So all-encompassing has been Red Hot Chili Peppers’ mainstream ubiquity and accessibility over the past 30 years that many ‘real’ rock fans seem to have forgotten the things that made the Los Angeles quartet great in the first place. Formed as a one-off “joke” all the way back in 1983 (yes, almost four decades ago) by vocalist Anthony Kiedis, bassist Michael ‘Flea’ Balzary, guitarist Hillel Slovak and drummer Jack Irons, foundations rooted in the punk-funk of bands like Defunkt and Contortions were built on with elements of the emergent alt.rock genre, while personal experiences with addiction and the 1988 death of Hillel bled a darkness into their sound. At their best, the Chilis became capable of striking stylistic shifts quite unlike anyone else.
The definitive (and, as of writing, current) line-up featuring Anthony, Flea, guitarist John Frusciante and drummer Chad Smith first came together in 1988 and are responsible for the decade-defining twin masterpieces Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991) and Californication (1999), though with John’s ongoing substance struggles, six-stringers such as Dave Navarro and Josh Klinghoffer have also been involved. Their combination of genre-melding mischief, taboo-busting sexuality, streaks of emotionally-resonant melancholy, oddball eccentricity and sheer crossover listenability has seen them become, by far, the most successful alt. band in history: over 80 million album sales, countless turnstile entries, six GRAMMYs and a 2012 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame are all under their belts.