How Joan Jett’s ‘I Hate Myself for Loving You’ Became Inescapable
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts soared to No. 8 then earned a Grammy nomination for “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” only to see the song become even bigger as her career moved forward. Today, it’s also a treasured football anthem and Jett's best-paying composition.
Released in June 1988, the original version appeared on Jett’s sixth studio album, Up Your Alley. The song started out with the title “I Hate Myself Because I Can’t Get Laid,” but that changed when Jett producer Kenny Laguna caught up with acclaimed songwriter Desmond Child, author of the Kiss hit “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” and Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name,” among many others.
"There was a friend of ours at Epic Records who was friends with Desmond,” Laguna later told Songfacts. “Before the Bon Jovi record came out, he played me the [Child-penned] song ‘Livin on a Prayer.’ I said, ‘Whoa, I want to meet this guy,' so I started chasing Desmond around. He didn't want any part of it because he was busy looking for really important acts like Michael Bolton. I just chased him around until he couldn't take it anymore.”
That meeting, held sometime around 1986, led to Jett and Child revisiting “I Hate Myself Because I Can’t Get Laid.” Child's biggest suggestion was to change the lyrical approach. The song then received the title it became known for.
Watch Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' ‘I Hate Myself for Loving You’ Video
Jett had also acquired the services of former Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor, who appeared on the recording. “It’s a very minimalist type of solo, almost, but I’ve spoken with a few people who really like what I did,” Taylor told Jazzed. “I had been friendly with her guitarist, Ricky Byrd, who was a big fan of mine. … I’d jammed with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts at a gig in New York prior to doing that session.”
Released as the first single from Up Your Alley, “I Hate Myself for Loving You” didn't fare as well as Jett's highest-charting single but it already had more staying power. This time, Jett spent 26 weeks on the chart – six weeks longer than she had with the chart-topping 1982 classic “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll.” Up Your Alley reached No. 19 and eventually went platinum.
Success didn’t come easy: Laguna recalled having to fight for radio airplay in the early '80s. “We’ve had all those hits only because the public and the press supported Joan,” he told Verbicide. “Radio played Joan because they had to play it. We would worm our way on the radio and the records were very active. … Radio loved Journey and those kinds of bands – REO Speedwagon, that ilk. They did well for all the call-out research and Joan never really researched well.”
Lacuna admitted that they were “cooling off” by the latter part of the decade: “We couldn’t get ‘I Hate Myself for Loving You’ on the radio, but it was No. 1 requested, so we were able to overcome a lot of that. But it took a long time to break that record. It’s been like that. Partly because she’s a rock 'n' roller, partly because she’s a punk rocker and partly because she’s a woman.”
Taylor said he “had no idea the song would be such a big hit record – but there you go. I like working with different types of musicians.”
Watch Pink's 'Waiting All Day for Sunday Night'
The story might have ended there, with another story of struggle, success and starting the cycle again, while “I Hate Myself for Loving You” remained nothing more than a mainstay of Jett’s live set. Then the song found a new lease on life when TV producers decided it was the perfect opening theme for NBC Sunday Night Football show.
This meant acquiring a third name – “Waiting All Day for Sunday Night” – and reworking the track, complete with new game-related lyrics. The update was sung by pop star Pink beginning in 2006. Her version was replaced by Faith Hill’s from 2007 until 2012, then Carrie Underwood from 2013 until 2015.
Along the way, “Waiting All Day for Sunday Night” earned a total of 10 seasons of regular play on one of the most-watched shows on TV – belatedly confirming the prediction of massive success made by one of Child's famous songwriting clients. “I remember when I first played it for Jon Bon Jovi,” Child said in 2019 during a Lincoln Center concert. “He looked at me and he said, ‘Fuck you,’ and walked away.”
Watch Faith Hill's 'Waiting All Day for Sunday Night'
Ironically, Jett initially refused NBC’s offer. She didn't provide an explanation but Veronica Gretton, founder of the music publishing company 401K Music Inc., suggested to the New York Post that the network may have “low-balled” her since “2006 was a bit of a lean period for Joan.”
That said, Gretton went on to estimate that Jett received “a couple of grand a week” in writing fees during each 17-show season, splitting the proceeds with Child. “I’m not Kanye West and I’m not on the radio all the time, so it helps keep my band paid,” Jett said. “I’m just glad I don’t have to sing the new versions. I’d probably end up singing the football version onstage by accident.”
Watch Carrie Underwood's 'Waiting All Day for Sunday Night'
Still, Jett “noticed over those years that ‘Hate Myself’ started to get a bigger reaction within the show. To me, now, it sounds so different when I hear it on Football. I don’t really hear that it’s the same song anymore, but it has made some sort of impact. People do know that it’s our song, so I think that’s pretty cool.”
Jett even joined Underwood at the Country Music Awards for a 2019 set that included a performance linking the two versions together. She also has ties to Major League Baseball. A fan of the Baltimore Orioles, Jett performed the National Anthem at Memorial Stadium in 1989, a year after “I Hate Myself for Loving You” reached the Top 10. She did it again in 1995 at the new Oriole Park at Camden Yards.