Jane Bainter did have an abusive, drug-dealing boyfriend named Sergio—he treats me like a ragdoll.
Videos by American Songwriter
Early housemate and muse of Jane’s Addiction, and namesake of the band, Bainter was trying to quit heroin—I’m gonna kick tomorrow—she did wear wigs, dreamed of one day getting to Spain, and inspired one of the band’s biggest hits: “Jane Says.”
Strumming solely around the A and G chords, the drifty acoustic ballad was released in 1987, a decade before California singer and songwriter Alicia Blue was born, yet it was a song that penetrated her early on and took the artist until now to cover.
“This song used to crunch my heart strings, but now I can sing it without crying,” said Blue on Instagram. “It was a song that made me feel so much, so I never covered it. When I broke it down, the lyrics kinda cracked me open. The original version has so much good music that the lyrics can wash over you, so I wanted to strip it down and let the narrative be in the front.”
Following her recent revelatory EP Inner Child Work (Part 1), Blue’s “Jane Says” is an auditory intermission on transient ways, self-despair, and finding some resurrection. Raised by airy psychedelic twangs and tinkles of piano, the sobering rendition relives the story of the most mercurial young woman, who would take swings at housemates (but she can’t hit) and is forever mythologized in song.
“‘Jane Says’ is one of those songs that I’ve held onto since I was a kid,” Blue shared with American Songwriter. “I had no idea what Perry Farrell was singing about, but it made me sad. Once I was a teenager I figured it out and was almost afraid to grow up and be just like the girl in his story. …Well, I don’t do drugs, but I still felt this parallel to her. I think today we’d say that this person had no boundaries.” I think that’s why I felt kindred towards her.”
Blue added, “Thank fucking god for modern therapy and healing, because I have those now, but still, it’s elusive. Addiction, trauma, boundaries—they’re all connected. It’s holistic.”
Keeping the pair of chords intact, Blue and producer Jordan Lehning didn’t overthink the arrangement around “Jane Says,” retaining the daydreaming subtlety of the original.
“Everything stayed like a folk singer playing the song in some empty space, and we added a few things to keep it moving,” said Blue. “Jane’s Addiction is divine to me, because so much of the music they made sounds like their lyrics. There’s an ominous quality to ‘Jane Says’ with the jangly steel drum and acoustic, almost bouncing, yet it’s so heavy conceptually with what he’s singing about.”
Farrell, who wrote the track with Jane’s Addiction bassist Eric Avery and initially released it on their self-titled live album—later appearing on the band’s 1988 debut Nothing’s Shocking—recently called out Blue and the story behind her cover. “I can’t wait for your track to come out,” wrote Farrell on Twitter. “This touched me very deeply.”
As for the real Jane, who once lived in the Victorian house on Wilton Street in Hollywood with Farrell, members of Jane’s Addiction, and a commune of other artists, Bainter did quit her drug addiction, as of a 2001 interview. And she finally made it to Spain.
Photos: Tammie Valer /Reybee PR