Musical Memories: Jane’s Addiction, “Summertime Rolls,” and dancing on a rooftop

Songs are stories. A song can conjure up a time and place like nothing else. Some songs are inextricably etched together with moments in my life. These are Musical Memories.

For a couple of summers, I lived on a rooftop, crowded into an apartment with a gaggle of bearded, sweaty men with strange accents. They called themselves “Texans.”

During the day, we’d dress up like cowboys, throw rubber chickens at one another, then have a shootout. We got paid to do this.

In the evenings, we’d go back to our rooftop apartment and drain many, many cans of very, very cheap beer.

It paid like shit and the work was not what I was cut out to do, but the carefree lifestyle and the people — especially the people — made it a magic (albeit unfocused) time in my life. If it meant enduring some sweaty days and Three Stooges antics while dressed in chaps, so be it.

One evening, Jeff and I were out on the rooftop overlooking the tourist town main street below us, beers in hand. We were undoubtedly waxing poetic about something or other, thinking deeply (or so we thought) about life, the universe, and everything. It’s what we did. He was going through a tumultuous time in his personal life. I was simply trying to figure out who the hell I was.

Then we played “Summertime Rolls” by Jane’s Addiction, and the song will forevermore be tied to that moment.


It just caught us right, I guess. The slow, peaceful start. The melancholy way in which Perry weaves his way around gentle days in the sun. And then the slow build towards a cathartic release, Perry’s soaring wail and the expansive guitars by Dave Navarro, rooted down with Eric Avery’s plodding bass and Stephen Perkins’ tribal percussion. It’s simple and perfect. For Perry, it was a love letter to his girlfriend, as many of his songs were. For us, it became a celebration of nothing more than being alive.

We got lost in it for a few minutes, swaying around up on the roof in a kind of hypnotized dance, heads tilted back towards the sky like two zonked out hippies in punk rock T-shirts, and for a brief moment in lives that were usually filled with uncertainty and existential dread, feeling that the most certain thing of all was that it was glorious to be alive. Admittedly, a rare feeling at that time.

There’s nothing quite like the way a song makes you feel when it makes you feel alive in a way only music can. I’ve listened to the song hundreds of times since then, and never once has it failed to conjure up that memory and that feeling. You can’t manufacture or force that. It just happens. And when it does, it’s magic.

Yellow buttercup, helicopter.

1 Comment

  1. Eric San JuanEric San Juan

    Jeff, you may remember this.


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