How I Wrote... "I Love Rock 'N' Roll"
Guitar Player|January 2022
The late Alan Merrill recalled how his flop became Joan Jett's runaway hit.
By Mark McStea

JOAN JETT HAS so fully inhabited her 1981 signature hit, "I Love Rock 'N' Roll"; that most people assume she wrote it. In fact, it was penned by Alan Merrill, a New Yorker who in 1974 moved to the U.K., where he found success with the glam act Arrows. Although the group scored a handful of hits, ironically "l Love Rock 'N' Roll" didn't even scrape the lower reaches of the U.K. charts and might have been forgotten forever had Jett not chosen to cut it.

Merrill told me the story behind the song's creation in 2016, and we remained close friends up to his untimely death from Covid-19 in March 2020, making him one of the pandemic's earliest victims.

"Arrows needed a fourth single, and Mickie Most, our producer and owner of our label [Rak], suggested I try to come up with something, as our first three singles had been written for us," he explained. "He said, 'Think of a simple three-chord rocker with an anthemic sing-along chorus and a great riff.'"

FROM JET FARE...

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM GUITAR PLAYERView All

Lone Star State of Mind

Spoon's Britt Daniel reveals how ZZ Top and their native Austin, Texas inspired the group's 10th long-player, Lucifer on the Sofa.

5 mins read
Guitar Player
May 2022

American Beauty

Armed with a vintage Martin, jamjazz cat Scott Metzger steps out with Too Close to Reason, an intimate solo debut that highlights the acoustic's unique charms.

8 mins read
Guitar Player
May 2022

Necks & Religion

Between a pair of shoulder surgeries, Steve Vai delivers Inviolate. An album of artistic purity, armed with a gretsch and the Triple-necked Hydra.

9 mins read
Guitar Player
May 2022

UP THE FUNKTION

L.A.’s Eric Krasno has fretboard fire and a prolific pen, making him one of the most exciting R&B-vibed guitarists working today.

8 mins read
Guitar Player
June 2022

A GOOD YEAR for the ROSEWOOD

As Fender releases the George Harrison Rosewood Telecaster, we retrace the fascinating story of this iconic model with Fender historian Martin Kelly and a gorgeous 1969 original from its first, all-too-brief run.

10 mins read
Guitar Player
June 2022

BACK ON BOARD

Ry Cooder reunites with Taj Mahal for an album that returns to both men’s roots: Get On Board: The Songs of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.

8 mins read
Guitar Player
June 2022

ARTFUL SELECTION

With the Telstar, Gene Baker’s b3 Guitars delivers the best of the Big F’s top two timeless models.

5 mins read
Guitar Player
June 2022

SMOOTH & SOULFUL

An in-depth look at the subtle artistic and technical elements behind Bonnie Raitt’s celebrated and highly emotive slide playing.

8 mins read
Guitar Player
June 2022

SOUL LOVE

HOW RICK TEDESCO FOUND AND LOST HIS DREAM GUITAR: MICK RONSON’S Z IGGY STARDUST–ERA 1968 GIBSON LES PAUL CUSTOM.

5 mins read
Guitar Player
June 2022

BETTER DAYS

A promising blues guitarist in the early 1990s, Larry McCray spent the past 20 years in the wilderness. Thanks to a restart and a new album, Blues Without You, his future looks brighter than ever.

10+ mins read
Guitar Player
June 2022