Simple soldier, hand it over; stop and read what you just wrote her. Strangulation, altercation; oral sex and bird migration ~ “21st Century”, from the 2006 album Stadium Arcadium
Only Anthony Kiedis, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ frontman since its inception, would sing a song about sex, bird flu and the craziness of the current century!
Four months ago, if someone had asked me if I was a fan of RHCP, I would have said something like, “I like a few of their songs, but I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a ‘fan'”. If you asked me now? “OMG I love them, they are amazing, probably one of my favourite bands!” So, how did this even happen?!
Four months ago, I had less than ten Red Hot Chili Peppers songs in my iTunes playlist. These included the likes of “Under the Bridge”, “Dani California”, “Californication”, “The Zephyr Song”, “By The Way” and “Fortune Faded”, among others. You will notice straight away that all of these were released as singles. I also had “My Friends”, a song from their 6th album One Hot Minute. This song had been introduced to me a year earlier by Hasan, a guy I know from Melbourne whom I had a sort of weird relationship with… once. (Long story, but it is related!).
Now? I have 72 songs on iTunes, including b-sides, and physical copies of my two favourite albums By the Way and Stadium Arcadium, and have just finished reading Anthony Kiedis’ autobiography Scar Tissue, and watched the short documentary Funky Monks.
This is my calling, I said my darling. Shocking appalling, all I can do to you ~ “This is the Place”, from 2002’s By The Way
I do believe Hasan is the major catalyst as to why I am now a huge fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers. A tiny bit of backstory: he’s a guy (from online) I’ve known for years. We met up last year in person, and hit it off like a house on fire. However, upon returning to Adelaide, extenuating circumstances on his side meant the relationship couldn’t continue. I was absolutely heartbroken.
I moved on, and yet he continued to chase me. Every few months he’d message, asking for another chance. I kept turning him back, until May this year where I finally reconsidered it. For four months he kept me hanging on a string, and we never did meet up in person again, and without going into the detail of it all, it’s ‘over’ again for a second time! The amount of tears I cried over this guy…! Anyway, during the time we WERE sort of ‘involved’, I would think about him a lot, and this included his music tastes.
Hasan is a massive Chili Peppers fan, and the song “My Friends” (as aforementioned) always made me think of him, as it’s the song that was playing in his car when we drove in Melbourne city on one rainy Sunday in July 2015. Him getting back in touch with me made me want to listen to the band; it was a way for me to connect with him more. And plus, I am always happy to discover new music, even of a band that’s been around since 1983!
It was good timing: RHCP had just released their 11th album, The Getaway, in mid-June. I had actually seen it being advertised on TV! A sign from the music gods, perhaps. So I found the upload on YouTube of the entire album, and decided to listen!
My feelings about the album were mixed. I quite liked a few of the songs, particularly “Goodbye Angels”, “Encore” and “The Getaway”, and disliked others. I listened through a few times, and whilst today it is not my favourite album, I still like it better than their previous work, I’m With You (2011), in which I only have three favourite songs!
And so, after this initial induction, a Red Hot Chili Peppers music listening binge began! Over the months to follow, I listened through the albums that had made them famous. I think I started with 1999’s Californication. This was where I discovered the beautiful song, “This Velvet Glove”, and subsequently couldn’t stop crying over it (I was missing Has at the time). I also rediscovered “Otherside”, a song I had never truly appreciated before.
I care for you, I really do, I really do. Come closer now so you can lie right by my side ~ “This Velvet Glove”, from Californication
And then, I listened to By the Way. I could not believe how amazing the album was. I liked almost every song, and discovered some absolute gems in “This is the Place”, “Minor Thing”, “Don’t Forget Me”, and “Venice Queen”. The latter is a song Has himself said he loved. It is a song that has grown on me immensely and made me quite emotional once I found out the meaning of the song.
John Frusciante is an incredible guitarist. (Did I mention that Hasan also plays guitar?! I hoped I would hear him play one day – not to be!). The contribution John made to the band is something irreplaceable. Their current guitarist, Josh Klinghoffer, is great, and I feel bad for him that so many compare his style to John’s, which are quite different. However John is simply pure magic. And it is in the double-album Stadium Arcadium that he really shines. Nearly every song has a mind-blowing guitar solo. This album took me a few listens to truly digest. I’m glad I went back and re-listened to a lot of it because sometimes you hear a song and aren’t sure about it, but upon a few re-listens it becomes a favourite. I think there are probably only two or three songs MAX that I want to skip on an album of 28 songs – now that is an impressive feat!
My heart, your skin, this love, I’m in. We don’t arrive without a surprise. You’re right, I’m wrong, be free, belong. Intimate sight has come into light ~ “Charlie”, from Stadium Arcadium
I can’t remember when I listened to One Hot Minute (1995), the album that guitarist Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction featured on and seemed to change the Chili Pepper’s sound. I found myself feeling quite disappointed when I did listen through, though. I probably should give it another listen, but I think I only have two songs from that album on iTunes. It does stand out as rather different, particularly from the album that preceded it…
Eventually, I reached a point that I needed to try and listen to their 5th album, the one that really shot themselves to stardom, 1991’s classic Blood Sugar Sex Magik. I was apprehensive because I had heard and read that their style in earlier albums was more ‘funk rock’ and I didn’t think I would like it. I was also shocked to find out that “Under the Bridge”, a favourite, was from this very album! I didn’t realise it was that old at the time.
