Red Hot Chili Peppers are an American rock band formed in Los Ageles, California, in 1983. For most of its existence, the band has consisted of vocalist Anthony Kiedis, guitarist John Frusciante, bassist Michael “Flea” Balzary, and drummer Chad Smith. The band’s varied musical style has fused traditional rock and funk with various elements of heavy metal, punk rock, and psycedelic rock.

In addition to Kiedis and Flea, the group originally featured guitarist Hillel Slovak and drummer Jack Irons. Slovak, however, died of a heroin overdose in 1988, resulting in Irons departure. Irons was replaced briefly by former Dead Kennedys drummer D.H Peligrobefore the band found a permanent replacement in Smith, while Slovak was replaced by up-and-coming guitarist Frusciante. This lineup recorded the band’s fourth and fifth albums, Mother’s Milk(1989) and Blood Sugar Sex Magik(1991).

Blood Sugar Sex Magik became an extremely significant record for the band; it thrust them into mainstream success with over thirteen million copies sold. Frusciante grew uncomfortable with this new found success and left abruptly in the middle of the tour for the album in 1992, descending into heroin addiction. Kiedis, Flea, and Smith employed Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction for their subsequent album, One Hot Minute(1995). Although fairly successful, it did not match the critical acclaim of Blood Sugar Sex Magik and sold fewer than half the copies of its predecessor. Shortly afterwards, Navarro departed the band due to creative differences.

Frusciante, fresh out of drug rehabilitation, rejoined the band in 1998, at Flea’s request. The reunited quartet returned to the studio to record Californication(1999), which went on to sell fifteen million units worldwide, becoming their most successful album to date. It was followed three years later with By The Way(2002), which continued their success. In 2006, the group released the double album Stadium Arcadium. The band has won seven Grammy Award. They have sold over fifty million albums worldwide, have had seven singles in the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 (including three singles in the Top 10), have had five #1 singles on the Mainstream Rock charts, and a record eleven #1 singles on the Modern Rock charts.

Formation and first album (1983–1984

Red Hot Chilli Peppers were formed by Fairfax High School alumni Anthony Kiedis, Hillel Slovak, Jack Irons,and Michael “Flea” Balzary in 1983. RHCP’s first performance was at the Rhythm Lounge, to a crowd of roughly thirty people, opening for Tim Allen. One song had been created for the occasion, which involved the band, then known as Antoine the Swan and the Mystical Masters of Mayhem, improvising music while Kiedis rapped a poem he had written called “Out in L.A.”. As Slovak and Irons were already committed to another group,What is this? it was intended to be a one time performance. However, the performance was so lively that the band were asked to return the following week. Due to this unexpected success, the band changed its name to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, playing several more shows at various LA clubs and musical venues. Six songs from these initial shows were recorded onto the band’s first demo tape.

Several months after their first performance, the band was signed to the record label EMI. Two weeks earlier,had obtained a record deal with MCA, and as Slovak and Irons considered the Red Hot Chili Peppers a side project, they quit to focus on What Is This?. Instead of dissolving the band, Kiedis and Flea decided to recruit new members. Cliff Martinez an acquaintance of Flea’s, was asked to join the Chili Peppers shortly thereafter. Auditions for a new guitarist produced Jack Sherman.

Gang of Four guitarist Andy Gill was hired to produce their first album. Despite Kiedis and Flea’s misgivings, he pushed the band to play with a cleaner, crisper and more radio-friendly sound. The Red Hot Chili Peppers was released on August 10, 1984, and was a commercial flop. It initially sold approximately 25,000 units, and garnered little marketable recognition. The ensuing tour fared little better, as continuing musical and lifestyle tension between Kiedis and Sherman complicated the transition between concert and daily band life. Sherman was fired soon after, with Slovak returning to the Chili Peppers after growing tired.

Freaky Styley and The Uplift Mofo Party Plan (1985–1988)

George Clinton was selected to produce the next Red Hot Chili Peppers album, Freaky Styley. The album was recorded in Detroit’s famed R&B and funky United Sound Systems studios on the edge of Wayne State University’s campus. Clinton combined various elements of punk and funk into the band’s repertoire, allowing their music to incorporate a variety of distinct styles. However, though the band had a much better relationship with Clinton than with Gill, Freaky Styley, released on August 16, 1985, also achieved little success, failing to make an impression on any chart. The subsequent tour was also considered unproductive by the band.

Cliff Martinez was dismissed from the group in the summer of 1986, with Kiedis saying that he sensed that Martinez wished to leave. Jack Irons, out of work and finally separated from other commitments, rejoined the group, to Kiedis, Flea, and Slovak’s great surprise. The Chili Peppers attempted to hire Rick Rubin to produce their third album, but he turned the offer down. The band eventually hired Michael Beihorn who was the band’s last choice. Songs began to form quickly, and the album’s shape came into view, blending the same funk feel and rhythms as Freaky Styley, but also taking a harder, more immediate approach to punk rock and funk metal. Reuniting all four original members renewed their creativity, enlivening the recording process.

On September 29, 1987, The Unplift Mofo Party Plan was released, becoming the first Red Hot Chili Peppers album to appear on any chart. Although it peaked at only #148 on the Billboard Hot 200, this was a significant success compared to the Chili Peppers’ first two albums.

During this period, however, Kiedis and Slovak had both developed serious drug addictions, often abandoning the band, each other, and their significant others for days on end. Slovak’s addiction led to his death on June 25, 1988, not long after the conclusion of the Uplift tour. Kiedis fled the city and did not attend Slovak’s funeral, considering the situation to be surreal and dreamlike. Jack Irons subsequently left the group, saying that he did not want to be part of a group where his friends were dying.

Mother’s Milk (1989–1990)

In an attempt to cope with the death of Slovak and the departure of Irons, Kiedis and Flea temporarily employed Dead Kennedys drummer D.H Peligro and former P-Funk guitarist DeWayne “Blackbird” McKnight. Neither sparked any notable chemistry and they were each replaced rapidly. However, Peligro’s brief tenure did have one vital, long-term consequence for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, his association with the band led to John Frusciante, an acquaintance of Peligro, to audition for the band’s empty guitarist role. Frusciante was fascinated with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and, as a result, was particularly interested in auditioning. Following a constructive jam (which would later appear on Mother’s Milk as “Pretty Little Ditty”), there was a unanimous decision to accept Frusciante into the band.

Three weeks prior to the beginning of recording, the band was still without a drummer, despite several auditions. Eventually, a friend of the band told them about a drummer she knew, Chad Smith, who was so proficient on the drums he “ate [them] for breakfast”.Kiedis had qualms about allowing Smith to try out; however, he agreed to give him a chance. At his audition, Smith overwhelmed the band by not only matching Flea’s intricate and complex rhythm, but even beginning to lead him. After this successful jam session, Kiedis, Frusciante and Flea admitted Smith into the band.

The recording of the band’s fourth album was hindered by conflict with producer Michael Beinhorn, whose primary agenda was to give Frusciante’s guitar playing a loud, overpowering sound, similar to the abrasive tones utilized in heavy metal. This modification caused Frusciante great discomfort, as it did not fit with his preferred style of playing. An example of this can be heard on the song “Stone Cold Bush”.

The Chili Peppers’ fourth album, Mother’s Milk was released in August 1989, and gave them their first top modern rock hits – a tribute ballad to Slovak, “Knock Me Down”,and their cover of Stevie Wonder “Higher Ground”. The album reached #52 on the American album charts and became the band’s first gold record.


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