i remember being a freshman in high school when i first came across PRIVATE PARTS: THE ALBUM (WARNER BROS, 1997), which was the soundtrack to the film adaptation of HOWARD STERN's book of the same name about the relationship between his personal life and career as a TRANSGRESSIVE radio personality. i cant recall if i had seen the film at that point. what i do know is that by high school i was completely obsessed with ALTERNATIVE ROCK icons JANE'S ADDICTION and the lead single "HARD CHARGER" from the soundtrack was the PERRY FARRELL-led PORNO FOR PYROS with a guest solo by DAVE NAVARRO. for me that was worth the price of admission.
as an album itself PARTS: THE ALBUM comes off a bit REDUNDANT in spots and only makes sense for its connection to the film, since "I WANT YOU TO WANT ME" by CHEAP TRICK, "CAT SCRATCH FEVER" by TED NUGENT, "PINHEAD" BY THE RAMONES, "SMOKE ON THE WATER" by DEEP PURPLE, "JAMIE'S CRYING" by VAN HALEN, "YOU SHOOK ME ALL NIGHT LONG" by AC/DC were all staples of CLASSIC ROCK and ALTERNATIVE ROCK stations at the time. this makes some contextual sense since STERN is famously associated with national terrestrial radio stations (such as the former 660 AM WABC and 92.3 FM K-ROCK stations) that no doubt played played these songs. that said, those songs are staples of their genre and nothing exciting. the new tracks were what made that record interesting at the time, specifically OZZY OSBOURNE's collaboration with TYPE O NEGATIVE on a STATUS QUO cover "PICTURES OF MATCHSTICK MEN," GREEN DAY's cover of THE KINKS' "TIRED OF WAITING FOR YOU," MARILYN MANSON's "THE SUCK FOR YOUR SOLUTION" and ROB ZOMBIE's "THE GREAT AMERICAN NIGHTMARE". many of these recording artists (ROB ZOMBIE, TYPE O NEGATIVE, MARILYN MANSON, OZZY OSBOURNE) had CONTROVERSIAL career trajectories that found them at the center of debates regarding free speech, so their involvement makes absolute perfect sense thematically. as a broadcaster, STERN is noteworthy for his ability to stretch out what was acceptable on public air and in the national discussion, whether that be political, cultural, racial, intergenerational or sexual topics.
again, for me the standout track of this film cash-in is the PORNO FOR PYROS track, but overall its an interesting repackaging of AOR format favorites from the 1970s and 1980s as well as more relevant efforts by then-contemporary bands pushing the cultural envelope much like STERN did pre-satellite radio.
in the wake of the breakup of JANE'S ADDICTION, frontman PERRY FARRELL and drummer STEPHEN PERKINS both collaborated with guitarist PETER DISTEFANO and bassist MARTYN LENOBLE (who was later replaced on the next album by MINUTEMEN/FIREHOSE veteran MIKE WATT) on a project called PORNO FOR PYROS. like most of the splinter groups related to JANE'S ADDICTION, their is a sense of both continuation and departure with the former group. whereas guitarist DAVE NAVARRO (of JANE'S ADDICTION) had a majestic sense of textured dynamics and guitar heroics that was equal parts JIMMY PAGE as it was DANIEL ASH and ROBERT SMITH, in DISTEFANO there is a decidedly more traditional approach with LATIN influences and even FLAMENCO stylings thrown in the mix. i can only imagine how daunting it must have felt to essentially be replacing ALTERNATIVE ROCK royalty, but DISTEFANO more than held is grown, especially on the subsequent GOOD GOD's URGE (WARNER BROS, 1996) follow-up release.
lyrically on their debut PORNO FOR PYROS (WARNER BROS, 1993) recording FARRELL ditches the pseudo-CATHOLIC hagiography of SEXUAL DESIRE predilections of his former group and paints a decidedly direct picture of early 1990s LOS ANGELES, complete with EMPATHETIC profiles on prostitutes ("CURSED FEMALE") and those that solicit their services ("CURSED MALE"), gang violence ("MEIJA") and even the LOS ANGELES RIOTS ("PORNO FOR PYROS"). the band's moniker is a reference to such widespread PANIC, VIOLENCE and ARSON in the wake of the RODNEY KING verdict. what makes the records fun is the EXPERIMENTAL yet chill and free-flowing nature of the music, no doubt indebted to DISTEFANO's layered guitar textures and PERKINS mantra-inducing grooves, as well as the IDIOSYNCRATIC obsessions of FARRELL. these include thoughts about the waves of emotion that induce depression ("SADNESS"), or what it would be like to be subjugated by extraterrestrials as playthings ("PETS"), or date someone from another culture ("BLACK GIRLFRIEND") or even the finer points of inducing the female climax ("ORGASM"). despite himself these self-referential narratives are quite profound and would be sleazy in lesser hands.
