#312: Jane's Addiction, "Nothing's Shocking" (1988)

Jane’s Addiction’s big reunion show at the Aladdin Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in ’97? The Aladdin was to be razed shortly thereafter; a promise of epic debauchery, ripping seats from the floor, carrying away the very foundations. Sticking my head out the window of the dusty beige hotel room and gazing out over the dusty beige strip. “Hey!” came a call. “Hey you purplehead!” (My hair was a Manic Panic eggplant at the time.) I looked down toward the distant parking lot to see a guy I went to high school with in suburban Washington D.C. He was staying two floors below and similarly peering out his window, happened to look up. There was a reunionthree of us McLean High School kids of the sort who were into (meworshipped!) Jane’s Addiction. A casino, lights, drugs, girls. Dave Navarro in the elevator said, “You guys can come to the after party if you bring ecstasy.” That part may be a dream, but I have told the story before.

The guy we rode with from Denver was totally bonkers in a nerdy, milk-allergy kind of way. Even more so after I had sex with his girlfriend. Not my fault, I swear! On the drive home he stopped in the middle of the fast-moving highway in a fit of cuckolded pique, shrieking like a maniac. My friend C. threatened to kill him if he did it again (poor kid) and for the rest of the many hours ride home he sat silent and terrified, hands at ten and two. (Why was he even driving?) To make it worse, these idiots listened to Weezer nonstop, or maybe it was Ween. I met them at my community college outside Boulder, Colorado. We needed a ride to Nevada.

High-school circa ‘93: Up the Beach/Ocean Size. Smoking weed in the playground behind my friend’s apartment building, lying out on the grass, swinging on the swings, sliding on the slides. LSD.

My psychiatrist in high school gave me Perry Farrell’s movie The Gift as a gift. I had a bit of a drug problem at the time. There is quite a lot of drug use in this film. Casey, Perry’s girlfriend, ODs and he arranges her dead body with a bunch of flowers. In retrospect, my suicide attempt was unsurprising. I had some dad issues too.

Casey doesn’t think well of Perry anymore. She hasn’t seen much profit from those years, despite her services as muse and collaborator. (IMO she’s entitled to a cut.)

I took every pill in the medicine cabinet, in every medicine cabinet, in the house, and drank a quart of vodka and crawled under a bush near the high school to die. I wrote bizarre things in a journal that was discovered muddied and smeared after a winter’s thaw. By some unholy mix of the chemical interaction I ended up hallucinating for three days, but was otherwise relatively okay (I later desperately tried to recreate the effect in a smaller, more manageable dosage, but never succeeded). When the cops found me the next morning I was sitting on a curb in some suburban cul-de-sac having a conversation with several people who weren’t there. By that afternoon I started to learn how to control the hallucinations/was aware I was hallucinating, and could manifest objects at will. In the car on the way from the hospital to the psychiatrist’s office (The Gift guy) I covertly lit and smoked a cigarette that wasn’t real, blowing imaginary smoke at the back of my tearful mother’s head.

Camera’s got them images / Camera’s got them all / Nothing’s shocking.

Pulling out of the parking lot from the psychiatrist’s office, I once rammed a Mercedes with my ’84 Pontiac (the bumper stickers were Bad Brains, Pixies, and Jane’s Addiction). I don’t really remember why, but it was intentional. The guy was understandably aghast and jumped out of his car and ran up to my window screaming. My face was twisted with piercings and angst, Nine Inch Nails blared from the speakers as I sped off. He was Pakistani I think and told the police my face was made of metal.

Dave Navarro’s mother was murdered by her boyfriend when he was fifteen. He believes this relates to his subsequent drug addiction. Following the breakup he joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers and now does lots of reality TV.

Eric Avery didn’t participate in the Vegas reunion as he and Perry still had some unresolved issues. It’s understandable! I saw him playing bass for Peter Murphy in 2000 or so and he seemed happy. I know he also played with Garbage for a while, was in that documentary trying out for Metallica. I gather he got back with Jane's at some point on their more recent excursions but didn’t stay long.