Apart from a few extra songs to add to my collection (“Breaking the Girl” and “I Could Have Lied”), I didn’t like it, and that was a bit disappointing. I think part of me had wanted to like it. I don’t think I bothered much with Mother’s Milk (1989) at that stage, or if I did, I found I didn’t like it (suffice for one song). I went back to my listening of the albums I enjoyed.
By this stage, August came around and Hasan and I were hardly speaking to each other, and whilst some songs were now making me cry even more (especially “She Looks to Me” from Stadium Arcadium; honestly, I can’t even relate to the song lyrically but there is a soulfulness about it that makes me feel), I still continued to love RHCP. Listening to them somehow made me feel better, despite all the emotional turmoil I was feeling. I kept reading about them, especially Anthony Kiedis, and decided I wanted to read his autobiography.
You used to be so warm and affectionate; I used to know just what I wanted and just where to go. And now you’re quick to get into your regret; and now I walk alone and talk about it when I know ~ “Hey”, from Stadium Arcadium
Hasan and I officially went our separate ways in early September, and that very weekend I flew to Perth to see a very good friend (more good timing!). Whilst holidaying there, I FINALLY found Scar Tissue in a really cool bookstore called Boffins. It took me a week to finish, and was an incredibly eye-opening read. Literally sex, drugs and rock n roll. But more importantly, Anthony documents the details of the formation of the band: the craziness, the music, the writing, the touring, the signing first record deals and the myriad of guitarists and drummers they went through. To consumers, making music must seem so easy on the outside. But upon reading this, I have a much greater appreciation for what hard work goes into it.
Reading Scar Tissue made me curious to listen to the very first Chili Peppers albums: The Red Hot Chili Peppers (1984), Freaky Styley (1985), and The Uplift Mofo Party Plan (1987). As suspected, I wasn’t too much of a fan. However, I did appreciate Hillel’s guitar work and Flea’s trumpet in the song “Freaky Styley”, and a few others from that album. Their producer, George Clinton, really did create something quite cool and funky and I imagine it would have been unique at the time.
Now, it was time to re-listen to Mother’s Milk, and Blood Sugar Sex Magik. On second listens of these albums, I’ve found I can appreciate them a lot more, particularly BSSM. As for the former, I discovered that a small guitar and bass part of “Pretty Little Ditty” was used as the main riff in Crazy Town’s one-hit-wonder “Butterfly”, from 2000. My mind was blown! This iconic segment had been created back in 1988/89 by a young John Frusciante and Flea. So incredibly talented.
Another favourite of mine from Mother’s Milk, apart from the Stevie Wonder remake “Higher Ground”, is “Knock Me Down”. The lyrics call for friends to look out for each other, to ‘knock them down’ if they are feeling high and mighty or caught up in their personal problems. It was written after original founding member Hillel Slovak’s death in 1988 from a drug overdose. Jacinta Jaye from Moshcam wrote a lovely post about Hillel back in April, and I implore you to read it.
Well I’m cryin’ now, my lovely man. Yes I’m cryin’ now, and no one can ever fill the hole you left my man. I’ll see you later, my lovely man if I can ~ “My Lovely Man” from Blood Sugar Sex Magik
There is a beautiful song that Anthony wrote for Blood Sugar Sex Magik that I have come to really love. It’s called “My Lovely Man” and it is a tribute to Hillel. Reading the lyrics is enough to make me well up! John even plays in a similar style to Hillel on the song.
In Scar Tissue, Anthony writes that he didn’t attend Hillel’s funeral. Instead, he travelled to Mexico with his girlfriend at the time, Ione Skye, and shot up drugs to take away the pain. It wasn’t until he returned and visited Hillel’s grave that all the emotions came out. He said he cried for hours.
Hillel taught Flea how to play bass, and Anthony said he was a ‘magical’ musician – he was absolutely instrumental in the formation of the Chili Peppers. Although he passed a long time ago now, I think he would be proud to have seen how far his bandmates have come.
To finish my Red Hot Chili Peppers journey off, I have only recently discovered some of their b-sides, songs that didn’t make their albums but were placed as b-sides on single releases. I only knew about one, “Quixoticelixir”, from Californication-era that I absolutely love. But who knew I could discover even MORE music from these guys, and love it all too?! Some of these songs, like “Bunker Hill” (Californication), “Rivers of Avalon” (By the Way) and “Save This Lady” (Stadium Arcadium) should have been a-sides rather than b-sides… But then I’d probably be saying the same thing about songs they might’ve replaced instead, who knows?!
The point is I guess, Red Hot Chili Peppers continue to surprise me and have ignited so many emotions within me. Despite the fact my relationship with Hasan didn’t work out, I am grateful that he inadvertently introduced me to an incredible band that I had only merely scratched the surface of previously. Digging much deeper has opened up another world. I only hope that I can see them play live someday. Thank you, RHCP!