Red Hot Chili Peppers One Hot Minute 20th Anniversary Retrospective

From One Hot Minute‘s vinyl liner notes:

About the Author

Through the years, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have roosted in the hen house and wallowed in the pig sty

The early nineties saw the emergence of several incredible “alternative rock” bands and the decline of many others. R.E.M. went on a prolonged touring hiatus, Jane’s Addiction split up, Mother Love Bone shattered after Andy Wood’s overdose, the Pixies were on their way out and the Red Hot Chili Peppers nearly imploded after golden boy John Frusciante quit in 1992, within a year of them releasing their multi-platinum record Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Increasing heroin and cocaine use, tensions between Anthony and John’s infamous disgust towards fame drove him out of the band and back into his private world, where he would stay for some time.

Initially, Zander Schloss, hardcore punk band the Circle Jerks’ bassist, replaced Frusciante but he managed to last only four days. Arik Marshall, the guitarist of local LA band Marshall Law, was brought in as a more permanent replacement and helped them finish the tour in support of Blood Sugar Sex Magik after Frusciante quit during the Japanese leg of the tour in 1992. The band did not find themselves able to write new music with Marshall and he was released from service after the tour’s end mid 1993. The Chilis scouted a young LA-based guitarist, Jesse Tobias, and sat and played with him for about a month.  Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction, now recently clean and sober, initially rejected the chance to play guitar for them but suddenly expressed a greater interest and an open availability, with no interfering recording schedules. With the Tobias sessions becoming more stale and stale, the Chilis fired him and brought on Navarro. Jesse Tobias later in life would become Morrissey’s lead guitarist in 2005.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers (Arik Marshall era) were featured in the Simpsons’ episode Krusty Gets Kancelled. 

Navarro’s entry marked an especially new era for the Chili Peppers, because he became the first guitarist in their league not influenced by Hillel Slovak. Jack Sherman, John Frusciante and Arik Marshall all in some way were trying to capture Slovak’s funk-punk tone, though Frusciante did it best and produced two (eventually five) albums with them. Jane’s Addiction, like the Peppers, had a broad spectrum of musical influence, but both band’s had stark difference in their inspirations. Compare Bauhaus, Joy Division, Led Zeppelin and Lou Reed to Parliament-Funkadelic, Black Flag, Sly and the Family Stone, Prince and early rap artists. Luckily, both bands loved Jimi Hendrix. Still, when Navarro came into the mix, these worlds collided and some very interesting results came out. Not everyone likes the One Hot Minute record, but I thinks fans, critics, dogs and cats can at least agree it is a very different sounding Chili Peppers record.

I personally love the record. But the deeper I delve into it, I realize why many fans who fell in love with albums like Mother’s Milk and later Californication, might be let down. Half the band was sober, half the band was not. Lead singer Anthony Kiedis was exploring hard drugs again and Flea was smoking copious amounts of pot. Dave Navarro had just cleaned up from a heroin addiction that spanned from sometime in the ’80s until about 1992 and Chad Smith seemed fairly stable during this era, but his love of beer is well documented. Admittedly, not everyone was on the same level mentally, spiritually, emotionally or artistically. The writing and recording of the album was particularly long and drawn out. Kiedis’ involvement with the record became very sporadic at some points due to his resumed drug addiction. As a result of this, Flea ended up contributing lyrics and vocals to several of the songs, most notably “Transcending”, “Pea” and the spoken word intro to “Deep Kick.”

 Flea, in an interview with Bass Player shortly after the album’s release, discussed his involvement, working with Dave and the differences in One Hot Minute from previous work:

There are two big differences. First, I was in a different place emotionally for this record. I was coming out of a two-year period of misery, when I was down emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Second, Dave Navarro is intensely different from John Frusciante. When we recorded Blood Sugar, John played all his tracks once and maybe overdubbed a few solos, so the whole record was very spontaneous. Dave is really into the studio; he would spend weeks on every song, put something like 15 tracks of guitar on every tune, and weed through it in the mix. Dave’s sound is more layered and “effecty” than John’s, which was like, boom-play it dry and leave it alone. . .

Also, Dave and I are very different musically. He’ll often play some ’70s rock song, and most of the time I don’t even know who did it, but I’ll start playing along-and to me it’s ridiculous. But our differences create our music. . . The contrast made a big difference. John was a huge fan of the band when he joined, so it wasn’t a big change for us. He did come into his own aesthetic as time went on, and he had a huge amount to do with the sound of the band, but Dave’s coming from his own trip-the Jane’s Addiction thing in particular, which was very different from the Chili Peppers.”

