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.
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
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.
"I'm With You" delivers on those expectations with "Adventures Of Raindance Maggie" (probably the most "vintage" track and the obvious lead single) and "Ethiopia."
Klinghoffer does well in his first studio effort with the group. On "Factory Of Faith" he plies a B-52's "Love Shack" guitar that fits tight. "Look Around" has a Davis rap accented by Klinghoffer. But it's Davis who takes "Happiness Loves Company" and makes it one of the best '60s songs not from that decade.
Double albums are usually a bad idea. No matter how you approach it, there is always a point when a group flat runs out of ideas and begins stealing from itself or others. The big question with any double album is "when does the listener's interest start to wane?" Sometimes it's before the first handful of songs. The classic line is, "the album (insert name here) would have made a great single album."
"Stadium Arcadium" could be called 16 versions of "Under The Bridge" with a dozen other Peppers' touchstones. Fortunately, "Under The Bridge" is an incredible song. An excellent template. And the good news is, there is more than an album's worth of "A" material. If there's a downside it's the old Funk that used to drive many fun RHCP songs is in remission. Fortunately, "Hump De Bump" lives up to its name as Flea lays down tasty, trick bass lines.
The opening track, "Dani California," is a catchy, engaging, mid-tempo tune with a tight hook. There is also the cheery "C'mon Girl" and the intricate vocal interplay on "Death Of A Martian." Being a double set, there's a ton more in the same vein. Even "Slow Cheetah," a sparse ballad, has some teeth to it.
"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" with the opening track "Around The World" and the mid-tempo "Scar Tissue" does not eclipse "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" but it stands among the group's best.
"By The Way" shows the Red Hot Chili Peppers in a different light. Kiedis has room to move and delves deep into the songs. The title track, "Universally Speaking" and "Throw Away Your Television," with the popping guitars, are outstanding. The slower "Don't Forget Me" doesn't cut it but "I Could Die For You," similar to "Under The Bridge," definitely does. Here, the SoCal quartet appears stronger than they have in a long time.
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. For those who like visuals with their music, the CD/DVD "Greatest Hits & Videos," is it. Of the new songs "Fortunes Faded" with a Guess Who "No Time" style guitar is the best.