Buyer’s Guide

Red Hot Chili Pep­pers

Classic Rock - - Contents - Dave Ever­ley

How to come out of the record shop with the best al­bums from one of the best bands to come out of LA.

One of the great bands to come out of LA, the Chilis mixed funk and much more with rock, tak­ing it to places it had never been be­fore.

Few bands have had as many sec­ond acts as the Red Hot Chili Pep­pers. Or third, fourth or fifth acts, for that mat­ter. The group put to­gether in Los An­ge­les in 1983 by high-school friends An­thony Kiedis and Michael ‘Flea’ Balzary have fol­lowed a way­ward path that has taken them from Hol­ly­wood funk-rock brats to un­likely rock elder states­men.

It’s been far from plain sail­ing. Even ig­nor­ing the turnover of band mem­bers (eight gui­tarists and four drum­mers to date), they’ve nearly been de­railed more than once by drug ad­dic­tion. Kiedis was fired briefly from his own band in 1987 due to a se­vere heroin prob­lem, while gui­tarist John Fr­us­ciante’s orig­i­nal four-year stint saw him trans­formed from wide-eyed mu­si­cal prodigy into crack-ad­dled recluse holed up in the Chateau Mar­mont Ho­tel, paint­ing pic­tures in his own blood. Both, though, fared bet­ter than found­ing gui­tarist Hillel Slo­vak, who died of an over­dose in June 1988, just as the band were about to make their in­ter­na­tional break­through.

But they’re a tougher propo­si­tion than the uber-frat-boy im­age sug­gests, and the soap op­eras of the past three decades have dis­tracted from the band’s mu­si­cal achieve­ments. Their ini­tial mix of Cal­i­for­nia punk rock, funk, Bri­tish post-punk and white-dude rap al­most sin­gle-hand­edly sparked the late-80s funk rock ex­plo­sion.

If the death of Slo­vak was a per­sonal tragedy, it jolted the band into fo­cus pro­fes­sion­ally. 1989’s Mother’s Milk and 1991’s sprawl­ing Blood Sugar Sex Magik de­liv­ered on the prom­ise they’d been threat­en­ing. The lat­ter, es­pe­cially, was a huge com­mer­cial suc­cess, pro­pelled by the un­stop­pable one-two of hit sin­gles

Give It Away and Un­der The Bridge. But Fr­us­ciante quit dur­ing the Blood Sugar Sex Magik tour, throw­ing the Chilis into an ex­tended pe­riod of chaos, which would be re­solved only by the re­turn of the er­rant gui­tarist for 1999’s Cal­i­for­ni­ca­tion.

The past decade has seen the band set­tling into a mid­dle-aged groove that com­bines their seem­ingly in­ex­haustible en­ergy with the wis­dom and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion of age. Even Fr­us­ciante’s sec­ond de­par­ture, in 2009, hasn’t slowed them down. More than 30 years af­ter they formed, the Chili Pep­pers sit along­side the Beach Boys, The Doors, the Ea­gles, Van Halen and Guns N’ Roses in the pan­theon of clas­sic LA bands.


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