Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Song of the Day: 'I Love Rock 'n' Roll' by the Arrows

By now you probably heard that the guy co-who wrote and led the band that originally recorded "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" died over the weekend from complications of Covid-19. I'd always known Joan Jett's signature hit was a cover. But it wasn't until reading Alan Merrill's New York Times obituary did I learn so many other fascinating tidbits, including that the song was actually the B-side of "Broken Down Heart," which was the flop followup to the band's biggest hit, 1974's “Touch Too Much.” (The Arrows had some traction in the U.K. but not much here.)

The song eventually caught the ear of the freed Runaway, who recorded it for the first album with her band the Blackhearts, releasing it in 1981. It held the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for seven weeks the following year, and -- with a few tweaks to place the song from a woman’s point of view -- launched Jett’s career as a tough-talking rock star. (Jett would eschew the gender-reassignment for her "Crimson and Clover" followup.)

“I can still remember watching the Arrows on TV in London and being blown away by the song that screamed hit to me,” Jett recalled in a Facebook post on Sunday.

In a 2009 interview with the website Songfacts, Merrill described “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll” as a “knee-jerk response” to the 1974 Rolling Stones song “It’s Only Rock ’n Roll (But I Like It),” and to Mick Jagger’s elite social circle.

“I almost felt like ‘It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll’ was an apology to those jet-set princes and princesses that he was hanging around with -- the aristocracy, you know,” Mr. Merrill said. “That was my interpretation as a young man: OK, I love rock ’n’ roll.”

And we loved this gem you gave us, Mr. Merrill. RIP.

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