Now thirty years and several significant cultural movements later, it’s difficult to get a sense of how much excitement and promise there was surrounding Jane’s Addiction at the height of the band’s fame. Simply said, the band represented a way to transition from the staid, well-established values and forms evident in classic rock to the far most untested and new paradigm exemplified in alternative rock in the Nineties. 1990’s Ritual de lo Habitual was the band’s third album and proved to be their great swan song [ignoring the albums which would come after competent professionalism caused the band to reform over a decade later –ed] and climax. Prior to the album’s release, Jane’s Addiction had made great inroads into the pop cultural spectrum, but the band was still in need of a single which could break them into every home in America. That single would be “Been Caught Stealing” – but it was not the first single which was released from Ritual de lo Habitual (we’ll get to that). The first single released from Ritual was actually a 12” double single, “Stop” backed with “Three Days.”
“Stop” b/w “Three Days” (12” double single)
(Warner Brothers Records, 1990)
On the surface, the 12” incarnation of the “Stop” b/w ”Three Days” single feels a little awkwardly paced (“Three Days” is a ten-minute epic in the tradition of “Stairway To Heaven,” while “Stop” is a great alt-rock single which really plays up Jane’s Addiction’s counter culturally-identified place in pop at the time), but listening to the single reveals how perfectly engaging it is. On the A-side, “Stop” opens the running with a Spanish soliloquy (the translation of which features some genuinely ominous sentiments – “Ladies and gentlemen, we have more influence over your children than you do – but we love them. Bred and spread from Los Angeles, Jane’s Addiction”) before slamming hard into a frenetic blues rock riff and then, finally, into the song’s first verse. As one reads that description, it would be easy to assume that the way “Stop” plays could easily come off as tiresome but, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth; listeners will find they have a desire to try and surf on the crest of “Stop” and ride both the chop and the peaks in the song, and they’ll feel as though they may be swept away completely by the build before the whole thing threatens to fly to pieces at the climax with the words, “Gimme that/Gimme that your automobile/ Turn off that smokestack/ And that goddamn radio/ Hum along with me/ Hum along with the TV/ Oh oh oh” and then punctuating the conclusion of the song with one more explosion.
Unlike how “Stop” opens Ritual de lo Habitual and then falls into the sort of stilted-but-equally-animated funk of “No On Is Leaving,” “I Would For You” completely shifts the dynamics in the movement of the A-side of the single to something more clearly intimate. Here, the droning synths which power the song coupled with Eric Avery’s nearly subliminal bass tone chase away any other sound which might distract from Perry Farrell’s vocals and leave them at centre stage, alone to shine. The proof is in the lyrics; no matter how many times one hears lines like, “I’m everybody’s slave/ I made you my slave/ You said/ This I do for you/ If I could help/ To give the world back/ What it gave/ Then I would/ I would for you,” the power of the performance will make knees weak with its beauty and its candor. There is no dramatic shift in the song’s running to give it a little more energy or infuse the song with greater movement, either; “I Would For You” rides its own uncolored, unadorned and unapologetic heart for all three minutes and forty-six seconds of its play and then it ends and the needle lifts. It is then that listeners will have to remember to blink – it’s then that they’ll realize they were completely hypnotized by the song. It is a pretty powerful moment – particularly given that the only other places “I Would For You” appears is on Jane’s Addiction’s Cabinet of Curiosities CD box set and the odds and ends comp Live and Rare, which are also not terribly easy to find.
Perhaps because “I Would For You” closes the A-side of this single so gently, the transition to the beginning of “Three Days” on the B-side is so smooth. Because of that quiet A-side end, for example, the spoken word passage offered by Perry Farrell which opens “Three Days” feels so tranquil; the meter that Farrell uses to deliver, “At this moment, you should be with us/ Feeling like we do – like we love to/ And never will again./ I miss you my dear Xiola” feels simultaneously haunting and infectious – and when Eric Avery’s bass follows with a solemn but hook-encrusted and ornate figure, listeners will already be in for the long haul.
