Thursday, March 17, 2011

Everybody Has Their Own Opinion

No single musician or band has captivated me so completely as once did Los Angeles-based Jane's Addiction, a four-member, semi-dysfunctional freakshow whose music will resonate with me forever.

Between 1987 and 1993, I spent untold sums of money on Jane's Addiction posters, stickers, bootleg recordings, concert tickets, and t-shirts.

In poor imitation of the lead singer, I wore (supremely wretched) dreadlocks in my hair; had my nose pierced in a dicey St. Louis thrift store; and for a short time refused to suffer any criticism of the band from cronies ... or my mother.

And I perpetrated all of this foolishness for a group with just a single self-titled live album and two studio albums--Nothing's Shocking and Ritual de lo Habitual--when Bill Clinton began his first term as President.

To date, they've produced a third (Strays) and a fourth, tentatively called The Great Escape Artist, is reportedly in the works. But I'm not holding my breath ... or even that interested, really.

The band's original line-up consisted of founder and front-man Perry Farrell, bass player Eric Avery, guitarist Dave Navarro, and drummer Stephen Perkins. Tensions with Farrell prompted Avery to leave in 1991, and (with a couple exceptions) he has not expressed interest in returning.

Wikipedia, fan sites, and the official JA site can provide more background, should you be interested.

Alternately, you can read Brendan Mullen's Whores: An Oral Biography of Perry Farrell and Jane's Addiction, which prompted my present nostalgia.

I was fairly well-versed in the band's history and had a good handle on three of the four musicians' heavy drug use.

Interviews with family members and friends from the L.A. music scene filled some important gaps in my knowledge--for instance, Navarro's mother and aunt were murdered by his would-be step-father and it was many years before he was apprehended.

Avery is described by peers as the brainy, brooding dude I intuited him to be. Perkins is a kind of steadfast glue, willing to stick with the rest in good times and bad.

And if Mullen's assembled history is close to the truth, and his contributors forthright, Farrell is an exceptionally charismatic, cocky, and self-obsessed libertine. Perhaps my biggest takeaway is what I'll call the Perry Farrell Paradox.

He has always enjoyed the wild abandon of parties, gathering people together, and is credited for dreaming up Lollapalooza and other music events. In fact, he was willing to lose a considerable amount of his own money investing in concerts (later in his career).

And yet, and yet ... the irony: he is consistently an incorrigible prick averse to equitable contracts and financial arrangements with bandmates.

All of which suggests nothing less than the usual hedonism and heroics of most rock 'n roll stories ... which is why Jane's Addiction so fascinated a particular bucktoothed, introverted high-schooler in south-central Illinois.

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