Jane’s Addiction is one of those bands that have stayed with me from the first time I heard them some 25 years ago. Some time in 1988, a friend of mine gave me a cassette copy of their first album, “Jane’s Addiction”, and I was hooked from the first listen. It was a live release (with some overdubs), and showed them at their most vital form. There was a pure desperation in the music and lyrics that made me think that I was listening to real street urchins playing a set only to make enough money to score something filthy.
Both the lyrics and the music had an edge to them that you could not find anywhere else. Other bands like Ratt and Cinderella tried to pull it off, but looked like posers in the end compared to Jane’s Addiction. Even notorious raunch-peddlers Motley Crue looked tame compared to Jane’s Addiction. Only Guns-n-Roses came close to the look and sound of homeless, junkie whores with screeching guitars that Jane’s Addiction pulled off. They were the real deal. Real junkies–real desperate.
And I am not sure that was the look and sound that they were going for. I think they wanted to be the next Led Zeppelin, but with a touch of The Cure, and they incorporated the glam look of the 1980s LA scene as best as they could, but they just looked like wasted surfer-prostitutes.
And it worked for them. They never made it big, but they were Undergound darlings that consistently packed large clubs and small theatres. They never got mainstream radio play; in fact, they were a huge part of the College Radio scene of the 1980s, which eventually led to the Alternative/Grunge breakout in 1991. Jane’s Addiction never broke through the mainstream in any significant level until right before they parted ways in 1991.
Being a bass player in my former life, I always loved how Jane’s Addiction’s songs were often bass-led. Eric Avery is an underrated bass guitar hero who most people do not recognize. I was crushed when he quit the band, and even more so when he refused to rejoin in their reunions. When he finally did rejoin, it was so far after the fact that they really only toured as a nostalgia act, and it did not last long.
I never got to see Jane’s Addiction in concert. Like Nirvana, I always believed there would be another tour, and so when I was not able to get to one of their shows, I did not sweat it. Unfortunately, also like Nirvana, Jane’s Addiction were not meant to last very long. They were fast, loud, and powerful, and no one can sustain that kind of energy for very long—especially when it is honest and true!
But I still listen to their albums fairly consistently. I have touched on the emotional factor of music on several occasions, and I truly love any music that can break through the icy fortress around my crusty old heart. Jane’s Addiction does that for me. Every. Time.
From the album, Nothing’s Shocking, check out “Ocean Size”, and you will know what I mean. That scream toward the end—you know the one; in which it sounds as if Perry Farrell is hanging on for dear life—grips me to this day.
And then there’s Ritual de lo Habitual—their undisputed masterpiece—with the epic “Three Days”. I still can hear that song 5 times a day every day and never tire of it. It is that amazing.
I recently had the privilege of introducing Jane’s Addiction to my son. I wanted him to hear the bass playing (my son plays guitar and bass, but seems to play more bass these days), and especially recognize the songwriting that stems from the bass riffs. In a short time, Liam has already learned about half of the catalog. I am so proud. He also shares my enthusiasm for “Three Days”, so I am doubly proud.
Jane’s Addiction’s last two albums, 2003s Strays, and last year’s The Great Escape Artist, are pretty good records, but they pale in comparison to the first three. Perhaps I am being a bit unfair, but hey; I am partial. What can I say?
As sad as I am that Eric Avery is no longer part of the band, I am glad that they still exist. Dave Navarro is still one of my favorite guitarists, and Stephen Perkins is a fun drummer. They are still a great band, regardless of whoever plays the bass.
Or, perhaps I just hate letting go of important pieces of my past. In an era when I was a stoned Deadhead who resisted most hard rock, Jane’s Addiction touched my soul, and I have never been the same since. It was unique and strange, and I loved it. Still do!