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Best Jane’s Addiction Songs: 10 Alt-Rock Classics You Won’t Shake
Steve Speller / Alamy Stock Photo
List & Guides

Best Jane’s Addiction Songs: 10 Alt-Rock Classics You Won’t Shake

The best Jane’s Addiction songs saw Perry Farrell’s flamboyant, hedonistic and talented group pave the way for the 90s alt-rock revolution.

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Jane’s Addiction are often cited as “Godfathers Of Grunge”, but they always followed a singular path, whipping up a highly original storm of their own through fusing elements of glam, metal, funk and hardcore punk with a streak of intensive melancholia. The Los Angeles quartet were blessed with talent, with charismatic frontman Perry Farrell ably supported by Hendrix-esque guitar-god-in-waiting Dave Navarro and the ever-versatile rhythm section of Eric Avery (bass) and Stephen Perkins (drums), yet they burned out quickly, splitting in the wake of 1990’s mainstream breakthrough, the Ritual De Lo Habitual album. Farrell and Perkins later formed another influential outfit, Porno For Pyros, before getting Jane’s Addiction back together for two more 21st-century albums. With both Farrell-fronted acts set to tour in 2024, now’s the perfect time to pay tribute with this run-down of the best Jane’s Addiction songs.

Listen to the best of Jane’s Addiction here, and check out the best Jane’s Addiction songs, below.

10: I Would For You (from ‘Jane’s Addiction’, 1987)

Thanks to a combination of their highly original sound, an ability to deliver incendiary live performances and Perry Farrell’s dynamic presence, Jane’s Addiction built a sizeable following in Los Angeles long before they signed with Warner Bros. Indeed, to showcase their wares, the group issued a self-titled live album as their first full-length effort, releasing it through Triple X: an eclectic LA-based imprint also responsible for titles by artists as diverse as Bo Diddley, Dr Dre and UK ska legends The Selecter.

Recorded at a show at the Roxy Theatre, in West Hollywood, and later tidied up a little in the studio, Jane’s Addiction included early versions of several tracks later re-recorded for the band’s major-label debut, Nothing’s Shocking. Also including covers of The Velvet Underground’s Loaded highlight Rock & Roll and The Rolling Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil, the album made a good fist of capturing Jane’s Addiction’s bombastic live sound, though the heartfelt I Would For You – a sparse, bass-driven tribute to Farrell’s then girlfriend, Casey Niccoli – gave early warning that some of the best Jane’s Addiction songs would eschew the band’s trademark muscle and volume.

9: Just Because (from ‘Strays’, 2003)

It seemed that Jane’s Addiction had split for good when Perry Farrell and drummer Stephen Perkins formed Porno For Pyros, while guitarist Dave Navarro joined Red Hot Chili Peppers. However, a reunion producing a clutch of new tracks recorded for the group’s 1997 compilation, Kettle Whistle, eventually led to the release of a third Jane’s album, Strays, in 2003.

Issued by Capitol and produced by long-time Alice Cooper/KISS boardsman Bob Ezrin, the record was a commercial success (it peaked at No.4 on the Billboard 200 and went gold in the US) but it had a difficult gestation, with Chris Chaney (Alanis Morissette, Taylor Hawkins) replacing former PFP man Martyn LeNoble on bass part way through the sessions. Glossier and more mainstream-inclined than the band’s previous work, Strays nonetheless included one of the best Jane’s Addiction songs courtesy of Just Because: a full-blooded, primary-colour rocker riding a snaky, Led Zeppelin-styled groove.

8: Summertime Rolls (from ‘Nothing’s Shocking’, 1988)

One of numerous highlights from Jane’s Addiction’s debut studio album, Nothing’s Shocking, Summertime Rolls was another significant departure from the band’s signature proto-grunge sound. Anchored by Eric Avery’s cyclical basslines, Perkins’ languid, jazzy drumming and Navarro’s drone-enhanced guitar textures, this evocative mood piece has a dreamy, almost aquatic quality which fully immerses the listener. It’s also established itself as an unlikely live favourite among the best Jane’s Addiction songs, its hypnotic allure making it a feature of the group’s shows and also earning it a spot among Porno For Pyros’ setlists during the tour that supported their 1996 album, God’s Good Urge.

7: Then She Did… (from ‘Ritual De Lo Habitual’, 1990)

Arguably Jane’s Addiction’s most essential release, their double-platinum second album, 1990’s Ritual De Lo Habitual, went Top 20 stateside and left the band on the cusp of mass success. One of those rare occasions where artistic concerns keep pace with commercial yields, this dynamic alt-rock record featured a slew of the best Jane’s Addiction songs and simply fizzed with ambition throughout, not least on the epic, eight-minute Then She Did…

Originally written in 1987, this sprawling, genre-defying track was entirely personal for Perry Farrell, as it dealt with both his mother’s suicide and the recent accidental death by overdose of his friend and former lover Xiola Blue. Lyrically, Farrell lays himself bare here, especially on the song’s final verse, in which he urges Blue to visit his mother in heaven (“Will you say hello to my ma?/Will you pay a visit to her?/She was an artist just as you were/I’d have introduced you to her”). To their credit, his bandmates are with him all the way, deftly managing the musical shifts from mellow and plaintive to intense and squalling, and welcoming the incorporation of additional sonic textures such as strings and tumbling, Mike Garson-esque piano filigree.

