With Laguna's assistance, Jett formed the Blackhearts. She placed an ad in the L.A. Weekly "looking for three good men."John Doe of X sat in on bass for the auditions held at S.I.R. studios in Los Angeles. He mentioned a local bass player, Gary Ryan, who had recently been crashing on his couch. Ryan was part of the L.A. punk scene and had played bass with local artists Top Jimmy and Rik L. Rik. He had been a fan of the Runaways and Jett for years. Jett recognized him at the audition and he was in. Ryan in turn recommended guitarist Eric Ambel, who was also at the time part of Rik L. Rik. The final addition to the original Blackhearts was drummer Danny "Furious" O'Brien, formerly of the San Francisco band The Avengers. This line-up played several gigs at the Golden Bear, in Huntington Beach, California and The Whisky a Go Go in Hollywood before embarking on their first European tour which consisted of an extensive tour of the Netherlands, and a few key shows in England including the Marquee in London.
Upon returning to the States, Jett, Ryan, and Ambel moved to Long Beach, New York. O'Brien stayed behind in England to pursue other interests. Auditions were set up and Lee Crystal, formerly of The Boyfriends and Sylvain Sylvain, became the new drummer. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts then toured throughout the US and built quite a following in New York City. Jett and Laguna used their personal savings to press copies of the Joan Jett album and set up their own system of distribution, sometimes selling the albums out of the trunk of Laguna's Cadillac at the end of each concert. Laguna was unable to keep up with demand for her album. Eventually, old friend and founder of Casablanca Records, Neil Bogart, made a joint venture with Laguna and signed Jett to his new label, Boardwalk Records and re-released the Joan Jett album as Bad Reputation. After a year of touring and recording, The Blackhearts recorded a new album entitled I Love Rock 'n' Roll for the label. Ambel was replaced by local guitarist Ricky Byrd during the recording. Byrd recalled in an interview with Guitarhoo!, "One day I went to a studio to jam around a bit with Jett and everything clicked".