…And what a trip it is. Through the first three minutes of the song, Jane’s Addiction presents a soundscape which is simultaneously romantic, nostalgic and haunting as Farrell artfully tells the story of a nigh he spent with his girlfriend and a prostitute who was once their friend – now deceased. The picture is fantastic; artful (“My head it landed – to the sound of cricket bows”), romantic (“shadows of the morning light, shadows of the evening sun – ’til the shadows and the lights were one”) and erotic (“I am a proud man anyway – covered now by three days”) and assembled so seamlessly that listeners will rush to decode it. When the rhythm changes and the first movement shifts (at around the three-minute mark, when Steven Perkins’ drums become more tribal in tone) listeners will be rushing to try to keep up. The rhythm is unrelenting though, and listeners will be utterly swept up by the sounds produced by Avery, Perkins and Navarro.
After the three-minute mark, “Three Days” begins moving faster and allows listeners to get sucked evermore deeply into the song until finally – at around six minutes and forty-five seconds in, the stomping beat which has materialized in the mix becomes ceaseless and, by the 8:10 mark, the song breaks for a figurative breath before exploding with spectacular climax at 9:25 – where Navarro, Avery and Perkins are turned off their collective leash. The sound is just about the most orgasmic thing committed to tape during the alt-rock Nineties; to this day, running front-to-back with “Three Days” is a spectacle that has yet to be matched and the recession of the sound at the end of the song feels serene.
…And, when “Three Days” ends and the needle lifts from this single, some listeners may actually be able to feel the pupils in their eyes begin to contract as the sensation of the listening experience begins to fade and things feel as though they’re beginning to return to normal. The listening experience can have such a physical response and that, by extension, is an excellent indicator of the power in the song. Further, it’s a great illustration of the power of this single as a whole. There’s no question that the “Stop” b/w “Three Days” 12” single is unique, in context, but there’s no question that it’s fantastic, as well.
“Been Caught Stealing” (12” single)
(Warner Brothers Records, 1990)
When it comes to the singles which were released from Jane’s Addiction’s Ritual de lo Habitual, there’s no question that there was some preferential treatment about the content and presentation that each single from the album received. Looking at each objectively, the “Stop” b/w ”Three Days” single (which came first) favored some economy in that it paired the songs on a 12” single, and threw in the much softer/lesser “I Would For You,” almost as an after-thought or concession in the name of filler. By the time the “Classic Girl” single (which was the third from the album) was released, the wheels were already coming dangerously close to falling off the band [the “Classic Girl” single was released in July, 1991 and the band would break up before the end of the same year –ed] and the single really showed it; pressed as a picture disc which featured the RdlH album cover and not original artwork with two live songs for B-sides, it just felt like a “because we need to” release.
Keeping how the “Stop”/”Three Days” and ”Classic Girl” singles were presented in mind, it suddenly becomes obvious how favored “Been Caught Stealing” was, when one looks at the packaging and music collected for the 12” single. The package includes three prints (one of which is a collection of band member photos, one is the cover of Nothing’s Shocking and the last of three is the cover of Ritual de lo Habitual) and then the single itself features two versions of “Been Caught Stealing” on the A-side, with Jane’s Addiction’s “L.A. Medley” and a demo version of “Had A Dad” on the B-.
Now, I like to think that I’m pretty familiar with “Been Caught Stealing” as a song, but what I learned listening to the A-side of this single is that the pitches in the two versions of “Been Caught Stealing” found here are slightly different. The studio version of the song (which also appears on Ritual de lo Habitual) opens the A-side and offers instant gratification to fans from beginning to end. Between the danceable ninth and seventh chords with which the song is built, Perry Farrell concocts the cutest and most perfectly engaging ode to shoplifting ever committed to tape – and those who hear it will be hooked so hard that they may need to actively battle back the urge to spontaneously begin humming it, without it actually playing. In that way, it is very much a classic song – just as Carl Stalling’s compositions for Looney Tunes cartoons were; “Been Caught Stealing” is instantly recognizable and delightful.
