Warrant first emerged on the music scene in 1989 with the release of their debut album “Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich” when I was a freshman in high school. Hair metal was still wildly popular at this time and Warrant became instantaneously well known upon the release of their first single “Down Boys” and then megastars upon the release of the ballad “Heaven”. The singles “Big Talk” and “Sometimes She Cries” kept the popular streak alive and Warrant had officially arrived. I loved D.R.F.S.R. as I personally felt (and still feel) that it is an incredible hard rock album…”32 Pennies”, “So Damn Pretty (Should Be Against The Law)”, “D.R.F.S.R.”, “In The Sticks”….the whole album is just great. Sure, the matching white outfits and big hair seem a bit ridiculous in retrospect, but one has to remember that EVERYONE looked ridiculous at the time (the bands and the fans) and their look was a knock out of the park marketing wise. I mean, honestly, if you think about it, is what Slipknot does in terms of matching costumes really that much different?
Warrant’s next album “Cherry Pie” would be an even larger success than their debut which would ultimately prove to be a blessing and a curse. The song and video for the title track more or less epitomized the ridiculousness of late ’80s/early ’90s hair metal and Warrant by default became the primary target of ridicule upon the grunge explosion of the ’90s. It has been well documented via VH1 Classic specials just how much Jani Lane hated the song and what, in retrospect, it did to his and the band’s career. As the story famously goes, the album was complete and was set to be called “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, but Sony President Don Ienner didn’t hear a “single” and demanded that the band go back and write one and “Cherry Pie” was basically born overnight, became the lead single and the rest is history. I know a lot of people like to mock Lane for complaining and crying (literally) about the success of “Cherry Pie” and the subsequent fall from grace, but it has been well documented that many people who have a window of celebrity and then suddenly become Public Enemy #1 have a very difficult time dealing with it. I think it is easy for people to sit back and be armchair quarterbacks, but think how you would feel if one minute you were insanely popular and adored by the public and then all of the sudden everyone was making fun of you. You can say you would have tough skin and get over it, but you would most certainly be impacted and it would mess with your head. But before going any further, let’s also remember that “Cherry Pie”, like their debut, was also a killer album. The title track is still wildly popular to this day and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (a ringtone on my phone), “I Saw Red” and “Blind Faith” were also huge singles off of the album. “Bed Of Roses” and “Mr. Rainmaker” are two other great songs off of yet another classic hard rock album. You can accuse Lane and Warrant of being many things, but bad songwriters is not one of them. Unlike so many of their peers, at least they were delivering fans their money’s worth when releasing an album.
Warrant released the highly underrated “Dog Eat Dog” album in 1992 (seriously, if you like the first two Warrant albums, then this album is absolutely worth revisiting), but bands of their ilk had fallen out of favor. They sold a respectable 500,000+ records, but at the time, that just wasn’t enough for a major label and they were dropped by Sony. Lane would temporarily quit the band and then rejoin for 1995’s “Ultraphobic” which found the band updating their sound to be more with the times. On paper, this sounds disastrous, but I personally find the album to be quite enjoyable. “Belly To Belly”, “Greatest & Latest” (re-recorded versions of classic tracks and a handful of new songs) and “Under The Influence” (cover songs) would follow, but Lane quit the band again in 2004. Warrant issued one album called “Born Again” (yet another solid effort by the band) with Jamie St. James of Black ‘N Blue fame on vocals in 2006 before reuniting yet again with Lane in 2008. The reunion would be short lived as Lane would leave within in the same year to eventually be replaced by Rob Mason (Lynch Mob) who is still the vocalist for the band which features all of the other original members of the band outside of Lane. They’ve put out one album called “Rockaholic” which I listed in my “Top 10 of 2011….So Far” on this very site. As you may have gathered at this point, I am a big Warrant fan.
In the ’00s, Jani Lane’s struggles with alcoholism and substance abuse were fairly well documented. Just last summer, he spent 4 months in jail for a DUI conviction. Reports also emerged in 2009 that Lane reportedly owed the IRS over $120,000 in back taxes. He was found dead yesterday in a hotel room in Woodland Hills, CA. No cause of death has been reported as of yet. He was just 47 years old and leaves behind a wife and four children.
Warrant was one of my favorite bands when I was a teenager and I remember how excited I was when I got tickets to see them opening for Poison. Alas, I wound up being grounded by my parents because I got caught shoplifting (technically, my friend got caught shoplifting and I was busted for being a lookout…..and also for the record, I turned myself in after having actually gotten away (Catholic guilt)….and if you must know, I think it was Gobstoppers and comic books) and was not allowed to go to the show. As you can imagine, I was severely bummed. Fate would prevent me from ever seeing Warrant perform live with Lane, but when I shared the aforementioned story with members of the band earlier this year, the guitarist, Erik Turner, was gracious enough to send me two live DVDs of tours featuring Jani. My thoughts go out to those guys as I know they are no doubt quite saddened at Jani’s death. I know for fact that they’ll be releasing a statement on the matter later and we will share it with you on this site when it becomes available.
I know there is going to be a lot of snarkiness and mean-spirited remarks made about Jani Lane’s passing by people on Facebook, music blogs, etc. because of course everyone is a tough guy on the internet, but ultimately there is no denying that Jani wrote some amazing songs and was widely acknowledged for that talent for at least a few years in the spotlight. I’ve listened to Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich and Cherry Pie while typing this and have Dog Eat Dog on deck to go next. I suggest you take some time today to listen to a couple of Warrant songs that Jani sang on today as well. The music will never die.
R.I.P. Jani Lane
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