IMDB chooses to mock Jan Terri as ‘the endearingly bad Italian-American singer/songwriter; plain, dumpy with a gratingly nasal off-key voice, uproariously awful songs and astonishingly low rent music videos’.
Yet I consider Jan Terri a rock goddess of singular persuasion and much prefer the description afforded her by the Dangerous Minds website; that of ‘legendary outsider’.
I first crossed paths with Jan some fifteen years ago when music industry notable Matthew Donlevy shared her seminal ‘Journey to Mars’ video with me. I was smitten from word go. Jan was intense, confident and brimming with chutzpah. As Matthew said, “I liked her glamour and how serious she was with her act. I believed what she believed.”
Janice Spagnolia was born in 1959 in Chicago, graduated from Columbia College with a degree but ended up a limousine driver while simultaneously blending her kick-arse songwriting skills with a performance style that is best described as ‘having an argument with your own song’. Because stylistically Jan’s dogged musical approach could be said to put the Terri into terrier.
Back in the 90’s before viral meant anything other than medical, Jan’s music gained an underground cult following amongst the music industry, with Marilyn Manson taking a particular shine towards her, so much so that he booked her for a birthday gig as well as an opening act for a number of his Chicago shows in the late 90’s.
But after an appearance on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show in 2000 Jan Terri all but disappeared off the scene, purportedly to look after an ailing mother. That is, until Dangerous Minds reported in 2011 that Jan had recorded a new holiday ditty called ‘Excuse My Christmas’ which inexplicably starts with Jan yelling ‘Where’s my Fatino Lamp?’.
So where is she now? As it turns out I’ve chanced upon her recently launched Kickstarter funding effort to complete ‘No Rules’, which is to be her final album. Jan’s scraped together enough cash to record its first single, called Skyrockets, which is already on high rotation in my head thanks to some compelling lyrics such as ‘Skyrocket to hell, for taking my love for granted’. Positively anthemic stuff in my books.
Jan’s Kickstarter fund has a short window of only 30 days, closing on November 8. Her target is $4,000. So far she’s received $130. I’ll be kicking the tin myself and encourage you too, given she’s prepared to accept donations of just $1 or more.
Jan Terri is one unique package and a beacon of individuality. Jan’s more introspective lyrics sometimes feel like a distant relation of the Wiggins sisters. And like The Shaggs, Jan has played by her own set of rules in the most compelling fashion.
That is a splendidly noble pursuit, one that I find thoroughly inspiring and which I believe warrants more of our interest, attention and concern than Miley Cyrus ever did.