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The Red Hot Chili Peppers

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Two years after releasing their eighth studio album By The Way, and one calendar removed from Capitol’s series of bonus tracks reissues of their first four 80's recordings, The Red Hot Chili Peppers had a lot to crow about on their website in mid-2004. First, they were honored at the MOJO Awards in London as the magazine rewarded numerous influential legends. While James Brown got a Lifetime Achievement Award, the Peppers went home with the Maverick Award for consistently producing good music and in honor of their staying power over two decades in the business.

July 2004 found them as performing guest stars at the Creative Coaltion’s Convention, as part of the “Seconding The First” celebration of the First Amendment during the 2004 National Democratic Convention in Boston (the arts and entertainment community run Coalition is dedicated to educating members on issues of public importance.) The ongoing appreciation of the music of RHCP is in part due to the band’s ability to rise above set backs time after time to keep their old fanbase and reach out to new admirers of their eclectic mix of funk, punk and thrash.

The original Red Hot Chili Peppers lineup featured lead signer Anthony Kiedis, Australian bassist "Flea" (born Michael Balzary), Israeli guitar player Hillel Slovak (who died in 1988), and drummer Jack Irons. The four met at Los Angeles’ Fairfax High and brought together diverse roots. The group's first project was a short lived band called An-them School, but Balzary soon left to join the punk rock band Fear, while Irons and Slovak joined forces to create a spin-off group called What Is This?

In 1983, with Flea back on board and a new name - the Red Hot Chili Peppers - that the band began taking themselves seriously as budding stars. Despite the absence of Irons and Slovak (who were under contractual obligations to What Is This?), the new group, consisting of Flea, Kiedis, Jack Sherma, and Cliff Martinez, managed to release a self-titled debut. Irons and Slovak eventually returned, and the Peppers grew their fan base on the strength of incredibly energetic live performances.

In 1985, RHCP released their George Clinton-produced second album Freaky Styley, which sold less than their debut but proved a critical step in their development. Their third album, 1987’s The Uplift Mofo Party Plan, featured the original Anthem lineup and featured one of the band's most legendary songs, "Party on Your Pussy".

Shortly after the release of their acclaimed Abbey Road EP, Slovak died from an accidental heroin overdose, which prompted Irons to leave and nearly cause the band to split. The remaining Peppers recruited drummer Chad Smith and longtime fan John Frusciante for the guitar slot.

1989’s “comeback” recording Mother's Milk, built around the Slovak tribute “Knock Me Down” and a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” helped them break through with MTV and hinted at brighter days to come. Things soured again, however, as Kiedis was convicted of indecent exposure and sexual battery and Flea and Smith were found guilty on battery charges stemming from an altercation with a female audience member at a taping of an MTV special.

Nothing like a huge album and a few hit singles to erase such bitter pills. BloodSugarSexMagik was both a critical and commercial success, selling more than three million copies and featuring the hit singles "'Under The Bridge" and "Give It Away". Critics debated the topic of the band’s so called innate sexism, but RHCP was on its way to major stardom, beginning with a headlining spot on the Lollapalooza tour.

In May 1992 Frusciante left the band and was ultimately replaced ex-Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro; still, RHCP was off the charts till 1995 when the animated hit film Beavis And Butt-Head Do America featured the band’s "Love Rollercoaster", which launched yet another comeback. The musical chairs continued in 1998. with Navarro leaving and being replaced by the returning Frusciante. Californication, featuring the title track hit single and video was released in 1999.

Their subsequent tours featured the usual dose of RHCP turmoil, including their appearance at the ill-fated Woodstock '99 festival, where their headlining performance was met with piles of burning rubble and a full-scale riot. Later tours with the Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam were more serene, and they later had to cancel a stop in Israel due to security concerns.

© 2004