Red Hot Chili Peppers Miraculous Masters of Mayhem

Red Hot Chili Peppers Miraculous Masters of Mayhem
Back in the early '80s, no one could have guessed that Red Hot Chili Peppers would go on to become one of the world's most successful rock acts. The band's original formula was hardly made for longevity: their goofy hybrid of rock, funk and rap initially failed to make much of an impression on radio listeners, and their penchant for performing wearing nothing but strategically placed tube socks meant that they seemed destined to be forever regarded as a gimmick band. To make matters worse, their excessive, drug-fuelled lifestyle and volatile chemistry resulted in repeated line-up changes, and they burned through a steady stream of guitarists and drummers. Incredibly, the band not only survived, but evolved. Frontman Anthony Kiedis began to incorporate sensitive and melodic singing into his tongue-twisting raps, while bassist Flea learned to tame his giddy pops and slaps. With their mass appeal sound, they conquered mainstream rock radio, toured arenas and headlined major festivals. Despite their many successes, the band have never found their comfort zone, and their career has continued to be defined by struggle and upheaval. Nearly 30 years since they formed, the group are still in constant flux, and show no signs of settling down. As the group release their 10th LP, I'm With You, we look back on their wild and unpredictable career.

1962 to 1982
Flea is born Michael Peter Balzary on October 16, 1962 in Melbourne, Australia. As a child, he moves with his family to New York. His parents soon divorce and his mother marries Walter Urban Jr., a jazz musician. His stepfather hosts frequent jam sessions, and the family relocates to Los Angeles. Balzary develops an early interest in trumpet and plays with the Los Angeles Junior Philharmonic Orchestra. His home life is marred by violence and alcoholism, and the unhappy Balzary throws himself increasingly into music and marijuana. He loves jazz and is initially uninterested in pop and rock.

Anthony Kiedis is born on November 1 in Grand Rapids, MI, where he spends his childhood with his mother. He is wild from an early age, and is caught stealing Slim Jims from a store at age six. His stepfather Scott St. John runs into frequent trouble with the law and eventually ends up in jail. Kiedis moves to Los Angeles at age 11 to live with his father, Blackie Dammett. Also known as Spider, Dammett is an actor and Hollywood scenester who introduces his son to drugs and sex before Kiedis is even a teenager. He loses his virginity to his father's 18-year-old girlfriend. He takes on a number of small acting roles under the name Cole Dammett. After his father is busted by the cops for drugs, Kiedis posts bail with money he earns from appearing in a Coca-Cola commercial. While attending Fairfax High School, the two meet after Balzary puts a classmate in a headlock and Kiedis intervenes. The argument is cleared up and the two become fast friends, bonding over their chaotic home lives and recreational drug use. Their rowdy behaviour almost proves fatal when Anthony breaks his back as he attempts to jump off an apartment block into a swimming pool and lands on concrete. Balzary is dubbed "Flea" during a trip to Mammoth Lakes with friends.

They meet guitarist Hillel Slovak after seeing his band Anthym perform. Anthym is eventually rechristened What Is This?, and feature Balzary (who is now playing bass) and drummer Jack Irons. Kiedis frequently introduces the band on-stage by reading original poetry. Flea later quits What Is This? to join the iconic punk outfit Fear.

1983 to 1984
In February, Kiedis, Balzary, Slovak and Irons are asked to perform a one-song opening set for a friend's band. They christen themselves Tony Flow and the Miraculous Masters of Mayhem and write a funky rap song called "Out in L.A." for the occasion. The performance goes so well that they are invited back the next week to play a longer set, and they soon begin gigging all over the city under the name the Red Hot Chili Peppers (they later drop the "The" in official usage). They begin getting mentions in L.A. Weekly and Los Angeles Times. Flea quits Fear after frontman Lee Ving tells him that he must choose between the two groups. They record a demo, and Kiedis will later cite this three-hour session as the best recording experience the band will ever have. They cut six songs live off the floor, plus a handful of a cappella tracks.

