Fakebook n. A book containing information about songs, especially their lyrics, melodies, and chord progressions, used by musicians as a substitute for sheet music or as a framework for improvisation.
I began to reconsider Joan Jett when her song, Bad Reputation, was used as the theme music for Freaks and Geeks. It was appropos as the show’s heroin was a strong, charismatic individual who was grappling with her identity in the fishbowl of high school social strata. Rock and Roll has always been about youth and has mirrored and influenced youth culture since its birth. Like high school it has its cliques: the popular kids, the jocks, the geeks, rockers, etc. Joan is a rare artist that resonates with more than one clique. She’s pop and pretty enough for the popular kids, the rockers gave her respect, punks and new wave-ers embraced her, and her sexual politics are edgy. The 80’s was a time of unprecedented expansion of the sub-genres of rock and roll, and here was a woman who could transcend several.
For an artist, choosing a cover song is an overture to a predecessor; a salute to history; a declaration of alliance. Tommy James and the Shondells could also transcend genres from garage, pop, to psychedelia, to hip shaking rock. Other songs of theirs would re-emerge as hits for other 80’s artists like Billy Idol and Tiffany. So here’s to Joan and Tommy, who are both still making music.