Battle of the Bands: Joan Jett & The Blackhearts VS Black Sabbath

Joan Jett, Ozzy Osbourne

Welcome to THE CLASH OF THE CLASSIC ROCK TITANS! Our classic contestants include Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Grateful Dead, Phil Collins and more. Each week, we will unveil four artists, each with a link to one of their signature tunes.

You will be able to make your voice heard by picking one artist out of every bracket of two to move forward as the ultimate Classic Rock Titan. This week, we have Led Zeppelin up against The Beatles as well as Joan Jett & The Blackhearts against Black Sabbath. Who will rock who?!? Check out our bracket schedule below and check back weekly to see the results of your votes! Tag a friend or foe to play along.

Classic Rock Titan: Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

Signature Song: "I Love Rock 'n' Roll"

By 1980, The Runaways had fallen apart and Joan Jett seemed to be dangerously close to a professional standstill.

Already a rock & roll veteran at the age of 22, Jett retained the lead role while hiring three men to back her under the name Blackheart.

But her sophomore LP I Love Rock 'n Roll struggled to catch the attention of record labels and Jett's manager Kenny Laguna grew impatient with the constant rejection they received from majors in the industry. 

"I was looking at them totally astonished," Laguna recalled. "Pointing to this garbage and that garbage and wanting to know why the fuck they were signing it."

Unfazed, The Blackhearts self-released Jett's 1980 solo debut, selling copies out of the trunk of Laguna's car after concerts. As the buzz on the streets grew hand-in-hand with undeniable demand, Casablanca Records Neil Bogart came on board, picking up the distribution rights to Joan Jett (eventually reissued as Bad Reputation) and setting Jett up for her next release. 

Effectively ignored by the industry months before its release, Jett determinedly pieced together a 10-track glam-rock album, full of anthemic, pumped up tunes. The album's most iconic song, of course, would be the ultimate crowd-pleasing title track. 

Released in 1981, the Alan Merrill-penned "I Love Rock 'n Roll" seemed destined for radio greatness, drawing fans with loud, three-chord rock & roll and its hard-nosed guitars. The song launched to No. 1 by early '82, lifting the album to No. 2 with its massive success.

"I can still remember watching the Arrows on TV in London and being blown away by the song that screamed hit to me," Jett shared in the wake of Merrill's coronavirus-related passing in late February. 

What had failed to launch as a hit for the London band became a landmark opportunity for Jett as her cover of the massive tune became a certified hit, thrusting Jett's solo career into the spotlight and officially leaving her rookie days in the past. 

"I think most people who love some kind of rock 'n' roll can relate to it," shared the rock 'n' roll queen. "Everyone knows a song that just makes them feel amazing and want to jump up and down. I quickly realized, this song is gonna follow you, so you're either gonna let it bother you, or you gotta make peace with it, and feel blessed that you were involved with something that touched so many people."

Classic Rock Titan: Black Sabbath

Signature Song: "Iron Man"

October 1971. While the exact release date is murky, that was the month that Black Sabbath released “Iron Man” as a single in America. Taken from the band’s second album, Paranoid (released back in September of 1970), the song sounded like nothing else happening in rock and roll that year—or ever. Ominous, foreboding and heavier than heavy, the song’s brutal riffs were matched by the song’s apocalyptic lyrics.

Originally saddled with the unfortunate working title of  “Iron Bloke,” the track is a foundational building block of hard rock. Long before heavy metal would take the template to far technical and lyrically elaborate extremes, Black Sabbath created the matchless template.

“I was heavily into science fiction at the time,” bass player Geezer Butler told LouderSound of the song’s creation. “A lot of the stuff I was writing about was inspired by those sorts of stories. I was fascinated by what might happen to a man who’s suddenly transformed into a metal being. He still has a human brain, and wants to do the right thing, but eventually his own frustrations at the way humanity treats him drives this creature to taking extreme action. It’s almost a cry for help.”

Ultimately peaking at No. 52 on the Hot 100 in 1972, which is quite the accomplishment considering that year the biggest singles in the US included Gilbert  “Alone Again (Naturally)” and “The Candy Man” by Sammy Davis Jr.

“I really do feel that when you listen to 'Iron Man,' what you’re getting is the essence of what made Black Sabbath such a special band,” Butler revealed. “It’s fairly simple, yet also has a lot of depth. I’m very proud of what we achieved here."

“Iron Man” is among the songs that appear on We Sold Our Soul for Rock ‘N’ Roll, the first Black Sabbath compilation, released in 1976 here in America. A new generation of listeners discovered the song through use in the Iron Man movie franchise, appearing in the teaser trailer and end credits of the 2000 film as well as the extended trailer for Iron Man 2 and the Iron Man video game.

CLASH OF THE CLASSIC ROCK TITANS Bracket Schedule

WEEK 1: [Led Zeppelin vs. The Beatles] & [Joan Jett & The Blackhearts vs. Black Sabbath]
WEEK 2: [Van Morrison vs. Phil Collins] & [Ramones vs. Grateful Dead]
WEEK 3: [Rod Stewart vs. Whitesnake] & [Queen vs. John Lennon]
WEEK 4: [Rolling Stones vs. Fleetwood Mac] & [Lynyrd Skynyrd vs. The Doors]

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