The Rockstar Ramblings: Remembering Jani Lane
Jani Lane: the singer, songwriter, and entertainer most noted for his role as front man of the band Warrant passed away last week. He was found in a Los Angeles area Comfort Inn with (according to police reports) a half-bottle of vodka and prescription pills close by. This week we take a look at some of Warrant’s videos. One last celebration of Jani Lane’s lyrics, hair, dance moves, and cringe worthy moments as we retire the following videos.
This was Warrant’s first single. By this time the template of releasing a “heavy” song followed by a ballad had been established. Down Boys was to be their initial release with Heaven (their ballad) to follow. The video begins with a shot of a homeless man, but then cuts (for most of the video) to the band performing in front of cameras. They are all wearing leather jackets. Warrant uses this video to introduce the world to their choreographed move of dropping to their knees and swaying their hair back and forth. This move occurs in the beginning of the song, the arc, and near the end. There is very little story to the video (unless of course you believe a band wearing black leather jackets is the story); however, the homeless man does reappear in the end, this time it appears that he now owns a club named DOWN BOYS (there is a neon sign in the background) and is receiving a lot of money. I’m going to assume the band had pooled their money together to buy a small venue then decided to trade it for leather jackets to the homeless man who immediately sold the venue for cash to buy wine because that’s typically what they do.
Warrant’s first ballad and most popular song if you use “Heavy Metal Ballad” compilations as a barometer of a song’s popularity. If you don’t, then you probably believe Cherry Pie is their most popular song. The band all in white is a nice touch given the lyrics and works well with Jani thrusting forward with his guitar on his hip. The initial pictures of the band definitely give this video a LOW BUDGET ALERT but you forget about this quickly when we see the extreme close-ups the camera takes of Lane. The hair is TOO big and eyes TOO dreamy! It’s just too close. As a follow-up to their initial video we see the progression of the Warrant moves, adding a head bob as they drop to their knees. Near the end of the video the band “spots” a fan with a very small DOWN BOYS tattoo on her arm. This “fan” has band wagon jumper written all over her face. If there was a WHERE ARE THEY NOW: TATTOO EDITION I’m certain this tattoo has been covered, probably something to do with Nirvana or The White Stripes. Overall this is a semi-listenable song, but as the video goes on appears that Jani Lane’s white spandex gets tighter and tighter. This has always been my concern with this video.
I Saw Red
I am intentionally going out of chronological order. I was going to move on to Cherry Pie, but realize I am not ready for this. Like most eighties videos there is a cringe factor. I am just not properly prepared for Cherry Pie.
The lyrics Jani wrote for I Saw Red is based on a real life incident where he walked in on his girl and best friend. You can tell this is a painful song because he isn’t wearing any headgear. It’s too bad the director didn’t have revenge on his mind. Instead of piano with candlelight and confetti/rose petals falling Lane could have been singing as $100 bills rained down. He could have then followed this up with an actor that looked like his best friend to play the body in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Is it just me or does everyone think of Fredo and Michael Corleone in Godfather II whenever they see small fishing/row boats? Not even one minute in and there is a body, a fishing boat, a swamp, AND backwoods strumming: DELIVERENCE ALERT! DELIVERANCE ALERT!
…The song itself was one that Jani Lane was most proud. The well documented story is that this was the song their second album release was to be built around until their label asked them to go back and make something a little more “fun”. CRINGE! We’ll get to this video soon enough…
The video is about witnesses to the involvement of local police in a double murder and has nothing to do with the Harriet Beecher Stowe novel by the same name. Had things worked out differently their follow-up could have included the song The Scarlet Letter and had nothing to do with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book by the same name. ANYWAY, the band is performing in a cabin and bullets are ripping through, there is cop brutality (maybe a rape?), and then a brutal show of violence as one of the members of Warrant takes his guitar and knocks a chair right off the set. Near the end of the song Lane is singing on his knees and then the cops are confronted with a True Romance/Quentin Tarantino type shootout ending.
I have to admit, again. I didn’t want to watch this one. Still, I hit PLAY> Jani Lane doing 360’s through the air and then throwing too many consecutive air punches. CRINGE! Pause.
(5 minutes pass) PLAY>
A couple of observations: Jani’s hat is the exact hat all the skateboarders wore in my High School. I don’t believe Warrant lead to the end of eighties glam, but the polka dot shirt Lane is wearing may have contributed. At this point in their career, Warrant has really refined their synchronized knee drop-head bob dance move. Did you know that Bobbie Brown appeared in a couple episodes of Married With Children? So technically: Al Bundy was there first, just saying.
…Back to the story of this song. So Warrant’s label wanted a different song (other than Uncle Tom’s Cabin) to market the album. Rumor has it Jani Lane wrote Cherry Pie in under 15 minutes. I know, I know: It took 15 minutes to write this! The lyrics were scrawled on the back of a pizza box that is hanging in a Hard Rock Café somewhere. Regardless, next thing Lane and Warrant saw was an album centered on Cherry Pie and not Uncle Tom’s Cabin…
Unacceptable scenes that occur over a one minute span: The Pie Drums. The Fire Hose. The “Smile Ten Miles Wide”. The guitars flying out of the guitar. Pause.
(shaking my head and look away for a full minute) PLAY>
The video ends with a cherry pie flying toward Jani Lane. It stops right before hitting him, but it’s clear it is coming and there is nothing he can do about it. Interesting.
One last thought…The past few years of Lane’s troubled life were well documented and frustrating for fans to understand. Still, after each bump in the road, there was Jani, writing and performing. Entertaining. Regardless of where Jani was in his life I suspect a notebook was never far away. Unfortunately (I also suspect and is often the case) there was usually a bottle resting on top.
R.I.P. Jani Lane
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