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Red Hot Chili Peppers

No one really asks if you like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It’s pretty much a given that everyone does. Over the course of their twenty-four-years-and counting history, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have sold millions of albums, taken home heaps of music awards, and even nudged the Beatles out of the number one spot for biggest-grossing concert in history. The band’s sound, an addictive mixture of funk, rap and hard rock, has seduced millions of listeners worldwide, with songs exploring sexual fantasy, social and political commentary, teenage angst, the nature of friendship, and other chord-tugging themes. But the Red Hot Chili Peppers history story is not all chart-topping singles and albums. Rather, theirs is a story plagued by unsuccessful debuts, changing band lineups, drug addiction, and even tragedy. Today, red hot chili peppers consist of vocalist Anthony Kiedis, guitarist John Frusciante, bassist Michael “Flea” Balzary, and drummer Chad Smith—a lineup the band came to after many, many changes, some made by choice, others by chance. The red hot chili peppers biography in Los Angeles, Califoria, in 1983, although back then they were called Tony Flow and the Miraculous Masters of Mayhem. The group originally included Anthony Kiedis and Flea, plus Hillel Slovak on guitar and Jack Irons on drums. The four Fairfax high school alumni never planned on becoming a wildly successful band. Rather, they signed up for a one-time performance at the Rhythm Lounge to an audience of about thirty, where the band improvised while Anthony Kiedis rapped a poem about his impressions of life in L.A. This one performance was so well-received by the energetic, enthusiastic crowd that show promoters pleaded with the soon-to-be Peppers to return the following week. What followed was a name change, several shows around L.A. and, eventually, a record contract with EMI. However, Jack Irons and Hillel Slovak were already committed to another band, What Is This?, who had also just been signed. The Red Hot Chili Peppers acquired two new members, Chris Martinez and Jack Sherman. Jack Sherman, the new drummer, didn’t fit in to the Chili Peppers at all, and he and Anthony Kiedis fought all the way through the launch and failure of the band’s self-titled debut album. A number of factors were behind the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ disappointing debut. One was the ongoing tension between Anthony Kiedis and Jack Sherman, but an even bigger one was the lack of creative complicity between the band and their album producer, Andy Gill, who forced the band into radio-friendly mainstream conformity. Luckily, both of these problems were soon solved. Jack Sherman was fired, and the band ended up working with a new producer, Clinton, on their next album. As an added bonus, What Is This? Broke up, leaving Hillel Slovak free to return to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Clinton believed wholeheartedly in the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and gave them the creative freedom they needed—sadly, to no avail. The new album, Freaky Styley, followed in its predecessor’s footsteps, selling few copies and attracting no attention. They toured, but gained no money and few new fans. A frustrated Chris Martinez abruptly left the group mid-tour. The band called upon Chuck Biscuits to help them finish the tour. Shortly after, Jack Irons rejoined the group. Having the four original members of the group together again did wonders for the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ collective creativity, and they began to experiment with funk metal under the guidance of producer Michael Beinhorn. Album number three came out in 1987. Called the Uplift Mofo Party Plan, it peaked at Number 148 on the Billboard Hot 200. Most commercial artists would consider this a disastrous performance, but for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who had known no commercial success at all up until this point, it was the highlight of their careers so far. There was, however, little time or energy to celebrate. Anthony Kiedis and Hillel Slovak had both developed severe drug addictions, disappearing for days on end while they nursed their needs. One day, just after the Mofo tour, Hillel Slovak disappeared and never came back; his drug dependence had killed him. Hillel Slovak’s death shocked the band. Anthony Kiedis fled town, not even returning for the funeral; he found the whole thing too surreal. Jack Irons, meanwhile, was so horrified by his friend’s death that he left the Red Hot Chili Peppers altogether, telling the band, “I do not want to be part of something where my fucking friends are dying.” Trying to cope with the loss of two friends and band members, Anthony Kiedis and Flea struggled to find new band members. They tried out D.H. Peligro of the Dead Kennedys and DeWayne Blackbird McKnight of P-Funk, but in both cases, the chemistry just wasn’t right. But D.H. Peligro did bring one lasting element to the red hot chili peppers: his buddy John Frusciante, who’d