Two decades, nine albums, seven Grammy Awards, and over 50 million records sold worldwide, have secured a spot for the Red Hot Chili Peppers as the "duke of [their] domain." Trading more guitarists and drummers than frontman, Anthony Kiedis and expired guitarist, Hillel Slovak traded needles, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have finally settled down with a permanent lineup of Anthony Kiedis, Michael "Flea" Balzary, Chad Smith, and John Frusciante.
Formed in 1983 by Fairfax High School alums, Anthony Kiedis, Hillel Slovak, Jack Irons, and Michael "Flea" Balzary, the Red Hot Chili Peppers began their career opening for Gary and Neighbor's Voices at L.A's Rhythm Lounge. Setting the precedent for every show-to-date, the Red Hot Chili Peppers' improvised instrumentals set to Kiedis' poem, "Out in L.A," during their first show. While there were only a mere 30 spectators, the RHCP exuded an energy that earned them a performance the following week and several stints at various LA clubs.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers' self-titled debut album, released a year after their formation, contains six songs from these early performances. Though the Red Hot Chili Peppers were signed by MCA and boasted Gang of Four's guitarist, Andy Gill as the producer for their first album, the LP skipped beneath the public's radar selling a sad 25,000 units. The album, made without blues and fuck prodigy Hillel Slovak and drummer Jack Irons (as at that time, the two were committed to What Is This?), featured temporary guitarist Jack Sherman and drummer Cliff Martinez, who would go on to record Freaky Styley (1986) with the group.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers continued to produce albums with little to no recognition (though The Uplift Mofo Party Plan (1987) peaked on the Billboard Hot 200 at #148, which was a significant success compared to their first LPs), until the band regrouped with the additions of guitarist John Frusciante and drummer Chad Smith to record Mother's Milk (1989) after Slovak's death in '88. Reaching #52 on the charts and becoming the Red Hot Chili Peppers' first gold record, Mother's Milk showcased the band's newfound preference of melody over rhythm, epic guitar riffs, and a plethora of overdubs. Featuring hits such as "Knock Me Down" and "Higher Ground," the Red Hot Chili Peppers' mourning over Slovak was evident in their experimentation with ballads and harmonies. Striving to achieve a sense of unity on Mother's Milk, the group chose to cover Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground" because the "song is really about raising and uplifting yourself spiritually," Flea later said to BAM magazine.
One year later, the Red Hot Chili Peppers embarked on a six-month hiatus, living in a "historically landmarked Mediterranean haunted mansion a stone's throw from where [they] all lived" (well, all with the exception of Smith, who believed the house to be stalked by the supernatural), to record their fifth album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991). The 17-track record, taking its title from the 10th track (at producer Rick Rubin's suggestion), was the band's first album after switching to Warner Bros. Records and earned the Red Hot Chili Peppers their first Grammy Award in 1992 for "Best Hard Rock Performance With Vocal." Selling over 12 million copies and reaching #10 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time," Blood Sugar Sex Magik was a phenomenal success. Containing "Under the Bridge" (perhaps the Red Hot Chili Peppers' most recognizable songs to-date), "Breaking the Girl," and Suck My Kiss, the album was an evolution from Mother's Milk, continuing the Red Hot Chili Peppers' fusion of punk and funk and heavy metal guitar riffs, but graduating from melodically-driven tracks and heavy distortion.
After a brief experiment with Jane's Addiction guitarist, Dave Navarro and Anthony Kiedis' retreat back to substance abuse, the band crafted their sixth album, One Hot Minute in '95. While One Hot Minute enjoyed some success with the group's cover of John Lennon's "I Found Out" and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' third #1 single, "My Friends," the album lacked the cohesion and novelty of Blood Sugar Sex Magik and Mother's Milk. Blame it on Frusciante, who had left the group in the midst of their Blood Sugar Japanese tour of May '92 due to a bad reaction to junk, or blame it on Kiedis, whose heroin addiction was noticeably affecting the quality of his work, but Navarro and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' wasn't as sweet of a mix as blood, sugar, sex, and magik. Three years later, Kiedis and Frusciante climbed out from "under the bridge" to buckle down for what would be a two-year jam session in the creation of their seventh studio album.
Going gold only a month after its release, Californication (2000) is the Red Hot Chili Peppers' most commercially successful album to-date, having sold over 15 million copies worldwide. Taking a more relaxed approach with less raging funk and more melodic riffs, the album was intended to expose the insincerity of Hollywood and the Californian lifestyle. The title track, finished only two days before recording, may best represent the Red Hot Chili Peppers' departure from hard rock and roll. "Scar Tissue," perhaps the most introspective song on the album, became the breakout hit of Californication, earning a Grammy Award the same year of its release for "Best Rock Song." Highlighting Frusciante's adapt guitar skills, his approach on Californication employed slide guitar playing and took its inspiration from the Cure's "Carnage Visitors."
After enjoying 19 months on the road during the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Californication Tour," releasing their eighth album, By the Way (2002), which continued their experimentation of melodic ballads and abandonment of rap-driven funk, and the eighteen month tour that followed the release of By the Way, the band began recording their ninth album in March of 2005. With recording taking place at the same mansion where the Red Hot Chili Peppers laid down the tracks to Blood Sugar Sex Magik, there was no shortage of inspiration for Stadium Arcadium, released a year later. Citing they wanted to craft an "old-fashioned Meet the Beatles-like record" in a "small, digestible piece of art" in the Malay Mail, the Red Hot Chili Peppers ended up creating an astounding 38 tracks, with 28 making the final cut of Stadium Arcadium and nine released later as a B-Side to the double album. Peaking at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100, Stadium Arcadium earned the Red Hot Chili Peppers five out of their eight Grammy Awards with Best Rock Album, Best Rock Song (for "Dani California"), Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal (also for "Dani California"), Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package, and Best Producer (going to Rick Rubin).
While the Red Hot Chili Peppers' improvising, tube sock-wearing days may be over, each member of the group continues to influence the music world (even Kiedis, who explains his hiatus as an opportunity to spend time with his son). Kiedis is preparing an autobiographical television series entitled "Spider and Son," Flea continues to experiment with fresh approaches to his music, Chad Smith is currently the drummer for Chickenfoot (a supergroup whose roster includes Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani, and Michael Anthony), and John Frusciante is continuing his solo career.