That young singer was named Alan Merrill. Alan was lead singer and bassist of a British band called Arrows. Alan is actually American, but everybody else was British and England was where the band was based. As they got more established, they hired another bassist and Alan became the front man. When he no longer had his instrument holding him down, Alan was obviously heavily influenced by Mick Jagger: strutting about the stage, shaking his little tushy. Perhaps that is why he took the implied message in Its Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It) so personally.
Arrows should have gone farther than they did. They had a 2-season TV show in England. But, because of in-fighting between their manager and their producer, they did not put out a single album during the run of their show.
Despite this, Alan wrote I Love Rock and Roll, and the band performed it on their show. Joan Jett was touring England with the band The Runaways in 1976, and she heard the song on TV. She wanted to record it, but the rest of the band was not as taken with the song as Joan was.
Time passed and The Runaways went their separate ways. In 1979, Joan recorded I Love Rock and Roll with two members of the Sex Pistols: Steve Jones and Paul Cook. The song became the B-side of a single with the old Leslie Gore hit from 1963: You Don’t Own Me. (I still love the version of that song from the end of the movie The First Wives Club.) Finally, in 1981, now with her own band The Blackhearts, Joan re-recorded the song and gave us the version that we all know and love.
It is a little different when you take the song from the male perspective and put it into the female. In both it’s about a pick-up. But, having the woman be the pursuer instead of the pursued made it empowering for women. In Arrows’ version, it starts with the chorus, thus making it clearer that the I Love Rock and Roll part is the song that is playing on the juke box. (I’ve been listening to this song for almost 40 years and never put that together! I feel a little dumb.)
I saw him dancin’ there by the record machine
I knew he must a been about seventeen.
The beat was goin’ strong,
Playin’ my favorite song.
And I could tell it wouldn’t be long
Till he was with me, yeah me, singin’
I love rock ‘n’ roll,
So put another dime in the jukebox, baby.
I love rock ‘n’ roll
So, come an’ take your time an’ dance with me.
He smiled so I got up and asked for his name.
That don’t matter, he said,
‘Cause it’s all the same.
Said, can I take you home where we can be alone.
And next we were movin’ on
He was with me, yeah me, singin’ (to Chorus)
(Then there are a few repeats.)
In the years since there have been a lot of additional covers of this song. Tiny Tim! (Not at all what I expected. Somehow very disturbing.) Britney Spears. Of course, there’s Weird Al’s I Love Rocky Road. And just this past December 2019, a British YouTuber called LadBaby recorded I Love Sausage Rolls as part of a fund-raiser for an organization dealing with hunger in the UK. The original song has even been recorded in Finnish.
In spite of all this, the song is irrevocably connected to Joan Jett. Yet, when she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she did not perform this song. You would have thought this was perfect song to sing then, but she didn’t.
What is your favorite version of I Love Rock and Roll? Should this be a song of feminine empowerment? I’ll be playing some versions of this song this week on my Minnich Music FaceBook page this week, so be sure to check them out.
Until next time!