I won’t lie. It’s been torture for me to blog three different Music Monday posts without referring to my musical soul-mates, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I could devote every single Monday to sharing the aspects of their music that throw me to the sky and send me flying. But I won’t. Promise.
Here’s the thing. You’ve got these four guys who each play their parts in ways beyond what most band members do. Yet they’ve found this symbiotic place with each other where their separate musical strands, all bold and outrageous, braid together into a beautiful whole.
Co-dependency Instead of Competition
You can probably point to the Chili Peppers‘ unusual writing style as one of the reasons for the unity of such intricate musical parts. To write music, the band usually jams together until they slide into something that’s working. Then Anthony, the leading vocalist and lyric writer, will sit to the side to find meaning and lyrics that work with the music while the rest of the band continues to flesh the piece out. They have a communal song-writing method while other bands usually spend more time writing their parts individually.
Especially In Michigan
The song below is the kind of music that pulls you away from your everyday and makes you feel as if the universe is swimming around you. So if you can, plug into some good speakers (or headphones) and let it fill the room. Below I share some of the reasons the musical quality of this band is so unique . . .
You really should listen to the Chili Peppers songs a number of times, with an ear for the different parts if you want hear all the layers. After getting the overall feel of the song, as well as Anthony’s vocals with all his genuine and uninhibited personality, I like to listen with a focus on individual parts . . .
- To take in John Frusciante’s legendary lead guitar. He’s up there with Jimi Hendrix in terms of skill and passion, in my opinion.
- To put your ear to Flea’s bass line. He does more than just provide an underlying anchor to the harmonies and the beat. Flea has often been called one of the world’s greatest bassists.
- To understand Anthony’s brilliant and poetic lyrics.
The Chili Peppers’ intricacy is the only reason I’m able to listen to this band so often and not get tired of them like I do with other bands. Every listen can be a new experience, depending on what I decide to focus on. Below are a few of the things that amaze me about the song above . . .
John Frusciante’s Guitar
During a recent listen to John’s guitar in this song, I realized he plays differently for each set of verses and each run with the chorus. Seriously — who does that? Just John. In most music you get a slight change or an additional layer to build toward a climax. But in this song, John gave each round of verse and chorus its own sound. That’s love for the music, right there.
I should mention, the guitar solo is actually Omar Rodriguez-Lopez from The Mars Volta.
Anthony Kiedis’s Lyrics
Anthony’s lyrics are deeply personal and autobiographical, often symbolic, and usually infused with multiple meanings. Especially in Michigan may not be as much about the state as it is about Anthony’s sanctuary there from his drug addiction. He grew up with his mother in Michigan until he went to live with his Dad in L.A. at age eleven. His dad immediately introduced the young Anthony to drugs and a crazy wild life. Eventually he stopped using but Michigan is where Anthony returned a number of times to the care of his mother and her rural home in order to detox and come clean again after some bad relapses.
Knowing this, the line means much . . . “Out on the farm we’ll be swimming with the mother duck,” as well as, “Land is full of medicine, I find it when I’m slipping in . . . into Michigan.”
Residents from Michigan will identify with the many references that are particular to the culture and state of Michigan. The oz-like “lions and tigers” most likely came to Anthony because of the Detroit Lions football and the Detroit Tigers baseball teams.
Michigan is shaped like a mittened hand and residents commonly point to a spot on their hand to identify approximately where in the state their hometown is on the mitten. Anthony refers to the mitten and its many lakes when he sings of “a mitten full of fishermen,” and how they’ll be “swimming with the mother duck, deep in the mitten.”
This kind of back-story helps you understand why the Chili Peppers music always feels so intensely soulful, passionate, and human.
Since it’s a little harder to hear Flea’s bass in the song above, I have to share another one with you. I could (and eventually will) write an entire post pointing out the insanely unique musical qualities of this song, Charlie. But for now, please take a little time to enjoy Flea’s bass line, most prominent in the intro and outro, but surfacing throughout, as well . . .
Flea is known for his funk-style slapping technique, which he’s toned down over the years for music with the Chili Peppers in order to not pull too much attention from the other parts. You can watch him play a bass solo in the video below. Pay attention to his hands . . .