Thursday, August 02, 2007

Joan Jett influenced new fan

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Joan Jett


When was your first concert?

If you're Rylee Hughes of Gladstone, it was Saturday, April 5, 2003.

That's when Rylee witnessed a terrific show by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, famous for their number one hit "I Love Rock 'n' Roll," at Chip-In's Island Resort and Casino.

This first-time concert goer was just three and a half years old. She was accompanied to the show by her mom, Jackie Hughes, who also happens to be my niece. For good measure, Rylee also brought along her Uncle Steve (that's me); Aunt Sue, (the Mrs.); Aunt Karen (my sister), and Uncle Tim Germain; Uncle Kevin Seymour (my brother); and Aunt Marie Chenier.

Prior to the show, I made my great-niece a compact disc featuring Jett's greatest songs, all of which were hits before she was born. Playing it non-stop, Rylee grew familiar with smashes like "Crimson and Clover," "Everyday People," "Light of Day," "I Hate Myself for Loving You," "Little Liar," and "Love Is All Around," the theme song of the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Like millions of other fans, Rylee was most enthusiastic about "I Love Rock 'n' Roll."

What turned out to be Jett's signature song spent an incredible 20 weeks on the Billboard Top Pop singles chart in early 1982, including seven weeks at number one.

Although "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" is closely identified with Jett, she didn't write the song. The three-minute blast of punk rock was composed by Jake Hooker and Alan Merrill, who recorded the song as The Arrows. While touring England with her band The Runaways, Jett saw The Arrows perform the song on television, but couldn't convince her group to record it.

She later cut the track as a solo artist, but it drew little interest. Later, she made another attempt with producers Kenny Laguna and Ritchie Cordell at the controls and came up with the hit version, listed by Billboard as the 28th greatest song of all time.

When the family entourage filed into our third row seats, anticipation was quickly building inside the theater at the Harris casino. To mark the impending start of the show, Jett's staff blasted the Who's recording of "Won't Get Fooled Again" through the PA system, which startled young Rylee to tears. But she quickly recovered as the show started.

Looking fit and trim, with her short hair colored blond, Jett powered through a rousing set of her 1980s material, including crowd favorites "Fake Friends," AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds," and "Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)." The audience was fired up for the entire performance, often singing along.

For a few songs, Rylee even sat on her mom's shoulders, so she could get the full rock 'n' roll experience. Jett expertly manipulated the strings of her Gibson Melody Maker guitar giving Rylee evidence why Rolling Stone magazine named her one of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.

Needless to say the place went nuts when Jett launched into "I Love Rock 'n' Roll," the highlight of the evening.

When the hit-filled show ended, both Jett and the audience were literally exhausted. But Rylee wanted even more.

She had brought along a copy of Jett's cleverly titled "Album," which the singer released as the follow-up to "I Love Rock 'n' Roll," hoping to have it autographed.

However, after the show we learned that Jett had performed the show while ill, and wouldn't be signing anything that day. Rylee was disappointed, of course, but we explained to her that everybody still had a good time.

Rylee, who will be turning eight years old later this month, still talks excitedly about her first concert. Although she didn't get an autograph, she still prizes her two Joan Jett long-playing records. Mom Jackie thinks going to the show may have inspired Rylee to take a year's worth of guitar lessons. The youngster owns three guitars, two electric and one acoustic.

For her part, Jett, now 48, is still out there on the touring circuit. She has released 22 albums since her solo debut in 1980. The newest, "Sinner," on her own Blackheart Records label, has been well-received by fans and critics.

Rylee says Jett is still her favorite although she's looking forward to attending an upcoming concert by Martina McBride.

Certainly, attending that Joan Jett show has had a lasting impact on Rylee, whether she aspires to be a professional musician or merely learns to appreciate live music.

With those goals in mind, maybe you should contemplate taking a kid to a concert yourself.

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