1991 — Jane’s Addiction’s attempt at a farewell-tour extravaganza accidentally defined a generation and changed the music industry. Seven or eight bands in 20 cities sounds paltry compared to the 100-plus that would play Lollapalooza in later years, but ask anyone involved in that inaugural year: There was more at stake.
In August of 1990, Jane’s Addiction released their second studio album, Ritual de lo Habitual. Within a year, the album sold more than one million copies. But there was one big problem.
MARC GEIGER (booking agent): Jane’s was going into a tailspin because they were really not getting along.
TED GARDNER (Jane’s Addiction manager): We were coheadlining the Reading Festival that year, and there was this crazy little bunker in London we played the night before.
GEIGER: A warm-up show at a tiny, 200-seat club. It was so hot and humid, the walls were sweating. It was amazing. The next morning, Perry’s voice is gone. He’s fucking crying, he’s bummed out.
GARDNER: We looked into specialists, and they said he shouldn’t sing. So we had to cancel our performance at Reading.
GEIGER: Stephen Perkins (Jane’s Addiction drummer) and I go down to Reading, and we’re hanging with all the bands and having an unbelievable time, and Perkins says, “This is so fucking great, why don’t we do this?” And I said, “That’s the idea: Let’s bring Reading to America. And that will be your farewell tour.”
PERRY FARRELL (Jane’s Addiction lead singer) I told Marc, “I’m out of here after the tour, so let’s do something good.” And he looked at me and said, “Perry, you can do whatever the fuck you want.” And I said, “I’m going to hold you to that.”
DAVE NAVARRO (Jane’s Addiction guitar): “Tailspin” is accurate. I don’t know if it was supposed to be a grand send-off. It may very well have been, but I wasn’t aware of it. But the tailspin led to some pretty spectacular performances from the band.
ERIC AVERY (Jane’s Addiction bass guitar): I had put my notice in at that point. Everyone knew the end was nigh.
GEIGER: I got a phone call at home at one in the morning from Perry. He goes, “Hey Marc, I got the name! Lollapalooza!” I say, “Where the fuck did you get that from?” He goes, “I just saw it in a Three Stooges episode!”
FARRELL: I did hear the Three Stooges say it, but I didn’t have that in mind initially. I was flipping through the dictionary, and the definition of lollapalooza was something or someone great and/or wonderful. And definition two: a giant swirling lollipop.
AVERY: People were ready for something different, something that pushed them a little outside of their comfort zone. Like a reason to come out and see live music.
— spin magazine
Jane’s enlisted their favorite bands: Siouxsie and the Banshees, Nine Inch Nails, Butthole Surfers, Living Colour, and friends from the Los Angeles scene — Ice-T’s metal band Body Count, Fishbone, Henry Rollins Band.
Marc Geiger and Don Muller of the Triad Agency booked the bands. Ted Gardner organized the production, from sound and lights to backstage hospitality. Missy Worth solicited local artists and activist groups to appear at each tour stop. Michael “Curly” Jobson and Kevin Lyman were brought in as stage managers; four years later, Lyman graduated from Lollapalooza and founded the Warped Tour.
GARDNER: Geiger made the mistake of giving us an office at the Triad building. They’d be going about their business and we’d be telling jokes, listening to music, and smoking pot. Reading was the genesis of the idea of the festival, but the traveling festival was uniquely ours. It wasn’t a way that you toured.
MICHAEL “CURLY” JOBSON: We had festivals in Europe long before Perry had dreadlocks.
FARRELL: There were some heavy things going on right at that time: Michael Jordan’s first championship with the Bulls, the beginning of the World Wide Web, and Lollapalooza. That’s really what is remarkable about 1991.
GEIGER: We were hoping to kill hair bands and MTV. Get the crappy music out and the good music in.
FARRELL: Geiger and myself chose the bands. It might look like we were pooling from L.A. groups, but back in the day, L.A. was the epicenter of music.
NORWOOD FISHER (bassist, Fishbone): Lollapalooza was a culmination of things, as what was happening on the fringes got more and more popular.
FARRELL: Punk rock couldn’t last, only because their attitude was “Fuck everything.” Mine is “Include everything.”