During a show at a stripper bar called Kit Kat Club, the band perform an encore wearing nothing but tube socks over their manhoods. A talent manager named Lindy Goetz is in the audience, and he offers to represent them. He lands the band a seven-album deal with EMI. Slovak and Irons leave the group to focus on What Is This?, and the Chili Peppers hire drummer Cliff Martinez and guitarist Jack Sherman as replacements. Gang of Four guitarist Andy Gill signs on as producer and the group record their debut LP, The Red Hot Chili Peppers. While in the studio, they clash with the producer and are unhappy with the finished result, which they see as too sterile and commercial. Many of the songs from the demo are re-recorded for the LP (including "Out in L.A."), but these lack the energy of the original versions.

The album comes out on August 10, 1984, and EMI is disappointed with initially low sales. Meanwhile, Kiedis's drug habit is becoming increasingly serious; he begins regularly using heroin and cocaine, and his binges result in missed shows. While visiting his mother in Michigan, he gets drunk and crashes his car into a tree. He breaks his skull and requires plastic surgery. During their first national tour, tensions grow with Sherman, who doesn't participate in the group's comedic on-stage antics. Once they return home, they fire the guitarist.

Slovak rejoins the group and they head to Detroit to record with P-Funk legend George Clinton. His production work emphasizes the band's funky and playful energy, and this results in their second LP, Freaky Styley. The title is a slang term used to refer to anything positive. The album comes out on August 16, 1985. Among the 14 tracks is a cover of Sly and the Family Stone's "If You Want Me to Say" plus a wah-wah soaked rendition of Dr. Seuss's "Yertle the Turtle." The latter features a brief guest appearance from Clinton's cocaine dealer, who was given a vocal cameo in order to satisfy a drug debt. Although the musicians are pleased with the album and tour behind it, it garners little mainstream attention. They score a high-profile gig opening for Run-DMC, and Kiedis shows up to the show high on cocaine and heroin and gives the audience a lecture on the perils of drug use. Slovak's dependency also becomes increasingly severe. Flea marries girlfriend Loesha Zeviar.

1986 to 1987
EMI give the group $5,000 to record a demo, and they spend most of it on drugs. Kiedis is using too heavily to participate in the creative process, and Martinez's interest in the band is waning. They fire the drummer and Irons returns behind the kit, reuniting the original line-up. Flea, Slovak and Irons kick Kiedis out of the band due to his debilitating heroin use. Soon after, they win the L.A. Weekly Music Award for best band, and Kiedis is disappointed when the others accept the prize without him. Desperately hoping to get his life and career back on track, he heads to Michigan to stay with his mother and get clean. After a month of sobriety, Flea invites the frontman to rejoin them and he moves back to Los Angeles. On the plane ride home, he writes lyrics for the sobriety anthem "Fight Like a Brave." Within weeks, he resumes his drug use.

The band set to work on a new album with producer Michael Beinhorn. They release The Uplift Mofo Party Plan on September 29, 1987. Most of the new songs showcase the band's patented blend of aggressive punk and funky rap, but the sitar-assisted pop cut "Behind the Sun" is uncharacteristically gentle and melodic. Other tracks like "Fight Like a Brave" and "Me & My Friends" feature some of the band's sharpest hooks to date. EMI refuses to release the record until the band retitle the track "Party on Your Pussy" as "Special Secret Song Inside." The label gives the record a promotional push, and it's the group's biggest success yet, peaking at #148 on the Billboard 200.

During the outfit's first European tour, Slovak becomes increasingly unstable due to his heroin addiction. During a show in London, UK, he is strung out and unable to play, so his bandmates perform as a trio. The guitarist is briefly fired but soon rejoins the band. He dies of an overdose in his Hollywood apartment on June 25 at age 26. Irons is bereaved and quits. Anthony goes to Mexico to get clean, but relapses once he comes back to Los Angeles. He checks himself into a drug rehabilitation centre and stops using once again. This time, he remains sober for six years. Flea contributes trumpet to Jane's Addiction's album Nothing's Shocking. His wife Loesha gives birth to their daughter, Clara.

