Red Hot Chili Peppers
Though the Red Hot Chili Peppers' nucleus formed at L.A.'s Fairfax High School in the late '70s, only drummer Jack Irons was a local native. Vocalist Anthony Kiedis hailed from Grand Rapids, MI. Michael Balzary, who became Flea, was born in Melbourne, Australia, while guitarist Hillel Slovak came from Haifa, Israel (same hometown as KISS' Gene Simmons).
After performing in groups called Los Faces and Anthem, Kiedis enrolled at UCLA. Eventually, Kiedis and Flea were invited to join what was to become the Red Hot Chili Peppers. But first, they operated under the tag Tony Flow and the Miraculous Majestic Masters of Mayhem. During this period, they performed at L.A.'s Kit Kat Strip Club. As a lark, they went on stage nude except for socks covering their private parts.
Aside from the Peppers, Slovak and Irons were in another group named, What Is This. So when the Peppers recorded their self-titled debut in '84, both were contractually barred from participating. Replacement players were used but they didn't set the world on fire. With Slovak and Irons back in the fold and George Clinton producing they released "Freaky Styley" in '85. While the album failed to capture the group's Punk/Funk live energy, it was a vast improvement and indicated their potential. "The Uplift Mofo Party Plan" two years later generated some minor chart action. The next year they unveiled the "Abbey Road" EP with the nearly nude (except for their strategically placed sweat socks) Peppers mimicking The Beatles' famous "walk across the street" cover. Also in '88, Slovak died of a heroin overdose. Following the tragedy, Irons bailed eventually landing with Pearl Jam.
Kiedis and Flea decided to carry on but new members didn't pan out so they were sacked and guitarist John Frusciante and drummer Chad Smith were brought in. This line-up produced the "Mother's Milk" CD, released in '89, with a searing cover of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground." Rick Rubin was enlisted to produce the Peppers' next effort, "Blood Sugar Sex Magik." The undeniable "Give It Away" and ballad "Under The Bridge" drove the album to platinum status.
Despite success (or because of it), Frusciante was hooked on hard drugs and quit the Peppers. A couple guitarists came and went before Dave Navarro stepped in for "One Hot Minute" in '95. But Navarro didn't gel either. Meanwhile, Frusciante continued to record but without success. At rock bottom, he went into rehab. Cleaned up, Frusciante was invited back and eagerly accepted with the group releasing "Californication."
The Peppers changed direction in '02 favoring a more the direct and straight-forward approach on "By The Way." The title track proved to be one awesome Rocker. The '03 release (just in time for Christmas) "Greatest Hits & Videos" contained two new songs - "Fortunes Faded" and "Save The Population.
Bands sometimes go on an extended hiatus. Problem is many never come back. The Red Hot Chili Peppers had four years of down time before they issued their double album "Stadium Arcadium" in '06. Flea claimed it was "the best record we've ever made." The 28 tracks were a few more than originally planned. "We set out to write 13 songs . . . to have a small, digestible piece of art," said Kiedis. "It went haywire from there." "Stadium Arcadium" was the group's ninth studio album but the first to top the Billboard album chart. "Dani California," the set's first single, topped the Rock chart.
In early '07, the group received four trophies, including Best Rock Album ("Stadium Arcadium") and Best Rock Song ("Dani California"), at the 49th Grammy Awards in L.A.. The Peppers also performed their hit "Snow (Hey Oh)" during the show.
After a few years in the corporate world business-types, with an eye toward career advancement, return to school to earn an MBA or other degree. Why should music be any different?
In late '08, Flea enrolled as a student at the University of Southern California to study music while the group remained on hiatus. The bassist took classes in music composition, music theory and jazz trumpet. "Being in a band has been an education, and being on tour has been an education," explained Flea. "So this is just me furthering my education."
Frusciante went in a different direction - actually returned to a familiar one. He issued his album "The Empyrean" in '09. "The drive to create music that is pure is my highest priority," said the guitarist. "I think an artist has to answer to whatever spirits are guiding him." Though a solo effort, Frusciante got help from Flea, Modest Mouse/ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr and the New Dimension Singers. "The Empyrean" was his follow-up to '05's "Curtains."
Kiedis received the '09 Stevie Ray Vaughan Award at the fifth annual MusiCares MAP Fund benefit concert in L.A. He was recognized for his contributions to the charity, which provides support to musicians with substance-abuse problems. Kiedis and bandmates Flea and Smith performed at the event.
Later in the year, the Red Hot Chili Peppers entered the studio ending their two-year hiatus. From the sounds of it, they were stoked about working on the planned '10 release (which got pushed into the following year). "I've no idea what it might sound like - which is exciting," said Smith.
