Book Review: Whores An Oral History of Perry Farrell and Jane’s Addiction

I had this great plan to read through all the classic literature I have sitting around in my to-read pile. I got through Gulliver’s Travels, lost The House of Seven Gables and next up was Great Expectations. Since I didn’t really want to jump into that I went and read Sonic Boom because I figured it was non-fiction and didn’t count. I still didn’t feel like reading Great Expectations, so I’m pretty much giving that up for now (though the pile will remain sitting next to my bed in chronological order) and decided to read ores An Oral History of Perry Farrell and Jane’s Addiction by Brendan Mullen.

I’m not a huge Jane’s Addiction fan. The only real reason I picked this book up is because I absolutely loved Live From New York An Uncensored History Of Saturday Night Live by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller, which was the first oral history book I’ve ever read, I like books about music and it was $0.98, as you can see in the above scan. An oral history is a biography of someone or something that basically pieces together interviews with tons of people to tell a larger story. Sean did one for Maxim about the history of Marvel that will hopefully also become a book at some point. You can read that here.

So, I read Whores in a week or two, I tend to burn through these kinds of books because they’re fast reads and usually very engrossing. And yeah, Whores was engrossing, but it also had its problems. One of the universal problems for oral histories that I’ve seen is piecing these interviews together into a coherent story. So much of telling a story depends on knowing the facts or steps and relaying them in a specific order, but when you’re talking to so many people over so many years, I can see how details get lost in the shuffle, maybe you even remember certain elements of the story while you’re going back through transcripts, but you can’t get anyone else on the phone to talk about it again. There’s a lot going on. The SNL book did a rad job of this, as does Sean in what I’ve read of his longer drafts (seriously, this thing will make an unbelievable book). And, for the most part, Mullen does a pretty good job, but there’s one huge hole that’s inexcusable in my book (heh, pun unintended). You see, Perry Farrell had this girlfriend named Casey Niccoli who was pretty integral to Jane’s Addiction for years. There’s a brief mention that they break up eventually and all that, but no one in the book actually talks about it and the next thing you know, Perry’s married to someone else. Part of the problem is that the intro tells us that the Jane’s dudes didn’t do interviews with him. BUT, it does seem like Casey did. It’d be like doing a book on The Beatles and talking about Lennon’s first wife and all of a sudden he’s with Yoko and there’s no mention of the break up. It’s weird and annoying, especially when there’s all these details about Farrell’s weird DJ persona called DJ Peretz, who Mullen credits quotes from Farrell and Peretz on the SAME PAGE!

All in all, it’s definitely worth checking out, especially if you can get it for $1. There were other problems I had, like why does he randomly italicize whole quotes? I dunno. But, it really made me want to grab every Jane’s Addition and Porno For Pyros that I don’t already have, which is really the point of this kind of a book. I was also fascinated by the accounts of their early days in the early and mid 80s in LA. It sounds like some crazy times. Plus, my first Red Hot Chili Peppers album was One Hot Minute, so reading about Dave Navarro’s involvement in that record (along with tons of quotes from Flea) was a lot of fun.

One other quick comment about the book, something that you should keep in mind is that it was published in 2005, so it doesn’t have anything about Carmen Electra and Navarro’s break up or the reunion of all four original Jane’s Addiction members a few years back. I’m not sure if there’s an updated version, that would be rad. As it is, the book kind of peters out at the end, kind of like Sonic Book did. There was all this detail in the beginning and then, by the end you’re getting these really quick quotes from various people, though the Carmen and Dave stuff is really interesting at the end. That’s life though, right? There’s never a real ending unless everyone’s dead.

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