Jane's Addiction Was Different Before They Were "Alternative"

Krist Novoselic's column on music and politics runs every Tuesday on Reverb. Check back on Friday when he writes about what he's been listening to.
On November 17, 1988, I went to KISW's "Rising Star" show at the Paramount Theatre, an event that featured a band that was in heavy rotation on the station's Sunday-night show of "different" bands spun by DJs Scott Vanderpool or Damian Stewart. The rising stars at the top of the bill were a band called Jane's Addiction. The openers were a group of guys I'd seen around town a bunch--also on the rise--called Soundgarden.

I was going through some personal changes in my life and needed a little rock therapy. And when Jane's came on, they rocked. I got so into the show that I became lost in the mosh-pit action in front of the stage. The band slowed things down a little with an acoustic set, and I can remember drummer Stephen Perkins playing rhythms on a drum case.

Duff's recent columns and comments about Jane's Addiction and his recent involvement with the group have sparked my own experiences with Jane's, and I'm reminded what an important band they are.

Their first release, the eponymous live record on the independent label Triple X in 1987, made waves in the underground world, and the song "Jane Says" was a standout track. This was before the term "alternative music" hit the mainstream.

The group's second release, Nothing's Shocking--benefiting from a major label's access to the dominant promotional machine--and Faith No More's Epic were the first real alternative-music breakthroughs. They opened the doors for Nevermind's success. Nothing's Shocking is a true hard-rock record. It's got big riffs, epic guitar solos, heavy drums, and bass lines that keep it all together. It's unique in its artistic sensibilities, and this comes from the contribution of singer Perry Farrell. As you get pulled into the music and the band behind it, Farrell appears as a compelling artist who pushed barriers. If nothing was shocking, Jane's album covers bumped up against that notion in the mainstream world.

The bass-heavy tune "Been Caught Stealing," off their third album, 1990's Ritual de lo Habitual, was all over the radio. Jane's was a big band now. I don't know why we were in Portland, Oregon, but Kurt Cobain and I caught their show at some university's auditorium. It wasn't like being at a theater--more like an "arena rock" experience. We sat way in the back, up high in the bleachers. I recall us being a little disconcerted. Perhaps we were sensing our own destiny and place in such a venue?

Duff has been on his own road with the music he's been part of. And now that path has led him to collaborate with Jane's Addiction--as I've just shared, a group with their own legacy. There's a convergence occurring, and I look forward to the music these fellows create.

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