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A Salute to Jane's Addiction, the Ultimate L.A. Band

A Salute to Jane's Addiction, the Ultimate L.A. Band
Lina Lecaro

Who's the ultimate L.A. band?

It's not enough to have just lived here or become popular here. The group's music, personality and history must be intertwined with the city. Acts like The Doors, X, Van Halen, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers come to mind, but for us, it's simple.

In contemporary cultural terms, Jane's Addiction, who receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame tomorrow, most deserve the distinction.

See also: Photos from the Walk of Fame ceremony.

The act was the biggest and best L.A. group to emerge from the early 1990s alternative scene and garner mainstream commercial success. And, it was in the midst of dealing with drug struggles -- which are both celebrated and lamented in their first hit, "Jane Says."

A typical story, right? Except that it doesn't have the usual ending. The group didn't burn out, and even with Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro high as kites, their music thrived and their bond survived. Bassist Eric Avery unfortunately didn't stay with them, but drummer Stephen Perkins -- whose brutal beats are essential to the band's sound -- stayed on.

They came out of L.A. nightclubs like Scream in downtown, and gained word-of-mouth notoriety due to killer live shows and their self-titled underground release for Triple X Records. It was the blueprint for the band's monster 1988 major label debut, Nothing's Shocking. That debut may have been slicker, but it didn't sell out Jane's eccentric edge or heaviness, with songs about idiots, standing in the shower and pigs, not to mention the cover which had to be censored. The follow-up, 1990's Ritual de lo Habitual, managed to maintain their cred and expand their fan base tenfold.

The group succeeded the old-fashioned way: By writing potent and provocative tunes, playing their guts out all over town and building an obsessive, organic following.

A Salute to Jane's Addiction, the Ultimate L.A. Band
Lina Lecaro

Though their early tenure coincided with the Sunset Strip glam metal years, it was the darker, artier underground where Jane's Addiction came of age and ultimately terminated their wimpy hair metal peers.

Sure, Nirvana and the grunge movement out of Seattle get the credit for killing the genre, but Jane's had long been chipping away, their multicolored dreadlocks flying around in the process, a few years before Nevermind.

 

A Salute to Jane's Addiction, the Ultimate L.A. Band
Lina Lecaro

When drugs and drama threatened the group, they got clean, and took a break. But they always came back to music, both individually (Farrell's Porno For Pyros and Navarro's stint with the Chili Peppers, are stand outs) and together. Farrell's Lollapalooza festival was -- and remains -- influential, while his EDM DJ work (as DJ Peretz) and early incorporation of cell phones and social media at Lolla made him something of a visionary. He also happens to have been on more Coachella line-ups than any other artist (with Jane's, with Satellite Party, with Hybrid and as a DJ under the Peretz moniker and his own name).

Navarro became a media personality, and he definitely has the charisma for it. The guitarist also, of course, likes to jam, and his shirtless stage presence is iconic in L.A. at this point. (So is his desire to hang from hooks.) But say what you will about the guy's attention grabbing ways, he's no phony.

Ultimately, what made, and continues to make, Jane's Addiction a special L.A. band is their fearlessness. Lyrically, musically, and conceptually, they have always taken chances, and have always put themselves out there, whether it be in stadiums, on TV and radio or tiny local clubs they long outgrew. They had a wish to become ocean-sized, and more than any other L.A. band out there, they played hard and hungry until it came true.

See also: Photos from the Walk of Fame ceremony.

Like us on Facebook at LAWeeklyMusic.

All photos here from Jane's Addiction's set for the opening party of Tim Burton's exhibit at LACMA.

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