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Unless someone in the Nirvana camp is playing an elaborate joke with the band’s equipment, it seems nearly inevitable that Joan Jett will be joining the surviving members of Nirvana onstage at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony tomorrow night.
To be perfectly honest, the Nirvana segment is one we’d been dreading as the show approaches — not that we don’t trust the band’s taste, but it’d be so easy to get it painfully wrong. Dave Grohl told NME last year that he’d asked PJ Harvey to join his Sound City Players to perform “Milk It” (she wasn’t available), before allowing, “It’s sacred ground. If we were ever to do something like that it would have to be right because you want to pay tribute. There’s a reason Foo Fighters don’t do Nirvana songs.” Here are several good reasons why Jett is not just a relief, but a solid choice in her own right.
1. Her Past History With Grohl: Grohl, rock’s reigning alpha male, has been living out his Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp for the past several years, ranging from remixing a 1987 album by the hardcore band Bl’ast to calling Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones onstage for “Rock and Roll” at a Foo Fighters gig in London a few years back (not to mention taking seemingly half of his teenage record collection on tour — John Fogerty, Stevie Nicks, Fear’s Lee Ving, Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen, even Rick Springfield — last year to promote his Sound City documentary).
Jett is of that era (and probably was in his collection), and also: the two co-wrote the song “Any Weather” on Jett’s 2013 LP Unvarnished; they presented an award together at last year’s American Music Awards; and Jett has joined the Foo Fighters onstage multiple times, usually for her songs “Bad Reputation” and “I Love Rock and Roll,” on Letterman, at Madison Square Garden, and even at Lollapalooza in Chile. Grohl has even given her what probably amounts to his highest possible verbal praise, calling her a “real fuckin’ rock-and-roll bad-ass hero” and once saying that she made Foo guitarist Pat Smear “wanna start a band.”
2. Jett’s Shout-Singing Style: She doesn’t have Cobain’s visceral sandpaper roar — hell, who does? — but she’s no slouch at rock-and-roll shouting, and the thought of her taking on one of rock’s holiest of holies — the chorus of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” a thankless task for anyone — does not make us cringe.
3. She’s a Huge Nirvana Fan: While a quick search does not turn up any Cobain quotes about Joan Jett, a fan site does include these lines from her, apparently from a 1996 Prodigy Service (remember that?) fan chat: “[Kurt] was a great guitar player and a great singer. .. I used to listen to [Nirvana] all the time… day and night.”
4. Kurt Would No Doubt Love the Idea: Kurt wore makeup and women’s clothing, said he was “definitely gay in spirit” and “probably could be bisexual,” and, of course, sang “Everyone is gay” in one of his best-known songs. It’s hard to imagine him not preferring and loving having a woman with Jett’s voice and stature play his role. And while Courtney could and has done a pretty good job with several Nirvana songs (she’s performed “Penny Royal Tea,” the only released song she co-wrote with Kurt, and “You Know You’re Right”), she just doesn’t have Jett’s vocal power.
5. It Hopefully Means that Neither Taylor Hawkins nor Paul McCartney Will Try It: This presumed Jett announcement certainly doesn’t mean that no one else will take the lead on Nirvana songs — and the Hall of Fame’s extremely checkered history of all-star jams would seem to make it inevitable —hopefully it means we’ll be spared another performance of the well-intended-but-admittedly-tossed-off, inexplicably Grammy-winning all-star sleepwalk with McCartney, “Gimme Some Slack,” or the heinous possibility that the Foos’ Taylor Hawkins will make us wish yet again that he was chained to his drum stool (witness his overwhelming mediocrity with the legacies of Robert Plant and Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander).
Nirvana will be inducted into the Rock Hall along with Peter Gabriel, Hall & Oates, Kiss, Linda Ronstadt, Bruce Springsteen‘s E Street Band, Cat Stevens, late Beatles manager Brian Epstein and early Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center tomorrow night. Nirvana will be inducted by former R.E.M. vocalist Michael Stipe.
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