been an avid Peppers fan for years and had been longing to try out for the band. He jammed with Anthony Kiedis and Flea, and was instantly accepted into the band. The new Red Hot Chili Peppers were just about ready to start recording their new album. The only thing missing was a new drummer. The band held several futile auditions. Finally, a friend told them about Chad Smith, a drummer so skilled he was said to “eat drums for breakfast.” The band, jaded by bad auditions, reluctantly allowed Chad Smith to try out—and were mesmerized. Up until this point, the Red Hot Chili Peppers had had a history of creative differences flaring up at the last minute and messing up their albums, and 1989’s Mother’s Milk was no different. This time, it was producer Michael Beinhorn insisting that John Frusciante drop his signature style in favor of more heavy metal-sounding guitar. John Frusciante was unhappy about Beinhorn’s bullying, but this change in styled didn’t produce any disastrous results for the Peppers. Mother’s Milk was the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ first gold record, and it made it all the way to number fifty-two on the charts. One of the album’s most notable songs was the ballad Knock Me Down, a tribute to Hillel Slovak. By now, the year was 1990, and though they didn’t know it yet, success was just around the corner for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They switched labels, moving over to Warner Brothers Records to work under the direction of Rick Rubin. Things were going okay in the studio, but Rick Rubin felt that what the red hot chili peppers really needed was to create in a setting a little less orthodox. And so, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ fifth album was spawned in an enormous Meditteranean-style haunted mansion. Anthony Kiedis, Flea and John Frusicante kept themselves practically locked up in the house for the remainder of the recording process. Chad Smith, however, scared of ghosts, sped away on his Harley every night. Then, in 1991, Blood Sugar Sex Magic hit the stores. Five albums into their career, the Red Hot Chili Peppers finally found the success they’d been working for. Blood Sugar Sex Magic produced hits like Give It Away and the ballad Under the Bridge, one of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ best known songs to date. The album earned the Red Hot Chili Peppers a Grammy, a number two spot on the Billboard Hot 100, and the number 310 spot on Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. But like we said, the history of the Red Hot Chili Peppers is a turbulent one, and success and sadness often went hand in hand. John Frusciante had developed a serious drug addiction and, in the middle of the Blood Sugar Sex Magic Japan tour, he quit the band. The Red Hot Chili Peppers experimented with a couple of replacement guitarists before finally signing on Dave Navarro, formerly of Jane’s Addiction. In 1995, the Red Hot Chili Peppers released an album called One Hot Minute. Thanks to the already enormous fan base they’d earned from Blood Sugar Sex Magic, One Hot Minute sold incredibly well and produced hit singles like Aeroplane. But all was not well backstage. Anthony Kiedis was struggling with heroin addiction. Dave Navarro was struggling to integrate into the band. After showing up to band practice so stoned that he fell over his own amp, Dave Navarro got fired. The Pepper struggling the most, however, was John Frusciante. The former Pepper’s addiction had left him with severe injuries, in severe poverty, and near death. Eventually, he sought rehab, got his life together, got a set of false teeth to replace his old ones, which had left him on the brink of fatal infection, and started renting a small apartment. Flea paid him a visit and invited him to rejoin the band. John Frusciante tearfully accepted. The band was overjoyed at John Frusicante’s return, but it took some time for him to reintegrate into band life. He’d sold all of his guitars for drug money and hadn’t played in years. But the creative energy of this reunited foursome was unmistakable, and in 1999 the red hot chili peppers released Californication, their most successful album yet. Californication produced the hit song of the same name, as well as Scar Tissue and Otherside. By now, the Red Hot Chili Peppers had a loyal fan base, and their following albums were all incredibly successful. 2002’s By the Way had a more subdued song than its predecessors, including hits like Dosed and The Zephyr Song. John Frusciante was credited for the complexity of this album, which caused some friction between him and Flea, who briefly considered leaving the band (then decided against it). 2006 saw the release of Stadium Arcadium, which produced the hit singles Danni California, Tell Me Baby, and Snow (Hey Oh). The Red Hot Chili Peppers are not only groundbreaking, but record-breaking. They hold the record for most number one songs on the Billboard Modern Rock Chart with eleven songs, and their eighty-one week run at number one gave them the record for longest number one run on this chart as well.
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