The Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Red Hot Chili Peppers

An ebullient shot of funk-punk adrenaline, the 1984 debut from the Red Hot Chili Peppers introduced the future hitmakers as hyperactive, off-kilter freakazoids ready to pump sugar into college radio’s bloodstream. The Peppers emerged from the Hollywood Hills as shirtless wildmen taking inspiration from the grooves of post-punk bands like Gang of Four and Defunkt, the chest-first rhymes of rappers like Grandmaster Melle Mel, and the unfiltered energy of the first wave of Los Angeles hardcore punk. The Peppers’ combustible vigor, unique collision of genre, and predilection for performing in nothing but tube socks made them irresistible to Los Angeles clubs and, eventually, to MTV execs, who dutifully spun The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ unlikely breakout tune: the ranch-funk single “True Men Don’t Kill Coyotes.” Recorded in a series of tumultuous, antagonistic sessions by Gang of Four guitarist Andy Gill, there’s very little on The Red Hot Chili Peppers that indicates the band would eventually conquer 1990s pop radio with a series of introspective rock ballads. But high-school buddies Anthony Kiedis and Michael “Flea” Balzary emerge here fearless and fully formed. Kiedis is “Antoine the Swan,” a front-person as likely to rap about sex (“Out in L.A.”) as he is about the ineffable beauty of dolphins (“Green Heaven”). Flea, meanwhile, is a virtuosic bass player bringing the percussive slaps and pops of funk to punk rock’s speed and volume (“Get Up and Jump,” “Police Helicopter”). Though original Chili Peppers Hillel Slovak and Jack Irons sat out The Red Hot Chili Peppers—they were tied up with the then-seemingly more commercial band What Is This?—the technically proficient guitarist Jack Sherman and arty Dickies drummer Cliff Martinez jumped into the fray, providing ample muscle. Beyond their manic rave-ups, the nascent Peppers perform a funked-up version of a Hank Williams classic (“Why Don’t You Love Me”), team up with Rose Royce lead singer Gwen Dickey for a sleazy romp (“Mommy, Where’s Daddy?”), and close with a vaporous instrumental (“Grand Pappy Du Plenty”). The Peppers wrote the quirky “Baby Appeal” about the love their music would get from literal toddlers, but this bold debut proved their appeal could reach much, much further, eventually transporting the Peppers from the fringes of LA (and MTV) to the heights of multi-platinum superstardom.

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