The group briefly hire P-Funk guitarist Blackbyrd McKnight and ex-Dead Kennedys drummer D.H. Peligro, but they fire McKnight after Kiedis hears 18-year-old guitar phenom John Frusciante during his audition for the band Thelonious Monster. Frusciante is a dedicated fan of the band and his style is heavily influenced by Slovak. He and Flea write the delicate instrumental song "Pretty Little Ditty" during their first jam together.

The group part ways with Peligro after his drinking begins to interfere with live shows. Soon after, Chad Smith auditions on drums. An Illinois native who moved to L.A. with hopes of becoming an actor, his forceful playing impresses the band. His fashion sense doesn't mesh with the rest of the group and they invite him to join on the condition that he shaves off his long hair. He doesn't, but is allowed in nevertheless. He will go on to become Red Hot Chili Peppers' most consistent member, never getting involved with the in-fighting and substance abuse problems of his bandmates.

1989 to 1990
While Kiedis and Flea subject the new members to a lengthy hazing process, the band record Mother's Milk with returning producer Beinhorn. The chemistry with the new members is immediate, and their new songs scale down the usual funk influences in favour of loud guitars and melody-driven rock. Now that he is sober, Kiedis is productive and prolific as a lyricist. The musicians butt heads with their producer, who is attempting to create a radio-ready hit single, and they later express dissatisfaction with the finished product. Frusciante in particular is unhappy with the brash guitar tones and dense layering.

Despite the players' reservations, the album is a modest success. Following its release on August 29, 1989, it peaks at #52 on Billboard, and the singles "Higher Ground" (a Stevie Wonder cover), "Knock Me Down" and "Taste the Pain" chart on radio. By 1990, the album is certified gold, later platinum. The band land in legal trouble after model Alaine Dawn, who appears on the album cover carrying miniature versions of the musicians over her nude body, takes exception to promotional posters that show her uncensored bare breasts. She wins a $50,000 lawsuit. Flea appears in the films Back to the Future Part II (1989) and Part III (1990) playing a bullying character named Needles. Although the group are still under contract with EMI, they are unhappy with the label and seek a new home. They are courted by numerous labels, and David Geffen attempts to sign them. Epic offers them $1 million each and they initially agree, but sign with Warner Bros. after befriending president Mo Ostin.

1991 to 1992
Red Hot Chili Peppers begin working with Rick Rubin, an acclaimed rock and hip-hop producer whose credits include Run-DMC, Beastie Boys and Slayer. He gives focus to the band's freeform jams and encourages them to focus on songcraft. He will go on to produce all of the band's subsequent albums. They find a mansion in Laurel Canyon rumoured to be haunted by the ghost of a murdered woman and they turn it into an unorthodox studio. All of the members except Smith live there during the recording process, and Flea and Frusciante make it through the sessions without ever leaving the property. The proceedings are filmed by Gavin Bowden (Flea's future brother-in-law) for the making-of documentary Funky Monks. The space will become a favourite of Rubin's, and the recording site of future albums by Audioslave, Linkin Park, LCD Soundsystem and more.

The sessions produce Blood Sugar Sex Magik, which amalgamates the band's loose, funky style with their most focused pop songwriting to date. Frusciante's melodic sensibilities add a new dimension to their sound and result in ballads like "Under the Bridge" (which discusses Kiedis' experiences with heroin) and "I Could Have Lied" (about his brief relationship with Sinéad O'Connor). When the 17-song opus is released on September 24, 1991 ― the same day as Nirvana's Nevermind ― it is an instant smash. It peaks at number three on Billboard and tops the charts in Canada. "Under the Bridge" and the funk rocker "Give It Away" are hits and will go on to become two of the band's best-loved songs. The latter earns attention with its eye-grabbing video, a black-and-white clip that shows the scantily-clad musicians dancing in the desert. The song wins a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance with Vocal. Blood Sugar Sex Magik will later appear in numerous lists of the best albums of the '90s, while "Under the Bridge" will be singled out in "best song" rankings.

