Jane’s addiction are the Sex Pistols of the Alternative Nation, a small, brilliant catalog of songs and a shocking, groundbreaking ethos that changed music forever. When I moved to Los Angeles in 1986 to pursue my rock dreams, hair metal was king. The bands playing the Sunset Strip all looked the same, sounded the same, pouted the same. Then one night I went to a downtown joint called Al’s Bar and someone gave me a bootleg cassette of a local band called Jane’s Addiction. It blew my mind, jolted the axis of my understanding of rock music, and convinced me to extend the lease on my apartment on Normandie.
I had never heard anything like it. It was like a punk rock Led Zeppelin. Jane’s provided all the testosterone-fueled guitar riffage that my suburban upbringing required but mixed it with gorgeous acoustic songs and an underground artistry that was completely original and completely awesome. Savage but beautiful. Riff-heavy but smart. Jane’s didn’t look or sound like any other band in the history of rock 'n' roll, and within a short period of time they absolutely owned Los Angeles.
I actually snuck into a Jane’s Addiction rehearsal once, sitting on some nasty carpet in the corner. I’d played a lot of rock shows, been to a lot of rock shows, but I’d never seen or felt anything like THIS. It was like grabbing a live power line with a million volts coursing through it. They started a moshpit in my mind that’s still spinning to this day. I vowed that night that one day I was going to be in a band that felt like THAT onstage.
Jane’s Addiction deserve to be in the worldwide Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but they are quintessentially a Los Angeles band. Perhaps the BEST LA band EVER if you can believe what the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Rage Against the Machine guys have to say. They are a band that sounds like the city in which they were formed. You can hear the violence, the drugs, the beauty, the ocean, the hope, smog, fear and redemptive power of Los Angeles in Jane’s music. And while, like all the best bands, Jane’s Addiction are greater than the sum of their parts, each member of the band is extraordinary in his own right.
Stephen Perkins’ tribal whirlwind of drumming propelled Jane’s music into directions other bands could only dream of. Dave Navarro’s shirtless power riffing and wild astral solos gave metal heads like myself a reason to love the band and challenged indie rock snobs to deal with the presence of an undeniably great ROCK guitarist in an underground band. Eric Avery’s murderously heavy bass grooves form the backbone of some of the most badass riffs of all time. And Perry Farrell is unlike any other frontman, singer or lyricist in the history of rock. A former homeless, sex worker drug addict, Perry’s voice, sometimes child-like and innocent, sometimes bone-chillingly urgent, pulled gorgeous twisted melodies out of thin air while he spun deep and true poetic tales of life in our city.
Perry presided as the furious Santeria shaman over their legendary live shows as the band destroyed venue after venue around the world and single-handedly forged the Lollapalooza Nation, smashing barriers between genres, bringing the fringe into the mainstream, and allowing rockers and rappers to share the same stage for the first time. The creation of U.S. festival culture ALONE merits induction to the Hall. Every glorious multi-genre festival show you ever attend -- Lollapalooza, Coachella, Austin City Limits, Governor’s Ball and all the rest -- owe a significant debt to the vision of Perry Farrell and his band.
“I want to be more like the ocean,” sang Perry, “no talking, and all action.” Inspiring, intelligent, furiously rocking and artistically deep. As their number one fan I’m happy to report that Jane’s Addiction are just as great today as that day I snuck into their rehearsal space long ago. Various important bands get credit for being the first “alternative” band to break through, bands that changed music and led rock out of the hair metal wilderness of the '80s. I’m here to set the record straight: It was “Juanes Adiccion.” I can’t think of a more deserving candidate for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.