Whores – An Oral Biography of Perry Farrell and Jane’s Addiction – Book Review

I picked up the book Whores because I love Jane’s Addiction and I like reading band bio type books where members of the band share their recollections of being in whatever band they were / are in.  So, I figured, this book would be my kind of thing. 

Whores - An Oral Biography of Perry Farrell and Jane's Addiction - Book Review

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The premise here with Whores is that this book represents an oral history of the band, as told by the members of Jane’s Addiction themselves, not to mention just about everyone else associated with them over the years, from members of contemporary bands of the era such as the Chili Peppers / Fishbone / Thelonious Monster, not to mention a bunch of lesser known but still legendary L.A. punk / goth bands, to former managers, promoters, relatives, girlfriends, ex-wives, and the list goes on and on.  Fittingly, the book begins with a list of the “cast of characters” that make up this story, with everyone listed in alphabetical order.  I’m glad the author did that – it gets pretty hectic as you read along, with all sorts of people weighing in on the discussion.

The book was put together in 2005 by Brendan Mullen a couple years after the band’s 2003 comeback / commercial flop of an album called Strays.  Apparently, a form of this book appeared as a really long article in Spin Magazine at one point, and somehow morphed into the full 324 page tome I have here with me.

Anyway, since I am a diehard Jane’s fan, I found Whores to be a fairly engrossing read.  It’s not really like any other book I can think of in that you’re just hearing constantly from a revolving cast of people either in or close to the band, as we proceed through time from the band’s very beginnings, to the 2000’s when Strays came out and Dave was doing reality TV with his then-wife Carmen Electra.  That’s basically where the book wraps things up, at a later point in their career after they released a less-than-glorious comeback album.  Interesting, if slightly awkward, timing.

What was cool about this book I think is that it really pulls no punches when it comes to how things really were / are with regards to the Jane’s Addiction.  For instance, it doesn’t shy away from the fact that Perry Farrell seemed to cause a lot of problems when he wanted the lion’s share of all the royalties, leaving the other three members to split like 40%.  This created huge problems and the band never really recovered from it.  The book also makes him out to be a visionary, which, to be fair, he is.  Whores also talks about how Dave Navarro was basically a spoiled brat as a kid who still managed to become an alternative rock god, with his mom getting murdered when he was 15 causing him to go to an understandably “dark place” to deal with it. Meanwhile, you have Stephen Perkins basically just being the fun-loving non-drug user who was the band’s glue, essentially, and Eric Avery being the guy who was at odds with Perry because Perry and him had some kind of alpha-male tension going on.  By the time of their first break-up, Jane’s was pretty much looking like it was done.  Of course, they were not done and the book goes through all their phases, from calling it quits, to coming back after a long hiatus.

I just found it interesting that the book basically covered not only what the band managed to accomplish in terms of kick-starting alternative music in the U.S. with things like Lollapalooza, but it also didn’t really diefy the band either.  Well, it did kind of, like I said, paint this picture of Perry as a petulant manchild, but, concurrently, it showed how he was responsible for some truly memorable music but some huge shifts in the musical landscape over the years.  That said, the people in the Jane’s Addiction are clearly just people, and so they have their flaws, and the book makes that much apparent.  In other words, what you get from this book is not an author who is trying to make the band come off a certain way, but you get all of these quotes from everyone who was there, and it just adds up to a fairly compelling look at the birth of the alternative music scene through the eyes of Jane’s Addiction. 

In conclusion, after finding out way more than I probably ever wanted to know about these guys, I still finished the book feeling glad I went back through their history to dig through the dirt.  If you’re a fan of the band, I think you’ll enjoy this book a lot.  If you don’t know much about the band, I doubt you will know what the hell is going on or care.  9 STD’s out of 10 from me on this one!

Recap:

So, who will enjoy this book?

  • Fans of Jane’s Addiction
  • Fans of Jane’s-related bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Porno for Pyros, and Thelonious Monster
  • Fans of underground LA bands in the early ’80’s
  • Fans of goth culture
  • Fans of music history
  • Fans of alternative music history
  • Fans of 90’s music
  • Fans of the Seattle scene

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