This was originally recorded by a British group called The Arrows in 1975, and it was written by their lead singer Alan Merrill and guitarist Jake Hooker. Merrill explained in a Songfacts interview
how this song came about: "That was a knee-jerk response to the Rolling Stones' 'It's Only Rock 'N' Roll
.' I remember watching it on Top of the Pops
. I'd met Mick Jagger socially a few times, and I knew he was hanging around with Prince Rupert Lowenstein and people like that – jet setters. I almost felt like 'It's Only Rock and Roll' was an apology to those jet-set princes and princesses that he was hanging around with - the aristocracy, you know. That was my interpretation as a young man: Okay, I love rock and roll. And then, where do you go with that?"
The song was released as a B-side with The Arrows' "Broken Down Heart." The group was recording for RAK Records, which was run by Mickie Most. As Merrill explains, "I Love Rock And Roll" didn't suit his current tastes, as during that time Most preferred ballads and blues. Most's wife Christina Hayes encouraged him to flip the sides, but the song didn't catch on, as it suffered from a poor run of luck at the time of its release. First, it had to be re-released as an A-side. Second, the song came out during an English newspaper strike, so new songs weren't getting the exposure they'd normally get. Third, The Arrows were feuding with their record label. As a result, the song didn't chart and was banished to obscurity.
All was not lost, however, as The Arrows performed this song when they were guests on the UK TV series Pop 45
. The show's producer, Muriel Young, was so impressed that on the strength of this performance, she gave them their own TV show, simply called The Arrows Show
, which ran from 1976-1977 in the UK for two full 14-week seasons on the ITV network. It was this show that Joan Jett saw in 1976, which prompted her to acquire a copy of "I Love Rock and Roll" and later cover it in 1981, producing what is arguably one of the most successful covers in rock history.