Red Hot Chili Peppers

 Red Hot Chili Peppers

 Anthony Kiedis – circa 2004

 “What I’ve got, you gotta get it, put it in you” – ‘Give It Away’ (Anthony Kiedis, Flea, John Frusciante, Chad Smith)

They are almost naked.  The four musicians on stage are wearing only tube socks…but not on their feet.  Instead, the tube socks cover their manhood.  “It felt great to be on stage naked with the exaggerated phallus dangling between our legs,” reports vocalist Anthony Kiedis.  The band is The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  They are on stage at The Kit Kat Club in Los Angeles, California, and it is autumn 1983.  “It was a gas,” confirms Kiedis.

Anthony Kiedis (surname pronounced KEE-dis) is born 1 November 1962 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  He is the son of John Kiedis and Margaret ‘Peggy’ Idema.  Anthony has two sisters, Julie and Jen, and will later gain a half-brother, James.  Anthony’s great grandfather, Anton Kiedis, was Lithuanian.  Anthony’s paternal grandmother had some Mohican blood.  Anthony’s parents split up when he is still a child.  John Kiedis relocates to California with ambitions to become an actor in Hollywood.  When he is 11, Anthony joins his father in Los Angeles.  “There was psychotic beauty in the air,” is how Anthony recalls his first impression of his new home.  John Kiedis, using the stagename Blackie Dammett, lives a fairly permissive existence which is eye-opening for his teenage offspring.  “I inherited my father’s insatiable desire to meet all the beautiful girls in the world,” admits Anthony.  For starters, Haya Handel is his high school sweetheart at Fairfax High School.  There are also drugs in the family household.  “I started dabbling with heroin when I was 14.  I thought it was cocaine,” Anthony says.  He also contends that, “I know whatever my father did, in his own way, he still loved me.”  In 1978, aged 15, on the campus of Fairfax High School, Anthony Kiedis meets Flea.

The boy known as Flea is born Michael Peter Balzary (surnamed pronounced BAL-zah-ree) on 16 October 1962 in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.  His ancestry is a mix of Hungarian and Irish.  Michael’s parents divorce when he is 4.  He travels to New York in the U.S.A. with his mother, Patricia, and his sister, Karen.  The family moves to Los Angeles around six years later in 1972.  By this time, Michael has a step-father.  Walter Urban, Jr. is a jazz musician and his love of music inspires his step-son.  Michael starts out playing drums but soon switches to trumpet.  He is something of a prodigy, impressing his step-father’s jazz musician friends with his skill.  “When I was a kid, I though rock music was for idiots,” Flea recalls.  “I wanted to be a jazz trumpeter.”  Michael Balzary earns the nickname Flea at school, around 1978.  He and his friends come up with silly cartoon names for themselves, but Michael’s alias of Flea sticks.  It is around this time he meets Anthony Kiedis.  “We ended up sitting next to each other in high school,” Flea states.

The two boys have a third friend.  Anthony Kiedis suggests that, “Hillel, Flea and I were actually a trio.”  ‘Hillel’ is Hillel Slovak (13 April 1962 – 25 June 1988).  Born in Haifa, Israel, Hillel Slovak immigrates with his family to the U.S.A.  Money is scarce in the Slovak home but he receives a guitar at his Bar Mitzvah when he is 13.  Hillel practices diligently, inspired by the heavy guitar sounds of Jimi Hendrix and the hard rock of Kiss.  Music is a common bond for Anthony Kiedis, Flea and Hillel Slovak.  “We spent a lot of time listening to music together, getting high,” remembers Kiedis.  The three lads go on backpacking trips together.

When Flea turns 16, Hillel Slovak teaches him to play bass, an instrument better suited to their collective musical aspirations than trumpet.  Flea quickly learns the new instrument.  His proficiency is not that surprising because, in addition to the lad’s previously demonstrated ability on drums and trumpet, Flea’s step-father, Walter Urban, Jr. is a jazz bassist.

Although Anthony Kiedis enjoys talking about music with his friends, he harbours ambitions to emulate his father and become an actor.  He gets some bit parts as a streetwise youth in his late teens.