— jane’s addiction
AVERY: There was a good amount of naïveté in ’91. Lollapalooza was an experiment. I know I like Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Butthole Surfers and Ice-T, but who the fuck else does?
GIBBY HAYNES (Butthole Surfers singer): People in the industry didn’t really have confidence in it. Perry knew it would work out. I knew it would work out.
MISSY WORTH: Everybody was in it together because we wanted to prove that we were smarter than everyone else, that the alternative could be the mainstream but stay alternative.
JOBSON: It was quite a big show from a public standpoint, but production-wise it was relatively small — the fact that it wasn’t a slick, overproduced event gave it that element of cool. Lollapalooza was a little ramshackle errand.
DANNY ZELISKO (promoter): Compton Terrace in Tempe, which I’d been booking for about seven years, was owned by Jess Nicks and Gene Nicks. Jess is Stevie Nicks’ dad, and Gene is Jess’ brother. Those two and Stevie were the three principals.
So, Stevie Nicks presented the first Lollapalooza, in a way.
HAYNES: That place was just a flat, thankless expanse of land. Fucking miserable.
JOBSON: It was so hot you couldn’t even put your hand on the steel the stage was constructed from. And we’re in some rodeo shit hole in Arizona. Someone really thought that one out.
ZELISKO: And here come Nine Inch Nails, walking up all in black and chains and safety pins. Pretty dark for the middle of the afternoon in Arizona. And they weren’t into their set more than a minute or two when shit started screwing up onstage. Next thing I know, they’re breaking guitars and knocking over amplifiers and swearing, really pissed off.
JOBSON: You use electronic equipment and you don’t have direct cooling for it and we’re doing a show in 115-degree heat — what’s going to happen?
RICHARD PATRICK(Nine Inch Nails guitar): This power cable — a $15 thing called a quad box — kept short-circuiting and would shut everything off. Here we are, first show on the most important tour of our lives, and this whole thing goes down in a nightmare. So we trashed the stage and went on our crazy little punk-industrial rampage and stormed off. Blamed everybody, but it was really just one bad cable.
JOBSON: I remember a fistfight between Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro on the first rehearsal day, which was quite entertaining. Perry’s a tough cat, actually, in a fight. Dave got the short end of it there.
NAVARRO: That took place during the performance. It wasn’t during a rehearsal.
FARRELL: Dave didn’t want to go back on, and I felt that we should’ve given them a longer show. He said he’s not going, and I was like, “You are.” Then I picked him up — in those days, I used to watch pro wrestling — and I gave him a pretty good body slam. We ended up going back on.
NAVARRO: From that point on, everything went smooth. We didn’t necessarily iron anything out, we just got past it.
AVERY: That’s just so…that is Jane’s Addiction right there.
Farrell intended Lollapalooza to blend art and activism, presenting the full spectrum of opposing viewpoints, from the ACLU to the KKK. Things didn’t pan out that way in the festival’s first year, but nascent organizations such as the Surfrider Foundation and Rock the Vote, among others, did gain national exposure.
NAVARRO: Instead of a Budweiser tent and a Nokia tent, it was local artists.
FARRELL: Amok Books was a really progressive bookstore in L.A. Their books were really hedonistic and interesting, so we took them out on the road with us. Because I thought people should read — my people should read.
KEVIN HANLEY (Amok Books representative): We carried everything from French theory to bomb-making manuals, snuff films to Tom of Finland gay-porn comics. It was pre-Internet; there was no way to get your hands on this stuff.
PATRICK: Kevin handed me the raw, uncut footage of [Pennsylvania politician] R. Budd Dwyer’s suicide, and that’s what inspired the song “Hey Man, Nice Shot.”
HANLEY: From venue to venue, you would figure out what towns had the most reactionary young people. Orlando was very scary. We had kids threatening to beat us up and set fire to the booth.
HENRY ROLLINS: At the end of the day, everyone is on the highway going home, and we had to wait around for the audience to clear so we could get the buses out. And you would see two or three guys, whoever was doing the T-shirts, sitting around very nervously. You’d go, “Hey, how you doing?” and they just wouldn’t talk to you. Then, over this misty, muddy field would come a Brink’s truck.
