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Jane’s Addiction: Up The Beach

For us Gen X’ers Jane’s Addiction was the closet we would get to a Led Zeppelin of our own.


  

Usually, once a year I start feeling nostalgic for youth in California. This nostalgia is purely directed towards how things used to be before the corporate take-over of the state forever. A lot of timeless music has come out of Southern California, and of course I listened to it. Acts such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction have molded me into who I am, for better or for worse.  

I still vividly remember meeting Perry Farrell at a ski resort in So-Cal where my Mom  resided during the mid-90’s. His post-Jane’s Addiction band Porno for Pyros were headlining an outdoor festival titled “Board Aid” whom they shared a bill with The Specials, Face to Face and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. I was on the same chairlift that Farrell decided to get on. I instantly recognized the iconic front man, after he removed his goggles and beanie. I was shocked to say the least. He was very friendly and easy going, I rapped about how influential his music has been for me and how Jane’s Addiction is, for me, the sound of L.A.  

Perry took the stage later on that day in a clown-esque brightly colored rainbow suit and proceed to tear up the stage. I recall him playing a few Jane’s Addiction cuts includong “Mountain Song” (very appropriate for this event), “Stop,” and “Had a Dad.” I still remember this performance to this day, with his unmistakable vocal shrieks and high pitched banshee wails heavily treated in echo and reverb.  

  

My introduction to Jane’s Addiction came by their third album: Ritual De Lo Habitual. I remember sending my Mom into our local music store to purchase the cassette for me. Quite a bold proposal considering the album art that the cover dons, as well as the lyrical content and parental advisory lyrics sticker on the lower right hand side of the album. Well, Mom is pretty cool and didn’t bat an eye, or grill me about listening to some quote-unquote “obscene” album; I think she could see the art displayed with the presentation of the album.  

How do we begin to describe Jane’s addiction? Art, Art Rock, Alt Metal? All I know is when I heard the Spanish spoken word intro to “Stop,” I was curious. When the track kicked in full funky force, I was mesmerized, enchanted by what I heard. “Stop” grooved along with a pseudo-funk groove, but this wasn’t the kind of funk that the Red Hot Chili Peppers had adopted as their own; this was ethereal funk, totally unique and dynamic all the same. Perry’s lyrical focus for “Stop” is directed towards the environment and us as humans destroying Mother Earth. Songs that reflected on our continual disregard to the safety of our planet were popular topic during the late 80’s to early 90’s.  

Anyone with a T.V. tuned to MTV during the early 90’s remembers the infamous video for “Been Caught Stealing.” With minimal production value, the video for “BCS” plays like a film school project for some random UCLA film student, albeit a brilliant one. Perry is shot from an angle with the camera overhead, as he sings about the wonders of shoplifting with a bemused look on his face and an ironic pony-tail atop his head.
“Being Caught Stealing” begins with a funky guitar line that utilizes the funk chord of choice, the major 7th, followed by a rumbling bassline and syncopated drums. The songs unlikely hook comes via a barking dog which fit perfectly in time with the songs groove.  

  

The centerpiece of Ritual De Lo Habitual is “Three Days,” a 9-minute-plus wonder of a track about a threesome between Perry, his girlfriend at the time Casey Nicolli and a friend of the couple. The track opens with a distinctive Eric Avery bassline, followed by a ethereal sounding arppegiated guitar line provided by Dave Navarro. Avery was the soul behind Jane’s Addiction, Perry was the fire. Jane’s Addiction  bassline’s were often the focal point and the hooks behind the group’s songs. “Three Days” in no exception to this, as Avery’s melodic bass intro is highly memorable and sets the mood for what is to come: a rollercoaster ride taken to epic proportions.  

Track 9. “Classic Girl” ends the album. An ode to Farrell’s longtime girlfriend Casey Nicolli, whom was featured the groups video for “Classic Girl.” With a lustrous-sounding chord progression played on an electric guitar by Navarro, Perry paints a picture of his surroundings and his love for Casey. His muse was Casey and his surroundings, the latter being L.A., most notably Venice Beach, where Ferrell was living at the time and still lives to this day. “Classic Girl” is the perfect bookend to this classic album.  

  

When Ritual De Lo Habitual was released in 1990, the album cover was banned, although most retail outlets carried the original artwork with Perry, Casey, and another female nude adorned by what appears to a Santeria inspired backdrop. I know this because I had the original album art on the cassette that my Mom purchased back in the day. The censored album cover is white with the bands name and the title of the album in black; below we find a text of the first amendment.  

For us Gen X’ers Jane’s Addiction was the closet we would get to a Led Zeppelin of our own. Jane’s Addiction re-wrote the rules for rock, thus creating the now-tired title “Alternative Rock”. Perry went on to form the short lived group Porno for Pyros as well as found Lollapalooza, if only a weekend-long event now. The other guys have gone onto to successful collaborations and solo careers. Jane’s has re-formed a few times since, most recently with Avery back on bass, yet they have failed to recapture that special moment when they thrived during the late 80’s to early 90’s. Just like California during this era, there was magic in the air, and unfortunately this magic can fade.  

   

Cash in, cash in now, honey! Cash in now, cash in now, baby! ~ Mountain Song


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