Saturday, May 16, 2020

Albums That Defined My Musical Tastes – Red Hot Chili Peppers “The Red Hot Chili Peppers”

One day, sometime in the mid to late 80’s, I paid a visit to my grandparents at their condo in Saskatoon. I was looking around in my grandpa’s office as he always had cool stuff in there – stacks of coin and stamp books, Life and National Geographic magazines, old war photos, and if I dug around in the drawers, the discoveries became even more wondrous. But during this particular visit, sitting on top of a filing cabinet were two cassettes, which I learned had been “stored” there (which probably meant “abandoned”) by my uncle Michael who has always had a keen sense of music and has turned me on to many amazing bands since then. The first cassette was Men at Work’s Business As Usual and I’d already heard of this band as they were getting radio play and I liked their music. In fact, the first concert I ever attended was a Men at Work show in Saskatoon with my mom, but it only happened because my dad got called out of town unexpectedly for work and couldn’t go with her. I only remember flashes of the concert, but  it really came full circle 20 years later when Ana and I attended a show by Colin Hay, the singer from Men at Work, at the Ironwood Bar and Grill in Calgary, Alberta. He put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen (incredible voice and hilarious stories), for a crowd of less than a hundred people. After the show, I walked up and talked to him and told him about my first concert experience and he was so happy to hear it. I didn’t expect he would remember one show of the thousands they probably played, but he told me he remembered that show well because Canada was one of the first countries they played in when they started getting famous and they received an amazing reception in Saskatoon and everywhere else they played. He also said he I was very lucky that my first concert had been with my mom! I’ve been a huge Men at Work/Colin Hay fan since then.

The second cassette was the Red Hot Chili Peppers self-titled debut. I’d never heard of the band, but I assumed they must be pretty cool if my uncle bought it. Now, you’re probably thinking I stole the two cassettes from my grandpa’s office, took them home, and listened to them until they melted. But that was not the case. I wouldn’t really rediscover the Red Hots until years later, and I think the first album I bought was The Uplift Mofo Party Plan. After buying one, I was hooked, but not just me – my two brothers Marty and Curtis became rabid Chilis fans. For a few years those albums were practically all we listened to. We even had my grandma make us a blanket with the Red Hot Chili Peppers band logo on it which was awesome, but made even more badass when grandma accidently spelled it “Chile”. We also made a giant Chili Peppers banner that we used to hang up in the house and take to parties when we wanted to get crazy.

Their sound was fresh, vulgar, spastic, intense, and funny. The singer Anthony Kiedis couldn’t sing worth a damn and still can’t (although he tries much harder now), but what a front man! Of course Flea is one of the most famous bass players in the world and he took the slapping/popping technique to a different punk rock fueled level. The guitarists and drummers would come and go with the band, but all were epic players. The best Chilis poster ever made displays the band members totally naked except for the dirty  sport socks cloaking their packages, a move we would replicate many times over the years under the influence of alcohol, but never quite get right.

This band ignited the love of the bass guitar in me, and I started playing bass because of their music. Once you love the bass, it will be the first instrument you hear in any song. From the Chilis I’d dive into so many other bass-led bands such as Primus, Rush, Cake, Tool, The Police, and Morphine. I’d be lying if I said I’ve followed the Chili Peppers throughout their entire career, as I haven’t been interested in much of anything they have done after Blood Sugar Sex Magik and One Hot Minute, as their lost a lot of their youthful vigor and experimentation and stopped singing about magical dolphins, true men not killing coyotes, skinny sweaty men, purple stains, and police helicopters and instead started singing about love and other adult topics, which is way too grown up for me.

I’ve seen the Chili Peppers play live twice, the second time was in Amsterdam during the One Hot Minute tour, and it was nuts. The stadium with thick with marijuana smoke and got me instantly stoned without smoking a thing. The band played the latter part of the concert completely naked and I was so close to the front I was getting hit by droplets of sweat from Flea’s nutsack. It happened to be Flea’s birthday so at the end of the show some roadies came out singing Happy Birthday with a cake that they shoved in his face, which turned into a full band cake fight, and since they were in a violent mood they turned on their instruments and completely destroyed the drum kit by beating it to pieces with their guitars. Fucking punk rock!

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