’s all about the hits (or is it?)

Posted: November 25, 2008 by ginavivinetto in music, Stephanie Koppel
Tags: , , , ,

By Stephanie Koppel

Can you imagine going to a Stones show without getting any “Satisfaction”? How about an Aretha show with no “Respect”? And even if you can’t stand the song—or the singer—you’d probably be a little annoyed if Amy Winehouse did a gig without checking into “Rehab.”

Warrant lead singer, Jani Lane, once said in a VH1 interview: “I could shoot myself in the fucking head for writing [“Cherry Pie”].”

Artists like Lane are aggravated that their careers become entirely defined by a hit song. But if he didn’t write it—or make that equally cheesy video with the hot model who he would later marry—no one would even be talking about his band nearly two decades later.


Go and approach any random ten people on the street, mention the name Joan Jett, and I bet at least half of them will bring up “I Love Rock ‘n Roll.” And how could they not? It topped the Billboard charts for two straight months in 1982 and essentially launched Jett’s solo career. And she’s still performing it live (along with the rest of her hits) over 25 years later.


A few years ago, I sat through soul singer India.Arie’s two hour set, waiting patiently for two of her hit singles (“Brown Skin” and “Video”). She didn’t do either of them. Keep in mind that “Video” had been nominated for four Grammys three years earlier. It’s only her biggest fucking song. The audience didn’t seem too disturbed. I watched as they rose to give her a standing ovation and I was outraged.

The only thing worse than cutting a hit is when a performer butchers their hits. Just last week I witnessed Kenny Lattimore do a HOUSE version of one my favorite R&B songs. Do I even need to explain? It was utterly horrifying.

But back to Joan Jett. “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” is an anthem. As soon as she plays the opening chords, the energy of the crowd completely changes. Everyone leaps to their feet, pumps their fists and sings along. Anyone who buys a ticket to her show expects to hear it. Joan knows this and she’s not a performer who’s going to disappoint. Though some of her die-hard fans see the song as a cue for bathroom break (but that’s another story).

I’m one of the fans who lives for the big finish and for the popular songs.

But how do you feel?

  1. Deborah Frost says:

    Joan Jett is also one of the rare performers who can make an audience believe she is as excited about giving them her hits (or her “Bigs” as her alter-ego Kenny Laguna has referred to ’em) as they are to receive them.

    But then, it’s not really a magic trick– as it is with so many performers who collect a lot less on the same chili-fest, country fair and casino circuit on which she has been doing awright for little self for the last 30-some years, season in, season out whether or not she’s got a hit, a record or anything to promote other than who she is and what she does– and which has only gotten amazingly better with time. Though having endured whatever it was she had to in order to mentally, physically and emotionally withstand Kim Fowley’s boot camp/pit bull fight club for young wayward girls before her underage self cranked an amp in some crappy club, by the time she got the opportunity to mount the big time stage and earn the right to STAY there, she was gonna make GODdamn sure that the pain was worth it.

  2. layla says:

    At the risk of exposing my shamefully guilty pleasures to the world, I will say the following: I’d want a refund if I didn’t get to hear “I Love Rock & Roll,” Blondie’s “Call Me,” or “Just What I Needed” by the Cars. But if I have to once again sit through “People Are People” during my sister’s and my next Depeche Mode concert (our 8th?), I’ll barf down the front of my black velvet dress. And since I know it’s going to happen, I’ll probably opt for my black velour dress instead.

  3. Linda Katsie says:

    A “hit” blog.

  4. Joan says:

    very nice article, Steph!! the crowd reaction to ILRR is funny to watch…it truly is the #1 identifier for Joan Jett and I use it all the time to refresh a person’s memory of Joan….personally, if I never heard the song again, that’d be fine…she has much excellent music that she never plays live….but hey, what ever she wants…is fine with me.

  5. Carrie says:

    We went to see Oasis at the Hard Rock in Orlando a few years back (yes, I love them, so what). They played most of their hits, but decided not to play “Wonderwall”. Instead, they gave us a big F.U. by playing it over the loud speakers as we were exiting. Bloody arrogant Brits.

  6. Deborah Frost says:

    I could shoot Jani Lane in the head too. Maybe someone should just put the poor guy out of his misery.

  7. Mike says:

    I saw Jani Lane on VH1’s Heavy Metal retrospect. I found it laughable that the one song that gave him everything he had, he despised. Without it Warrent probably wouldn’t have had their 15 minutes of fame. On the comment about Joan Jett, I recently saw her at a casino in Niagra Falls. You are right about ILRR. The crowd was mostly seated until the opening cords and then it was like a wave of energy surging through the crowd. Even though I’ve been listening to her music since The Runaways, that song always pumps me up.

  8. Deborah Frost says:

    Oasis has always been more interesting as a wrestling act than a musical one. And when it comes to wrestling, I really prefer to watch professionals.

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