Jason’s Jukebox: The Red Hot Chili Peppers

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(Note: Beginning with this post, I will no longer embed Youtube videos into my Jukebox series. It’s too unpredictable. I’ll just give you the link as is instead.)

“When I find my peace of mind

I’m gonna keep it til the end of time”–“Soul to Squeeze”

Welcome back to Jason’s Jukebox, where I tell you all about every album from my favorite bands.  This time around, I’m looking at the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Last year, they celebrated their 30th anniversary.  I’m going to give you my thoughts on all their albums, rating them in habernero peppers, the hottest peppers known to man.  The higher the amount of haberneros, the better it is. Also, an album that is marked “magnum opus” is what I consider their best work.

(Note: Since this band has changed its roster numerous times, I’m including roster changes where appropriate)

1. Red Hot Chili Peppers (1984)

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Rating: 1 habernero

Roster: Anthony Kiedis–lead vocals

Michael “Flea” Balzary–bass

Jack Sherman–lead guitar

Cliff Martinez–drums

Single: “True Men Don’t Kill Coyotes”

If you’re wondering “Wait, wasn’t Hillel Slovak their first guitarist?” Well, he was on demos of this album, but on the official release, it’s Jack Sherman (if you buy the deluxe version, you can hear those demos with Slovak). Slovak was in another band with Flea and Jack Irons called What is This?. He felt that the Red Hot Chili Peppers were more of a side project. The only positive things I can say is that I like the album cover and “True Men Don’t Kill Coyotes” rocks.  The rest of the album isn’t that great, mostly because EMI didn’t care how it sounded and got anyone they could in the production booth. That changed beginning with the next album, thankfully. This is one of only two albums the Chili Peppers don’t play in concert, the other one being One Hot Minute.

Fun Fact: This is one of the only two Red Hot Chili Peppers albums recorded on vinyl. (The other one is Freaky Styley) Both are extremely rare.
Video link for best song: “True Men Don’t Kill Coyotes” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZdAI3pMcgU)
2. Freaky Styley (1985)

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Rating: Magnum Opus

Roster: Anthony Kiedis–lead vocals

Michael “Flea” Balzary–bass

Hillel Slovak–lead guitar

Cliff Martinez–drums

Singles: “Jungle Man”, “Catholic School Girls Rule”, “Hollywood (Africa)”

This album was produced by George Clinton, one of the Chili Peppers’ biggest influences.  Slovak officially joined the band beginning with this album and made the band sound so much better than their debut.  This was the first album to feature covers: “If You Want Me to Stay” (originally Sly and the Family Stone) and “Africa” (originally The Meters) George Clinton actually suggested that “Africa” be reworked as “Hollywood”. As he put it, Hollywood was the Chili Peppers’ “Africa”, so it was more fitting. He was right. This is a huge improvement over the debut, and I’m going to spotlight more songs because of that.
Fun Facts: The voice saying “Look at that turtle go!” on “Yertle the Turtle” is George Clinton’s drug dealer. This was the first album to feature both an instrumental track and a title track (the instrumental track is the title track, actually). There would not be another title track until Blood Sugar Sex Magik.

Best Songs: “The Brothers Cup” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6bPGKFG0dY
“If You Want Me to Stay” ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKejwpe_ajc)

“American Ghost Dance” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZM3aek9yxE)
3. Uplift Mofo Party Plan (1987)

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Rating: 4 1/2 haberneros

Roster: Anthony Kiedis–lead vocals

Michael “Flea” Balzary–bass

Hillel Slovak–lead guitar

Jack Irons–drums

Singles: “Fight Like a Brave”, “Me and My Friends”, “Behind the Sun”

This was Slovak’s final album due to his drug-induced death while on tour.  While all four members were pretty heavy on the drugs, Slovak was the worst, but his death eventually caused Kiedis and Flea to kick their habits. I really don’t like saying this is such a great album, but it is. I love so many songs on this album. It wasn’t nearly as good as Freaky Styley, but it’s pretty darn close.

Fun Fact: While “Behind the Sun” was released on this album, it didn’t get a video until it was re-released on What Hits?. This is why John Frusciante is in the video rather than Slovak.

Best Songs: “Fight Like a Brave” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNrrm2BKDw0
“Backwoods” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUchU-I8fjM)

4. Mother’s Milk (1989)

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Rating: 4 haberneros

Roster: Anthony Kiedis–lead vocals

Michael “Flea” Balzary–bass

John Frusciante–guitar, backing vocals

Chad Smith–drums

Singles: “Higher Ground”, “Knock Me Down”, “Taste The Pain”

Jack Irons left the band after Slovak’s death, no longer wanting to mourn any more friends.  (He later joined Eleven and Pearl Jam, leaving the latter in 2007) This was the debut for Frusciante and Smith, and a great way to start their tenures with the band.  The album is just solid all the way through, even with the odes to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson.  The covers of “Higher Ground” and “Fire” are just awesome. (If you get the deluxe version, you get live covers of “Crosstown Traffic” and “Castles Made of Sand”, also by Hendrix)

Fun Facts: The deluxe edition features the Chili Peppers’ second and final instrumental track, “The Song That Made Us What We Are Today”. “Taste the Pain” features Flea on trumpet.

Best Songs: “Higher Ground” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ADTPb2f_44
“The Song That Made Us What We Are Today” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DbO5xhZlhA)
“Nobody Weird Like Me” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVNzKSsx3j8)

5. Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)

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Rating: Magnum Opus

Roster: Anthony Kiedis–lead vocals

Michael “Flea” Balzary–bass

John Frusciante–guitar, backing vocals

Chad Smith–drums

Singles: “Give It Away”, “Under the Bridge”, “Suck My Kiss”, “Breaking the Girl”

This was the album that began the Chili Peppers’s tenure with Warner Bros, which they are still part of today.  It introduced many fans to the band and began their relationship with one of the best producers ever, Rick Rubin.  It’s a true masterpiece that the band has never been able to top. If you haven’t listened to this album at least once, you can’t call yourself a fan.  The only reason I never owned it was the Parental Advisory Sticker.

Fun Fact: This was the last album to feature a cover, “They’re Red Hot” by Robert Johnson. The deluxe edition contains “Little Miss Lover” and “Castles Made of Sand”, both originally recorded by Jimi Hendrix. “Sikamikaniko” and “Soul to Squeeze” were both recorded for the album, but were instead released on the soundtracks for Wayne’s World and Coneheads.

Best Songs: “Power of Equality” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JT6UCvR7kgU)
“Give It Away” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mr_uHJPUlO8)
“Under the Bridge” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwlogyj7nFE)

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