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It burns... but the hurt never felt so good:   The Red Hot Chili Peppers

These engaging Hollywood ruffians' mixture of funk, punk and grunge encouraged a legion of other bands to regurgitate the formula. Led by 'Antwan The Swan' (b. Anthony Kiedis, 1 November 1962, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA; vocals), the band's original line-up also featured 'Flea' (b. Michael Balzary, 16 October 1962, Melbourne, Australia; bass), Hillel Slovak (b. 31 March 1962, Israel, d. 25 June 1988; guitar) and Jack Irons (b. California, USA; drums). They began life as garage band Anthem before Balzary departed for seminal 80s punks Fear. When Irons and Slovak moved on to join the less notable What Is This?, the nails appeared to be firmly in place on the Anthem coffin. However, under their new name, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, with Flea back on board, acquired a speculative recording contract with EMI Records America. Unfortunately, as Irons and Slovak were under contract with their new band, their debut album had to be recorded by Kiedis and Balzary with Jack Sherman on guitar and Cliff Martinez (ex- Captain Beefheart, Weirdos ) on drums. Production was handled, somewhat surprisingly, by the Gang Of Four 's Andy Gill. The band set about building their considerable reputation as a live outfit, much of which was fuelled by their penchant for appearing semi-naked or worse. Slovak returned to guitar for the second album, this time produced by George Clinton. Also featured was a horn section comprising Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley, veterans of James Brown, among others. Martinez returned shortly afterwards to reinstate the original Anthem line-up, and their third album saw a shift back to rock from the soul infatuation of its predecessors. In 1988, they released the Abbey Road EP, featuring a pastiche of the famous Beatles album pose on the cover (the band were totally naked save for socks covering their genitalia). However, the mood was darkened when Slovak took an accidental heroin overdose and died in June. Deeply upset, Irons left, while the band recruited John Frusciante (guitar) and Chad Smith (b. 25 October 1962, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA; drums). After the release of Mother's Milk, the single 'Knock Me Down' was released as a tribute to Slovak. For the commercially successful Blood Sugar Sex Magik they accurately diagnosed their motivation, and much of their attraction: 'Just recognizing that I was a freak, but knowing that was a cool place to be.' Producer Rick Rubin, usually associated with the harder end of the metal and rap spectrum ( Slayer, Danzig ), nevertheless brought out the band's first ballads, including the classic US number 2 hit single 'Under The Bridge'. Such sensitivity did little to deter the vanguard of critics who raged at what they saw as the band's innate sexism. Frusciante left in May 1992 and was replaced by a succession of guitarists, before Dave Navarro (b. 7 June 1967, Santa Monica, California, USA; ex- Jane's Addiction ) joined in time to participate in the recording of One Hot Minute, released in 1995. The band enjoyed another transatlantic hit two years later with 'Love Rollercoaster', taken from the soundtrack of Beavis And Butt-Head Do America. Navarro left the band in 1998 and was replaced by ex-member John Frusciante. Having endured various personal upheavals, it was encouraging to hear the band in such good shape on 1999's US/UK Top 5 album, Californication, featuring stand-out tracks such as 'Scar Tissue' (a US Top 10 single), 'Parallel Universe', and 'Easily'.

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