Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Song #433 of 9999 - It's TWOsday! (sort of)

Song #433 of 9999

Title: Jane Says
Artist: Jane's Addiction
Year: 1987/1988
Album: Jane's Addiction/Nothing's Shocking


I mentioned Jane's Addiction in yesterday's post as the one band that somehow managed to appeal to each of the five disparate individuals in the Record Dept. at Wall to Wall Sound and Video in Lancaster, PA circa 1988. So it seemed only fitting I should give them a spot on 9999 Songs!

"But it's TWOsday," you say "and I've come to expect more out of TWOsdays!" I know, me too! Well, for one thing, "Jane Says" from 1988's Nothing's Shocking is unique in that it utilizes just TWO chords (G and A if you're playing at home). But also, it fits the theme because, as it turns out, there are TWO versions of it.

The first (in the video on the left) emanates from the band's 1987 eponymous debut, recorded live at the Roxy Theatre on Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. By 1987, the band had developed quite a following in La-la Land, particularly for their intense, often wild, live shows. From their perspective, it made sense to make a live record and release it independently, which they did at a cost of only $4000! In the meantime, they signed a huge contract with Warner Bros. and went into a proper studio to record Nothing's Shocking. They took two older songs with them: "Pigs in Zen" and "Jane Says."

I've always liked "Jane Says" (from Nothing's Shocking) for its simplicity and rawness. Just two chords on an acoustic guitar and Perry Farrell wailing a schoolyard chant (Sol-Mi, the basic building block of nah-nah-na-nah-nah). A closer examination of the melody reveals that the notes Farrell sings actually form the 9th (A) and the maj7 (F#) against the G Major chord. For me, this is a quite a revelation! In fact, the resting note at the end of the first verse (at the end of the line "I don't owe him nothing") is a D, which mightily conflicts with the A major chord upon which it sits. The next verse ("But if...") begins on an E, the 6th above the chord G—another dissonant interval and the same place he chooses to settle during the breaks from the verse ("I'm gonna kick tomorrow..."). I realize these are mild dissonances but they're just so unexpected. It's almost as if Farrell is singing in and around the key of D Major while the guitar repeats IV-V like a broken record. In fact, we're never given the satisfaction of a cadence because the track just fades.

But they have to end the live track, right? A-ha! So back to 1987 and what we find first is that the song can be even rawer. Farrell's vocal track is mixed further back in the studio version and this takes some of the edge off, but live, it is a harsh sound. The steel drums also add some roundness to the studio track whereas this live version offers bongos and an acoustic guitar solo. The solo is telling in terms of the key as it consists of blues played in A. And in the end we sort of get the definitive answer to the question of key. The song settles on G but it is the sound of a half cadence pulling strongly toward....A. So the song is centered around A with the guitar progression being bVII-I and Farrell's D Major-ish melody indicating....(drumroll please)....A Mixolydian. Who knew!

No comments:

Post a Comment