Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Califormulation of True LEGENDS
MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 4 Episode #2
ALL ABOUT IT
Some bands are just around. Every few years or so they tour & release albums, and we just take them for granted. Most of those bands are either past their peak or never really had one. They’re largely unnoticed & unacclaimed.
But what happens when one of those bands is not only noticed & acclaimed, but has quietly created one solid album & hit after another, growing & changing but always sticking to their core? That’s when a legend is made.
We know the Stones & the Who. We know U2. We know Pearl Jam. These are legendary bands pretty much anyone is familiar with, and probably most people can name a hit or two. They’re always looking ahead to the next tour, and more importantly the next new song or album they can put together to keep the dream alive. They’re in a higher league than self-tribute legends like the Beach Boys or Chicago, who still tour & have active careers, but aren’t looking to add anything new to the music conversation. Nor are they like legends such as the Beatles or the Beastie Boys, who will always be with us in some way, but obviously can’t continue the way they were.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers are a special case. They’re kind of just quietly around all the time. AND they have also created hit albums & songs every few years with remarkable consistency. They keep true to their core but always look ahead to what’s next & new. Somehow, though, they’re not mentioned in the same breath as U2 or Pearl Jam, or even the Stones. We take them for granted, even dismiss them, quite possibly because we still think of them as penis-sock-wearing partiers who don’t take anything too seriously. (I’d also put Green Day in this category. I would have said the same about the Foo Fighters a few years ago, but they’ve long since graduated to true elder statesmen legends.)
Think of the Peppers’ output. They started as funky punks carving out a special brand of proto rap rock, to the point where Anthony Kiedis didn’t actually sing until several albums in. They worked with George Clinton on their SECOND ALBUM. They covered P-Funk, Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan. Once they added John Frusciante & Chad Smith, they pivoted and created their first bona fide masterpiece, Blood Sugar Sex Magik.
All that would already put them in the top ranks of alt bands. But they didn’t stop. They had minor hits in the 1980s, big ones in the early 1990s, and then after more than 15 years they REALLY blew up. Californication, By the Way, Stadium Arcadium. Three absolute masterpieces. And they keep going. They are undisputed legends whose love for the music keeps them alive in every way.
I’d compare them most to the Stones: They started loosely, with okay material bolstered by a clear sonic vision, paying tribute to their favorite African American music, adding rock to the mix. They stick to their core members, other than a periodic personnel change (which for RHCP means Frusciante deciding when he wants to be in the band). And despite drugs & breaks & everything else, they always come back to the music & always give us something new.
RHCP’s mix of alt rock/punk, funk, psychedelic and pop is a close cousin to most of what I’ve done. I once had to hire a fill-in drummer who didn’t know the material as well. I remember telling him, “When in doubt, make it funky.” And that’s what I do as a producer for REC too. There’s something funky and/or syncopated in every REC song. Plus I love playing the bass, and have written & arranged bass-focused songs that Flea would be proud of. You KNOW I’m into power pop – which covers the rock/punk & pop elements. And my production style has always had psychedelic elements & sweet layered harmonies. I could name dozens of REC songs as examples, but I’d say on the whole our album Parts and Labour is most representative of the RHCP influence. Pay particular attention to the songs “I’m Gone”, “Stop It!”, & “Some Things Happen”:
REC – Parts and Labour
Are you a Chili Peppers fan? Did you follow them for part of their career & lose touch, or have you stuck with them throughout? What period of theirs is your favorite? Do you know of other bands whom people are not universally aware of but deserve legendary status? Discuss dammit!