Whores: An Oral Biography of Perry Farrell and Jane's Addiction
A number of minor realizations come to the reader of Whores. First, Perry Farrell is an asshole. An incredibly intelligent, talented, charismatic fellow, to be sure, but the kind of guy who needs to be punched in the face, hard, and often. Second, Porno for Pyros was not the cleaned-up, grown-up, tamed version of Jane’s Addiction that it appeared to be when you heard “Pets” every two seconds; with the exception of the drummer, they were all smoking crack every day. Third, too many drugs can make you think you have snakes in your eyes.
Whores is set up in the oral-history structure, a good device for limning the history of a band, since it at least gives the illusion that everyone’s getting their say. It also lends the book an appropriately informal feel—it’s loosely plotted along a chronological line, but it flows as naturally as a conversation. When applied to a subject like a rock band, the style gives the effect of reading a transcript of the longest Behind the Music ever—and as such never gives a particularly deep insight into any one band member or era; readers are left largely to draw their own conclusions from the printed hearsay.
Whores probably wouldn’t be of much interest to anyone who was never at least a casual fan of Jane’s Addiction, but if you were, there’s plenty of entertainment here. Brendan Mullen digs up family members, girlfriends, and hangers-on, crafting what feels like a pretty decent snapshot of the heady drug-fueled late-’80s Los Angeles scene from which Jane’s sprang: Farrell wades waist-high in the drugs and madness of his peers, but seems able through pure, raw force of personality to avoid a full-blown addiction. His band mates and friends were not so lucky.
Whores avoids easy moralizing partly by dint of the format—there’s no real analysis or editorializing, so Mullen never seems to have any particular ax to grind. The drug story is half the book, really, and naturally people get hurt or dead along the way, but issues of publishing rights trump issues of sobriety as far as cautionary tales go—apparently fair dealings rank up there along with drug dependency on the list of things Farrell was able to resist. Addictions come and go, but contracts are forever, kids.