Another extension of my search for alternative music in the early 1990s was the southern California band we still know today as the Red Hot Chili Peppers. For the second day in a row, we have a very bass-centric sound, as the Peppers have always been driven by bass player Flea and his remarkable playing and exuberant personality. On their fifth album, “Blood Sugar Sex Magik”, the band realized new levels of commercial success, blurring the line between alternative and mainstream rock. Widely acknowledged as their best overall production, it is rated as the #186 album on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
At their best, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are a great blend of punk and funk. At times, the vocal style and machinations of vocalist Anthony Kiedis can be a bit grating, but in general, I really like this album a lot. Guitarist John Frusciante brings a lot of the funk sound to the record with his groove, and the second song, “If You Have to Ask” is a perfect example of him at his best. Another great presentation of this sound is the fourth song, “Funky Monks”, and I enjoyed hearing songs I didn’t previously know move up my list of favorites on this record. A third gem is “Mellowship Slinky in B Major”, which is a phenomenal showcase for Flea to take center-stage. If you like those three songs, you will also love “Apache Rose Peacock”.
“Breaking the Girl” is a softer and more melancholy song, and it provides good contrast to the funk jams throughout this album. It was also one of the four fairly well-known singles to emerge from this record. Another big hit that helped to define their sound on this record was the funk-rocker “Suck My Kiss”. The more I listen to this record the more I like it, and this song is one of the best examples of that growing appeal.
The mood and tempo shifts again on “I Could Have Lied”. It is reminiscent of their biggest hit on the record, “Under the Bridge”, but it does demonstrate their versatility as songwriters and performers. It is fairly late in the record when we come across their other two huge hits from the album, “Give It Away” and “Under the Bridge”. Both tunes have worn out their welcome with some listeners over 30 years of consistent rock airplay, but I still really enjoy both, including that contrast of styles I have cited above. At his best, Kiedis blends a delivery of punk, rap, and funk with a sincere reflection on his own life struggles, and Frusciante and Flea create a perfect canvas for their one-of-a-kind style. If I had to pick out one more song from the rest of the record, I would go with “Sir Psycho Sexy”. Chad Smith slows the pace with a groovy hammer beat, and the distorted bass grind hits hard once again, and this Funkadelic soundalike is truly legit. I didn’t expect to find this many songs I didn’t know but turned out to love, so I will rate this album a big success for the expected and undiscovered.
I have to end this writeup with my own Red Hot Chili Peppers story. The year was 1989, and well in advance of this record, they were still working their way up the ladder and arrived in Greeley, Colorado for an oddly scheduled show in our school gymnasium, Butler Hancock Hall. The show was an afternoon performance on the weekend, and not surprisingly, our venue was not equipped for alcohol sales. As the Chili Peppers exploded on to the stage, I was again confronted by the unexpected realities of the mosh pit and slam dancing, and I suddenly had flashbacks to Circle Jerks show I fled many years before. Thankfully, I adjusted better this time, and made it to the halfway point before our lack of alcohol became more problematic. I took the lead to run several blocks to Gordon’s Liquor Store for an infusion for Mike, Jim, and whoever else was in tow for this show. As I came to the register to pay for the contraband I would smuggle back into the show, I encountered my stoic and usually stern marketing professor Dr. Kendall. After a minute of awkward conversation and my confession as to the day’s agenda, he suggested that I could get back to the show much quicker if he drove me back. How could I say no to that offer?
So, Dr. Kendall, thanks for being a better dude than I expected, and thanks for somehow passing Mike and I no matter how we chose to spend this Saturday. It is greatly appreciated, as are the Red Hot Chili Peppers.