"It's really like the old-school stuff - like the first two records," Davis said later in an interview with AOL's NoiseCreep. "It's just going back to our roots. . . it's just been amazing."
What Smith and Davis failed to mention was that Frusciante was no longer in the band. Rumors had been circulating for some time. They were confirmed in '09 on the guitarist's MySpace blog. "To put it simply, my musical interests have led me in a different direction."
According to Frusciante, this wasn't exactly new news. He wrote that he'd given notice over a year earlier - the second time he'd parted company with RHCP. Meanwhile, RHCP was recording with guitarist Josh Klinghoffer who made his public debut with the band at Neil Young's tribute during MusiCares 2010 in L.A.
Again, all the session reports were positive. "I think that during the writing of this record I have been the most open-minded and refreshed than I have been in a long time," said Kiedis, as the band finished "I'm With You," their first effort since '06's "Stadium Arcadium." "I guess that comes from a much-needed hiatus and becoming a father."
Taking a break from session work (and family stuff), the Red Hot Chili Peppers decided to party. Or get paid for partying. Ringing in the New Year, RHCP performed on the Caribbean island of St. Barts at the estate of billionaire Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. The fete was billed as the "world's most expensive" New Year's Eve party - 300 guests and a $7.8 million budget or $26,000 per guest. Among the songs, RHCP played "Louie, Louie" with Toots (of Toots And The Maytals).
Later, Red Hot Chili Peppers were inducted into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame at Cleveland's Public Hall. Absent at the '12 ceremony was former member, Frusciante. "(Frusciante) didn't feel comfortable coming, which we totally respect," Smith told Billboard. "We asked him... He said, 'I'm just not really comfortable with that, but good luck and thanks for inviting me'."
The Red Hot Chili Peppers released "We Salute You," a six song EP of covers - "Havana Affair" (Ramones), "Search & Destroy" (Iggy & the Stooges), "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" (Neil Young), "Suffragette City" (David Bowie), "I Get Around" (the Beach Boys) and "A Teenager In Love" (Dion and the Belmonts). By recording renditions of songs made famous by previous inductees, RHCP celebrated their own induction.
Picking up the charity baton, Smith received the "Livin' the Dream" award at Little Kids Rock's first ever Family Jam in '15. The event, which raised over $85,000 for music education, took place at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, CA.
Months later, Flea performed a controversial version of the national anthem at Kobe Bryant's final NBA game. Flea, a mega L.A. Lakers fan, was criticized for his bass rendition. Even so, the home team beat the Utah Jazz.
Next, "Dark Necessities," a '16 release, was the first official single released by the group in almost 4 years. The track was from "The Getaway," which was produced by Danger Mouse and mixed by Nigel Godrich.
Within days of the song's release, Kiedis was taken to the hospital suffering from extreme stomach pain due to an intestinal flu. The group was forced to cancel a headlining slot at KROQ's annual Weenie Roast at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre.
The promotional efforts for RHCP's 11th studio album continued with an appearance on The Late Late Show for a Carpool Karaoke segment. During a break in the taping a woman came running out of a nearby house screaming her baby had stopped breathing. Kiedis immediately administered CPR and a tummy rub to resuscitate the child.
With tragedy averted, all four band members joined host James Corden in the car, for versions of "Under The Bridge," "Californication," and "Dark Necessities."
It almost did the trick. "The Getaway" landed at #2 on the Billboard 200 Album Chart. It was kept out of the top spot by Drake's "Views" which was #1 for the eighth consecutive week.
1984 The Red Hot Chili Peppers
1985 Freaky Styley
1987 The Uplift Mofo Party Plan
1989 Mother's Milk
1991 Blood Sugar Sex Magik
1995 One Hot Minute
2002 By The Way
2006 Stadium Arcadium
2011 I'm With You
2016 The Getaway
Every band needs to find a song's inner groove. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are famous for nailing it with a crazy quilt of Funk, Rock and twisting scat lyrics.
"Stadium Arcadium" may represent the Peppers' commercial peak. But it's been a long road. The Red Hot Chili Peppers got going in fits and starts. That makes their '80s output hit or miss. On their sophomore effort "Freaky Styley" their Funk/Punk approach connects. "Mother's Milk" is another highpoint. But these albums are a prelude to "Blood Sugar Sex Magik," the Peppers' undisputed crowning achievement. It's over 70 minutes of Punk, Rock and Thrash that clearly illustrates the group's vitality and power. "Californication" does not eclipse "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" but it stands among the group's best.
Compilation packages are available. "What Hits?" presents the group's output through "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" which is arguably their prime. The "Best Of" collection covers more time but is no more satisfying. "Greatest Hits" is an excellent collection covering nearly two decades.