Red Hot Chili Peppers
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.