John’s first solo album is a living enigma. It was re-issued three times, it’s a subject of many theories and there’s dense smoke and a veil around it, appearing as if they do not intend to ever go away. Half of this album was recorded during the early RHCP days, the rest was recorded after John left the band. Heavily influenced by the late Syd Barrett and Captain Beefheart, young John started off his solo career with an incredibly lo-fi recording, released in the middle of his heavy heroin addiction. Originally, Niandra LaDes and Usually Just A T-Shirt were meant to be two separate albums; but they ended up being released as one, as John was very likely afraid that he might not live to see the second one being released. The infamous Stuff movie was distributed as promotional material and there are also two essays that John has written to accompany the album’s release [click here to read them and here to see their scans]. Basically, as it was said in many critical reviews of John’s “dark” period, the Hollywood underground was looking at his drug addiction as something very creative and admirable and therefore he had more than enough support to release this effort. There’s a lot of innovative, brilliant guitar playing on the album, especially on Mascara, Head (Beach Arab) and there is also a very memorable cover of Bad Brains’ Big Takeover. John’s ex-girlfriend Toni Oswald is singing vocals on one of the untitled songs, too. There’s a lot that can be said about this album/these albums. It is up to you to develop your own opinion and discover its hidden depths.
Track Listing For The Cassette Version
- As Can Be [2:57]
- My Smile Is A Rifle [3:48]
- Head (Beach Arab) [2:05]
- Big Takeover [3:18]
- Curtains [2:30]
- Running Away Into You [2:12]
- Ants [2:22]
- Mascara [3:40]
- Been Insane [1:41]
- Skin Blues [1:46]
- Your Pussy’s Glued To A Building On Fire [3:17]
- Blood On My Neck From Success [3:09]
- Ten To Butter Blood Voodoo [1:59]
- Usually Just A T-Shirt [3:39]
- Untitled #1 [0:34]
- Untitled #2 [4:21]
- Untitled #3 [1:50]
- Untitled #4 [1:38]
- Untitled #5 [1:30]
- Untitled #6 [1:29]
- Untitled #7 [1:42]
- Untitled #8 [7:55]
- Untitled #9 [7:04]
- Untitled #10 [0:25]
- Untitled #11 [1:51]
- Untitled #12 [5:27]
- Untitled #13 [1:52]
NOTE: All the songs’ lyrics on the album were written by John Frusciante and are [probably] Â© 1994 Niandra LaDes Music/BMI. However, there was no official lyrics provided for the most of them, so the transcriptions are provided as-they-are. The lyrics for some songs aren’t available at the moment as it is rather hard to decypher them, so help is more than welcome.
- This album contains of two thematically separate albums.
- The cassette version contains two more songs.
- The album was re-issued in 1999, 2003 and 2006.
- The album was dedicated to Clara (Balzary, Flea’s older daughter).
- The album was also dedicated to Toni Oswald, John’s friend and his girlfriend in the time of the album’s release. She also sings on Untitled #9.
- There is a lot of hype surrounding Untitled #8. Some people think that a porn movie is being watched during the song; some even think it’s a sex session.
- The person on the front cover is John himself, and Niandra LaDes would be his female alter ego, modelled after Marcel Dushamps’ feminine alter ego, Rrose SÃ©lavy (which is read just like Rose c’est la vie, curiously). Supposedly, the cover and back cover photos are scenes from Toni Oswald’s movie featuring John.
- Outside Space, B-side of the Estrus single from the Smile era is the song which begins the same way Mascara ends.
- Some of the songs originally intended to be on this album ended up on the second album, because of an album’s length and River Phoenix’s death.
- Part of Your Pussy’s Glued To A Building On Fire was overdubbed with screeching. The song actually has a second verse, but John sung it only once, at the solo show in San Francisco on 28th April 2001, likely to declare love to his former fiance.
- At its original appearance in Stuff, the song Untitled #2 had spoken words as lyrics, but for whatever reason it was omitted from the album.
- The instrumental Ants (found on the rare cassette-only version of the album) can also be heard in Perry Farrel’s movie Gift
- The other track that exists only on the cassette version is often wrongly-labelled as Soul Removal, which is actually the original name for Height Down off Smile.
Release date: November 1994
Released: Worldwide, on various labels.
Publisher: American Recordings
Duration: 1 hour, 10 minutes, 13 seconds
John plays: All instruments
Other personnel:Toni Oswald sings on Untitled #9
The Inlay Tracklisting
(Look at inlay 01 photo to see what it’s about…)
This is how the album was supposed to be like, until the tracklisting was revised because of the album’s overall length and River Phoenix’s death. The cassette version allowed for two more songs, as cassettes can be custom-made and CDs couldn’t last longer than 70 minutes before.
- Running Away Into You
- As Can Be
- Beach Arab1
- Big Takeover
- Smile From The Streets You Hold3
- My Smile Is A Rifle
- Bought Her Soul4
- (something that was erased)5
- Your Pussy’s Glued To A Buidling On Fire
- Blood On My Neck From Success
- Yell’O’ in Zbras6
- Usually Just A T-Shirt
- Untitled #1-#13
1 – Renamed to Head (Beach Arab)
2 – Something else was erased to make space for it.
3 – Ended up on the second album, which was named after it.
4 – Became Well I’ve Been on the second album.
5 – Either this “something” or the “other” something is Height Down (originally titled Soul Removal), which was, just like Well, I’ve Been and Smile From The Streets You Hold omitted from the album, because of its relation to the late River Phoenix.
6 – Renamed to Ten To Butter Blood Voodoo
Under the tracklisting, there are also these lines:
(noisy water incl. She shoots speed to fail properly
? from ? & The taste
and when I was 2
It is unclear what these lines are refering to. They could be “descriptions” of some of the untitled songs or names of some other songs (e.g. the songs John played in 1997 or the unknown song briefly played during the Vpro interview).
On Pussy’s second verse
If you listen to the version of the song from the show in San Francisco on 27th April 2001 and the one from Rochester on 08th May 1997, you’ll hear something that can be transcribed like this:
Don’t ever waste your time when it’s your night
Don’t ever waste your time on him
It’s only love that makes it worth your while
You’ll find your faces all falling down
And I’ll be around
I’ll be around
After this, John says something in the lines that he decided to reveal it all and that it’s the part of the song related to being in love, so he sings it because he’s really in love. He probably decided to sing that verse because he was freshly in love with his ex-fiance. And we never heard those lines again…hope he’ll have a reason to sing it all sometime.
On Rrose, after whom Niandra was modelledRrose SÃ©lavy, the female alter ego created by Marcel Duchamp, is one of the most complex and pervasive pieces in the enigmatic puzzle of the artist’s oeuvre. She first emerged in portraits made by the photographer Man Ray in New York in the early 1920s, when Duchamp and Man Ray were collaborating on a number of conceptual photographic works. Rrose SÃ©lavy lived on as the person to whom Duchamp attributed specific works of art, Readymades, puns, and writings throughout his career. By creating for himself this female persona whose attributes are beauty and eroticism, he deliberately and characteristically complicated the understanding of his ideas and motives. Only a few prints of this photograph are known. This version, inscribed in 1924 by Duchamp to the Philadelphian Samuel S. White 3rd, came to the Museum with White’s collection of paintings and drawings. It forms part of the Museum’s world-famous holdings of works by Duchamp and is central to a group of Man Ray photographs related to the life and work of Duchamp also owned by the Museum.
(an excerpt from a book on mr. Duchamp)