On August 11, 2011, Jani Lane, lead singer of the heavy metal band Warrant, was found dead in a Los Angeles motel room. An investigation into the 47-year-old singer/songwriter’s death quickly turned up excessive amounts of alcohol in his system, mixed with prescription medication (via Reuters). Credited with writing most of Warrant’s music, Lane was the driving force behind the band’s late ’80s massive hits: “Heaven,” “I Saw Red,” and the band’s biggest and most maligned hit, “Cherry Pie” (via Billboard). But, as history would soon reveal, Lane’s real problems took hold, as with most bands of the era, in 1992, when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” knocked the music world on its collective backside. The downhill slide of “hair metal” threw most of the bands of the “hairband” era into a tailspin, but perhaps none were affected as deeply as Lane.
Flashback to early 1990. Warrant, high off the success of their first album “Dirty, Rotten, Filthy, Stinking Rich,” returned to the studio to record the follow-up. Called “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (via Decibel), Lane and the band submitted the finished disc to their record label, Columbia. After a quick listen, executives told the band they needed a hit single on the album, something radio-friendly that would get people singing in their cars. Lane answered the challenge by creating one of the most iconic songs of the era, and what would become his eventual downfall. In less than 20 minutes, Lane penned the song “Cherry Pie.”
the curse of cherry pie
A three-minutes-plus little ditty about the upside of fooling around, Columbia executives loved the song so much, the original title and concept for the follow up to “Dirty, Rotten, Filthy, Stinking Rich” was ditched; replacing the “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” title and theme with the far more titillating “Cherry Pie.”
The artwork for the album was quickly updated and a music video for “Cherry Pie” was created, as well. Just as tongue in cheek as the song, the video featured Lane’s then-girlfriend Bobbie Brown dancing, provocatively dressed in short shorts and revealing top. The first release off the newly retitled album “Cherry Pie,” the single blasted up the charts, peaking at No. 10 on the Billboard 100, lingering there for an impressive 19 weeks.
As time moved on, however, attitudes toward the song “Cherry Pie” began to change. Sure, it was a fun little song in 1990, but with the introduction of grunge music in the early ’90s, fans’ attitude toward the song shifted. When once it was a stadium shattering smash, “Cherry Pie” became the poster child for the excesses of the era, and the butt of too many jokes. Lane left Warrant in 1993 to pursue a solo career (via Ultimate Classic Rock) that was short-lived; he returned to the band less than six months later. Back with Warrant, Lane continued spiraling downward. And by the 2000s, hair metal bands, much like disco before them, became the laughingstock of the music world. Lane became known as the “Cherry Pie guy.”
An unjustifiable legacy
In 2006, VH1 aired a documentary series titled “Heavy: The Story of Metal” (via Hairband Heaven). Lane was interviewed for the third episode of the series, “Looks That Kill.” Lane made the unfortunate mistake of telling his truth about “Cherry Pie.” Lane blurted out, “I could shoot myself in the f****** head for writing that song.” And while he would later recant the quote, saying that he was going through hell in his personal life, the die had been cast. Lane spent the latter 2000s in and out of hiding, sometimes showing up to sing with Warrant, sometimes not, and all the while hounded and haunted by all the fun being poked at him over “Cherry Pie.”
In a 2008 interview, Lane did his best to walk back his prior comments on “Cherry Pie,” stating: “I still don’t mind (‘Cherry Pie’) to this day. I tried to explain this. People are like, ‘You hated that song.’ No, I didn’t hate the song. It’s just that when I was young and full of angst and I wanted everyone to listen to my serious songs I was like, ‘How dare you define me by that kitschy, tongue in cheek sexual innuendo.’ Now in hindsight, I’m really pleased that I wrote something that seems to be standing the test of time — at least to this point” (via Delco Times).
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