The Red Hot Chili Peppers is one of the most original American bands to arise from the 1980s. Fusing funky beats and lyrics with punk rock, the Red Hot Chili Peppers invented a thrilling new musical style that is still as intoxicating today as it was two decades ago. Although the band is often imitated, no band has come close to effectively reproducing the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ refreshing sound and lyrics.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers began developing their sound while attending Fairfax High School in California in the late seventies and early eighties. Anthony Kiedis, who would come to be the band’s lead vocalist, was concentrating on writing poetry and acting during his high school years. Kiedis’ friends, Michael Balzary and Hillel Slovak, were focused on music, specifically the trumpet and the guitar. Together they convinced Anthony Kiedis to put his poetry to music. The growing Los Angeles punk scene heavily influenced the band’s sound, along with funk, and the three friends brought aboard a fourth, a drummer by the name of Jack Irons. Originally called Tony Flow & the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem, the band started out by playing strip clubs along the sunset strip in the early eighties. Their gimmick, which is now considered their trademark, was performing on-stage completely in the buff, with the exception of a single tube sock covering their privates. In or around 1983, Michael Balzary began to go by the name Flea, and Tony Flow & the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem became the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers soon scored a recording contract with EMI. However, before the Chili Peppers could begin recording their debut album, Anthony Kiedis and Flea were abandoned by Hillel Slovak and Jack Irons, who left the Chili Peppers to work with their other band, What is This. Jack Sherman replaced Slovak on guitar and Cliff Martinez filled in for Jack Irons on drums. But without Slovak and Irons, the Red Hot Chili Peppers weren’t the same, and it showed on their self-titled debut album that was released in 1984. Still, the Chili Peppers were able to develop a strong cult following. And when What is This failed with their own first self-titled album, Slovak and Irons returned to the Chili Peppers.
The original Red Hot Chili Peppers released a second album, titled Freaky Styley, which was produced by George Clinton. The album showed considerable improvement but still failed to capture the explosiveness of the Chili Peppers’ live on-stage performances.
The band’s next album, The Uplift Mofo Party Plan, released in 1987, changed all that. The Uplift Mofo Party Plan hit the charts, and the band followed with The Abbey Road EP in 1988.
But 1988 was not to be a good year for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. On the twenty-fifth of June, the Chili Peppers lost guitarist Hillel Slovak to a heroin overdose. Anthony Kiedis, who was also struggling with addiction to drugs, and bass guitarist Flea continued with the band, but Jack Irons chose to leave after Slovak’s death.
After a few series of failed replacements, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were able to get their act together with the release of their 1989 album, Mother’s Milk. With the aid of exposure by MTV, the Red Hot Chili Peppers joined the mainstream, evidenced by the release of their huge 1991 release, Blood Sugar Sex Magik.
Those replacing lost band members continued to come and go for various reasons, including drug problems and simply failing to fit in. It took four years for the Chili Peppers to release their follow-up to Blood Sugar Sex Magik, a less successful album titled One Hot Minute.
A far greater success was 1999’s Californication. Still, my favorite album is the smash the Chili Peppers released in 2002, titled By the Way. Here are the top ten songs by the Red Hot Chili Peppers from their inception to present day.
(1) Under the Bridge
(2) Give It Away
(3) By the Way
(5) My Friends
(7) Scar Tissue
(9) Naked in the Rain
(10) Blood Sugar Sex Magik