These guys were sitting on top of bags of who knows how many thousands of dollars.
They’d throw them in the back of the truck and sign out on some clipboard, and the truck goes away, and it’s no longer these guys’ problem.
Immediately, they’d crack open a beer or light a joint and ask how your show was. It was interesting to recognize: Wow, those are bags of money.
PERKINS: It was a train of freaks traveling the world, bringing it to Ohio, bringing it to Jersey, bringing it to Seattle, and seeing that it was everywhere, and they were waiting for it, and they were hungry for it. And once we left the town, the town was never the same.
HANLEY: It was the launch of Rock the Vote, which had a big part in Clinton’s election in ’92. That age group wasn’t really participating and voting en masse before that.
JOBSON: We were having to educate security guys to not smash kids’ faces in. They had never experienced anything like this before, to get kids out from a barricade and seat them off to the sides and give them water.
KEVIN LYMAN: It was a new thing for these venues.
ANGELO MOORE (Fishbone singer): I was getting the mosh pits to run in a big circle, and then stop and run the other way, and I’d go out there and jump in it.
PATRICK: There’s something about a little violence. There was a mosh-pit etiquette that we had in the ’90s: If someone falls, pick them up.
ERNIE C. (Body Count guitar): You had to be there at one in the afternoon to see Henry Rollins, so that shows you how much talent was on Lollapalooza.
ZELISKO: Rollins struck a very menacing figure but was a very nice guy.
HAYNES: One time I said to him, “Hey, dude, let’s do a boxing match. Three rounds.” He’s like, “Anywhere near a hospital where you like the food, man!”
JOBSON: They were all afraid of [Rollins] because they were a bunch of pussies and Henry’s tough as nails.
FARRELL:Gibby had a shotgun.
HAYNES: I don’t know who said it — it might have been Duchamp — but someone said there’s nothing more surrealistic than firing a blank gun into a crowd of people.
ROLLINS: It was full of rounds with no shot, just powder. And he would yell into the microphone, “I didn’t see you people moving when the Rollins Band played, you sons of bitches!” And he would cock the shotgun, and aim it directly into the audience and shoot it.
FISHER:I was like, “What the fuck!”
VERNON REID (Living Colour guitar): He would wear this really horrendous floral-print housedress.
LYMAN: That was the reaction everyone wanted to get. Everything on Lollapalooza was trying to get a bigger reaction than the other guy.
ROLLINS: After a few times, Kevin Lyman said, “That’s just not going to fly.” It was terrifying. I would never, ever do that to an audience, but it was one of those things.
PERKINS:Truly a dangerous band.
NAVARRO: There weren’t different stages to walk to. It was all pretty centrally located, and a lot of people were turned on to bands they wouldn’t have otherwise known.
REID: Siouxsie’s position in that tour, below the headliner — she was a kind of monarch, whether that was intentional or not. She was around in the earliest days of punk, so it was awesome to have her. This whole thing could’ve been completely ageist, and that didn’t happen.
GARDNER: It wasn’t like, “It’s a girl band, so put them on.” A lot of people threw that accusation around. When I was managing Tool, I rang the agent for Lilith Fair and submitted Tool, and they said, “No, it’s all women.” And I said, “Well, isn’t that sexist?”
BUDGIE (Siouxsie and the Banshees drums): We never thought of ourselves as female-fronted. It was just like, all of us are in the band. I think the only girls onstage were the strippers with Jane’s Addiction.
HAYNES: Kind of like a modern-dance thing. Not my shtick.
GARDNER: Perry went to this strip club in San Francisco one night and saw them dancing and asked if they wanted to come along on the road with us. College girls.
HAYNES: Everybody was fucking everybody on that tour. I think I fucked Dave Navarro but I thought it was Siouxsie Sioux. Or maybe vice versa.
NAVARRO: On some molecular level, there’s truth to that statement.
BUDGIE: I wasn’t really sure who I was supposed to be going home with. I just got married [to Sioux]. It was quite a honeymoon. It was an all-around adventure, the kind of thing where you’re sitting around with Dave Navarro at a hotel reception at two in the morning, him with a feather boa around his neck. And everybody’s thinking was, “There’s nothing around here. If we go out like this, we’re gonna get killed.” There was no uncertain sense of danger.