With the above in mind, hearing the album cut of “Been Caught Stealing” preceding the 12” remix version of the song (which I first heard on the Live and Rare compilation – I didn’t know the remix was originally done for this single) feels simultaneously electrifying and extravagant. After an electro-beat opens the cut, a tightly wound acoustic guitar echoes “Tequila” by The Champs before hitting the signature riff for “Been Caught Stealing” and then deconstructing it to reset the song’s momentum. Reading that here may cause confusion for the uninitiated regarding how good the remix could possibly be but, when it finds its rhythm, the remix nails its mark and outshines the album cut – within the context of this single.
After both versions of “Been Caught Stealing” play through, the excitement of both versions combined proves to set an incredibly high bar for the single’s B-side to clear, and it does – although not exactly with the ease that one might hope for. The B-side of the “Been Caught Stealing” 12” opens with a demo version of “Had A Dad” which was recorded at Radio Tokyo in 1986 and stands out as being the oldest cut on the single (and sounds like it). While certainly not a band rarity, the tone of Perry Farrell’s vocals renders the song far more raw – which detracts from the glossy grandeur of the song’s finished counterpart on Nothing’s Shocking. Really, the presentation offered here is okay (and sort of sets a precedent for the “demos” and “bootleg demos” spirit that would dominate alt-rock vinyl singles through the Nineties), but feels like an odd addition to the single in this context [although it makes sense on the Live and Rare CD comp –ed], if not an unwelcome one.
While the side opens awkwardly with “Had A Dad,” the whole thing gets right when the second cut on the side, “L.A. Medley,” lines up to close out the single and really knocks it out of the park. For those who are unfamiliar, “L.A. Medley” is exactly what its’ title suggests; Jane’s Addiction collected three songs which could only have come from the creative soil of Los Angeles – “L.A. Woman” by The Doors, “Lexicon Devil” by The Germs and “Nausea” by X – and assembled them seamlessly into a single focused unit. The results are superb and the way that the songs have been re-contextualized for this performance is beyond compare; guitarist Dave Navarro completely re-formats Ray Manzarek’s keyboards as well as Robby Krieger’s guitar and presents them as a part which glows white hot while Eric Avery gives the mix momentum with his bass and Steven Perkins’ drums provide all the thrust that “L.A. Woman” requires. In this case, Perry Farrell’s vocals are alright, but they really only provide an impression or a placeholder for Jim Morrison’s lyrics. The performance keeps a consistently potent power about it which grafts the best punk and alternative rock energy onto what is an undeniably classic rock song and, for about one minute and fifty seconds, puts a wildfire under The Doors that is absolutely incredible – and so good that, as it segues into “Lexicon Devil,” it’s unlikely that listeners will notice how much of “L.A. Woman” is missing.
“L.A. Woman” segues into “Lexicon Devil” with surprising ease for about a minute and then grinds hard into X’s “Nausea,” which somehow manages to sound even more ominous than “Lexicon Devil” did. Here, Farrell manages to sound even more delicate and inherently doomed on the mic than Exene Cervenka did when she moaned, “Today I’m gonna be sick, so sick/ And I’ll bang my forehead on the sink/ Pray oh Christ, Jesus Christ/ My head is gonna break, like a bank!
“Nausea/ I’m nauseous.”
…And with those last words, “L.A. Medley” begins to trail off absently, until the needle lifts from the record. There’s an almost offhanded fade to how the track ends and, after the needle lifts, there’s a serenity about the moment which almost feels improbable; the single rattles through three of the best songs in Jane’s Addiction’s catalogue plus the only great remix they’ve got and then just leaves listeners to pick up the pieces of their shattered senses. The music included here ensures that those who hear it will go in search of more music – and that has been true now for over thirty years. [Bill Adams]
Jane’s Addiction – Ritual de lo Habitual – [Vinyl Review]
Jane’s Addiction – Gift – [Film]