In 1979 Hillel Slovak puts together a band of his own called Anthym.  The line-up is Alain Johannes (vocals, guitar), Hillel Slovak (guitar), Flea (bass) and Jack Irons (drums) (born 18 July 1962).  Anthony Kiedis sometimes opens their shows, telling jokes or reciting poetry.

In 1980 the boys graduate from Fairfax High School.  Anthony Kiedis goes on to the University of California in Los Angeles (U.C.L.A.) while the others concentrate on music.  In 1982 Flea joins a latter day punk rock act called Fear.  This act folds by the end of 1984, but even before that, Flea gravitates back to his old friends.

In the summer of 1983, Anthony Kiedis, Hillel Slovak, Flea and Jack Irons play a gig at the Rhythm Lounge in Los Angeles.  They are billed as Tony Flow And The Miraculously Majestic Masters Of Mayhem.  In the spoken word style of rap vocalists, Anthony Kiedis performs a poem he has written called ‘Out In L.A.’ while the band improvises a musical backing for him.  Despite there only being around thirty people in the audience, Anthony Kiedis is happy with the show: “It was just for the hell of it.  It was so much fun.”  The Red Hot Chili Peppers are effectively born at this moment.  The band’s new name is borrowed from Louis Armstrong’s 1920s jazz quintet.  A complicating factor is that Hillel Slovak and Jack Irons are also involved in another band, What Is This?  The Red Hot Chili Peppers play a number of gigs around Los Angeles.

One of these early gigs is the (in)famous show at the Kit Kat Club.  Anthony Kiedis says this “was a strip bar,” so perhaps this inspires the band to mischief.  “And so we were backstage,” he continues, “all nervous and excited, saying, ‘Should we do this?’, ‘Let’s just do it.’”  So, for their encore, The Red Hot Chili Peppers come out on stage wearing only tube socks to preserve their modesty.

In 1983 Anthony Kiedis is briefly romantically involved with Nina Hagen.

By November 1983, The Red Hot Chili Peppers have acquired a manager, Lindy Goetz, and he uses a six-song demo tape from the band’s live shows to obtain a seven album recording contract for the group with EMI America and Enigma Records.  As fate would have it, What Is This? secured a recording contract with MCA two weeks earlier.  Hillel Slovak and Jack Irons believe What Is This? has more potential, so they opt to pursue a future with that act.  So, although Slovak and Irons are founding members of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, they do not appear on the group’s official recording debut.  Anthony Kiedis and Flea replace Slovak and Irons with Cliff Martinez (guitar) (born 5 February 1954) and Jack Sherman (drums) (born 18 January 1956).

Hillel Slovak and Jack Irons are not alone in believing the future is limited for The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Perhaps in part due to such behaviour as the incident with the tube socks, The Chili Peppers are widely regarded as ‘a joke band’ of ‘tattooed hooligans.’  History will prove otherwise.

The music of The Red Hot Chili Peppers is a daring blend of rap, funk, thrash and punk.  Rap music is rhymed speech set to a steady beat.  In 1983 it is still largely confined to the African-American music community but is gaining more listeners at a steady rate.  Funk was probably most popular in the early 1970s.  Again, primarily the province of African-American musicians, funk emphasised rhythm over melody, treating each instrument as if it was a drum.  One of its prime characteristics is an aggressively plucked bass, producing a ‘popping’ sound.  Thrash is one of a number of mutant forms of heavy metal.  As the name implies, it takes the extra loud guitar and drums of metal and speeds them up into frenetic action.  Punk rock’s heyday was in the mid-1970s but it proves resistant to fading away completely, resurfacing periodically in pockets of activity.  Los Angeles is a particularly fertile ground for latter day punks.  A sort of cynical and disrespectful attitude is a key ingredient of punk’s appeal.