FISHER: There was one point in Dallas when Jane’s Addiction was about to go on and I went into their dressing room. I flung open the door and Perry was sitting in a chair, surrounded by…It was like looking at Caligula. It was like a circus in this little room. There was all this shit going on around him, and he was the king.
REID:There was a tour party hosted by the S&M girls of Dallas that lives in infamy. I’ll just say there were white manicured hands holding whips, and black exposed backs. I’ll leave it there.
PERKINS: Once you start traveling with all of these people, spreading your wings a little, there is so much to share. Music, books, clothes, girlfriends.
HAYNES: Whatever band was onstage, we would walk into their dressing room and drink their beer and try on their clothes and shit. We’d always take the Banshees’ deli tray and say that we took Siouxsie and the band’s cheese.
BUDGIE: The (Butthole Surfers’) dressing room was empty apart from beer. The tour was pretty much a party from day one. Ice-T’s bus was a constant up and down movement.
Born in Newark, New Jersey, and raised in South Central, L.A., Ice-T was one of hip-hop’s original gangster rappers. But he reinvented himself as a thrash-metal vocalist, backed by a band of Angelenos called Body Count, on a 1992 album of the same name.
FARRELL: Body Count were fucking amazing, but in those days it wasn’t very common — it still isn’t very common — for a bunch of black kids to get together and blaze on metal.
ERNIE C: At that time, rock was defined by skeletons and skulls and the devil. We came out with guns and angry black people. It was something you could really relate to.
LYMAN: Rap was still a pretty underground sound, so I think it was the first time for white America to get to see Ice-T play. It was the first time a hip-hop artist really crossed over. Lollapalooza gave that outlet.
ERNIE C.: When Body Count first started, we had nowhere to tour. There was no niche to fit into. This was before Rage, before Limp Bizkit, before Korn. We played “Cop Killer” at Lollapalooza and nobody was offended. You heard it. Your grandfather heard it. But during that election year, it caught the attention of some people who needed a platform.
GARDNER: “Cop Killer” was getting airplay until Tipper Gore declared, “This is disgusting! This is promoting cop killing!” God, people are so stupid.
PATRICK: In North Carolina, Ice-T and Perry were doing [Sly and the Family Stone’s] “Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey,” and this scary neo-Nazi skinhead was screaming and crowd-surfing. And Perry said, “Hey, man, I’m a Jew, you wanna say something to me? This is Lollapalooza, we’re gonna let everybody talk here.” And he threw the mic out to the guy.
FARRELL: This guy didn’t understand that these are my friends, man. I’ve been butt naked with these dudes. He went on and on, and I thought, “This is great, I want to hear what this man’s got to say.”
TheBlack & White Of It All
PERKINS: To see Perry and Ice-T face off, singing those lyrics, and then at the end they would do a tango together — it was perfect. And it represents what was happening on the tour — we’re feeling each other out at first, but by the end of the tour, we were dancing together.
PATRICK: I remember thinking, “Perry’s confronting the issue, point blank. He is standing onstage calling Ice-T a nigger. How amazing is that?” They were disarming the word.
REID: It was clearly to push buttons, but I thought it was fair enough.
ERNIE C.:Ice had a funny one about Living Colour. People would look at them and say, “That’s a black band.” And they’d look at us and say, “Those are some niggers.”
REID: It was really relevant for both Body Count and Living Colour to be on that tour. Not just one of us.
PERKINS:It was interesting to see the Living Colour camp and the Body Count camp. They were so different: East Coast, West Coast, and what they were bringing to the festival was so different. There was a little rub and a little aggravation between them, but I liked it. It was healthy.
