It's not like Joan Jett intended to put her recording career on hold.
"If we had had our way, it would have been out much earlier," she says of Sinner, her first new album in 12 years. "But there were several things in the way of that. So here we are now."
The main obstacle was Jett's former record company, Warner Bros., which essentially went through five different label presidents-all of whom had different visions for Sinner.
"Each guy was really into Joan Jett and wanted to help make the definitive Joan Jett record," explained her longtime songwriting collaborator, producer and manager, Kenny Laguna. "At one point they wanted her to work with this fellow, Bob Rock. Bob Rock is a really good producer. He does a slightly more corporate sound than Joan likes, but we did a bunch of stuff with him that cost a lot of money."
New presidents came and went, and so did sessions with other producers, including Ted Templeman (Van Halen, Captain Beefheart) and Ed Stasium (The Ramones, Talking Heads).
"At the end of Warner Bros. spending something like a million dollars on stuff they didn't put out, they said, "We've been analyzing your music and we think the best records are the ones you and Joan did alone,'" Laguna recalls. ""We're going to send you some more money and why don't you guys try a few sides and see what it sounds like?'"
She and Laguna decided that enough was enough and asked to part ways with Warner Bros. "They were really nice about it," Laguna says. "They did it in a way where we could afford to get our [master recordings] back."
Jett was frustrated, but she's no stranger to adversity. To survive the capricious music business for more than 30 years like she has, you have to roll with a litany of punches. Jett came to prominence in Los Angeles in 1975 as the 15-year-old cofounder of The Runaways, an all-female rock band with singer Cherie Currie and guitarist Lita Ford. After The Runaways split in 1979, Jett tried unsuccessfully to go solo before eventually moving to New York for a fresh start.
She assembled her band, The Blackhearts, and started gigging. At some shows audiences were less than thrilled to see a woman fronting a rock band. Some fans would curse, spit and throw things at Jett.
"I'd get really pissed off when people would insinuate because I'm a woman-or a girl, certainly at the time of The Runaways-that I couldn't play rock 'n' roll," she remembers. "I'd sit there and I'd think women are playing cellos and violins and playing Beethoven in symphony orchestras. You're telling me a girl can't play guitar in a rock 'n' roll band?
"It's a social issue. A woman is not allowed to own her sexuality, and that's what is implied in women playing rock 'n' roll."
Jett, who by this time had met Laguna, decided to quit waiting for a record deal and started Blackheart Records. One of her first recordings was "I Love Rock 'n' Roll."
Radio jumped on the song after its release in late 1981, and the song and the album of the same name shot up the charts.
"I Love Rock 'n' Roll" paved the way for other hit songs, like "I Hate Myself For Loving You," "Do You Wanna Touch Me" and her cover of the Tommy James hit "Crimson and Clover." Jett turned out a steady string of albums right up until 1994's Pure and Simple-that's when the new albums stopped.
Sinner is full of classic Jett rockers, such as "Riddles," "A.C.D.C." and "Change the World," balanced out by the occasional ballad. There's nothing complicated or unexpected about Sinner, but the album is surprisingly good. For sure, it's got more swagger than albums by musicians half her age.
Jett will give audiences a taste of Sinner on her current headlining tour, no doubt fans who fondly remember The Runaways. But if those fans are expecting a reunion, as rumors have suggested in recent years, Jett is happy to let them down.
"Can you see the press if The Runaways tried to do a reunion tour?" she says. "I can see the headlines now: "Middle Aged Women Trying To Recapture Their Youth.' That's the headline, and you know it.
"If you missed what it was when it was and when it was supposed to be, then it's over. You can't go back."
Joan Jett plays with Eagles of Death Metal and Throw Rag at House of Blues on Nov. 6. Doors open
at 7 p.m. $24. 619-299-BLUE.