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Flea and close friend, the late actor River Phoenix circa 1993

Navarro did bring back the funk metal roots of the Chili Peppers but in his own special way, twisted and dark. But perhaps it wasn’t all Dave’s fault, it was a dark time. During Navarro’s tenure in the band, River Phoenix and Kurt Cobain both passed away within months of each other. Both of those talented young men were knew by the band personally, and Phoenix was very close friends with both John Frusciante and Flea. These were low blows for the band indeed and their deaths directly influenced the album. Cobain and Phoenix had odes dedicated to them on the album: “Tearjerker” and “Transcending” respectively. Frusciante and Phoenix also recorded music together intended to be released for Frusciante’s first solo record, Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt, but Phoenix’s family opposed. The songs were later released under new names for the following 1997 release, Smile from the Streets You Hold.

Height Down by John Frusciante feat. River Phoenix (or the other way around?)

Loss – the loss of sobriety, the loss of friends, the loss of sanity, the loss of stability and the loss of John. Several losses and sorrows played a role in developing the album’s more remorseful tone. Five singles spawned from the album: “Warped”, “My Friends”, “Aeroplane”, “Shallow Be Thy Game” and “Coffee Shop.” “Warped”, released August 9th before the album’s release on September 12th, 1995, is a pretty straight forward call for help with the problems of drug addiction: “Descend/All the way/All the way/Everyday/Warped and scared/Of being there.” Kiedis doesn’t want to return to his old habits, but they are edging him on. All it took was a valium prescription after a tooth being removed in 1994 to find himself back where he was in 1988. Drugs in the past, present and future tense influenced the lyrical content of the album a whole lot, as it was one of Kiedis’ main mental preoccupations at the time.

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Flea and Kurt Cobain circa 1992-3

“Aeroplane”, generally seen as the album’s best song, is a deeply personal favorite of mine. It became a song my close friends and I became obsessed with last summer, and has several hundred different memories tied to it, memories happy, sad or otherwise. I spoke about the song at lengths in one of my first articles on Alternative Nation, Top 10 Sexiest Red Hot Chili Peppers Songs:

“Dave Navarro’s tenure in the Chili Peppers in general is overlooked, but “Aeroplane” is criminally overlooked because the inherent melodies in the song are the closest the band ever achieved in re-creating what Kiedis once dubbed ‘pure Hillel inspiration,’ that extra creative and innovative tinge that separated the Chili Peppers from funk, metal, psychedelia, soul and every other genre, because of that simple whimsical nature exemplified in songs like “Behind the Sun.” “Aeroplane” is a hollowed, sacred song. It deals with a plethora of themes that aren’t easy to deal with – relapsing into drugs, the shortcomings of love, the literal transcendence of being high and the salvation of music. “Aeroplane” reflects on the tragedy on life, in the fact that people can’t help themselves from seeking pleasure – but in that act of pleasure, it creates pain, that sometimes doesn’t surface immediately, but inevitably will. But the Chili Peppers dealt with that through music – an amazing life-inducing force that drove them to create over ten albums worth of material, and still does today. Life with addiction becomes the wavering between pleasure and pain, and especially for Kiedis, who at the time of recording One Hot Minute found himself doing the drugs he vowed never to do again. The only salvation for people like Kiedis, Flea, Navarro and Smith becomes music. Because “music IS my aeroplane,” as in that it transcends all of the despair brought on by other internal and external forces in life that spike pleasure with pain.”

I could try and say more about Aeroplane, but at some point it would get redundant and sad. It is an amazing song, with amazing lyrics, and four and 45/60ths hot minutes. It’s an incredible piece of work, and it’s no wonder it is universally cited as One Hot Minute‘s jewel. While working on this article, I was in Whittier with my girlfriend and approached a record store and they were blasting “Aeroplane” out of their speakers and played the whole album. It was a beautiful moment. “Deep Kick” and “My Friends” are also great favorites, one displaying funky decadence and the other a somber reflection on the horrors of thinking, an acoustic partner to the messages in “Soul to Squeeze.”

Towards the album’s end, the themes began to change a bit. “Falling into Grace” and especially “Shallow Be Thy Game” deal with religious and spiritual themes and unapologetically attacks institutional religion, especially the bigger churches of the world. “I’ll be your heretic/You can’t contain me/I am the power/Truth belongs to everybody” speaks volumes of religious heresy and independent thought and puts it in just a few lines. It is the “Power of Equality” of the album. The Chili Peppers have never stayed exactly silent on social issues, but never have let it compromise their music.

