It was a hot July evening in the summer of 1990. I was at Sunrise Mall in Massapequa, NY killing time before my friends and I went into the theater to see a movie. What better place to stop than Sam Goody, right? The place was a treasure trove of tapes and CD’s back then. And I remember the words of my dear friend Tara echoing in my ear saying, “Check out JANE’S ADDICTION’S album Nothing’s Shocking, you’re gonna love it.” So I saw the cassette hanging on the wall and I grabbed it. Unfortunately the movie I saw that night was that godawful Die Hard 2 and I spent the next few hours pissed off. But that all changed when I got home and put the tape in my rack system. Psssst…welcome to another episode of Classic Albums!
Though the record had been out for two years I wanted no parts of the band or their music. That all changed when I started dating Holly, who I’ve mentioned before. She broke through my fiercely metal armor and reminded me how much I secretly loved bands like THE ALARM, DEPECHE MODE, and THE SISTERS OF MERCY, all groups that were highly unconventional. She was a big JANE’S fan and I was like, “Yeah, ok. Cool.” But I never planned on buying anything until Tara drove the point home that I needed to listen. I’m glad I did! The bass-laden intro track “Up the Beach” sets a tone unlike anything we’ve ever heard before or since, Eric Avery steering the ship straight into port.
Then we kick things into gear with “Ocean Size’, guitarist extraordinaire Dave Navarro and vocalist Perry Farrell turning the world on its ear before we even get to the first chorus. I remember sitting in my bedroom, age 17 and being like, “Holy Fuck, this band is incredible!” Navarro ripped into a solo that was capable of burning more faces than the hottest hot sauce and I just had to have more. “Had a Dad” is a hard-charging rock tune with really deep lyrics, something Farrell has always been adept at. But the best part for me is drummer Stephen Perkins. He lays down such a fierce and locked in beat, and Avery is in perfect lockstep with him.
If we’re giving out awards for Most Original Song in Years, then that honor goes to “Ted, Just Admit It…” As a wide-eyed Hair Metal kid I had no idea where this was going, but it surely is one hell of a journey, right? And let’s face it, nothing like this had happened before, and to say I was enthralled was putting it mildly. “Standing In the Shower…Thinking” is another one of those songs that makes you think right away while still managing to be catchy as all get out. Side Two opens with “Summertime Rolls”, to this day one of my favorites from the band. Lyrically, musically, aesthetically, it is absolutely wonderful, and the first time I heard it I was totally sucked in. Even now as I write this I am transported back to the summer of 1990.
Now let’s talk about “Mountain Song”, huh? This was and is a fucking anthem for the ages. The first time I heard that bass line I was on high alert, ready to fuck shit up, and when the whole band kicked it into high gear it’s a miracle I didn’t hurl my air conditioner from the roof of 113 Berkeley Place!! Red Down Below used to cover this one in the late 90’s and I always loved singing it and going a bit nuts onstage during certain parts. It is a very visceral, primal song that would always unleash something within me. I can’t be the only one who feels this way, right? And from here we go to “Idiots Rule” featuring Flea from RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS on the trumpet. Catchy fun track for sure.
There have been several versions of “Jane Says” released, I won’t deny that. But right here, on this album, they got it right; got it perfect. The steel drum enhances the track, while Farrell does arguably the best vocal of his career. Sitting in that little bedroom in Massapequa I remember being punched in the gut by an acoustic song that was lyrically heavier than anything I’d heard up to that point. We all have tunes that we consider life-changing, right? Well this was one for me. When I got my license later that year I’d rewind it over and over again in the car. Closer “Pigs In Zen” is so cool because I still quote certain lyrics in social situations all these years later and sometimes people get it, and sometimes they don’t. Their problem, not mine.
The summer of 1990 was a lot of fun for me. I had great friends, a super hot girlfriend (who had super hot friends I got to hang with as bonus eye candy…lookin’ at you, Tara!), and life was awesome. Every time I put this record on I am instantly transported back to that summer, and I catch myself smiling ear to ear. There were a lot of things in my life that happened with JANE’S ADDICTION as background music. Still, not all those events are for public consumption. Come on, I can’t reveal everything! But know this: Nothing’s Shocking was and is a landmark recording that put the world on notice, and all these years later you can bet your ass it belongs firmly in the annals of Classic Albums. ~dc