The prime elements of The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ sound can be drawn back to the individual members.  With his improvised poetry and extroverted personality, Anthony Kiedis is the rap part of the equation.  Fleas’ popping bass represents the funk component.  The third member of the original trio, Hillel Slovak, evoked thrash metal with his hyper-energised guitar work.  Collectively, the band embodied punk’s raw and wild values.  All these diverse constituents could simply have cancelled each other out or created an unholy, shapeless, din.  What makes them work is the interpersonal relationships of the band members.  Recalling their days at Fairfax High, Flea says, “We loved each other.  We were a family.  And because of that we were able to create this band.”  Just as the components of their personalities merged into ‘a family’, the components of their individual musical styles merged into a band.

The songs of The Red Hot Chili Peppers are credited to the members collectively as songwriters.  This is because their songs are largely created through combined improvisation.  Typically, Anthony Kiedis scribbles some notes for potential lyrics and brings them to the group.  While he recites or sings these words, the rest of the band tries to put together an appropriate musical accompaniment.  They are a ‘jam band’ (‘Jamming’ being a term for musical improvisation, usually in a group context).

Such a structure means there is no real leader or star of the band; it is a communal, cooperative enterprise.  With that acknowledgement, it is also probably true that Flea’s early musical prodigy status follows him into his adult work.  He is described as ‘one of the most famous and talented bass players in the world.’  Yet the band never becomes ‘Flea And His Friends’.  The Red Hot Chili Peppers is a distinct musical entity in its own right, one that could not exist without the contributions and alchemical connections of all the members.

‘The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ (1984) is released in August.  The album is produced by Andy Gill from notable British art punks The Gang Of Four.  The band is ‘disappointed in the record’s overall sound’ and it ‘fails to capture their essence.’

In October 1984, at the end of the tour to promote their debut album, The Red Hot Chili Peppers sack guitarist Cliff Martinez.  Early in 1985, Hillel Slovak quits What Is This? and returns to The Red Hot Chili Peppers as their guitarist.

In 1985 Anthony Kiedis begins a relationship with Jennifer Bruce that continues until 1987.

‘Freaky Styley’ (1985), The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ second album, is produced by George Clinton, mastermind of the legendary funk acts Parliament and Funkadelic.  Although the group have a better relationship with Clinton than the producer of their first album, Andy Gill, ‘the band often indulges in heavy heroin use while recording the album.’

Drummer Jack Sherman is sacked in 1986, making way for the return of Jack Irons.  This completes the reunion of the original Red Hot Chili Peppers: Anthony Kiedis, Flea, Hillel Slovak and Jack Irons.

‘The Uplift Mofo Party Plan’ (1987) (US no. 148) is produced by Michael Beinhorn.  Drug problems continue to plague the group with both Anthony Kiedis and Hillel Slovak suffering from debilitating heroin addictions.

Anthony Kiedis’ father, Blackie Dammett, reaches the modest height of his career in ‘Lethal Weapon’ (1987) when he plays a thug beaten up by a cop played by Mel Gibson in a fight on a lot selling Christmas trees.

In 1987 Anthony Kiedis begins dating Ione Skye in a relationship that continues until December 1989.

Both Anthony Kiedis and Hillel Slovak try to clean up from their drug addictions.  However, police discover the body of Hillel Slovak on 25 June 1988.  He has died of a heroin overdose, aged 26.  “I did not accept the news,” says Anthony Kiedis.  “I just refused to accept it.”  Flea is more philosophical: “He just made a mistake.  Took the wrong drugs, the wrong time.  He didn’t make it.”

Anthony Kiedis does not attend Hillel Slovak’s funeral, fleeing to Mexico.  Ten days later, he returns to the U.S. and enters a drug rehabilitation program.

Jack Irons, who felt particularly close to the deceased, quits The Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1988, suffering from depression.

“And he [Jack Irons] left,” recalls Anthony Kiedis, “and Flea and I looked at each other and said, ‘What are we gonna do?’”  What they do is carry on, rebuilding the band once again.  The new recruits in 1988 are DeWayne ‘Blackbyrd’ McKnight (guitar) (born 17 April 1954) and D.H. Peligro (a.k.a. Darren Hensley) (drums).  McKnight is a veteran of Parliament / Funkadelic, while Peligro comes from the punk band The Dead Kennedys.  McKnight is dismissed after only a few gigs ‘because the chemistry isn’t there.’  D.H. Peligro suggests John Frusciante as a substitute for McKnight.

