Joan Jett saw the Arrows perform "I Love Rock 'n Roll" on their weekly television series The Arrows Show when she was touring England with The Runaways in 1976. She first recorded the song in 1979 with two of the Sex Pistols: Steve Jones and Paul Cook. This first version was not released until 1993 in Flashback. In 1982, Jett re-recorded the song, this time with her band, The Blackhearts, and this recording became a U.S. Billboard Hot 100 number-one single for seven weeks, effectively launching Jett's solo career. The single was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, representing two million records shipped. This success propelled Jett's I Love Rock 'n Roll album to number two on the Billboard 200
"I Love Rock 'n Roll"'s gritty, black-and-white music video received heavy play from the then-young MTV network. In it, Jett and the Blackhearts travel to a small, dingy bar and proceed to excite the drunken crowd by performing the song and yelling out its famous chorus. A snippet of Jett's 1981 hit, "Bad Reputation," is featured at the beginning of the video. Jett followed "I Love Rock 'n Roll" up with another cover — her version of Tommy James and the Shondells' "Crimson and Clover" was a top-ten U.S. hit. The video was originally in color, but it was converted to black and white due to the way Joan Jett felt her red leather jacket looked in color.
In 1983, "Weird Al" Yankovic released a parody of Jett's version, titled "I Love Rocky Road", which appeared on his self-titled debut album. Besides the song using Jett's version for the music, a music video was also released modeled after Jett's video.
Jett's version has received many accolades, including:
Ranking #85 on Q magazine March 2005 list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks Ranking #484 on the Rolling Stone magazine's list of "the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" Ranking #56 in Billboard's Greatest Songs of all time. Also, cover versions of Jett's version have appeared in two music video games: Guitar Hero and Karaoke Revolution Party. The original version made an appearance in Guitar Hero: Greatest Hits.
In 1993 Joan Jett & The Blackhearts made another music video for the song as part of the Wayne's World 2 soundtrack. In the video appear several scenes from the movie with Mike Myers and Dana Carvey mixed with Joan and her band playing in a concert.
During the 2009 NFL season, the Baltimore Ravens plays this version over the P.A. whenever they score a touchdown at home.