The band embark on a tour with openers Pearl Jam and the Smashing Pumpkins. Nirvana join the tour after Nevermind hits the mainstream, and Corgan pulls Smashing Pumpkins off the bill because of his prior relationship with Courtney Love, who at this point is Kurt Cobain's girlfriend. Flea is depressed and heavily medicated after breaking up with his wife, while Frusciante is uncomfortable with all the attention and begins dabbling with heroin. A rift grows between Frusciante and Kiedis, and the two clash during a sloppy performance on Saturday Night Live. The guitarist quits the band and agrees to play one final show in Tokyo, Japan. He will spend most of the next five-plus years holed up in his Hollywood house in the grips of a crippling drug addiction. The group recruit Arik Marshall as a replacement and headline the Lollapalooza tour.

Attempting to capitalize on Red Hot Chili Peppers' popularity, EMI releases the compilation What Hits?, which is billed as a greatest hits album despite the band's lack of commercial success during their tenure with the label. EMI strikes a deal with Warner Bros. to include "Under the Bridge" on the compilation.

1993 to 1994
The band fire Marshall after writing sessions go poorly. Jesse Tobias joins, but is soon replaced by Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro. On October 30, 1993, Flea is slated to perform at the Viper Room in Los Angeles with his friend, actor River Phoenix (brother of Joaquin). During a set from Johnny Depp's band P, the 23-year-old actor dies of an overdose on heroin and cocaine, and Flea rides with him in the ambulance to the hospital. In January 1994, Kiedis relapses on heroin and crack cocaine after being administered narcotic painkillers during a dental operation.

The band travel to Hawaii for a month-long writing session. They struggle to gel as Navarro is unused to writing during jam sessions. During this visit, they learn that Kurt Cobain has committed suicide and write the ballad "Tearjerker" as a tribute. Their first show with Navarro is at Woodstock 94, and they take the stage wearing massive light bulb costumes. Back in Los Angeles, Kiedis resumes using drugs heavily. The band re-enter the studio, but the singer is mostly absent from the sessions and he continually delays completing his vocals. His relapse is a secret, and he claims to be suffering from a stomach ailment. He eventually goes to Michigan for the holidays and gets clean once more. Flea assumes an increased role in the writing process and records the solo song "Pea" for the album. EMI releases the rarities compilation Out in L.A., which contains tracks from the band's original demo.

With Kiedis clean, the band quickly finish writing and recording the album. The frontman immediately begins using again. He checks in Exodus rehab centre and begins a program of prayer and meditation. He completes his 30 days, but repeatedly relapses once he is released. Flea and Navarro contribute to Alanis Morissette's single "You Oughta Know," which becomes a smash hit. Flea records a solo song called "I've Been Down" for the film The Basketball Diaries.

Red Hot Chili Peppers film a video for the new single "Warped," and this generates controversy because it shows Kiedis and Navarro kissing. Warner asks them to remove the kiss, but they say no, and they experience a backlash from many of their fans. They release One Hot Minute on September 12, 1995, and the record earns mixed reviews with its combination of funk, psychedelic hard rock and sensitive balladry. The album is a commercial success, peaking at number four on Billboard and spawning the singles "Aeroplane" and "My Friends." It's ultimately viewed as a disappointment, however, failing to match the sales or critical acclaim of Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Songs from the album will be largely absent from future tours.

The band cancel their U.S. tour after Smith breaks his wrist. During a subsequent outing, Kiedis falls off the stage and tears his calf muscle, requiring a large cast that he wears for the rest of the tour. They record a cover of the Ohio Players' "Love Rollercoaster" for the film Beavis and Butthead Do America. In October, 1996, Kiedis returns to rehab but continues to relapse.

1997 to 1998
Flea dubs 1997 the "Year of Nothing." Red Hot Chili Peppers play only one show, a festival at Mount Fuji that is abandoned partway through due to a typhoon. Despite repeated stints in rehab and a visit to the Dalai Lama in India, Kiedis is unable to kick his habit. He gets into a motorcycle accident and breaks his wrist and arm, requiring reconstructive surgery. He takes nine months to recover and the band cancel shows. Flea joins Jane's Addiction during their reunion tour (as does Navarro).

