June 1991 was a pretty lousy summer in all honesty.
I was working in a really awful job at a supermarket while my primary set of friends had all gone to university. I was 19, guitarist in a goth band (though not a goth so I didn’t fit in at all). I’d reached the point in my life when I loved to be out and pubbing. But it was towards the end of that summer when everything turned around. I met some new cool friends who took me to the first nightclub I’d ever been to, which became my regular haunt – Chaos.
I was a total metalhead at the time. The overproduced Hit Factory nightmare of the 80s had left me cold to the radio. Other than the John Peel show, my listening never really left the confines of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and the bands you could discover by looking at the patches sewn onto my denims.
On the very first night I went to this club, the sound of British Indie dance rhythms hit me harder than the smell of deodorant-laced sweat and stale beer. As the night passed, a non-stop wall of Manchester beats and American style Alt captured my soul: The Wedding Present, James, Thousand Yard Stare, Pixies, REM, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and an ever exciting run of tracks by the freshest bands of the time.
Chaos was down in the basement of a small bar on the Edgware Road. Always rammed, black wall to black wall, with original Indie kids. No matter what the temperature outside it was so hot in there that people’s sweat used to evaporate then condense and drip from the pipes running across the ceiling. When it rained, punters would stand under the open hatches above to cool down. They didn’t mind getting soaked – the entire place was a mangrove swamp.
I’d been going a few weeks before I dropped my Metal persona entirely and started to get into this guitar music you could dance to. Then, one night, I’d just got a cheap bottle of cider from the bar and this track came on that opened with a dog barking in rhythm and drove everyone to the dance floor. It was Been Caught Stealing.
Luckily enough, one of the guys who first introduced me to the place worked at a record store and was able to tell me the name of the band and album, Jane’s Addiction, Ritual De Lo Habitual.
The next time I was in the city, I went into HMV and picked up a copy. The cover art was a painting of their naked lead singer, alongside two equally naked women. On the train home, I peeled off the cellophane. As I opened the case, a small booklet fell out. I opened it and read:
We have more influence over your children than you do, but we love your children.
I threw the CD into my player, pressed play, sat back and closed my eyes.
The opening track, Stop, was exactly the kind of thing I was expecting from this band – hard hitting, heavy rock guitars with an unconventional beat and my first clean taste of Perry Farrell’s voice, which had an almost unmusical Lou Reed sheen.
I found myself half drifting off in the noise and excitement of the four tracks, in that way where a flood of one sense can overwhelm you into oblivion. Then came track 5, the one I’d first heard in the club but the first time I’d heard it pure. The half-syncopated funk drums and groovy, feel guitars blew me away even more.
Then the album turned into something I wasn’t expecting: this deep, thoughtful and introspective second half where it chilled out and slowed down with Perry Farrell whispering the opening to Three Days.
As the light shuddering of the train rocked me further into a reverie, this ten minute song grabbed me with its beautiful picked guitar opening and slow pulsing bass line in a song about death and rebirth that was totally matched by the form it took, eventually exploding into an astounding dynamite blast of emotionally expressive rock.
It was the first chance I got to hear exactly what guitarist Dave Navarro could do, as I was blown away by his jubilant performance on one of the greatest guitar solos I’ve heard, even to this day.
The second half of the album was all like this, and when I got off the train I felt like I had been changed. I felt like music had been changed. A few weeks before, I’d discovered Indie and it had been a revelation.
This, though, was something that took all of those qualities I loved from metal and delivered them in a more real and emotional way. It was heavy metal’s spiritual successor and I knew it was going to lead to something magnificent. I knew it was going to influence some great things, but I had no idea at the time it was going to lead us to Pearl Jam’s Ten or Nirvana’s Nevermind, tracks from both of which I’d be hearing at Chaos for the first time before the year was out.
It certainly influenced my band. When I got into indie I quit the Goth band and formed an indie outfit we named Chuck U Farley. That’s us below.
After the Alt avalanche hit, totally sparked by Jane’s Addiction, we changed our name to Violent Dreams and took on a much more Alt direction.
I’ve never stopped loving this album and it remains powerful and re-experienceable, time and time again. It’s one only people who were there seem to know, and doesn’t hold the rightful place in our culture that it should have, capturing a time when the Indie kids were young and beautiful and full of life and passion. It was a cornerstone of my generation’s Summer of Love and takes me back there whenever I give it a listen.