John Frusciante (surname pronounced froosh-ANT-ee) is born 5 March 1970 in New York City, New York, U.S.A.  He grows up in the area of Queens.  John is of Italian descent.  His father is a judge.  John Frusciante has two brothers, Erik and Michael, and two sisters, Anna and Lilly.  His parents divorce when John is 7.  After stops in Arizona and Florida, John and his mother wind up in California.  When John is 9, his step-father gives the boy his first acoustic guitar.  At 15, John Frusciante hears The Red Hot Chili Peppers as a local band.  The following year he quits school at 16 to become a musician.  He is 18 when he joins The Red Hot Chili Peppers on 17 September 1988.  Flea describes John Frusciante as “a really talented and knowledgeable musician.”

By November 1988 The Red Hot Chili Peppers find it necessary to fire drummer D.H. Peligro due to his drug and alcohol problems.  However, Anthony Kiedis helps Peligro straighten out after the drummer leaves the band.  After auditioning over thirty other drummers, The Red Hot Chili Peppers choose Chad Smith to replace Peligro.

Chadwick Gaylord Smith is born 25 October 1961 in St Paul, Minnesota, U.S.A.  His family moves to Michigan while he is still at school.  Chad begins playing drums when he is very young.  “I found my passion at an early age,” he acknowledges.  After being shipped off to boarding school to complete his education, Chad Smith returns to Michigan.  He works in a variety of jobs, including a stint at a Gap clothing store.  In Michigan, Chad Smith plays in a band called Toby Redd.  “My mother was always [saying], ‘Well, that’s really great, Chad.  But what about a real job?!’” he recalls.  In his 20s, Chad Smith moves to California where his brother, Brad, lives.  When The Red Hot Chili Peppers look for a new drummer, Chad Smith applies for consideration – even though he is the last to audition and late for the appointment.  Flea remembers his first impression this way:  “I spied this big lummox walking down the street.”  At six feet, three inches, Chad Smith is the tallest of the Chili Peppers.  He is also the oldest in the group.  The band is impressed with his tryout and Chad Smith gets the job on 3 December 1988.  He goes on to make the Guinness Book of World Records for having the largest drumkit (three hundred and eight pieces).

The Red Hot Chili Peppers now consist of Anthony Kiedis (vocals), John Frusciante (guitar), Flea (bass) and Chad Smith (drums).  This is the band’s most famous configuration, their definitive line-up.

In 1988 Flea marries Loesha Zeviar.  They have a daughter, Clara (born 1988).

The first album by the new Red Hot Chili Peppers line-up is ‘Mother’s Milk’ (1989) (US no. 52, AUS no. 33), again produced by Michael Beinhorn.  ‘Knock Me Down’ from this album is well regarded, but the real breakthrough is the group’s hyperactive cover version of Stevie Wonder’s funky 1973 hit, ‘Higher Ground’ (UK no. 54, AUS no. 45).  “’Mother’s Milk’ was a great time,” claims Flea.

John Frusciante begins a relationship with Toni Oswald in 1989 that continues until 1996.

Flea’s marriage to Loesha Zeviar ends in 1990.

As for Anthony Kiedis, after a brief relationship with singer Sinead O’Connor in 1990, he becomes involved with Carmen Hawk in 1991 and this romance continues until 1992.

‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’ (1991) (US no. 3, UK no. 5, AUS no. 1) is the best album by The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  It begins their long association with producer Rick Rubin.  A veteran of previous rap/rock hybrids from 1986 like The Beastie Boys’ ‘Fight For Your Right To Party’ and Run DMC’s collaborative cover version of Aerosmith’s ‘Walk This Way’, Rubin seems ideally suited to the task.  It is Rubin who selects the album’s title from amongst the names of the songs slated for the disc.  The first single is ‘Give It Away’ (US no. 73, UK no. 9, AUS no. 41).  Over Flea’s rude bass, Anthony Kiedis provides a rubbery vocal: “How come everybody want to keep it like the Kaiser? / Give it away, give it away, give it away, now.”  It’s a song about sex, rather than money.  While ‘Give It Away’ accurately reflects the Chili Peppers’ strengths, the biggest success is the atypical sad and thoughtful ballad, ‘Under The Bridge’ (US no. 2, UK no. 13, AUS no. 1).  Anthony Kiedis explains, “I was thinking about my past because I hadn’t done drugs for a few years, kinda reflecting on all the damage I’d done…It’s very personal and kind of revealing.”  Backed by a mass vocal chorus, he sings, “Under the bridge downtown / Is where I drew some blood.”  ‘Breaking The Girl’ (UK no. 41, AUS no. 30), with its folksy acoustic guitar, odd rhythm, and flute accompaniment also breaks the mould for the band.  Yet, by making the most of their assets, ‘Suck My Kiss’ (AUS no. 8) is perhaps more satisfying.  “You mouth was made to suck my kiss,” insists Kiedis in what seems suspiciously like a sanitised version of what may have been the original lyric.  Still, no such clean-up is used in another line from this shuddering funk workout: “Most motherf***ers don’t give a damn.”  With ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’, Warner Brothers take over the recording contract for The Red Hot Chili Peppers from EMI and this may have helped push through the band’s commercial success…or maybe it was just the reputed ghosts in the house of legendary magician Harry Houdini where the album was recorded.

The new-found commercial success of The Red Hot Chili Peppers is too overwhelming for one of the quartet.  “I didn’t like the way that everybody was responding to the success we were having,” says John Frusciante.  “We’re too popular.  I don’t need to be at this level of success.”  This unease translates to the guitarist’s conduct on stage.  “John was just up there like he didn’t give a f*** about anything,” Chad Smith notes.  “Things just got worse and worse,” admits Frusciante.  It all comes to a head during The Red Hot Chili Peppers tour of Japan.  On 7 May 1992, Frusciante quits.  He is talked into performing that night, but gets on a plane the next day to return to the U.S.A. leaving the band behind.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers struggle to find a new guitarist.  Over the next eighteen months, they go through three replacements.  The first is Arik Marshall (first name pronounced ah-REEK) (born 13 February 1967) who holds the job until 9 February 1993.  Still in 1993, Jesse Tobias (born 1 April 1972) then briefly becomes the band’s guitarist before he too is dismissed.  When Dave Navarro (born 7 June 1967), best known for his work with alt-rockers Jane’s Addiction, accepts the guitarist’s role in September 1993, it seems like the Chili Peppers finally have a stable line-up.

During this period, Anthony Kiedis is linked to Erin Everly in 1992 before beginning a relationship with Jaime Rishar in 1993 that continues until 1996.

Meantime, John Frusciante is in serious trouble.  Despite never having sampled heroin with The Red Hot Chili Peppers, he gets into it in a big way after leaving the band.  He thickly describes the drug as “just a way of making sure you stay in touch with beauty instead of letting the ugliness corrupt your soul.”  Anthony Kiedis says, “I prayed for him, ‘Please don’t let John die.’”  Flea expresses similar sentiments: “I was sure that John was gonna die.”  Even Frusciante himself says, “I just deteriorated so much I was ready to die…I’d just lost the will to live completely.”

With new guitarist Dave Navarro, The Red Hot Chili Peppers issue ‘One Hot Minute’ (1995) (US no. 4, UK no. 2, AUS no. 1).  The highlight is ‘My Friends’ (US no. 27, UK no. 29, AUS no. 15), a song lent downward momentum by a plaintive acoustic guitar.  ‘Aeroplane’ (US no. 49, UK no. 11, AUS no. 35) also attracts some attention.  Flea discloses that the band “never really got on the same page” with Navarro.  “We didn’t know what to do,” admits Anthony Kiedis.  “It just didn’t feel right.  There was something amiss.”  Not helping the situation is Kiedis lapsing into drug addiction again – though Navarro has his own drug problems.  The difference seems to be that Kiedis regains his composure but Navarro doesn’t, leading to him parting ways with the band in April 1998.