In 1998, manager Lindy Goetz quits after a decade-and-a-half. Navarro is using drugs heavily, and the guitarist begins work on a solo record with help from Smith. After rehearsals go poorly, the band fire Navarro. Flea is sick with the Epstein Barr virus and attempts to write a solo album. He begins voicing the character Donnie on the animated TV series The Wild Thornberrys and appears in films The Big Lebowski and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. EMI continues its campaign of compilations with Under the Covers, a collection of the group's most notable cover songs. Band activity is almost non-existent and Flea considers quitting, but the musicians are reinvigorated by the return of John Frusciante, who returns to the fold after completing drug rehabilitation. His arms are badly scarred from improper needle use and he hasn't played music in years, but he is eager to resume work. Kiedis buys him a vintage Fender Stratocaster, and the guitarist compensates for his rustiness by developing a new, more minimal style based around sparse arpeggios and clean melodic lines. They make their live return at a secret club show in Washington, DC, and the next day play at the Tibetan Freedom Festival at the request of the Dalai Lama.

1999 to 2000
Following smooth, productive writing and recording sessions, Red Hot Chili Peppers release Californication on June 6, 1999. It's an instant smash, peaking at #3 on Billboard and reaching #2 in Canada. The disc contains a wide range of sounds and styles, and it's the mid-tempo rock songs that make the biggest impression on radio listeners and critics: "Scar Tissue" wins a Grammy Award for Best Rock Song, and "Californication" and "Otherside" are also major hits.

The band go on a small tour of high school proms before graduating to larger venues. They headline Woodstock 99 and Flea plays the entire show naked. Fires and riots break out during their set, and the band are later criticized because this coincides with their cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Fire." Flea is worn out by constant touring, and the band adopt a relaxed schedule that incorporates long breaks and results in significantly reduced profits. They also decide to give five percent of all tour earnings to charity. During a show at Seattle's Experience Music Project museum, the band reprise their infamous tube socks stunt for the first time since Frusciante's return.

Kiedis is dating fashion designer and fellow ex-junkie Yohanna Logan (who inspires many songs from this era), and the two relapse in early 2000. The pair are almost busted by the police during a hotel drug binge when Logan fears she is overdosing and Kiedis calls 911. The singer's habit grows increasingly severe and by December, his friends stage an intervention. Yet again, he goes to Michigan to stay with his mother and get clean. He will not have another known relapse, and will credit his dog Buster with helping him stay straight.

Flea co-founds the Silverlake Conservatory of Music, a non-profit organization in Los Angeles that provides music education to youths. Frusciante releases the home-recorded solo album To Record Only Water for Ten Days and the subsequent online-only collection From the Sounds Inside. These records feature prominent electronic elements that draw from new wave and '80s synth-pop. He develops an interest in doo-wop and classic pop, and this influences his work with Red Hot Chili Peppers. The guitarist becomes increasingly dominant during writing sessions and his lack of interest in funk leads to a creative struggle with Flea as they enter the studio. Kiedis's sobriety mentor Gloria Scott is diagnosed with lung cancer, and the band recruit her hero, Neil Young, for a benefit concert. Scott dies and they write the song "Venice Queen" as a tribute. Kiedis, Frusciante and Flea contribute to Tricky's album Blowback. In December, Red Hot Chili Peppers release Off the Map, a concert DVD made up of footage from the Californication tour. Rap rock outfit Crazy Town score a number one single with "Butterfly," which is based around a guitar riff sampled from the Mother's Milk cut "Pretty Little Ditty."

Flea grows increasingly unhappy with his reduced creative input and secretly resolves to quit the group. Despite the tension, the band are productive in the studio and release By the Way on July 9. By far the least funk-influenced of any of their albums, the 16-song collection emphasizes melodic pop and harmony-laden balladry. Songs like "Midnight" and "Minor Thing" utilize orchestral strings. The album is divisive among fans, but receives largely positive reviews from critics and reaches #2 on Billboard, while the singles "By the Way" and "Can't Stop" top the U.S. Modern Rock chart. Flea and Frusciante resolve their creative struggles as the band head out on tour.

