David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 211: Joan Jett & The Blackhearts (Little Drummer Boy)

December 24, 2022

I guess I have a pretty limited edition of Joan Jett & The Blackhearts' album I Love Rock 'n' Roll, as it closed with "Little Drummer Boy," which apparently was included only for the "seasonal" first pressing in November, 1981.

At the time, I remember that "Little Drummer Boy" seemed an odd closing song for the album, which means I must have bought it after Christmas 1981, but before newer pressings came out subbing "Oh Woe Is Me" for the Christmas classic. I have no idea how good "Oh Woe Is Me" is, but "Little Drummer Boy" was one of the rare reasons I played Side Two, where none of the hits resided.

First off, it has always been one of my favorite Christmas songs. While the first 2:30 minutes of Jett's version is rather straighforward, we do get the wonderful addition of a Coaster, Dub Jones, providing a deep baritone to the "Pa Rum Pum Pum Pums." However, it is the last minute and a half, where she and the Blackhearts simply jam out the song, guitars ripping the scenery as one would hope from this group, that everything is worth it.

That creepy version of "Little Drummer Boy" with David Bowie and Bing Crosby will be resurrected from the one-time t.v. special of 1977 to full, regular release a year after Jett's version, and while I understood the broader cultural importance of the Bowie/Crosby version, I felt that Jett's has been overlooked for the repeated playing of their version. However, if "Little Drummer Boy" was no longer even on new releases of I Love Rock 'n' Roll, then it wouldn't have stood much of a chance.

I don't even see it on many Christmas compilation CDs, including Rockin' In Your Stockin', which features Billy Squier, The Smithereens, George Thorogood & The Destroyers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Butthole Surfers. How in the world does Jett not make the cut here? And it's not like some other artist on this compilation got to "Little Surfer Boy" first; no one covers it.

Instead this year, as every year, my time spent in drug stores, grocery stores, and malls gives me Mariah Carey, Billy Squier, Paul McCartney, and Band Aid, but not Joan Jett & The Blackhearts. God bless the store workers (my kid included) for what they hear over and over.

Lists that include the greatest Christmas songs don't list Joan and her Blackhearts:

Timeout can name 60 of them, promising 65, including Weird Al, but not have Joan:


Country Living will 1-up (or 7-up or 12-Up) Timeout with a list of 72 great Christmas songs and not include Jett's "Little Drummer Boy." Granted, given the name Country Living, almost nothing edgy is on the list, although it does surprisingly include The Pogues' "Fairytale of New York." 


Good Housekeeping provides 85 (I feel like this could go on forever) with Lauryn Hill's "Little Drummer Boy" joining Bowie and Crosby, but not a Blackheart in sight.


What does a nice girl like Joan Jett need to do to get some respect? Do we blame Boardwalk, the record company, Jett's manager, or Jett herself for removing this potentially iconic version from the album so quickly. I don't want to be a "Nag" (another great tune from I Love Rock 'n' Roll), but someone needs to get Jett's "Little Drummer Boy" back into some kind of annual rotation. It's one of the finest gifts we can bring to beleaguered store clerks for the next holiday shopping season.

Merry Christmas, all!

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts. "Little Drummer Boy." I Love Rock 'n' Roll. Boardwalk, 1981. Link here.

Day 210: Joe Bonamassa "The Last Matador Of Bayonne"

Day 212: Nick Garvey "Humming"

See complete list here.