6: Ocean Size (from ‘Nothing’s Shocking’, 1988)

Lyrically, Nothing’s Shocking’s Ocean Size is actually a protest song about homelessness (“They cannot move you, man/No one tries/No one pulls you out from your hole/Like a tooth aching in a jawbone”), though its title also mirrors the relentless roll of the music. Creating a truly ginormous spray of broiling, churning proto-grunge, Ocean Size rode a tidal wave of angst fed by some of Dave Navarro’s dirtiest riffing. Easily one of the best Jane’s Addiction songs, it’s the sound of the band at their most elemental and raw, and it even provoked Q magazine to compare the group with the likes of Led Zeppelin and Van Halen while noting that they steered clear of “the plagiarism that plagues the HM/hard rock genre”. A cogent observation which still rings true today.

5: Stop! (from ‘Ritual De Lo Habitual’, 1990)

Stop! made for a bold choice for Ritual De Lo Habitual’s lead single. Indeed, this heady, adventurous track rushed out of the traps, reflecting the band’s collective love of US hardcore punk before taking dextrous detours into psychedelia and hot, Sly Stone-tinged funk on its way to crossing the finish line. A showcase for a fearless band at the very top of their game (and an opportunity for a seemingly possessed Navarro to shred unreservedly), Stop! made alt-rock fans stand to attention back then, and it still startles now.

4: Mountain Song (from ‘Nothing’s Shocking’, 1988)

The first song Perry Farrell and Eric Avery wrote together, Mountain Song dates back to 1985, when Jane’s Addiction were still at their most embryonic. However, the pair instinctively knew this early track had promise, and it quickly proved its staying power. One of the best Jane’s Addiction songs of the era, Mountain Song became a regular in the band’s live set, and its initial studio recording appeared on the soundtrack to the 1987 film Dudes, directed by Penelope Spheeris of The Decline Of Western Civilization (and, later, Wayne’s World) fame. The band revisited this big, bombastic song during the Nothing’s Shocking sessions, nailing the definitive version of a cut which also makes its way into Porno For Pyros’ live sets on occasion.

3: Been Caught Stealing (from ‘Ritual De Lo Habitual’, 1990)

Jane’s Addiction may be painted as overlords of proto-grunge angst, but their music is by no means bereft of humour. Indeed, it’s almost impossible not to raise a smile when hearing their signature hit, Been Caught Stealing. This ridiculously sunny three-minute ode to the vicarious thrills of recreational kleptomania topped Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart for four weeks during the summer of 1990, and it’s not hard to hear why.

Avery’s gravity-defying bassline makes the most decisive contribution, but all the song’s elements – from Navarro’s skinny, funky guitar to the samples of barking guard dogs – are crucial additions. Besides, if the song itself doesn’t seduce you, its brilliantly daft video, featuring stocking-disguised thieves and manic dancing in supermarket aisles, most certainly will. Catchy, fun and irreverent, Been Caught Stealing isn’t just one of the best Jane’s Addiction songs, it’s a pop-rock classic with a wonderfully subversive twist.

2: Jane Says (from ‘Nothing’s Shocking’, 1988)

Another track dating back to Perry Farrell and company’s earliest days, Jane Says first appeared in much sketchier form on the band’s self-titled live album, but the group returned to it again for Nothing’s Shocking, and their perseverance resulted in one the very best Jane’s Addiction songs.

Jane Says is something of a Trojan horse in that it traces the all-too-painful life, love and drug-related struggles faced by Farrell and Avery’s friend and former flatmate, Jane Bainter. Yet the starkness of the lyrics (especially the desperate “I’m gonna kick tomorrow” kiss-off line) is offset by one of the band’s richest and most life-affirming backing tracks, with Farrell’s soaring vocal borne aloft by a mellow, easy-going groove accentuated by congas and steel drums – an unlikely juxtaposition, but one which works to perfection.

1: Three Days (from ‘Ritual De Lo Habitual’, 1990)

Jane’s Addiction’s studio catalogue only amounts to four fully fledged albums, yet the diversity and scope of their music makes it difficult to pick one single track to represent the pinnacle of the best Jane’s Addiction songs. Three Days shades it in the end, however, with this ten-minute monster even outdoing Then She Did… for grandiosity.

Three Days’ title refers to the time period Perry Farrell’s former lover Xiola Blue spent staying in LA with Farrell and his then girlfriend, Casey Niccoli, when Blue had travelled to the city to attend her father’s funeral. Farrell sings of “Three days was the morning/Three lovers, in three ways”, and he intends to be taken literally, referring to the intensive 72 hours the trio spent together experimenting with sex and drugs during what would be the final time Farrell saw Blue alive. Collectively, the band frame Farrell’s reflections on these life-changing events with a breathtaking, mood-shifting tour de force performance that carries an emotional heft comparable with another LA-born classic, The Doors’ The End.

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