I hate to admit it, but my passion for writing just isn’t what it used to be. So when something starts gnawing at my brain and I feel compelled to write something I figure that I had better listen to it. Not only might it be a long time before I have that feeling again, but obviously somewhere deep in my subconscious it must be important.
When I heard about Jani Lane’s passing on Thursday night, I was honestly shocked. And I’m a hard person to shock. I texted several of my friends and started looking around the Internet hoping that it was a hoax. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.
Normally when a celebrity dies I could care less. Most of the time you can see it coming or you aren’t that big of a fan. And of course, there are always the asshole celebs that you feel like they deserved it.
I can distinctly remember when Warrant first came on the scene. MTV was still playing videos and you could call in and vote for your favorite video. No, it was just before they ruined it and brought in Carson Daily to host his crappy version of the request show. This was when they just played the top videos and didn’t have all that cheesiness in-between them. I remember that because I called in every day just so I could hear “Down Boys”,which was there first hit single.
To this day that is one of my all-time favorite songs. It’s on my list of songs that I can never get tired of hearing. I’ve spent many hours singing along and dancing to this song, and I eventually learned to play the song on my guitar. Hell, I’m listening to it right now. I’ve been listening to all the Warrant albums since I heard the news.
All my life I’ve loved music, have been inspired by it, and wanted to play it. Music is different for everyone, but to me it’s not about singing about your dog or your pickup truck, complaining about your miserable life, or stealing someone else’s music just to put your own lame-ass lyrics over the top of it. It’s supposed to be about fun, the celebration of being alive and taking you away from your everyday life. And the songs that Warrant performed and Jani Lane wrote a lot of fit my idea of music perfectly.
Even so, it’s not the fact that I enjoyed the music that compels me to write this, but it’s about 20 minutes of my life which I didn’t realize was that important or meaningful to me until right now.
I come from what most people would call a small town in Alaska. There were about 70,000 people in the surrounding area. We had one movie theatre, no arenas, and a small airport with five or six gates. We rarely had any good bands coming up to perform and most of those were older bands that had one original member remaining and somehow managed to cling onto the band name.
But when Warrant came to Fairbanks, they came at the height of their popularity. The album “Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich” was on the top of the charts and the videos were in heavy rotation on MTV. They were playing in Anchorage the night before, so I guess they were somehow enticed to take the 45-minute flight to come and perform for us.
Knowing that they had just been in Anchorage and were performing here the next day, it wasn’t too difficult to figure out that they were going to have to pass through our airport at some point. And with only a handful of flights coming in during the day all we had to do was hang out at the airport for a few hours. So I and a few of my friends, who would later become my band mates, drove out to the airport. They weren’t on the first flight, but the roadies were and so was most of the equipment. We knew then that they would be on the next flight.
This was back in the good old days when you could actually go up to the gate and meet people as they got off the plane. When Jani got off the flight he was actually surprised that there were people waiting to meet him. From the moment I met him, he treated us like friends and not just fans. The band stopped and signed our CDs. Believe it or not one of my friends didn’t have a CD and actually had them sign his cassette single (how embarrassing). I think my CD is missing at least one autograph because it was getting passed around as I spoke with Jani. A couple girls who were there for a flight had no idea who they were but saw us hanging out and getting autographs so they came over and had them sign some paper that they found in their purses.
So we hung out for twenty minutes or so while talking about the music and what they thought of being in Alaska. They asked us questions about the town, places to go, what we did and were actually interested in us as people. I remember asking Jani about the end of the song“Cold Sweat” and his little Betty Boop sounds at the very end. He looked at me and said, “Man, I never wanted that on the album. During one of the takes I was just goofing around and the next thing I know the record company wants to keep it on the album.” I reassured him that it was actually funny and he didn’t have to worry about it. He laughed.
While heading off to the luggage area, I remember some guy from behind the counter at the food court yelling. “Hey! Who are you guys?” Jani screamed “We’re Warrant!” and gestured to all of us as if to include me and my friends in the band.
As we walked through the airport my friend with the cassette single started heading out the door and out of habit I started following him while I was talking. It was weird. To this day I haven’t met someone that I’ve felt that relaxed and comfortable to talk to. Talking to Jani was like talking with a friend I’d known my whole life. So when he asked, “Are you guys going already?” I answered, “Yeah, we’ve got to get in line for the concert. There’s no assigned seating so we’ve got to go early.” He smiled and waved as we said goodbye.
Two seconds later after the automatic door closed behind us and my best friend stood looking at me kind of irritated I realized that we had just walked away from the band we were going to go stand in line to see. Yeah, I still can’t live that one down, but if Mr. Cassette Single hadn’t started walking in the wrong direction, who knows what fun we could have had. Hell, we might not have even needed to wait in line to get in to the show.
I will say that the concert was incredible. The music was good and the vocals were perfect. Even when I saw them again in 2001 at the House of Blues in Anaheim, I was still impressed at how well they sounded. I didn’t get to talk with Jani that time, but I still had that feeling like I was watching an old friend.
So I guess that’s why I’ve felt compelled to sit at my computer until three in the morning typing up a story that only a handful of people may even see. A friend I had for a mere twenty minutes has passed away and I feel that I owe it to him to take a little time out of my own life to say something good about him and wish him a peaceful respite.