Chad Smith marries an artist named Maria in 1996 but, after the birth of their daughter, Manon St John Smith, the couple divorce in 1987.  Chad Smith goes on to have two more children, Justin (born 1998) and Ava (born 2000) from relationships with undisclosed other women.

John Frusciante turns his life around after a stay at Las Encinas Drug Rehabilitation Center in January 1998.  “That period of my life had run its course and it was time for a new chapter to begin,” he says simply.

With The Red Hot Chili Peppers once again on uncertain ground, Flea tells Anthony Kiedis that, “The only way I could imagine carrying on is if we got John [Frusciante] back in the band.”  Offered the opportunity, the wayward guitarist shyly says, “I think that would be a good idea.”  In April 1998, the definitive line-up reconvenes, though Frusciante is still fragile and it takes him a little while to get his chops back.  “It was like having someone die in your family and then come back to life,” says the clearly pleased Kiedis.  “When he left, I realised that it was harder to write songs and feel spiritually connected to art and music as a band.  When he came back, I felt it again instantly.”

In 1998 Anthony Kiedis begins a relationship with fashion designer Yohanna Logan that continues up to 2003.

‘Californication’ (1999) (US no. 3, UK no. 2, AUS no. 1) in June is the product of the revitalised The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  It is second only to ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’.  The tracks on this album are more considered compositions than jams edited into songs.  Similarly, Anthony Kiedis is singing more consistently instead of reciting his lyrics.  The title track, ‘Californication’ (US no. 69, UK no. 16, AUS no. 44), was the first song written after John Frusciante’s return.  “It’s understood that Hollywood sells Californication,” intones Kiedis.  A pensive guitar provides a haunting atmosphere as the vocalist conjures up images like, “First born unicorn / Hard core, soft porn.”  Frusciante’s guitar sighs in contrast to the insouciant kicking beat of ‘Scar Tissue’ (US no. 9, UK no. 15, AUS no. 15), a tale of a “Young Kentucky girl in a push-up bra” that leads to “Blood loss in a bathroom stall / A southern girl with a Scarlett drawl” (referencing Scarlett O’Hara, the southern belle heroine of the movie epic ‘Gone with the Wind’ (1939)).  ‘Otherside’ (US no. 14, UK no. 33, AUS no. 31) boasts an implacable, sad groove and dark lyrical visions: “How long, how long will I slide?  Separate my side / I don’t, I don’t believe it’s bad / Slittin’ my throat / Is all I ever…”  The delicate ‘Road Trippin’’ (UK no. 30, AUS no. 56) recalls the back-packing teenage bonding sessions of the boys.  ‘Parallel Universe’ offers up a spinning, vibrating feel: “Christ, I’m a sidewinder / I’m a California king.”  The album as a whole is a tribute to California, the State that is so important to the legend of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, despite none of them having been born there (Kiedis was born in Michigan, Flea in Australia, Frusciante in New York, and Chad Smith in Minnesota).

In December 1999 John Frusciante begins a relationship with the actress Milla Jovavich that lasts until October 2000.  He moves on to Stella Schnabel, who is his partner from March 2001 to March 2003.

‘By The Way’ (2002) (US no. 2, UK no. 1, AUS no. 1) is the band’s next album.  According to Anthony Kiedis, “Writing ‘By The Way’…was a whole different experience from ‘Californication’.  John [Frusciante] was back to himself and brimming with confidence.”  The title track, ‘By The Way’ (US no. 34, UK no. 2, AUS no. 6) is the best Red Hot Chili Peppers song.  It is the most successful melding of their disparate musical elements.  It starts with a quietly sung refrain that repeats throughout the song: “Standing in line to see the show tonight / And there’s a light on, heavy glow / By the way, I tried to say, I’d be there, waiting for / Danni the girl is singing songs to me beneath the marquee / Overload.”  This contrasts with bow-wowing, blabbering, almost-rap sequences.  Each time the refrain returns, it increases in power and intensity until, finally, in the embers of the finale, it returns to its original, hushed form.  It’s a masterful arrangement that makes the best of the sonic weapons in the group’s arsenal.  This album is also home to the upbeat, expansive ‘Universally Speaking’ (UK no. 27, AUS no. 80) as well as ‘The Zephyr Song’ (US no. 49, UK no. 11, AUS no. 21) and ‘Can’t Stop’ (US no. 57, UK no. 22, AUS no. 38).  ‘By The Way’ is described as ‘focusing primarily on melodic ballads as opposed to their classic rap-driven funk.’  Most of the songs on the album are reputed to be about Kiedis’ ex-girlfriend, Yohanna Logan.

