Check out this month’s Spin Magazine feature covering an oral history of the inaugural Lollapalooza featuring commentary from Norwood & Angelo. Purchase this month’s edition for the full story!
An Oral History of the First Lollapalooza
Twenty years ago, Jane’s Addiction’s attempt at a farewell-tour extravaganza accidentally defined a generation and changed the music industry. Seven or eight bands in 20 cities sounds paltry compared to the 100-plus that will play Lollapalooza in Chicago this August, but ask anyone involved in that inaugural year: There was more at stake.
In August of 1990, Jane’s Addiction released their second studio album, Ritual de lo Habitual. Within a year, the album sold more than one million copies. But there was one big problem. [Magazine Excerpt]
MARC GEIGER (booking agent): Jane’s was going into a tailspin because they were really not getting along.
TED GARDNER (manager, Jane’s Addiction): We were coheadlining the Reading Festival that year, and there was this crazy little bunker in London we played the night before.
GEIGER: A warm-up show at a tiny, 200-seat club. It was so hot and humid, the walls were sweating. It was amazing. The next morning, Perry’s voice is gone. He’s fucking crying, he’s bummed out.
GARDNER: We looked into specialists, and they said he shouldn’t sing. So we had to cancel our performance at Reading.
GEIGER: [Jane’s Addiction drummer] Stephen Perkins and I go down to Reading, and we’re hanging with all the bands and having an unbelievable time, and Perkins says, “This is so fucking great, why don’t we do this?” And I said, “That’s the idea: Let’s bring Reading to America. And that will be your farewell tour.”
PERRY FARRELL (lead singer, Jane’s Addiction): I told Marc, “I’m out of here after the tour, so let’s do something good.” And he looked at me and said, “Perry, you can do whatever the fuck you want.” And I said, “I’m going to hold you to that.”
DAVE NAVARRO (guitarist, Jane’s Addiction): “Tailspin” is accurate. I don’t know if it was supposed to be a grand send-off. It may very well have been, but I wasn’t aware of it. But the tailspin led to some pretty spectacular performances from the band.
ERIC AVERY (bassist, Jane’s Addiction): I had put my notice in at that point. Everyone knew the end was nigh.
GEIGER: I got a phone call at home at one in the morning from Perry. He goes, “Hey Marc, I got the name! Lollapalooza!” I say, “Where the fuck did you get that from?” He goes, “I just saw it in a Three Stooges episode!”
FARRELL: I did hear the Three Stooges say it, but I didn’t have that in mind initially. I was flipping through the dictionary, and the definition oflollapalooza was something or someone great and/or wonderful. And definition two: a giant swirling lollipop.
AVERY: People were ready for something different, something that pushed them a little outside of their comfort zone. Like a reason to come out and see live music.
Jane’s enlisted their favorite bands (Siouxsie and the Banshees, Nine Inch Nails, Butthole Surfers, Living Colour), and friends from the Los Angeles scene (Ice-T’s metal band Body Count, Fishbone, Rollins Band). Marc Geiger and Don Muller of the Triad Agency booked the bands. Ted Gardner organized the production, from sound and lights to backstage hospitality. Missy Worth solicited local artists and activist groups to appear at each tour stop. Michael “Curly” Jobson and Kevin Lyman were brought in as stage managers; four years later, Lyman graduated from Lollapalooza and founded the Warped Tour.
GARDNER: Geiger made the mistake of giving us an office at the Triad building. They’d be going about their business and we’d be telling jokes, listening to music, and smoking pot. Reading was the genesis of the idea of the festival, but the traveling festival was uniquely ours. It wasn’t a way that you toured.
MICHAEL “CURLY” JOBSON: We had festivals in Europe long before Perry had dreadlocks.
FARRELL: There were some heavy things going on right at that time: Michael Jordan’s first championship with the Bulls, the beginning of the World Wide Web, and Lollapalooza. That’s really what is remarkable about 1991.
GEIGER: We were hoping to kill hair bands and MTV. Get the crappy music out and the good music in.
FARRELL: Geiger and myself chose the bands. It might look like we were pooling from L.A. groups, but back in the day, L.A. was the epicenter of music.
NORWOOD FISHER (bassist, Fishbone): Lollapalooza was a culmination of things, as what was happening on the fringes got more and more popular.
FARRELL: Punk rock couldn’t last, only because their attitude was “Fuck everything.” Mine is “Include everything.”
AVERY: There was a good amount of naïveté in ’91. Lollapalooza was an experiment. I know I like Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Butthole Surfers and Ice-T, but who the fuck else does?
GIBBY HAYNES (singer, Butthole Surfers): People in the industry didn’t really have confidence in it. Perry knew it would work out. I knew it would work out.
MISSY WORTH: Everybody was in it together because we wanted to prove that we were smarter than everyone else, that the alternative could be the mainstream but stay alternative.
JOBSON: It was quite a big show from a public standpoint, but production-wise it was relatively small–the fact that it wasn’t a slick, overproduced event gave it that element of cool. Lollapalooza was a little ramshackle errand.
On July 18, 1991, the Lollapalooza tour launched in Tempe, Arizona, in appropriately ramshackle fashion.
DANNY ZELISKO (promoter): Compton Terrace in Tempe, which I’d been booking for about seven years, was owned by Jess Nicks and Gene Nicks. Jess is Stevie Nicks’ dad, and Gene is Jess’ brother. Those two and Stevie were the three principals. So, Stevie Nicks presented the first Lollapalooza, in a way.
HAYNES: That place was just a flat, thankless expanse of land. Fucking miserable.
JOBSON: It was so hot you couldn’t even put your hand on the steel the stage was constructed from. And we’re in some rodeo shithole in Arizona. Someone really thought that one out.
ZELISKO: And here come Nine Inch Nails, walking up all in black and chains and safety pins. Pretty dark for the middle of the afternoon in Arizona. And they weren’t into their set more than a minute or two when shit started screwing up onstage. Next thing I know, they’re breaking guitars and knocking over amplifiers and swearing, really pissed off.
JOBSON: You use electronic equipment and you don’t have direct cooling for it and we’re doing a show in 115-degree heat–what’s going to happen?
RICHARD PATRICK (guitarist, Nine Inch Nails): This power cable–a $15 thing called a quad box–kept short-circuiting and would shut everything off. Here we are, first show on the most important tour of our lives, and this whole thing goes down in a nightmare. So we trashed the stage and went on our crazy little punk-industrial rampage and stormed off. Blamed everybody, but it was really just one bad cable.
JOBSON: I remember a fistfight between Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro on the first rehearsal day, which was quite entertaining. Perry’s a tough cat, actually, in a fight. Dave got the short end of it there.
NAVARRO: That took place during the performance. It wasn’t during a rehearsal.
FARRELL: Dave didn’t want to go back on, and I felt that we should’ve given them a longer show. He said he’s not going, and I was like, “You are.” Then I picked him up–in those days, I used to watch pro wrestling–and I gave him a pretty good body slam. We ended up going back on.
NAVARRO: From that point on, everything went smooth. We didn’t necessarily iron anything out, we just got past it.
AVERY: That’s just so…that is Jane’s Addiction right there.