Perry Farrell Looks Back at Jane's Addiction's 'Nothing's Shocking'
Decades after its release, it routinely pops up on "Best Albums Of All Time" charts. But if anyone ever puts together a "Most Deceptively Titled Albums Of All Time," Nothing's Shocking may top that one.
First off, there's the obvious: that album cover. We can't show it here, but you know it: the black and white sculpture of two nude women conjoined at the shoulder and hips sitting on a chair with their hair on fire.
And speaking of sex and violence, there was the song whose lyrics gave the album its name, "Ted, Just Admit It," which featured a sample of an interview clip with murderer Ted Bundy. The lyrics "Showed me everybody naked and disfigured/ Nothing's shocking/ Now sister's not a virgin anymore/ er sex is violent…" led to a chanting of "Sex! Is! Violent!" Yes, Jane's was a quintessentially L.A. band, but this wasn't what Sunset Strippers Mötley Crüe, Ratt and Poison were singing about.
And the frontman, Perry Farrell: a white, dreadlocked banshee who didn't sing, at least in the conventional sense. He was like Jim Morrison, David Bowie, David Johansen, Iggy Pop and Michael Stipe rolled into one wild-eyed, bursting-with-energy, surfer-dude. He was a hippie, he was a punk, he was a shaman and he was a huckster.
Also shocking: no one seemed to be able to put a label on the band in an era where most bands were fairly easy to categorize. They had the power of Led Zeppelin, but Farrell hardly resembled Robert Plant. Everyone he wrote about seemed like a real person darker side of L.A, not some cloudy, Tolkien fantasy. Similarly, Navarro's playing was dynamic like Jimmy Page's, but unlike many other L.A. players, he didn't sound like Jimmy Page. While much of L.A. was aping Zeppelin's style, Jane's came off as more of the heir apparent to that band's throne by not cloning the original.
And like Zeppelin, they had great acoustic songs as well. Case in point: "Jane Says," which at first listen is a bit Zeppelin III, but Page/Plant never wrote lyrics that cut like these. Propelled by acoustic guitar and steel drums, it was a moving tribute to Farrell and Avery's one-time housemate Jane Bainter, who's "gonna kick tomorrow" when she "gets her money saved." She doesn't know what love is like "I only know they want me." There's no judging, just an observation of a tragic figure.
That song got played on "alternative rock" radio alongside the likes of Depeche Mode and the Cure, but Jane's pulled a metal audience, and appealed to punks as well. This was in the days before Farrell invented the Lollapalooza tour, and those clans didn't often meet at concerts, or really anywhere else.
The album changed a lot of things in the music business and could be pointed to as the record that led to alternative's rushing of the mainstream. But Perry Farrell told Radio.com how it changed his life.
"Prior to that, I was a kid in Los Angeles, I guess you could call me a street urchin, I was hanging out with a lot of other musicians in the city, it was a very different scene back then. It was built around music. Today, there's a lot of other things for young people to do. We didn't have computer games and social media."
Conversations with Farrell tend to be wide-ranging and protracted; the pithy soundbite answer is not for him. "When Nothing's Shocking came out, I became much more of a worldly human being. That took me a while, thirty years. Now, I am able to relate to the man standing next to me in the elevator. Back then, he might be scared of me. Today, he might find me to be a refreshing conversationalist. I was always a good person, but back then, I just didn't look like it. Now, after all this time, and having children and aging, but aging–like a wine would–I enjoy my life more than ever. I meet people who are tremendous and valuable, valuable to the world, they invite me to places. Back then, I was f***ed up, I don't think they were able to relate to me." more on this story
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