In 2003 Flea becomes a father again.  His daughter, Sunny (born 26 October 2003), comes from his relationship with the model, Frankie Rayder.

Two additional new tracks are included on The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Greatest Hits’ (2003) (US no. 18, UK no. 4, AUS no. 2) album in November.  The bouncing funk of ‘Save The Population’ is good, but the better of the two is ‘Fortune Faded’ (US no. 112, UK no. 11, AUS no. 16).  John Frusciante’s sustained guitar note is warped into a tune in which Anthony Kiedis notes that “The medicated state of mind / You find is overrated.”

In 2004 John Frusciante begins a relationship with Emily Kokal that continues until 2007.

In May 2004 Chad Smith marries his second wife, architect Nancy Mack.  They have two sons, Cole and Beckett, as well as a third child.

Anthony Kiedis’ autobiography, ‘Scar Tissue’ (2004), is published.  He wryly points out that, “What doesn’t kill you only makes your book longer.”

Anthony Kiedis’ relationship with Heather Christie, from October 2004 to June 2008, results in the birth of his son, Everly Bear (born 2 October 2007).

In 2005 Flea marries his second wife, Frankie Rayder, the mother of his daughter, Sunny.

‘Stadium Arcadium’ (2006) (US no. 1, UK no. 1, AUS no. 1) is a double album with twenty-eight songs.  Actually, thirty-eight songs were laid down in the recording sessions with the intent that they would constitute three separate albums released at six monthly intervals.  Instead, the double album is issued and the ten tracks excluded are used as B sides of singles.  ‘Stadium Arcadium’ is a fertile source of singles, spawning ‘Dani California’ (US no. 6, UK no. 2, AUS no. 8) (which is ‘the band’s fastest-selling single’), ‘Tell Me Baby’ (US no. 50, UK no. 16, AUS no. 20), ‘Snow (Hey Oh)’ (US no. 22, UK no. 16, AUS no. 35), ‘Desecration Smile’ (UK no. 27) and ‘Hump De Bump’ (UK no. 41, AUS no. 17).

On the tour to promote ‘Stadium Arcadium’, the group is augmented by Josh Klinghoffer (born 3 October 1979).  A friend of guitarist John Frusciante, Klinghoffer plays additional guitar parts.

In December 2009 John Frusciante officially announces he has left The Red Hot Chili Peppers ‘due to creative differences.’  This parting seems much more amicable than Frusciante’s previous exit in 1992.

Anthony Kiedis is romantically involved with Beth Jeans Houghton from June 2011 to January 2012.

Josh Klinghoffer makes his recording debut with The Red Hot Chili Peppers as John Frusciante’s replacement on ‘I’m With You’ (2011) (US no. 2, UK no. 1, AUS no. 2) in August.  ‘The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie’ (US no. 38, UK no. 44, AUS no. 41), the best known single, suggests that Klinghoffer has smoothly fitted into the group’s sound.

After ten studio albums, Flea says philosophically, “Relative to the world of youth culture music, we’re not young anymore.”

From 2011 to 2014 Anthony Kiedis is in a romantic relationship with Australian model Helena Vestergaard.  This is somewhat controversial due to the significant age difference; when he is 50, she is 19.

