There aren’t many bands I’ve ever fallen for as hard as I fell for Jane’s Addiction back in 1988. They just came along at exactly the right time with the right ‘tude, the right songs and some truly righteous firepower. I mean I love rock and metal, always will but Jane’s came along and were just totally devoid of any of the clichés – check out the way they dressed, that hydrant certainly wasn’t at the corner of Stryper Street and 5th.
To me they were interesting, different and I still just marvel at how great a set of musicians they are. By not coming from a typical rock background, despite Eric A and Navarro paying their views in thrash bands, they bought a swathe of alternative ideas and views into rock, for me at least. Before record companies saw how huge it was becoming and turned them into new clichés! But I’ll leave the story of how I fell for them for another time, but it was literally love at first listen.
As I’ve got older this doesn’t seem to be a particularly common view, I’ve never really found anyone who worshipped them as much as I did which is odd given how huge they were at one point, especially in the States. I remember when I saw them at Leeds University in 1991, there were a bunch of Americans who had flown over because they couldn’t believe it was a chance to see them in a non-arena setting. I do wonder if the fact they have been forsaken is a reflection on all the inferior releases and line-ups they’ve put together since the mighty Ritual De Lo Habitual, or Dave Navarro’s various bits of ill-judged and annoying celebritying.
Anyway, they made records. One of them was the UK only 12″, The Shocking E.P. Which I snapped up for the great cover picture and the fact it had a live version of ‘Had A Dad’ on it, along with the two most commercial tracks on Nothing’s Shocking, ‘Mountain Song’ and ‘Jane Says’.
‘Mountain Song’ was described once by a proper writer along the lines of being, I paraphrase, as being like every Led Zeppelin rush you wished you’d been the right age to have got off on when they were released. It’s a monumental track, one of my all-time fave adrenalin rushes in fact, Perry Farrell’s howling meeting and mounting Dave Navarro’s titanic riff head on and that rhythm section really was just the best around; it starts with my all-time favourite bass intro too. Navarro also puts together one of my favourite guitar solos too, the tone he gets on this is just incredible, again just avoiding any and all clichés effortlessly. Sorry, I’m gushing aren’t I? well brace yourself there’s more to come.
‘Jane Says’ has always been a really classy number, plenty of bands out there managed to rock their hearts out but very few of them could even begin to put a song like ‘Jane Says’ together. This gentle steel-drum inflected acoustica has always been my favourite Jane’s Addiction track. Apparently they play it at every show now, but way back in the day they only ever used to play it for audiences they really thought had earned it; I saw them three times and have only heard it once live. The lyrics tread close to being one of Lou Reed’s observational tales, detailing the travails of Jane, who’s ‘going to kick tomorrow’, her hopes and her frustrations. You know she’s never going to get away to Spain, get rid of her ratfink boyfriend, or kick anything, other than herself, but I defy you to feel sad about any of it when it’s wrapped up in such a tune. Has there ever been a better use of steel-drums in rock?
Last of all and one of the reason’s I bought it was the live version of ‘Had A dad’, the band’s not very subtle song about the futility of organised religion, the death of God and all the other good stuff Nietzsche used to write about and Perry Farrell used to talk about in interviews; I bought Thus Spoke Zarathustra on the strength of one of his interviews, that was never going to happen reading about Jani Lane. Anyway, by a staggering coincidence* it was recorded 25 years ago today, March 10th 1989 at Chicago Riviera Theatre. It starts off with an extended slightly bluesy intro before jerking into the song proper and then it all gets too shrill. I’ve heard and own plenty of live Jane’s Addiction and this is uncommonly screechy from both band and singer. It was, I notice from the record label, mixed afterwards – jeez, by whom? One of the best things about Jane’s Addiction live shows was always Perry Farrell’s audience chat, which is missing here too. I really can’t see myself playing this tune again.
I remember a later interview with the band where they railed against the fact that Warners had put out this 12″, ‘fucking with my art’ is how Farrell described it. Two of their best tracks and a good cover? that’ll do me; maybe I’m just not arty enough.
353 (Coming) Down (the mountain).
*trust me I’m really not that organised.