They film the concert DVD Live at Slane Castle during a gig in Ireland. They begin writing and recording at Rubin's mansion studio, but only two songs from these sessions are released: "Fortune Faded" and "Save the Population," which appear on a new Greatest Hits compilation. They suggest in interviews that they have written about a dozen more unheard tracks, and several of the new songs are played live. Frusciante contributes guitar to the Mars Volta's De-Loused in the Comatorium; he will go on to appear on all the band's subsequent albums and develops a close creative partnership with guitarist Omar Rodríguez-Lopéz. EMI remasters and reissues the first four albums featuring bonus tracks and extended liner notes.

2004 to 2005
Frusciante releases a solo album, Shadows Collide with People, which features contributions from Flea and Smith. In June, Red Hot Chili Peppers perform three concerts at London, UK's Hyde Park, selling well over 250,000 tickets and raking in more than $17 million in profits. The massive event earns Billboard's Top Boxscore of the year. Recordings from these shows are collected as a double-disc album, Live in Hyde Park. It features two brand new tunes: "Rolling Sly Stone" and "Leverage of Space." Kiedis releases a memoir entitled Scar Tissue. This recounts his experiences with sex and drug addiction in graphic detail, and the book is a New York Times bestseller.

Frusciante launches an ambitious plan to release six albums within a year; this results in three solo LPs (The Will to Death, Inside of Emptiness, Curtains); one EP (DC EP); a collaboration with his friend Josh Klinghoffer (A Sphere in the Heart of Silence); and an album with his experimental trio Ataxia, which features Joe Lally of Fugazi and Klinghoffer (Automatic Writing). Flea marries model Frankie Ryder and the couple have a child, Sunny Bebop Balzary. Frusciante is named Sunny's godfather. The band return to Rubin's mansion studio with plans to write a short album in the model of early Beatles LPs.

Flea and Frusciante are once again close collaborators, and the band are prolific in the studio, completing 38 tracks. They consider releasing them as a trio of LPs released six months apart, but eventually opt to condense them into a 28-track double album with a handful of subsequent B-sides. Entitled Stadium Arcadium, it comes out on May 9. More aggressive and funky than its predecessor, the album features Frusciante's most flashy and densely-layered work ever. Many of his guitar tracks are heavily altered using a vintage modular synthesizer. The lead single is "Dani California," and Kiedis explains that this is the final instalment in a trio of songs that also includes "Californication" and "By the Way," all inspired by the same fictional character. The video for the single shows Red Hot Chili Peppers emulating various famous bands from throughout pop music history, and Kiedis earns the ire of Nirvana fans for dressing up as Kurt Cobain. (Flea had asked drummer Dave Grohl for permission beforehand.) Others claim that the song plagiarizes from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' "Mary Jane's Last Dance," although Petty is unconcerned by the similarity. Despite the controversies, Stadium Arcadium becomes the band's first release to top the Billboard chart, also reaching number one in Canada. Singles "Dani California," "Tell Me Baby" and "Snow ((Hey Oh))" all top the Billboard Modern Rock chart.

Frusciante's collaborator Klinghoffer tours with the band as an unofficial fifth member, contributing guitar, keyboards and background vocals to help replicate Stadium Arcadium's layered sound. The album is nominated for seven Grammy Awards and wins five, including Best Rock Album and Best Rock Song ("Dani California"). Frusciante releases another album with Ataxia, AW II, which was recorded during the same 2004 session that produced the debut. Kiedis and his girlfriend, model Heather Christie, have a son named Everly Bear, who is named after the Everly Brothers. The new parents will break up the next year. Citing exhaustion after years of near-constant work since Californication, Red Hot Chili Peppers go on hiatus following the Stadium Arcadium tour.

