“Lucky me swimmin’ in my ability. Dancin’ down on life with agility. Come and drink it up from my fertility. Blessed with a bucket of lucky mobility.” Roots Magazine is giving away cash prizes to whoever can decipher the meaning behind these lyrics. Okay, we’re not really. But originality is what we’re talking about here. For a band that’s been relevant since the 80s, no other group has been as original or shattered musical boundaries quite like Red Hot Chili Peppers. There’s simply no other way to describe them. Their music ranges everywhere from funk to metal. If they didn’t catch your attention with their music, they were doing it with their energetic onstage personalities. Everyone today knows them as musical architects. But before they started paving new frontiers, they were creating dreams in a Hollywood basement.
Local Californians Anthony Kiedis, Michael Balzary and Hillel Slovak all held a tight bond with each other throughout high school. Slovak and Balzary were known amongst their peers as excellent musicians, but Kiedis’ fascination lied in poetry. With the full support of his brethren, and influence of the emerging punk scene, the trio started to put their talents together. The addition of neighborhood friend Jack Irons on drums sparked their profound likeness for funk. The group emerged from their basement rehearsals to the L.A. strip, where they slowly gained a reputation for their outrageous live shows. Performing with nothing on except tube socks, covering very specific areas, the band showed kinetic chaos with controlled discipline. It was during this time the band started to really discover their identity and how they would stand out. Balzary, who only recently learned how to play bass, ran with the idea of changing things up. The bassist adopted the name “Flea” with the band, likewise, finalizing their name to something that reflected their sound and energy: Red Hot Chili Peppers. News quickly spread of the group’s eccentric personas and high-octane music with EMI interested in signing them. But before Kiedis and Flea could start on their first record, they would have to find two new replacements.
Slovak and Irons abruptly left the group to focus on other side projects. Kiedis and Flea scrambled to find other members before settling on Cliff Martinez and Jack Sherman. The band was able to finally start recording their debut album. But the absence of Slovak and Irons became noticeable as their sell-titled album failed to capture their reputable live act ambience. Though, the album grew a sizeable following which, luckily, coincided with Slovak and Irons returning. Now reunited, the group began working on a follow-up but still received less than favorable reviews upon its release. But by their third album, the group finally showed out on why fans praise them so much. The Uplift Mofo Party Plan is hailed, in retrospect, as a warm-up to what the band can really do as they cracked the charts in a commendable spot. But once again, Kiedis and Flea would find the good times short lived as tragedy struck unexpectedly.
Slovak’s addiction to heroin had finally caught up with him as he overdosed in the summer of 1988. Hearts were heavy with grief from his passing and accumulated to Irons announcing his final departure from the group. Kiedis and Flea stuck it out to combat their own addictions and complete a new lineup. After a few experiments, newcomers Chad Smith and John Frusciante became official members of the band. But no one else expected much from these replacements as they were relatively unknown. The answer to whether this new formation would be a success was released with 1989’s Mother’s Milk. The wake of MTV’s music video age shot the album to gold status in 1990 with their hit cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground”. Critics were all on board with how special the group truly is and the pivotal turning point in their careers. But whenever you set the bar for what you can do, you must outdo yourself again.
The chemistry between the members were excellent, but they were aware that their follow-up had to be impressive. After meeting with “Loudness King” that is music producer Rick Rubin, the band piled up in a mansion/studio to begin work. This is where the real magic started to brew as their release of Blood Sugar Sex Magik became their most successful record yet. The 1991 album started a chain where you couldn’t escape their music. But why would anyone want to? The funk/ rock/metal/rap mastery spawned hit singles “Give It Away” and “Under The Bridge”. Each track solidified every other musician’s contemplation of ever picking up a bass or Stratocaster again. The album sold seven million copies in the U.S. alone as the band went on to helm the early 90s. You can probably guess where this is going though. Success for this band always left plenty of room for fallouts. Frusciante’s drug addiction started to take effect with him abandoning the group right in the middle of a tour. The search for a new guitarist was underway and replacements came and went. It seemed without Frusciante, the group couldn’t be the same again.
The band continued to release credible hits but never recaptured their previous glory. Frusciante would try to start his own solo career but likewise, never found credible success. Realizing that his descent into drugs would ruin him further, Frusciante checked into rehab and sobered up. The guitarist rejoined his band after a swift invitation. The reunion was a success in 1999’s colossal album Californication. The rejuvenated Frusciante and his members were back on track with their self-titled hit single. Fans and critics showered the album with acclaim as Kiedis’ vocals were in peak form. It was just another question of where to go next after that.
A new century meant new changes, new music and new expectations. Following a greatest hits album, the band met these changes with new material in the CD smash Stadium Arcadium. Layered tracks and songwriting growth were phenomenal extensions of the group’s creativity. Hit singles “Dani California” and “Snow (Hey Oh)” made it sound like the group could adapt to any time they’re in. Creativeness really took over the group, however, and each member would soon pass on for other projects.
Fans could still expect the group to remain together for upcoming tours and new releases. Frusciante, however, would decide to pursue a second coming of his solo career with Josh Klinghoffer replacing him. The band continued their successful 2000s run into the 2010s and follow-up with an impressive Super Bowl halftime show alongside Bruno Mars. Fan appeal remained as the group brought out their latest album The Getaway spiraling into a new era for them. “Dark Necessities” was added to their endless staple of career hits that just seems never-ending. But now fans are dying for another album with COVID haltering any status updates on one. Rick Rubin is happy to provide clarification for all sitting in wonder.
This past August, Rubin announced that a new album from the group is “near completion” with him behind the console. With Frusciante now back as lead guitarist, it’s the anticipation that thrills audiences on what to expect. When it comes to a band as original, and very unpredictable, as this, it’s unknown on what’ll happen. That’s what makes them one of the most exciting bands that “Can’t Stop” and is “addicted to the shindig”.
Written by Trenton Luber