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My Life in Music: Perry Farrell

By: Greg MilnerPerry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction surfs the astral planefrom Zeppelin to the Orb

Many years before he became a founding member of the alternativeNation, young Perry Bernstein sat on his family’s front porch and soaked up his older siblings’ 45s. “I was down with all the British Invasion groups by the time I was four years old,” he recalls. Since then, his tastes have wandered from heavy metal to house music. On the eve of the Jane’s Addiction reunion tour and the relaunching of his seminal Lollapalooza festival, he looks back over 40 years of musical travel.

A. The Beatles
The Beatles a.k.a. “The White Album”
(Capitol, 1968)

“I remember being a little boy and going to sleep-away camp, and my counselor had The Concert for Bangladesh and ‘The White Album,’ which was the ultimate coolest thing I had ever heard. The Beatles were supposed to be such proper people, but with this album, they just freaked out and let the world have it.”

B. Sly and the Family Stone
Greatest Hits
(Epic, 1970)

“My older brother was the rock guy–he sang for a time with a band called the Left Banke [of ‘Walk Away Renee’ fame]–and my older sister was the funk girl. She turned me on to ‘Hot Pants’ by James Brown, and also Sly and the Family Stone. This was my first album. I would play it over and over. I actually got a little following in my school. Girls would come over to our house in Queens, and I would play records in my backyard.”

C. The Allman Brothers Band
Eat a Peach
(Polydor, 1972)

“After my brother and sister left home, I was privileged to inherit their eight-track-tape collections. I listened to the Doors, the Stones, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, the Beach Boys, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. I was really into ‘Iron Man,’ too. But I just absolutely loved the Allman Brothers.”

D. Led Zeppelin
Houses of the Holy
(Atlantic, 1973)

“Around ’72 or ’73, I became a surfer, and Led Zeppelin entered my life. I actually got to see them play in northern Florida. We were living in Fort Lauderdale, but a surfer travels for his surf, so I traveled for my music.”

E. Steve Miller Band
Fly Like an Eagle
(Capitol, 1976)

“I originally came out to California to surf. When I first got here, I was really down with the Cars and Steve Miller. He had that runaway song–‘Take the Money & Run’–which I really dug, because I happened to be running away that year. When I think of that era, I think of the Cars and Steve Miller.”

F. Minutemen
Double Nickels on the Dime
(SST, 1984)

“Once I was in California, I got into punk rock right away. It was right after Darby Crash [of the Germs] and those guys were hitting their peak. I was here for the next wave. The group that I loved so much was the Minutemen. If those guys could’ve stayed together, they could’ve been the Creedence Clearwater Revival of our era. They were just so soulful and nitty-gritty.”

G. Joy Division
(Factory, 1980)

“So I was in Los Angeles, Darby had just died, and I started playing with a group called Psi Com. We had a goth thing going–very depressive–but for a kid living on his own and just scraping by, hanging out with punks, that vibe was perfect. I would listen to Closer over and over. It was the outlook of the day.”

H. Rickie Lee Jones
Rickie Lee Jones
(Warner Bros., 1979)

“By the second or third year, Psi Com started turning into Jane’s Addiction. I got into dub and electronic music, and I also happened to love Rickie Lee Jones. There’s two women I hear in every woman’s voice: Liz Fraser of the Cocteau Twins and Rickie Lee Jones. Any woman who wants to sing should check out what these women accomplished.”

I. The Orb
The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld
(Big Life, 1991)

“I discovered the Orb when I went to Europe for a Jane’s tour. I loved groups like Cabaret Voltaire and Can, but the Orb made a huge leap. It was a completely different method of making music–the way they went about looping and sampling things. It was really special.”

J. Blackstar
Tribute to Haile Selassie I: King of Kings
(Congo Natty, 1995)

“In the mid-’90s, I started making my own music, and I listened to almost nothing besides electronic music. And I love hardcore junglists. Congo Natty is the best of them: hardcore sounds with real Rastafarians proclaiming–very soulful and very powerful.”

K. Kings of Leon
Holy Roller Novocaine EP
(RCA, 2003)

“I stayed away from pop music through most of the ’90s, but I’ve finally started to get back into it. I enjoy the Polyphonic Spree, Sahara Hotnights; the kid from the Streets is interesting. I also like the vibe of the Strokes. And I really like Kings of Leon. They remind me of the Allmans.”