2008 to 2009
With band activity non-existent, Smith forms Chad Smith's Bombastic Meatbats, an instrumental funk band, and they release Meet the Meatbats. He also co-founds Chickenfoot, a hard rock supergroup featuring Van Halen members Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony, plus guitar shredder Joe Satriani. They put out a self-titled album. Flea studies music at the University of Southern California and commences work on a solo album inspired by the character Helen Burns from Jane Eyre. He reveals in interviews that the recordings are largely instrumental and feature some vocal contributions from legendary punk poet Patti Smith. He joins Radiohead singer Thom Yorke's band Atoms for Peace for live shows. Kiedis and HBO plan a TV series about his adolescence called Spider and Son.

John Frusciante releases The Empyrean, featuring Flea and Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. Uninterested in belonging to a rock band, he quits Red Hot Chili Peppers, although his departure isn't officially announced until December. The band begin writing new material in October 2009 with Klinghoffer on guitar. At 31, he is 17 years the junior of the next youngest member (Kiedis). During their first rehearsal together, they learn that L.A. punk club owner Brendan Mullen has died and they write "Brendan's Death Song" in his memory.

Klinghoffer is confirmed as Frusciante's permanent replacement. The new line-up's first live show is on January 29, 2010, when they appear at a Neil Young tribute concert performing a cover of "A Man Needs a Maid." The band maintain a low profile, focusing on writing and recording. Klinghoffer's prior touring with the group makes him a natural fit, and the sessions are productive. With Frusciante gone, Flea takes on a larger creative role, using his newly-acquired music training and piano skills to compose material. He and Klinghoffer take a trip to Africa, and this inspires some Afro-inflected new songs, including one called "Ethiopia." He also starts an Afrobeat-inspired band with Blur/Gorillaz mastermind Damon Albarn. Chad Smith's Bombastic Meatballs release More Meat.

Smith's Chickenfoot complete work on their sophomore album, curiously titled Chickenfoot III, pegged for a September 27 release. Red Hot Chili Peppers complete an estimated 60 songs and whittle this down to 14 and announce that their 10th album, I'm With You, is due out on August 30. More than five years since Stadium Arcadium, this marks their longest break between albums. The first single, "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie," hits the internet on June 15, and its disco-rock rhythm marks another new direction for the band. They film a music video for the track, directed by rapper Kreayshawn, but it's shelved in favour of a rooftop clip directed by Marc Klasfeld. Renowned British artist Damien Hirst creates the album cover, which shows a fly perched on a pill capsule, while controversial street artist Mr. Brainwash launches a postering campaign in Los Angeles. The group announce plans to perform I'm With You in its entirety for a concert film, which will arrive in cinemas internationally on album release day. This gig is part of an extensive world tour that is intended to last until 2013. By the time the outing is scheduled to end, Flea, Kiedis and Smith will all be over 50 years old.

Essential Red Hot Chili Peppers

Blood Sugar Sex Magik (Warner Bros, 1991)
This sprawling 17-song collection is rightly regarded as Red Hot Chili Peppers' masterpiece. Effortlessly blending ultra-hooky rock balladry with slap-happy funk jams, it appeals to the masses without sacrificing any of the group's sex-obsessed quirkiness. Much of the credit belongs to studio whiz Rick Rubin, whose unfussy production emphasizes the band's raw energy and melodic talents. The ballads are slow and heartbreakingly sad, but even these poignant moments can't stop this one from being a romping party record.

Californication (Warner Bros, 1999)
A return to form after the questionable One Hot Minute, John Frusciante's comeback record is a triumph. With the classic line-up together once again, the energy is explosive. Flea's bass lines are punchy and Anthony Kiedis' melodies are undeniable, but the real star here is the guitarist: having lost his technical prowess after years of heroin addiction, his new style is strikingly sparse and carries understated hits like "Scar Tissue," "Otherside" and "Californication."

By the Way (Warner Bros, 2002)
The culmination of Frusciante's pop talents. The guitarist takes the reins for this warm and sunny collection, which is the most straightforward and tuneful record the band has ever released. Frusciante incorporates more keyboards and effects pedals into his repertoire, but the most ear-grabbing thing here is his vocal harmonies: drawing inspiration from doo-wop, his singing shines like a ray of California sunshine. Funk fans hate it, but this is Red Hot Chili Peppers at their most infectiously summery.