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Tuesday, October 07, 2008


In 1984 I began my lengthy tour of duty as an undergrad at the University of Maryland. At the time I was growing despondent at the state of Heavy Metal. All the good bands were starting to sound like the shitty new ones. I was looking for something new. I befriended a group of Punks who hung out at the Student Union. They were fun, freaky, and a refreshing departure from the typical U of M student. They gave me a different outlook on life, and they gave me the new music I was looking for. One of the many tunes that they exposed me to was a song called 'True Men Don't Kill Coyotes' by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was fresh, fierce, fun, and funky. Their self titled 1984 debut was quickly purchased and put into heavy rotation in Milkyum's Malibu.

We loved it. 'Green Heaven', 'Mommy, Where's Daddy', 'Police Helicopter', 'Baby Appeal', and 'Get Up and Jump' were highlights on an album that spoke to us, our sensibilities. The Red Hot Chili Peppers were silly, playful, irreverent, and reverent. A blend of P-Funk, Hip-Hop, and Hendrix, the Chili's were blazing a new trail in Rock.

Anthony, Flea, and Hillel were high school chums. Flea had a gig playing bass in Fear, and Hillel, along with drummer Jack Irons, had a band called What Is This. The four of them would sometimes perform together for shits and giggles, and were surprised when their 'joke band' garnered the interest of major label EMI. What Is This subsequently signed with MCA, and Hillel and Jack chose to milk that particular cow.

Undaunted, Anthony and Flea recruited drummer Cliff Martinez and guitarist Jack Sherman, and hit the studio with Gang of Four guitarist Andy Gill producing. Though big Gang of Four fans, Anthony and Flea found Gill difficult to work with. At the same time their relationship with Sherman was never very good. The album came out, they toured, and fell apart.

Fortunately, What Is This failed to pan out for Hillel. Sherman was replaced and the band traveled to Michigan to record their second effort with George Clinton producing. The resulting 'Freaky Styley' was much more to the bands liking.

Another disappointing tour followed, but things started looking up when Jack Irons came back into the fold for their third record, 'Uplift Mofo Party Plan'. The album actually charted, and morale was high despite increasing drug use on the part of Hillel and Anthony.

More Touring followed, including a European jaunt, and Hillel's health declined. An EP, 'The Abbey Road EP', featuring a handful of tracks from their previous records and a cover of Hendrix's 'Fire', was issued to buy some time until Hillel could rebound. He didn't. Hillel died of an overdose on June 25th, 1988. The dark drug scene did not sit well with Irons, and he left the band.

Eventually Anthony and Flea regrouped with drummer Chad Smith and guitarist John Frusciante and recorded 'Mother's Milk'. The album provided the band with their first successful singles, a cover of Stevie Wonder's 'Higher Ground', and 'Knock Me Down', an ode to Hillel.

The band gelled on tour, and with a newly sober Keidis they returned to the studio with Rick Rubin to record their smash hit 'Blood Sugar Sex Magik'. Suddenly, the Chili Peppers were superstars. Massive exposure overwhelmed Frusciante, who grew despondent and quit the band to pursue a drug habit of his own.

Guitarist Arik Marshall filled the gap for the 1992 Lollapalooza tour, and eventually Jane's Addiction's Dave Navarro joined the band. The recording of 1995's 'One Hot Minute' was clouded by Anthony's relapse, and Navarro's different approach to writing. The Chili Peppers work up material from jam sessions, and Navarro had difficulty with the process.

Inevitably Navarro left the band, but remarkably a fresh out of rehab Frusciante found his way back to the Chili Peppers. Another smash hit, 1999's 'Californication' followed, and the band, fuelled by Frusciante's prolific talent, cemented their place in the Rock pantheon.

'By The Way' was released in 2001, and found the band, at the behest of Frusciante, straying from the Funk and treading more subdued and textural waters. It sold bizillions regardless.

The band took it's time working on 2006's 'Stadium Arcadium', and the double album proudly displays the care and inspiration that went into it's creation. Frusciante's genius seems unlimited and boundless, and 'Stadium Arcadium' clearly demonstrates his dominance in the creative process.

In their third decade, the Chili Peppers seem unstoppable, certainly considering the tremendous amount of tragedy and personal struggle that they have encountered, and, more importantly, persevered through.

Finally, someone who likes Stadium Arcadium as much as I do. Do you find a lot of hating on it? I hate to be so arrogant*, but when people say it sucks, I usually ask if they've had their hearing checked.

*No I don't.
i love stadium arcadium except for one thing. they should have ended it with turn it again. at the end of that amazing guitar solo. a fitting end to an amazing record.
does anyone else think that anthony is separated at birth from Iggy Pop?
Stadium Arcadium is the bast thing they've done since Hillel died. To compare post Hillel Chillis with the previous era is an apples and oranges thing, but I'd even say that Stadium Arcadium is the best thing they've ever done.

I have encoutered folks hating on it. I think they must hate great guitar playing and funky grooves.

Anthony is Iggy plus Funk.
Love the tribute to The Who in that first photo.
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