10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Red Hot Chili Peppers

Put your knowledge to the test with these lesser-known facts about the Funk Rock Band

One of the most successful bands of all time, it is near impossible to stumble across somebody who has not heard the name “Red Hot Chili Peppers”. With hits including ‘Under The Bridge’, ‘Californication’ and ‘Can’t Stop’ all becoming a staple part of rock and pop playlists across the globe, the overwhelming prosperity of the band is unmissable.

Yet, whilst it may seem as though every aspect of the Californian band is out on display, available for the world to see, there lurks a much deeper story behind the Red Hot Chili Peppers that few are aware of.

Scroll down to check out our top ten, lesser-known facts about the band and put your knowledge to the test!

 1.  The original name of the band was much different

 Forming nearly four decades ago, back in 1983, the original line-up began their career under the initial name of “Tony Flow and the Majestic Masters of Mayhem”.

Already influenced by a mix of metal, funk and rock artists, ranging from Black Sabbath to Miles Davis, the starting stages of the band weren’t quite as refined as they are now. Only ever performing as an opening act for other performers, “Tony Flow” became a side project for guitarist, Hillel Slovak and drummer, Jack Irons, who were already committed to another band called “What Is This?”.

Now known for their ability to sell out arenas in a matter of minutes, initially, the band were lucky to draw a crowd of just 30 people- with their first performances consisting of Kiedis rapping and reciting poetry whilst the other members improvised on the spot. 

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2.  Their terrible reputation meant the band were shunned by record labels

After moving to Los Angeles as kids and meeting during their time in Fairfax High School, the musicians were thrust into the downwards spiral of drug addiction from practically the moment they formed.

Known across the Hollywood scene as immature, sexually-perverse junkies, it seemed as though the success of the band was destined to be over before it had even begun. In his 2004 autobiography, Scar Tissue, Kiedis recalled the way the band were treated by industry moguls when they first formed. Claiming that rumours about their behaviour quickly spread, the singer stated that in many cases, people were unwilling to shake hands with the members or let them even sit on the furniture.

The legendary producer, Michael Beinhorn, also testifies about the industry’s initial view of the band. In an interview with Ultimate Guitar in 2019, he stated: “I think there were people at the record compan[ies] who actively despised them. Because they were so different. They really went against every kind of convention”.

3.  Anthony Kiedis planned an HBO Series documenting his unorthodox upbringing

Having being introduced to the dark side of Hollywood from a young age, Kiedis’ sense of normality growing up was a distant cry from that of nearly all others.

Introduced to drugs by his father when he was aged just 11, losing his virginity to his father’s 18-year-old girlfriend when he was 12, facing death threats from a drug dealer (who eventually featured on the song ‘Yertle The Turtle’), and overdosing numerous times all before his thirties, the singer had planned to create an HBO series to shed light on his highly controversial life.

Although the idea was eventually scrapped, Kiedis instead wrote his autobiography to document his experiences- which went on to become an international bestseller. What’s more, the singer also dedicated the 1999 song, ‘Saviour’ to his father- using the track to explore their complicated relationship and express his forgiveness for the way he was raised.

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4.  The band only achieved success nearly a decade after they formed

With the band’s discography before 1991 failing to leave a lasting impression, it was only after the release of Blood Sugar Sex Magik that the Red Hot Chili Peppers rose to fame.

With their first three albums failing to reach any higher than No.148 on the Billboard 200 Charts and their 1989 album, Mother’s Milk, quickly dispersing after limited success, it was the band’s decision to work with Rick Rubin that finally placed the Red Hot Chili Peppers on the map.

Recording and documenting the production of the album at the infamous Houdini Mansion, it was the more solemn and concentrated approach of the band which catapulted them into the spotlight. Selling over 12 million copies globally, the album earned the band a Grammy Award, the number two position on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts and a tour with Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins.

5.  The release of their breakthrough album became one of the most important days in music history.

As mentioned prior, the 1991 album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, became the band’s first huge success, catapulting them into the limelight as one of the most important bands of the 1990s.

Yet, what few people realise is that, on the same day, not one, but two more landmark releases also debuted. Two of the most important releases in the Grunge Scene, Soundgarden’s, Badmotorfinger, and Nirvana’s Nevermind albums both also were released on September 24th 1991- making it one of the most important days in the rock scene.

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6.  An extensive number of their songs are written in memoriam

Even to the most devoted fan, it can come as a surprise just how many of the band’s songs are written as a tribute to someone that passed away. 

Throughout the band’s career, there have been countless tracks dedicated to the original guitarist, Hillel Slovak. These tracks include ‘My Lovely Man’, ‘Knock Me Down’, ‘Dosed’ and ‘Right On Time’. 

Similarly, the band’s 1994 track, ‘Tearjerker’, was dedicated to late frontman, Kurt Cobain, the 2002 track, ‘Venice Queen’ was written about Kiedis’ drug counsellor, Gloria Scott, who died of cancer, and a line of their smash hit ‘Give It Away’ was dedicated to a close friend of the band, River Phoenix.

7.  The band had 8 guitarists in total

Whilst most widely recognised for their work with legendary guitarist, John Frusciante, throughout their career, the band have had 8 different lead guitarists. 

These include the original founding member, Hillel Slovak, and the most recent lead player, Josh Klinghoffer. However, you’d be forgiven for not recalling all 8 members, with most of their positions being short-lived and ending on generally negative terms.

The guitarists include Jack Sherman, Arik Marshall, Jane’s Addiction’s Dave Navarro and Parliament-Funkadelic guitarist, DeWayne McKnight (who left the band on such poor terms that he threatened to burn down Kiedis’ house shortly after).

8.  They have raised both awareness and funding for countless charities with their concerts

Unmistakably playing thousands of shows throughout their duration, one thing that remains lesser-known about the band is their devotion to raising awareness for various charities.

Using their immense platform to make a positive impact on the world around them, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have collectively raised millions of dollars for good causes from the 1990s onwards.

These causes include raising money and awareness for:

  • The Liberation of Tibet
  • The Crisis in Haiti
  • The lack of young voters in America
  • Cancer survivors
  • Victims of Hurricane Katrina
  • Huntington’s Disease 
  • Global warming
  • Access to music education for the youth in LA (for this bassist, Flea, founded the Silverlake Music Conservatory in Los Angeles back in 2001).

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9.  The reality of the members now is much different from when they first formed

Whilst we addressed the drug-fuelled mania of their early career, it is safe to say that the band’s current reality is a world away from what it once was. All members are now clean of all drugs, sober and more centred on creating music than ever before. 

Kiedis has confessed to now being a strict vegan since 2008, practising Vipassana meditation and following the spiritual aspects of Kabbalah. Flea, on the other hand, has also ditched his drug-centred past, now running his own honey farm, supporting the music school he founded and writing his recent autobiography, Acid For The Children.

10.  They have sold over 80 million albums across the globe

Having already won seven Grammy Awards and been inducted into the notorious Rock and Roll Hall of Fame back in 2012, Red Hot Chili Peppers have gone on to become one of the most successful bands of all time.

Playing to over 112.2 million viewers at their 2014 performance at the Super Bowl and drawing crowds of over 80,000 fans at their concert in Ireland’s Slane Castle, the status of the Californian band is almost incomparable to the first years of their career. 

With appearances in shows including The Simpsons and James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke series, the band have become household names, with anything they attach their names to turning to gold. 

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What are your thoughts on the Red Hot Chili Peppers? Is there anything you think we missed?

Let us know via the comment section!

For more about the Red Hot Chili Peppers, check out our piece on the band’s future here and our in depth look at Josh Klinghoffer here!

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