The Red Hot Chili Peppers came together in Los Angeles in 1983, formed by high school friends Anthony Kiedis and Michael ‘Flea’ Balzary.
The naughty party boys of LA rock began playing funk-infused punk, moving to the club circuit in the early 80s and cutting their self-titled debut LP in 1984 for EMI America.
Kiedis was fired briefly from his own band in 1987 due to a severe heroin problem, while guitarist John Frusciante’s original four-year stint saw him transformed from a wide-eyed musical prodigy into crack-addled recluse holed up in the Chateau Marmont Hotel, painting pictures in his own blood.
Both fared better, though, than founding guitarist Hillel Slovak, who was found dead at his Los Angeles home of an accidental heroin overdose on 20 June 1988, just as the band were about to make their international breakthrough. He was just 26.
On 1989’s Mother’s Milk, the Peppers had perfected a blend of hard rock, funk, and snappy songs. Now all they needed was a hit.
Enter Under The Bridge (1991), Kiedis’ paean to heroin brought to life by Frusciante’s heartbreaking guitar, which set the album Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991) on course for seven million US sales.
Underpinned by Flea’s boingy bass and Chad Smith’s relentless drums, standouts on the album included the vicious Suck My Kiss and My Lovely Man, a tribute to Frusciante’s late predecessor, Hillel Slovak.
The band replaced guitarist Arik Marshall in August 1993 with Jesse Tobias, who in turn was replaced by Dave Navarro – a founder member of Jane’s Addiction – within three months.
The 1995 ‘One Hot Minute’ tour was postponed until early 1996 after drummer Chad Smith broke his left wrist playing baseball in Los Angeles.
Navarro left the band in 1998 and Frusciante, fresh out of drug rehabilitation, rejoined the band that same year at Flea’s request.
The reunited quartet returned to the studio to record Californication (1999), which became the band’s biggest commercial success with 15 million copies worldwide.
Michael ‘Flea’ Balzary