Freaky Styley

Freaky Styley

In a career that spans decades, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were never funkier than on the group’s second album, the 1985 booty-mover Freaky Styley. After struggling in the studio during the making of 1984’s The Red Hot Chili Peppers, the group decided to recruit the Parliament-Funkadelic mothership commander himself, George Clinton, to produce the follow-up. Working out of the beloved funkmaster’s United Sound studios in Detroit, the Chili Peppers got to work on a second round of songs about friendship, sex, and Los Angeles. Clinton’s presence can be felt throughout Freaky Styley: He provided the P-Funk Horny Horns and his own baroque vocal arrangements, and suggested the Peppers’ cover of The Meters’ “Africa” should be flipped to be about the group’s “brotherland” of Hollywood, California. And he turned the title track—originally an instrumental—into an iconic funk-metal classic, thanks to his Funkadelic-style chant “Fuck ’em, just to see the look on their face.” Working with Clinton boosted the group’s confidence and energy, but it was the Chili Peppers’ madcap vision and deep chemistry that made Freaky Styley a punk-funk landmark. Guitarist Hillel Slovak, who sat out the Peps’ 1984 debut, had returned to the fold, his wild chicken-scratch syncopation and heroic solos as integral to the early Peppers as Anthony Kiedis’ burly raps and Flea’s athletic bass-slapping (the album’s lead single, “Jungle Man,” is Kiedis’ loving tribute to his bassist bestie, who delivers “Thelonious thunder” from his thumb bone). And “Nevermind” features the band cheekily asserting their dominance over contemporaries like Duran Duran, Men at Work, and Soft Cell; it’s like Funkadelic’s boastful “Let’s Take It to the Stage,” but for the New Wave era. Still, the album’s funkiest track is the horn-soaked bromance “The Brothers Cup,” which invites men across the world over to share kisses with their buddies. Freaky Styley marked a turning point for the Peppers, one best exemplified by by the band’s compassionate cover of Sly and the Family Stone’s “If You Want Me to Stay.” Assisted by vocal coach Clinton, Kiedis tries on his singing voice for the first time, and the band follows in a gait equal parts propulsive and airy. Though not a hit in its own right, “If You Want Me to Stay” points the way to the Peppers’ future as radio-dominating, hard-rock tenderhearts.

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