Whores: An Oral Biography of Perry Farrell and Jane’s Addiction – Brendan Mullen

Having read Eimear McBride’s book and been emotionally wrung out, inspired and challenged, I decided my next read would have to be a bit more light-hearted and fun and Whores: An Oral Biography of Perry Farrell and Jane’s Addiction fit the bill perfectly.

The book had its genesis in a 2003 article in Spin magazine; Mullen was asked to interview people for an oral history of the band just after JA reunited. Being a massive Jane’s fan, I loved the in-depth article and thought that a biography in the same vein would be brilliant. Apparently I wasn’t the only one as Mullen was approached to enlarge the original article into this book. Unfortunately the band members chose not to do any further interviews so there’s no new material from them, but their history is filled out with extensive interviews with others.

For those unfamiliar with the band, Jane’s Addiction are widely considered to be a seminal alt-rock American band whose reputation was built on an initial output of just two albums: Nothing’s Shocking (1988) and Ritual de lo habitual (1990). The band built their following in the mid-80s in Los Angeles, playing shows at underground venues including the Lingerie Club where they met author Brendan Mullen. Jane’s became legendary for their rock and roll excess, however they were an art influenced band and so their antics were more left-field than many of their contemporaries. Can you see the members of Motley Crue getting naked and French kissing each other on stage? Or designing a sculpture based on a body-cast of their girlfriends for their album covers?

Jane’s were a decadent and debaucherous band, and ruinous heroin use was one of the reasons they fell apart, but before that happened they did manage to create some magic tunes, most famously “Jane Says”; a song about their flatmate Jane Bainter (also the inspiration for their name) who was a heroin addict and always promised “to quit tomorrow”. Bainter was interviewed for the book, along with the band’s friends, peers, family members, ex-girlfriends, and many people from the LA music scene in the 80s and 90s.

Whores is certainly comprehensive and gives a real sense of the atmosphere in the rock scene at the time and the excitement and chaos around the band. It’s a shame that the band didn’t contribute further as obviously their own take on their history is what the reader is most interested in, but this is still a great biography and one any music fan will enjoy.

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