ON THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF JANE’S ADDICTION AND ‘NOTHING’S SHOCKING’
May 13, 2014
Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, 1988, my band The Smashing Pumpkins was offered a chance to open for Jane’s Addiction; who were out promoting their 2nd album; and first studio effort. I’d heard the debut and was struck by the singer’s voice (which btw reminded me of the singer-songwriter Melanie), its high, haunting quality and power rarely seen in alternative music.
And though we were thrilled with the opportunity there was a problem: we were already booked at another club. So I called the owner and asked that we be switched out to another date given the plum spot.
“Can’t happen,” he told me coldly, “you’ll have to tell the booker over there that you guys are passing.”
Being savvy and of course ambitious, I pushed back against this insanity. He had a retort. “If you don’t show for your date, or you’re late, you’ll never play here again.”
I calculated the times. If we opened for Jane’s and packed up fast, we could keep both gigs but miss their set. That seemed worse to me than not playing at all.
Jane’s, minus their singer, was onstage jamming when we came trudging in with our gear for soundcheck. And indeed it was thrilling to hear their psychedelically-fueled acumen in instrumental form. First impressions were: ‘wow, that guitar player can really play and, he must have been in metal bands!;’ plus thinking how solid and supple their rhythm core was.
A screen was set-up, and standing as strangers I watched with them a first showing of the ‘Mountain Song’ video; which the group had not yet seen. They seemed nonplussed at the scenes depicting sexual behavior or symbolic misanthropy, and if they commented publicly on the edit I don’t remember.
The gig for the night was completely sold out, the first of a 2 night run; and for us only the 4th with our new drummer; surpassing by probably 8 or 900 people as the biggest crowd I’d ever played before. That said, our dressing room was shit: tucked as it was in a loft position just off the noisy stage. So it’s no surprise I made my way down to see if I could make my acquaintance with Jane’s guitarist. He seemed friendly enough, as was their bassist, who welcomed me in for a chat.
“This dressing room is for the band only!” a roadie boomed; having witnessed none of our dialogue about Led Zeppelin or Bauhaus. “You’ll need to leave!”
I spun my eyes back to the guitarist, who perhaps had signaled his man to have me removed.
“No, he’s cool,” Dave said, ending the threat and beginning a long-winding friendship that endures to this day.
I made mention of our 2-gig predicament, which caught the ear of bassist Eric Avery. He generously said he’d put me on the guest list for their follow-up; this being long before the days where SP and Metro’s Joe Shanahan were intimately tied for such favors.
“You probably won’t be missing much anyway,” Eric offered. “Our singer is still in Nashville.”
With time I made small talk with drummer Stephen Perkins, whose bubbly personality was in diametric opposition to his groups dark, LA snarl.
“I just try to keep it light,” he laughed affably. “No scary stuff here.”
Nervous for my chance, I went down to a burger joint for a soda; which for reasons clear I’d opt to mix with rum. It was in playing an hour or so later that I’d decide that my band was too-soft for a crowd eager for power; our new-wavy set a disappointment; a fateful decision indeed.
As we pulled the last of our gear out a station wagon pulled up, and I, like many in the crowd stood back to watch a wobbly-kneed, dreadlocked, and bull-pierced Perry Farrell wander through the front door; his band due on any second. He must have gone right up, because just as I was leaving for good I heard the band launch into a fast-heavy song, the crowd erupting with glee. I checked my watch: no room to spare, and I left without seeing even a second of their set.
Thankfully Eric was good for his word on the guest list, and I’d be back 48 hours later to witness one of the greatest shows I’d ever see. This night Jane’s opened slow, Perry hoisting a wine bottle high above a broad, sensual hat. And so too began my 25 years of celebration with a man I consider as family; his wife-muse Ety to be my pixie-like, Chinoise confidant.
Watching Jane’s hammer through through ‘Nothing’ Shocking’ the other night at the Brooklyn Bowl in Vegas, I thought to pen this piece in tribute. For I’ve stolen from them, dined with them, played with them, cried with them too.
My pride in their accomplishments immeasurable…
Everyone has a favorite band, song, show, etc, but not everyone gets to know their bevvy of hero’s and zero’s like I have. And often times I’ve found that what I’ve heard in the music I find 10-fold in the men and women who make it. You just have to know what you are looking for.
The world can churn on about success and sales all it wants, for it is their prerogative. There are though for us that truly love music those moments worth capturing that no number can quantify. Therein, as Peter Murphy might say, ‘lies the rub.’