Jane’s Addiction combined stoner mysticism, bohemian attitudes and heavy metal to successful commercial effect in the early 1990s. Led by their shaman-esque frontman Perry Farrell, this Los Angeles-based quartet reflected the liberal-minded worldview of their milieu, embracing love and utopianism while simultaneously acknowledging the darkness of a hedonistic lifestyle. Only together for two albums (before a reunion record in 2003), Jane’s Addiction arguably left its greatest cultural impact with Lollapalooza, a music festival Farrell created in 1991 that has endured far longer than his band did.
Jane’s Addiction formed in the mid-’80s. With Farrell taking lead vocals, the rest of the band consisted of guitarist Dave Navarro, bassist Eric Avery and drummer Stephen Perkins. Jane’s Addiction signed to Warner Bros. for the band’s 1988 studio debut, but a quickie live album, called Jane’s Addiction, was released on the independent label Triple X the year before. Jane’s Addiction contained covers of songs by the Rolling Stones and the Velvet Underground, but it also featured a few tracks that would reappear on the band’s next record.
Nothing’s Shocking featured a very shocking photo of two nude women on its cover, setting the tone for the album’s provocative spirit. Nothing’s Shocking revealed a trippy, experimental side, despite the fact that it contained undeniably guitar-driven assaults like “Mountain Song” and “Had a Dad.” Its slightly mystical introspection and sun-splashed hard rock predicted the later success of Pearl Jam and Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the acoustic ballad “Jane Says” established Jane’s Addiction’s popularity with modern rock fans. Though not a huge seller, the album proved to be an influential alt-rock landmark.
If Nothing’s Shocking hinted at the possibility of Jane’s Addiction’s mainstream success, 1990’s Ritual de lo Habitual cemented their crossover. “Been Caught Stealing” was a breezy hit about kleptomania, while “Stop!” boasted an exuberant Dave Navarro riff that was equal parts metal and alternative rock. Jane’s Addiction seemed poised for superstar status, but band tensions effectively stalled their momentum, prompting the group to break up shortly thereafter. But before they closed the door on Jane’s, Farrell wanted them to do one last tour.
That tour would become Lollapalooza, a music festival organized by Farrell in 1991 to celebrate an eclectic range of rock and rap groups. The first year’s bill included Living Colour, Ice-T and Nine Inch Nails. Lollapalooza served as Jane’s Addiction’s sendoff, but the music festival has remained active since then, changing in size and focus over the years but still a highlight for alternative-music fans of different genres.
Jane’s Addiction stayed somewhat visible after their breakup. Farrell and Perkins worked in a side project called Porno for Pyros, which had a minor hit with “Pets.” Navarro briefly joined Red Hot Chili Peppers. In addition, Jane’s Addiction released Kettle Whistle in 1997, a collection of outtakes, live songs and demos. The band reunited for several shows without bassist Eric Avery and recorded Strays in 2003, the group’s first studio album since Ritual de lo Habitual. Jane’s Addiction played an L.A. show in October 2008 with Avery, prompting hopes that the original lineup would finally reunite for good.
In 2009, Jane’s Addiction returned to the studio to work on their first album with Avery since Ritual de lo Habitual. Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor assisted with the album and invited the band to join him on stage for a co-headlining tour that began in May of that year. In March 2010, though, Avery again decided to exit the group, being replaced by Duff McKagan. (Six months later, McKagan left the band.)
On October 18, 2011, the band returns with The Great Escape Artist, their first new studio album in eight years. The album was made with Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio serving as bassist.