By Jaime Lees
By Roy Kasten
By Melinda Cooper
By Jeremy Essig
By Roy Kasten
By Daniel Hill
By Chris Kornelis
By Gina Tron
Who gives a crap about Lita Ford? Everybody knows Joan Jett was always the coolest member of the Runaways. She wrote the band's signature song, "Cherry Bomb," when she was just a teenager now that's talent. Jett also happened to be hottest member of the group, defining the '70s rocker-chick look with her leather jacket, black mullet and perpetual snarl.
While her contributions to the history of rock & roll fashion are notable, Jett should be most praised for her involvement in changing perceptions of women in rock. She helped elevate the status of females in the simplest of ways: She wasn't preaching, she wasn't bitching she was simply rocking. Joan Jett led by example.
Jett still seems to inspire, if not mentor, the younger ladies. She's worked with other female rockers and riot grrrl bands including Peaches, L7, Bikini Kill, the Gits and Bratmobile. Jett also gets cred for collaborating with men who are notoriously difficult to work with, such as members of the Sex Pistols and genius perfectionist Ian MacKaye of Fugazi.
Jett's new music (and specifically her latest album, Sinner) sounds a lot like the music the Distillers have been trying to pull off for years. As an album, Sinner's topics revolve around politics, love, gender and sex heck, it even contains a dirty little ditty called "Fetish," with porn-style lyrics that seems to be a response to the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog." Jett also included recordings of a number of cover songs that seem to be unlikely selections, such as an impressive and sincere version of the Replacements' "Androgynous."
Though some might say that her glory days have passed, Jett still hasn't given up the rock or the roll. Not only is she still putting out albums, she's been involved in a number of other ventures in the entertainment field, including work in quite a few independent movies.
Jett is touring this fall with dirty swagger-rock kings the Eagles of Death Metal, who are most recognizable for their cocky attitude, power-drummer Josh Homme (of Queens of the Stone Age fame) and their mustache-mouth shout-outs to the "ladies" of the audience. They open for Jett this Friday at Mississippi Nights. And don't worry Lita Ford won't be there. Jamie Lees
8 p.m. Friday, October 27. Mississippi Nights, 914 North First Street. $25. 314-421-3853.
Party Like It's 1949
Scott Kay's breakthrough came at a wedding reception his own. In 2002 he remarried and asked party-band vets Hudson and the Hoodoo Cats to entertain. He also asked the question every band dreads: "Mind if I sit in?" Kay (whose offstage surname is Kuhnert) was paying them; they couldn't say no. But he was good, and Hudson let Kay pick all night the kind of rockabilly, honky-tonk and jump-'n-jive twang he grew up loving in the southern hinterlands of Illinois, but which he'd mostly surrendered to the Top 40 country covers that earned the bucks. He re-evaluated, and, along with fellow guitarist and songwriting partner Rob Guth, he formed Scott Kay & the Continentals, a semi-retro, semi-rockabilly, semi-honky-tonk, semi-you-get-the-picture group. Their twin Telecaster-driven sound is harder to classify than it should be blame the fact that rockabilly has gone psycho or that country has gone more psycho or that the Continentals, after nearly four years, are finally releasing their debut.
B-sides: What took you guys so long?
Scott Kay: Honestly, we didn't know any better. Back home, nobody did original stuff, nobody did an album. I knew some great players back home, but you played covers as well as you could play them, tried to sound like the records, played gigs, drank beer and had a good time. I'm new to the whole urban view of the music scene. Some bands haven't played but half a dozen gigs, and they have an album already.
The order is: Get a MySpace page, make an album, get gigs, get press, then learn to play.
It's all foreign to me. Back when Hudson and I were talking about playing music again, I told him I wanted to play danceable music, rockabilly, going into honky-tonk. He said, "Be careful in St. Louis. Getting branded 'country' is the kiss of death." Well that's like telling a horse not to whinny.
Getting branded "rockabilly" is a whole other kiss.
You can tell people you play rockabilly, and they'll say, "Oh, like the 7 Shot Screamers or the Trip Daddys." They're great bands, but no, that's not what we are. I'd use the term "honky-tonk" or "traditional," but we're not even that. We decided to just play what we play. We're really entertainers at heart. Artists, I reserve that for Bob Dylan, people who are really creating art. For me if it sticks in my craw a divorce, or politics, whatever and I gotta get it out, I'll write a song about it.
Are you saying originality is overrated?
There are so many ways I could go with that. All I know is what I do. When people rate music on the style, not the quality, I wonder. I really like Wilco, but it's not what I do. What Jay Farrar does, I have so much appreciation for that. But to me, the way I was raised, the way you do it, is you get tight as a band, you play a lot of gigs, and you get good. Over time, you progress into making a statement. We don't force it. I appreciate every band that's playing original music, but when it comes down to it, you gotta make money to pay for the gear. Roy Kasten