with FARRELL its all a celebration of life, the good and the bad. and in a way that celebration is a reflection of his deep affinity for LOS ANGELES and all its contradictions. fascinating record by a group that was just getting started. highly recommended.
i remember the moment i first heard PORNO FOR PYROS in middle school in NIGERIA at (oddly enough) my own surprise birthday party a NORWEGIAN female classmate threw at her parents' apartment. another classmate that was DANISH had brought GOOD GOD's URGE (WARNER BROS, 1996) on CD and i was blown away by the vocals on "TAHITIAN MOON." just utterly gobsmacked by how pure and angelic that voice sounded to the point that it almost defied gender. or even being human i had no idea that this was PERRY FARRELL, the same singer i heard in LOS ANGELES on the radio from his previous band JANE'S ADDICTION. i had utterly no clue about who FARRELL was or either PORNO FOR PYROS or JANE'S ADDICTION, i just knew that this was something unequivocally different than what i was used to.
and i've been going down the rabbit whole ever since.
GOOD GOD's URGE was the second record by PORNO FOR PYROS, who themselves are arguably the most prominent splinter group of JANE'S ADDICTION, made up of frontman PERRY FARRELL and STEPHEN PERKINS. the outfit was rounded out by the classically-trained guitarist PETER DISTEFANO. the other two members of JANE'S ADDICTION, bassist ERIC AVERY and guitarist DAVE NAVARRO, formed the short-lived ART ROCK project DECONSTRUCTION before moving on to other projects. lyrically GOOD GOD's URGE covers themes related to love, rebirth and renewal and was written largely on surf trips to POLYNESIA. the record features MIKE WATT on bass and special guests DANIEL ASH, DAVID J and KEVIN HASKINS (a.k.a. LOVE AND ROCKETS) as well as NAVARRO and FLEA on selected tracks. standout songs include the aforementioned "TAHITIAN MOON" as well as "PORPOISE HEAD," "KIMBERLY AUSTIN," "100 WAYS," "WISHING WELL" and "BALI EYES." the general vibe is relaxed with lots of tasteful ambient electronic production layered over acoustic tracks that young could totally imagine being sung at a campfire after a day of surfing in TAHITI or BALI. its a real departure in texture and mood from its predecessor which seemed about more about the claustrophobia, excess and cycles of exploitation that come with living and working in LOS ANGELES. GOOD GOD's URGE finds FARRELL in a more reflective, spritual headspace which is something he explored more in his later solo recordings and other groups like SATELLITE PARTY and KIND HEAVEN ORCHESTRA.
i remember hearing a rumor years ago that after his survival from cancer that there was a chance of PORNO FOR PYROS regrouping with DISTEFANO. that they even recorded material. my hope is that their reemergence will happen at some point. the band was totally underrated and are absolutely as seminal an ALTERNATIVE ROCK band as JANE'S ADDICTION.
its difficult to verbalize how mind-altering and identity-shifting this JANE'S ADDICTION record was for me when i first heard it as a MIDDLE SCHOOL student living in NIGERIA. NOTHING'S SHOCKING (WARNER BROS, 1988) is an absolutely classic record by a seminal band. in my heart the only bands that match them are DEVO and THE SMITHS: that is my holy trinity.
often credited along with FISHBONE and FAITH NO MORE (among many others) with trailblazing in the late 1980s what would become the 1990s ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene, JANE'S ADDICTION had an eclectic sound that ranged from GOTH ROCK and POST-PUNK to HARDCORE and even THRASH METAL. for me the music begins and stops with the mantra-like, hypnotic, circular and criminally underrated bass grooves of ERIC AVERY. these grooves on tracks like "SUMMERTIME ROLLS," "MOUNTAIN SONG," and "UP THE BEACH" are eerily reminiscent of AFROBEAT to me, which is the context i first heard them in, and provide the foundation for the rest of the band.
