(U.S 1983 - Present)
(Grooving on the `mother’s milk” of sex and funk)
by Roy Trakin
One thing George Clinton told me about playing funk I’ll never forget is, you have to take it all the way home,” says Flea. Sitting in the middle of a fashionable Melrose Avenue Italian bistro, the Red Hot Chili Pepper bassist and co-founder of the group is doing his share by wearing a beany with a propeller attached on top.
He might have added life and death, because that’s what the Chili Peppers confront on their fourth and apparently most successful LP, Mothe6 Milk (not including 1988’s “best or EP, Abbey Road). It took the heroin OD of long-time guitarist Hillel Slovak and the exit of drummer Jack Irons—and the addition of John Frusciante and Chad Smith to replace them—for Flea and Anthony to grab the reins of the Chili Peppers’ cult following and steer it toward the promised land of commercial success.
|Red Hot Chili Peppers 1989|
|Anthony Kiedis and Flea, August 1989|
The group underscored that resolve with the first single from the new album, the AOReady anthem called “Knock Me Down.” It’s a cautionary saga that warns, “If you see me getting high … knock me down.”
“Oddly, I began writing that song before Hillel died,” Anthony reveals. “I hadn’t really thought about completing it until after he passed away. It’s about recognising we’re all human beings and the best we can ever be is just that—human. Nobody is any better or worse than anybody else. And you’re never above a problem … including the deadly disease of addiction. One should be willing to accept the helping hand of your close friends instead of trying to do everything yourself. You should never think you’re so cool or in control you can take care of problems that are beyond being solved by an individual”
|Phantasy Theatre, Lakewood 1989|
Instead, Anthony and Flea picked a pair of brand-new Chili Peppers and tried to turn their tragedy into triumph. After three albums and an EP that failed to dent the charts, the band was anxious to raise the stakes, insisting there was no pressure to do so from management or their label, EMI.
“We have a desire to communicate our music to a much larger amount of people than we have in the past,” agrees Flea, propeller blades turning on his hat. “I think we captured more energy than we ever have on record before. Considering everything that happened, the fact we stayed together was a big bonding factor.” “Our record company never attempted to ask us to do anything other than what we do,” claims Anthony.
As for Detroit native Smith, he had no idea what the Chili Peppers were about before he auditioned. “We just explained we were a hard-core, bone-crunching, mayhem-inducing, psychedelic sexfunk band from heaven,” Anthony laughs. “And could he produce that type of drumming?
In its first few weeks of release, Mother’s Milk has sold almost 200,000 copies, more than any other previous Chili Peppers album. “This record is more radio-acceptable,” agrees Anthony. “Although it wasn’t our intention to change in that direction. We weren’t tiling to fit in. It was just a natural expression of how we felt. This was a direct link from our hearts, souls and genitals to guitars and vocal cords.” [extract from thechilisource.com]
With John Frusciante and Chad Smith on board, Mother's Milk instantly garnered more attention than the band's previous records and, as such, the venues the band performed in were able to accommodate far larger crowds. The band was now playing more arenas than ever before and gaining more television and radio exposure, especially through college radio, which was a huge supporter of the album and helped the band to eventually gain more mainstream attention. For the first time the band also upgraded to a full-fledged tour bus and added backup musicians and singers.
The tour was by far the biggest tour for the band at the time breaking them through to new audiences and larger venues to perform at. The tour also included television appearances on such shows as The Arsenio Hall Show where they even performed a tribute to the late night host called "Ode To Arsenio" which was used as an intro to their cover of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground". In Austin, Texas, during the opening set by Mary's Danish, all four Chili Pepper's ran onstage totally naked, and tackled Mary's Danish two female lead singers. I suspect that Mary Danish were chosen as their support band as they had a common interest in the music of Jimi Hendrix. The RHCP's concert setlist at the time consisted of "Castles Made Of Sand" and "Crosstown Traffic"