BUDGIE: The tour was a blur until we hit Chicago and got a day off. That’s when me and our guitarist Jon Klein got arrested. We were in a bar and it was last call, you know, as they do in America, they say, “Remove your glasses now.” In England they don’t do that. You don’t grab people’s glasses off the bar. Next thing, Jon was on the floor, and there was a gang gathering around him. I caught someone in the mouth accidentally, and Jon had bitten someone on the shin. Within minutes we were both handcuffed and tossed into the back of a waiting police van. We were smoking cigarettes when they opened the door again, which we thought was very impressive, because our hands were cuffed behind our backs, but the police were not impressed. We thought it was the end of the tour for us, but no charges were pressed. We were bailed out the next morning and went back to the tour, and the guys on our crew and everyone else was like, “Heroes!” And the rest of the band were like, “Assholes!”
WORTH: In Cleveland there wasn’t enough security. The kids came from the lawn to the seats.
PATRICK: Everyone was excited to see a hometown band become this huge thing. I remember feeling so proud of being from Cleveland. I jumped into the audience and came out with nothing on. They ripped all my clothes off. All you see is my bare white butt getting back onstage.
NAVARRO: In the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, towards the end, Leatherface is shot in broad daylight, almost as if you’re watching a documentary, and that makes it that much more terrifying. Just like Nine Inch Nails, seeing them in the daylight.
REID: We played New Jersey, and it was one of those shows where everyone was on point. The audience was so plugged into every band — it was the way a great concert is supposed to be.
FARRELL: I had found out that my mother was buried in New Jersey, not far from the venue. That night, I ate a tab of acid or so — I can’t remember how much. I felt that my mother’s spirit had to be close by. I never really told anybody that. I was singing for her and her friends.
REID: Perry had the holy ghost that night.
AVERY: By the end of the tour, I was playing regularly in four bands, just from hanging out and being bored and looking for something to do. I would go out and play guitar with Rollins. Buttholes: I’d come out and play drums. Nails: guitar. Then play with Jane’s.
BUDGIE: Mostly it was standing by the side of the stage watching. Once the sun had gone down, I remember fires being lit in the back of the show. It was crazy.
PATRICK: Every night I would crawl under the stage and pop up in that moat area with the security guards. I would have a six-pack of beer and smoke a little pot and sit there and watch Jane’s Addiction every night by myself with 20,000 people standing behind me.Six weeks after it began in an Arizona heat wave, the tour wrapped up at rain-soaked fairgrounds outside Seattle. The final show offered the first glimpse of the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow, a parade of local punk-rock misfits whose gross-out humor and casual self-mutilation was soon closely identified with Lollapalooza’s outsider image.
JIM ROSE (founder, Jim Rose Circus Sideshow): We showed up, told a couple jokes, did a pierced weight-lifting thing — you could get a lot of mileage out of that then. Nobody had piercings. I didn’t realize the impact we had until a few days later. I was on the street in Seattle hanging up posters for my next show, and people kept coming up to me. It left a mark.
HAYNES: In Seattle, me and Perry went to the [Pike Street] market where there’s tons of shops and crap. Perry was just shoplifting at will, taking whatever he wanted. I followed behind and managed to pay for a few of the things. He was just so blatant about it, screaming through the store with that maniacal look on his face — wide-eyed, fucking high on who knows what.
JOBSON: We didn’t know if Jane’s was going to play right until the last minute. It was a bit of a weird, anticlimactic show.If the first year was an experiment, the next six were a victory lap. Lollapalooza’s spawn — H.O.R.D.E., Lilith Fair, Warped Tour — targeted niches and hit them. As its popularity eclipsed its influence and the term “alternative rock” lost its meaning, Lollapalooza became a summertime rite of passage for American teens rather than a platform for innovation. The final Lollapalooza tour hit the road in 2003 with Jane’s Addiction, Audioslave, and Incubus headlining.
GARDNER: Originally, we had no idea we’d do it again the following year.
HAYNES: Lollapalooza was cool. A vindication, if you will. As far as musicians go, I think they value attention more than money. Instantly, managers, labels, bigger bands were pushing to get on the next year’s. When there’s a paradigm shift like that, there’s only a moment before what’s shifting gets absorbed into the bigger body.
ERNIE C.: It’s a piece of history that will stick because “-palooza” now is a part of everything. And in the 20 years since, I’ve never had that experience of camaraderie again. It was like one big band.
GEIGER: We started in ’91, and by ’96 underground music was over. Third Eye Blind was a cool band. Matchbox Twenty was the fucking next Radiohead.
