The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #221: Jane Says by Jane’s Addiction (KEXP)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #221: Jane Says by Jane’s Addiction.

In the pantheon of Alternative Music hit songs, “Jane Says” by “Jane’s Addiction” consistently ranks near the top as far as being influential, ground-breaking and beloved. It was the featured single on the band’s late 1980s debut album, “Nothing’s Shocking”. The song features bongos, steel drums, wispy guitar strumming and the scat-style singing of one of the most dynamic music personalities in the Alternative music scene, Perry Farrell. The song, “Jane Says” is one of the most autobiographical songs in this countdown list. The story of the song turns out to be, in part, the story of the band, as well. Let’s explore, shall we?

In the late 1980s, Perry Farrell formed a band with guitarist, Dave Navarro, Eric Avery on bass and Stephen Perkins on drums. In the video I will play at the end of this post, Flea, from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, also joins the band to play bass. When the band was just starting out and had not achieved any measure of fame nor fortune, Farrell rented a house in Los Angeles with a dozen other people. The band was formed while Farrell lived in this house. Many of the initial songs that were written and rehearsals that were held, all happened in this crowded house, too. One of the other residents of this house was a young girl named Jane Bainter. She is the “Jane” about whom the song, “Jane Says” is written. In real life, Jane Bainter was a young girl who presented as “Bohemian Aristocracy”, as Farrell described her. She had an alluring air about her and her presence in the house often helped to set the tone for the entire building. While living there, Jane Bainter developed an addiction to heroin and, as a result, became prone to unpredictable behaviour. It got to be a bit of an inside joke to blame anything unusual or wrong that happened at the house as being the result of “Jane’s addiction”. It became such a common phrase that when it came time to name their new band, all members agreed that “Jane’s Addicition” was a natural choice.

The song, “Jane Says” was written by Farrell as a tribute to Bainter, who was often referred to with terms such as “muse”. The lyrics leave nothing to the imagination as to how Jane Bainter was living her life at that period of time. “Jane Says” talks about her abusive relationship with a man named Sergio (true), her addiction to heroin (true), the tendency she possessed to wear wigs to counter-balance the effect of drugs on her appearance (true), her dream of saving money to, one day, travel to Spain (true) and much, much more. In a recent interview about the song, a clean, sober and much more grounded Bainter admitted that “Jane Says” accurately portrayed who she was at that time in her life. In an interview of his own, Farrell admitted that he found a young Jane Bainter to have been a more interesting and colourful and lovely person than he could have ever created as a character on his own. He remains forever grateful to Bainter for allowing him to record her life story in song.

The band, Jane’s Addiction released only four studio albums but, they arrived on the music scene just as Alternative Music was becoming a big thing within the industry. Their presence was impactful. They enjoyed several other major hits such as “Mountain Song”, “Been Caught Stealing”, “Stop!” and “Just Because”, which all reached #1 on the Alternative Charts. When the band decided to break up for the first time, their farewell tour turned out to be a tour that became the very first Lollapalooza Tour which, as you may know, has become a regular summertime thing ever since. The band has reunited and broken up several more times since that first farewell tour in the early 1990s. But, they will be forever remembered and respected for the strength of their first albums and, in particular, for a song about a “bohemian aristocrat” with a heroin addiction named “Jane”.

So, without further delay, here is Jane’s Addiction with their biggest hit, “Jane Says”. I wish to add that, musically-speaking, for my money, “Jane Says” is one of the coolest sounding songs out there. I love the steel drum effect, as well as, the way the lyrics are structured. Very original work. Enjoy.

PS: This video has a three-minute introduction that shows the guys in the band moving through the crowd, trying to get to the raised stage in the centre. If that tickles your fancy then watch the whole video. If not then, feel free to fast forward to the 3:00 mark.

The link to the video for the song, “Jane Says”, by Jane’s Addiction, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Jane’s Addiction, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

Author: Tom MacInnes

Among the many characters I play: husband, father, son, retired elementary school teacher, writer, Cape Bretoner, lover of hot tea and, above all else, a gentleman. I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Life, I have chosen to be kind.

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