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Stories Behind Alanis Morissette's 'Jagged Little Pill' That You Oughta Know

Updated December 30, 2019 18.9k views14 items

Alanis Morissette was just a teenager without a record deal when she began working with producer Glen Ballard on Jagged Little Pill. As a result, there weren't a lot of high expectations for the Canadian singer's third studio album. A popular radio station in Los Angeles started to air the first single, "You Oughta Know," on heavy rotation, and the song's raw lyrics and instrumentals made more than a lasting impression. 

Jagged Little Pill has a 1990s grunge-alternative rock sound, and is still somehow radio-friendly. The album went on to sell over 33 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling albums of all time. It also won five Grammy Awards. Morissette's LP is often cited as one of the greatest and most influential albums ever recorded. 

Jagged Little Pill is not just about the angst-driven "You Oughta Know," however, and it features five other chart-topping singles. It turned Alanis Morissette into one of the biggest international pop superstars of the 1990s. 

Behind-the-scenes stories of Jagged Little Pill reveal how the album's massive success negatively affected Morissette, what Alanis thinks of the album today, and who the infamous "Mr. Duplicity" might be. 

  • Photo: / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    'Your House' Is Based On An Experience She Had Staying Alone In The House Of A Man She Had A Crush On

    There is a hidden track on Jagged Little Pill. The final track of the CD (not on the original vinyl release) is a remix of "You Oughta Know." Five minutes and 12 seconds into the song, an a capella tune called "Your House" starts to play. 

    The track is about breaking into a lover's house without permission:

    Would you forgive me love if I danced in your shower
    Would you forgive me love if I laid in your bed
    Would you forgive me love if I stay all afternoon?

    It turns out that the hidden track is the only tune on Jagged Little Pill that is not autobiographical. Morissette explains where the idea for the song came from: 

    That is the only song on the record that's not 100% true. I was staying in this guy's house in Hollywood and he wasn't there for a week. I remember being overly curious and sleeping in his bed. It felt eerie and unnerving; I also had kind of a crush on him.

    I get burned at the end of the song because if I had really snooped around as much as I wanted to, it would have been wrong. I probably would have found something I didn't want to find. I deserved it.

  • Fans Would Break Into Her Hotel Room And Leave Notes In Her Undergarments During Shows

    Morissette was just 21 years old when Jagged Little Pill dropped in music stores and changed the outlook of her entire life. The singer had achieved small success in Canada with her first two albums but was still relatively unknown to the rest of the world. 

    Everything changed in June 1995 when Jagged Little Pill became an instant hit. She only thought it would sell about 125,000 copies; instead, it sold 33 million. Morissette became a music superstar in the 1990s. But, there was a price to pay for that fame. 

    In a 2018 interview, she revealed a few of the unsettling events resulting from her stardom:

    I started landing at airports internationally and there were 30,000 people there. I wound up hiding in my hotel room, but if I walked past the window, even my shadow on the drapes would cause people to scream outside. People would break in and leave notes in my underwear when I was doing a show. It felt like an obliteration of my boundaries.

  • Photo: Dogma / Lions Gate Films

    Morissette Was Not Angry Or Bitter When She Recorded 'Jagged Little Pill'

    Since the angry breakup anthem "You Oughta Know" was the first track released on Jagged Little Pill, that's how most listeners were introduced to Alanis Morissette. In turn, most people think that she was angry while writing the song. Many of the tracks on the album, however, were sweet and light. For example, "Head Over Feet" is a pure love song and "Hand in My Pocket" is about how everything is going to be "fine, fine, fine."

    In fact, when Morissette was writing Jagged Little Pill, she wasn't angry or bitter. Ballard described the fun times that the two shared making the album:

    People think that she was in this heavy state of mind when making it, the opposite was true. I've never been funnier, she laughed at everything I had to say. She was just in a place of wanting fun and laughter, and she was making me laugh, so hard that I couldn't even sit up. Honestly, it was that fun.

  • Red Hot Chili Peppers' Bassist, Flea, Appears On 'You Oughta Know'

    Morissette, Oseary, and Ballard were all in agreement not to overproduce Jagged Little Pill. Their vision was to make it a "handmade record." They would add some drums and other instruments here and there, but that's it. There aren't vocal doubles or backup singers on the album. They just wanted to let the emotion of Alanis's voice do the talking. 

    That is, except for "You Oughta Know." Oseary just happened to be best pals with Red Hot Chili Peppers lead singer Anthony Kiedis. He discussed how he got Flea and Dave Navarro to play on Morissette's album:

    There's a guy named Jimmy who I was hanging with at the time who played in "You Oughta Know" and he just kept saying, "Gosh, imagine what this would sound like with a stronger bass and guitar." So he had the immediate vision for it. And then I talked to Alanis and Glen and asked if we could try to let Jimmy see out his vision. And so we did, we brought in Flea and Dave [Navarro], who were friends, and they tried it and the rest is history.