ROLLINS: In America, or any consumer-driven society, anything that stands still long enough turns into a demographic and is marketed to. I can only speak for the first Lollapalooza, but I think it was very innocent. There’s no way the subsequent ones weren’t, in some way, calculated.
LYMAN: They couldn’t continue finding the cutting-edge newer bands. They made mistakes.
REID: What happened with Lollapalooza, and this is Perry Farrell’s genius, is it commodified “alternative,” simultaneously carving out a new market and ending it.
Reborn in 2005 as a multi-day festival staged in Chicago’s Grant Park, the new incarnation of Lollapalooza features more than 100 bands. Former Chicago Sun-Times writer Jim DeRogatis calls it “Walmart on the lake.” Marc Geiger calls it “the Super Bowl” of music.
FARRELL: The first five or seven years, we would have the headliner be a fresh, new artist that could draw 20,000 people or so. Now we have to go back in time, further and further — we’ve got Paul McCartney playing [festivals], for crying out loud — because there aren’t breaking groups.
ROLLINS: A three-day festival, that’s cool. But it’s also ordinary.
GEIGER: Twenty years later, I think the product is so much better now and the experience is so much better now. I wish I wouldn’t have wasted time doing a touring model. I wish I had started Lollapalooza the way it is today.
AVERY: If Geiger had only done it in Chicago in ’91, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
The band’s initial farewell tour, in 1991, launched the first Lollapalooza, which has since become a perennial alternative rock festival.
Jane’s Addiction’s first release was a self-titled live album, Jane’s Addiction (1987), which caught the attention of Warner Bros. Records. The band’s first two studio albums, Nothing’s Shocking (1988) and Ritual de lo Habitual (1990), were released to critical acclaim, and widespread (college/cult) audience. Within two years, Perry Farrell and Jane’s Addiction became icons of what Farrell had called the “Alternative Nation.”
“Sympathy For The Devil” Jane’s Addiction Live @ The Roxy Los Angeles, California 1987 ((( song)))
— Vince Collins
December 13, 1990 —Jane’s Addiction offer a “feast” of thrashing music and lots of words.
b/ Mark Milum
It all got dark and loud, like some creeping evil rising through the night.
Drums began to pound, the audience tightened and stood crushed together. We were waiting for the main course of our music feast — Jane’s Addiction.
We were becoming restless as more and more we became a part of the feeling — a feeling that it was alright to be different, to tke a stand with something no matter what the critics, our peers and the government think. Then it exploded and out of the black sprung screeching guitars, thundering drums, and Jane’s Addiction singer Perry Ferrell looking like a wicked elf, careened forward to caress his audience. It was after all his audience of 5,000 screaming fans at the Seattle Center Arena Sunday who held onto every move and word. Farrell seemed as at home on the stage as he would in his own living room, rambling in a flowing one-sided conversation with the audience about anything from politics to who you should sleep with. Standing beneath a canopy of Christmas lights and surrounded by an odd collection of trophys, sculptures, and found objects, he told the crowd to re-cycle, not to vote Republican and that “complaining is a lot more interesting than being somber.” Launching into such driving songs as “Summertime Rolls,” “Three Days,” and “Ted, Just Admit It,” Perry and the band easily pleased the thrashing crowd. It became for me, a study in control. But at one point, it appeared the show might be cut short, because Farrell was angered by people throwing shoes on the stage. Ironically, as the band sang “Idiots rule!” the crowd seemed ready to leave, but kicking up the jam, Jane’s got ’em back, and happy to have stayed for the fantastic encor of “Jane Says.” After the show Eric A, Jane’s bassist, spoke briefly about the possibility of playing in Moscow. He confirmed the rumor, but had no details, except to say that it wasn’t Moscow, Russia he was talking about, but he “Really loves the name Moscow, Idaho.”Earlier this fall, it was rumored the band might play there.) He let on that it wasn’t Moscow, Russia he was talking about. “But I really love the name Moscow, Idaho, and there it’s nice to be known.” After fourteen straight days of dates, the band showed little sign of being weary.
When asked what he thought about the concert and the reaction of the people in Seattle, Farrell turned and said simply, “I really don’t think.”