Stephen Perkins stuck with Perry the whole time, including Porno for Pyros. I think it’s because he was the laid back one who didn’t use heroin.

I am the killer of people / You look like a meatball / I’ll throw away your toothpick and ask for your giveness.

Lollapalooza the first. ‘91. I still have the T-shirt somewhere: Jane’s, Siouxsie Sioux, Living Colour, NIN, Fishbone, Ice-T with Body Count (remember “Cop Killer”?), Butthole Surfers, Rollins Band. What a show. Some field in Maryland. My friend R. and I got a ride with the lifeguard from the pool (neither of us were old enough to drive). I remember I was exhausted by the time Jane’s came on and just went back to the blanket and lay looking at the night sky, the lights, listened.

“Summertime Rolls” was always a mixtape standard for me. I pine for long lost nineties courtship rituals. “Standing in the shower thinking and I’m pissing on myself.” I always liked that line. Pee is good for your feet. “Mountain Song.” This, of course. “Idiots Rule.”

I lived in the Lower East Side, on Rivington Street, when 9/11 happened. I was standing on 8th Avenue looking straight down at the Towers when they fell. I had just gotten off the subway on my way to work and walked above ground to a flaming sky, then a collapsing explosion of glimmering diamonds as the buildings folded in on themselves. I stared, dumbfounded. “I’m gonna be late for work!” I said to no one in particular and scurried off, eventually coming to my senses and returning to my neighborhood, finding my friends. As a recent IV drug user, I couldn’t donate blood. Perry’s influence is at least partly responsible for that phase.

That night at the bar, numb faces watching Bush on the screen: I know you’re an idiot, but please don’t fuck this up (spoiler alert). In the near-term aftermath, Perry did a DJ set at the Mercury Lounge, a club near my apartment. He wanted to do something, he said. We waded through the sorrow and the smell of burning bodies and burning computers and burning plastic to the show. Afterward he was talking to people and I was quite shy but my friend pushed me forward to introduce myself to Perry, who I had idolized for many years. I shook his hand and said, rather abruptly, “You are the first man I ever truly loved.” He had probably heard this very line a million times before and simply looked me up and down appraisingly. “You have great style,” he replied. I grinned and sheepishly backed away, bowing gratefully. For the following many months I drew pictures of people, animals, and Hindu deities jumping from burning windows. My therapist said it was normal.

Pig eats shit, but only when he hungers.

In high school there was a girl from a neighboring school who had supposedly made out with Perry. One year, at Beach Week in Ocean City, I drunkenly made out with her on the boardwalk. It was a great victory for me as not only was she very hot, but I felt as if I too had made out with Perry.

Yeah, so roses are red, I made up the rest, if you got some big fucking secret, then why don’t you sing me something?

Meeting Perry in New York was strangely when my fascination with the man ended; my interest in the band had been on the wane. He was just a guy and that part of my life was over, almost (though I have often been forced to sort and sift the wreckage). I haven’t even ever listened to the new records; I didn’t even know about the newest record until just now scrolling through Spotify. XXX, Nothing’s Shocking, and Ritual is more than enough. In truth, I haven’t listened to those much in a decade either. It was a long moment that seemed so desperately important, but then wasn’t.

When I was 16 I had an acid trip that was so bad my friends locked me in the basement. We were at a house in the middle of nowhere and they were afraid I would run out into the countryside and injure myself and die (or get them in trouble more like). I had taken eight hits of a decidedly powerful vintage of LSD and I don’t remember much about itthough I have heard many storiesbut I do remember sometime toward the end (as I was locked in the basement) I was bartering for my life. It was some desperate attempt to find worth in my otherwise meaningless existence, to decipher something I cared about when I cared about so little. I racked my brain, running through every possible concept, idea, love, as the demons threatened to pull me down, promising my extinction. My very existence depended on the answer. Finally, inspiration struck and “Perry!” I screamed aloud, “Jane’s!” and the demons, knowing truth, relented and I was finally able to sleep.

—Erik Wennermark