‘The Getaway’ (2016) (US no. 2, UK no. 2, AUS no. 1) is the first Red Hot Chili Peppers album since 1989 not produced by Rick Rubin.  This disc is produced by Danger Mouse (a.k.a. Brian Burton) who also co-writes about half of the tracks on this album.  Musically, there is a greater amount of piano and keyboards on this disc than has previously been customary for the band, but there are also ‘old-school’ Chili Peppers songs.  ‘Dark Necessities’ (US no. 67, UK no. 72, AUS no. 52) is ultra-funky with Flea’s plucked bass well to the fore.  Lyrically, the song demonstrates the band’s continuing appetited for life’s underbelly.  The modest chart showing for ‘Dark Necessities’ is still better than the fate of the album’s other two (non-charting) singles: ‘Go Robot’ and ‘Sick Love’.  ‘Go Robot’ is described as ‘disco-funk over synth and the occasional handclap.’  Its theme of alienation still has a funky spine but a greater amount of cushioning from guitar and keyboards.  ‘Sick Love’ shows the more melodic side of the Chili Peppers, even if it is basically a messed up reworking of Elton John’s 1973 song ‘Bennie And The Jets’ (Elton and his lyricist Bernie Taupin get a co-credit as songwriters on ‘Sick Love’ and Elton contributes some new piano work).  Vocalist Anthony Kiedis says most of the lyrics on this album are influenced by his failed relationship with Helena Vestergaard (the girl “Too young to be my wife” as it is put in ‘Dreams Of A Samurai’).

Chad Smith sighed, “They remember you for three things…the socks, the drugs and being the progenitors of [the] hybrid of rock/funk.  I hope…there is a bit more to us than that.”  He was right in nominating the things with which The Red Hot Chili Peppers were most identified (including the tube sock antics).  However, Smith was equally accurate in saying there was more to the group.  Over a long and rich career, The Red Hot Chili Peppers outdistanced the early perception of them as ‘a joke band’ and made their mark as significant musicians, songwriters and performers.  The best works are those created by the line-up of Anthony Kiedis, Flea, John Frusciante and Chad Smith (‘Mother’s Milk’, ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’, ‘Californication’, ‘By The Way’ and ‘Stadium Arcadium’).  On these albums in particular, they were not just cookin’, they were red hot.  ‘Few rock groups of the 1980s broke down as many musical barriers and were as original as The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  [They created] an intoxicating new musical style by combining funk and punk rock together.’  Or, more succinctly, they were ‘funky punks from Hollywood who happened upon a new sound.’

Sources:

  1. ‘Behind the Music’ (U.S. television series, VH1 Cable Network), ‘The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ (2002)
  2. wikipedia.org as at 21 October 2013, 4 January 2017
  3. Internet movie database imdb.com as at 22 December 2013
  4. brainyquote.com as at 9 December 2013
  5. ‘Friday On My Mind’ by Ed Nimmervoll (Five Mile Press, 2004) p. 151, 174, 206
  6. whosdatedwho.com as at 21 October 2013
  7. ‘The Rolling Stone Illustrated History Of Rock ‘N’ Roll’, ‘James Brown’ by Robert Palmer (Plexus Publishing, 1992), p. 168
  8. ‘Empire’ (movie magazine) – ‘Top Ten Crappy Xmases’ by James Jennings (No. 142 (January 2013)) p. 37
  9. ‘Music Makers’ (U.S. television program, PBS Network?) – Chad Smith interview conducted by Scott Houston (2012?)
  10. ‘The Illustrated Rock Handbook’ edited by Roxanne Streeter, Ray Bonds (Salamander Books, 1983) p. 233
  11. lyricsfreak.com as at 20 December 2013
  12. ‘The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time’ – ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (February 2004) p. 68
  13. ‘Max Music TV’ (video program) – Red Hot Chili Peppers Australian interview (January 2013)
  14. ‘Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Greatest Hits’ – Sleeve notes by Chad Smith (Warner Bros. Records Inc., 2003) p. 15
  15. allmusic.com, ‘Red Hot Chili Peppers’ by Greg Prato as at 25 December 2013
  16. ‘Herald Sun’ (Melbourne, Australia, newspaper) – ‘Chilis Reboot with Danger’ – review of ‘The Getaway’ by Cameron Adams (16 June 2016) p. 38
  17. BBC Radio 2 (U.K. radio station) – interview with Anthony Kiedis (9 May 2016) – via 2 (above)

Song lyrics copyright Moebetoblame Music, EMI

Last revised 12 January 2017

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