How Jane’s Addiction’s Nothing’s Shocking Almost Did Not Get Recorded

BY: CAM MAXWELL
One of the most significant albums of the 1980s, Jane’s Addiction’s seminal Nothing’s Shocking, almost didn’t get recorded.

While the album turned out to be so influential to alternative music and the beginnings of grunge, the band that went into LA’s Eldorado Studio to record it nearly broke up during production.

That’s because frontman and band co-founder Perry Farrell demanded 50% percent of the album’s royalties for writing the lyrics, as well as another 25% of the remaining 50%, giving him 62.5% of all the records publishing royalties.

Naturally the rest of Jane’s Addiction, bassist Eric Avery (also a co-founder), drummer Stephen Perkins and guitarist Dave Navarro were understandably miffed and shocked, given most of the tracks had been written in collaboration by the band.

Farrell, however, refused to budge on his demands.

So, one day producer Dave Jerden was heading up to the studio only to find Farrell, Perkins and Navarro leaving. They told him the band had broken up and there wouldn’t be a record.

With plenty invested in the band after signing them (and handing the band a rumoured $250,000) advance, Jane’s Addiction’s record label, Warner Bros. (which won a bidding war for the band), was having nothing to do with a breakup and set up an emergency meeting to get the problem resolved.

But the solution turned out to be Farrell getting his demands, while the trio of remaining members got 12.5%, which, according to Avery, created a major internal division and had a profoundly negative effect on the band as a whole.

Things came to a head when Avery and Farrell had a serious falling out over a Farrell believing Avery had to tried to pick up his girlfriend at the time, Casey Niccoli.

Nothing’s Shocking Bridged Heavy Metal and Alternative

Fortunately for music fans, the band kept it together and released Nothing’s Shocking on August 23, 1988.

It’s one of those one-in-a-lifetime records that bridges major musical genres. For fans quickly tiring of the same cock-rock drivel coming out of Los Angeles, Jane’s Addiction brought a more underground feel to their music with songs that bridged the alternative/punk scene with metal, sprinkling a little Pink Floyd influence into the equation.

The album’s first two tracks “Up the Beach” and “Ocean Size” are two prime microcosms of this. You’ve got heavy guitar and bass with plenty distortion blending with spacey vocals accompanied by lots and lots of delay on “Up the Beach”, then “Ocean Size” begins with a soft Pink-Floyd like intro, followed by heavy, bombastic thunder as the song kicks in as if a huge wave was crashing onto the beach.

The album is a sonic tour de force that was so different from anything being heard in 1988.

And it’s all thanks to Warner Bros. – selfishly of course – for intervening to keep the band from imploding.

For more epic music stories like this, check out Cam’s blog, Rock and Roll Insight, here.

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