Ask alt-rock fans which album they think of first when they think of Jane’s Addiction, and the majority are likely to say 1990’s Ritual de lo Habitual. However, the one most beloved by Jane hardliners is 1988’s Nothing’s Shocking, thanks to the fact that the California quartet’s first studio album was way ahead of its time, very groundbreaking and, in many ways, completely freakin’ unhinged.
In preparation for the band performing this landmark record in full at London’s Brixton Academy on August 20th, here are ten fun facts about Nothing’s Shocking that you may not know.
As with many classic albums, the band fucking hated each other while they were making it. The main culprit was frontman Perry Farrell and his demands for over 60% of Jane’s publishing royalties, leaving his bandmates with only 12.5% each. As a result, the foursome almost broke up before the album was even recorded. In the end, after some intervention from management, Farrell got what he wanted.
When it was released, nine out of the 11 large American record retailers refused to stock Nothing’s Shocking because, apparently, a sculpture of conjoined naked lady twins with their heads on fire actually was quite shocking at the time (so quaint, 1980s!) To get around the issue with the band’s vision unchanged, the album was originally sold inside a brown paper bag.
Sadly, there was no way to keep the video for second single, Mountain Song, intact, thanks to the fact that it featured Perry Farrell and his then-girlfriend, Casey Niccoli, in states of full frontal nudity. MTV banned it in its original form (because of course they did), but Farrell remained unrepentant, telling Rolling Stone at the time “I’m not working for MTV.”
Warner Bros. won a serious major-label bidding war for Jane’s Addiction, by allowing the band total and complete creative freedom. “Do you wanna hear about the bidding wars?” Farrell asked an interviewer from BAM Magazine in 1988. “We had ‘em all kissing our feet.” The Warner contract was for seven albums – in the end, they only got two.
Rumours suggest that while Perry Farrell had issues with all of his bandmates during the recording of Nothing’s Shocking, extra tensions bubbled up in L.A.’s Eldorado Studios, because he didn’t approve of bassist Eric Avery’s decision to embrace sobriety.
Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist, Flea, performs on Idiot’s Rule, in the horn section (of all places), alongside Angelo Moore and Christopher Dowd of Fishbone. Flea reunited with Jane’s Addiction in 1997 for the band’s Relapse tour.
Fifth track, Ted, Just Admit It…, features samples of interviews with infamous serial killer, Ted Bundy. Farrell wrote it while tripping on acid and watching a documentary about murderers.
Despite all of the tensions and all of the artiness involved, Farrell did have a sense of humour about the band’s image sometimes. Shortly after Nothing’s Shocking was released, he told Reflex Magazine: “I just really want to see big hairy dudes trying to dress like me… That’s really what – if you want to know, if you want to get to the bottom of all this and tell the public what it is we’re trying to do – we’re trying to get some big hairy dudes in girdles.”
The process of recording Nothing’s Shocking escalated drug use for Farrell and guitarist Dave Navarro, to such a degree that at a show in New York two months after the album was released, Farrell smashed up Navarro’s guitar and tried to feed it to the audience. It was Dave Navarro’s only guitar at the time.
Nothing’s Shocking isn’t actually Perry Farrell’s favourite Jane’s Addiction album – he’s stated in multiple different interviews that he feels the songs on Ritual de lo Habitual are stronger.
Jane’s Addiction are featured in Classic Rock 201, available as digital or print editions from MyFavouriteMagazines (opens in new tab).