JANE'S ADDICTION is an example of a band where all the sum of all the parts is much greater than each individual member. in fact, there have been so many side and splinter groups (PORNO FOR PYROS, POLAR BEAR, SATELLITE PARTY, DECONSTRUCTION, THE PANIC CHANNEL, BANYAN and countless solo projects) of varying combinations of members that it really makes listening to NOTHING'S SHOCKING and its follow up RITUAL DE LO HABITUAL (WARNER BROS, 1990) that much more intriguing. there really is an alchemical reaction going on there that hasnt been touched since.
what drew me initially was the voice of the shamanistic PERRY FARRELL, who i thought sounded like an alien. i literally couldn't place in my mind when first fearing "UP THE BEACH" whether it was a woman or man singing. his voice was beyond gender and seemingly sonically beyond space and time or any other human construct. i think lyrically there is a distinctly romantic worldview and sense of childlike amorality throughout his lyrics. in songs like "JANE SAYS" and "SUMMERTIME ROLLS" there is a sense of escapism through romantic love and being in the moment. that this deeper bond is what sets us free and makes us human. HENRY ROLLINS once made a prescient point about the band when he stated that "they pointed it out without pointing to it," which i implicitly agree with. lyrically NOTHING'S SHOCKING covers a lot of ground from the manipulating potential of mass media ("TED JUST ADMIT IT...") to the quiet banalities of daily life ("STANDING IN THE SHOWER...THINKING"). it all adds up to an emotional and intellectual range that is rarely witnissed historically in rock music of any age.
while i contend that the bass grooves of AVERY and the lyricism, mystique and vocal idiosyncrasies of FARRELL are the two main ingredients for this band, i would be remiss to not mention the stellar rhythm section of DAVE NAVARRO and STEPHEN PERKINS. i should start by saying that i am biased in this regard since NAVARRO along with JOHNNY MARR are my two favorite guitarists ever. NAVARRO is both an acolyte of the songwriting and lyrical guitar playing of 70s classic rock musicians like JIMMY PAGE and DAVID GILMOUR, as well as deeply indebted to the sonic experimentation of 80s POST PUNK musicians like ROBERT SMITH and DANIEL ASH among others. with this knowledge it is deeply interesting to see the interplay of those influences throughout his career, which finds him using everything from e-bows, delay effects and even dildos to create a lush sonic landscapes while also creating crushing riffs that any self respecting CLASSIC ROCK musician would enjoy. in essence, when i think of the sound of ALTERNATIVE ROCK, i think of that interplay within the guitar work of NAVARRO.
i think the drumming of PERKINS is criminally underrated but vastly essential the the group's success on NOTHING'S SHOCKING. from his signature use of steel drums on "JANE SAYS" to his pounding, kinetic METAL inspired pummeling on "MOUNTAIN SONG" "PIGS IN ZEN" and "OCEAN SIZE," there is a range at play that makes everything appear cohesive and ultimately authentic, no matter the genre being utilized at any moment. tribal drumming is now considered a cliche that has been adopted (and abused) by the METAL scene, but i would also credit PERKINS and his love of AFRICAN polyrhtms for help create such intoxicating, mantra-like textures in songs like "UP THE BEACH" and "SUMMERTIME ROLLS" and basically the second side of RITUAL DE LO HABITUAL.
easily one of my all-time favorite records that i clearly know i am not doing justice. suffice to say it is worth checking out as it is one of the most transcendently great rock albums of all-time.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
i think people are aware enough of the innovative and controversial shenanigans that have taken place on the HOWARD STERN SHOW over the years. it is pretty amazing that he is being finally recognized in his late career for his singular interviewing skills, i'd even argue that his shows now are among the best of his career. just wish he'd stay off those lame network talent shows.
regardless i think often overlooked as well are the number of amazing music performances that have taken place on his radio show, mostly of the ALTERNATIVE ROCK, METAL and CLASSIC ROCK variety including the likes of CHRIS CORNELL, JOHN FOGERTY (CREEDANCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL), FIONA APPLE, DAVE GROHL (NIRVANA/FOO FIGHTERS), BILLY CORGAN (THE SMASHING PUMPKINS), ROB ZOMBIE (WHITE ZOMBIE), DAVID BOWIE, PERRY FARRELL (PORNO FOR PYROS / JANE'S ADDICTION)
definitely check some of these out and see what i mean.
SPOTLIGHT | GUITAR CENTER SESSIONS
photo by nacrowe
with the impending second bankruptcy of GUITAR CENTER likely to be finalized at the close of this month, it seemed as good a time as ever to look back at the live performance series GUITAR CENTER SESSIONS that they co-produced with DIRECT TV that took advantage of their iconic flagship HOLLYWOOD location.
it feels like the end of an era with their impending doom, but sadly they never took advantage of the internet and basically ceded that ground to competitors like SWEETWATER. it is mind-bogging that COVID knocked them out give that this lockdown period we've been living through has sold more guitars and instruments then any other period in history. just think about that.
oh well, at least we have these performances until they inevitably get taken down.