The album saw a few B-sides, like “Stretch (You Out)”, “Let’s Make Evil”, “Bob” and “Melancholy Mechanics”. Studio outtakes like “Blender” and “Slow Funk” have never surfaced, but two cover songs “I Found Out” and “Love Rollercoaster” made onto the John Lennon tribute compilation Working Class Hero and the Beavis and Butthead Do America soundtrack. “Love Rollercoaster” had moderate success on the radio following its release.

The One Hot Minute tour was troublesome, marked by numerous injuries. Chad Smith broke his wrist in a baseball game which resulted in the US leg of the tour being postponed until 1996. Anthony Kiedis broke his arm on a motorcycle which prolonged more delays. Between accidents, they managed to tour Europe through the fall of 1995, North America early spring of 1996, New Zealand and Australia in May of 1996, about dozen more shows in California and Europe through that summer and their last infamous performance at the Fuji Rock Festival 1997, where the band was forced offstage due to an upcoming storm. Fuji Rock was the last time the band played together as Navarro, Flea, Kiedis and Smith. The tour had about as many cancelled dates as there were performed ones. “Tearjerker”, “One Hot Minute” and “Falling into Grace” were the only songs from the album never performed. Prominent opening acts included Silverchair, No Doubt, The Toadies and the Flaming Lips.

They tried to record another album, and recorded a few sparse demos, but none have surfaced. “Circle of the Noose” is a name which has escaped the closed doors of those sessions. It was supposed to be a tribute to the qawwali devotional singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, whom the Chilis had collaborated with in the past. Navarro is quoted as saying of the song that, “It’s pop in the sense of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, hook. I really love it and we use a loop of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. It’s really nice. The best way I can describe it is it’s like pepped- up ’60s folk with ’90s ideals, but I would hate to label it as folk because it’s not, it moves.”

The album was never completed or released. Navarro was fired due to drug use and there are many conflicting accounts of the story. In short, their musical chemistry was brief and Navarro increasingly got on less and less with Anthony, plus he had resumed his heroin addiction. Granted, so did Anthony but it became the last straw for the band. He had just finished touring with Jane’s Addiction with Flea replacing Eric Avery on bass and was working on a solo record with Chad Smith. But when he was fired, all those bridges seemed to be burnt. Frusciante was brought in to replace Navarro after completing rehab and the rest is history.

The whole story is a shame, because it was such an interesting mix of people, sounds and art in that era. People will continue to look down on the album, but if not for Navarro’s tenure there may have been no By the Way or Stadium Arcadium. He kept the band together for the time he was in and his relationship with the Chili Peppers, particularly with Flea, helped to restart the Jane’s Addiction project where many feel Navarro’s heart truly lies with. Navarro was not inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when the Red Hot Chili Peppers were in 2012. Regarding the decision Kiedis remarked, “”He’s in this other band, which may in fact be inducted itself one day, called Jane’s Addiction. I think that’s the band closest to his heart, and that most represents his contribution to the world in terms of music. So maybe it makes more sense for him to be inducted one day as a member of Jane’s Addiction.” What matters most is that all of these people are clean and sober now.

So, who knows. Maybe in 2100 this will be hailed as the greatest piece of art to have ever graced the Earth. The wounds surrounding that point of time haven’t healed and until they are, the album will continued to be neglected. With the exception of “Pea” (written solely by Flea), none of the album’s songs have been played live since Frusciante re-joined the band and past that. Still, “Aeroplane” never really leaves my head and I’m sure other feel the same. It is a wholly unique album and very representative of where these people were in this time, which wasn’t a good place nor the optimal musical relationship they all wanted. Being in a band is like being in a relationship, and if someone isn’t providing for someone else’s needs, it isn’t the love it could be. Malformed love it may be, but the album leaves a poignant taste in my mouth and an exuberant flow of sweet heartbreak to my ears. When you listen to One Hot Minute, don’t be too hard on it. It may grow on you, it has surely grown on me, all over me.

  • Chris Cornell’s Mustache

    you forgot “Lets make evil” …..and “melancholy mechanics” was on the twister soundtrack.

  • http://www.cuntcertfy.nut/ Whip

    Maybe it was the time in which it was released, Aeroplane became such a hit, as well as My Friends, and the hard rock nature that Navarro added to the band, but I’ve always loved this album. Favorites are the first and last track, Warped and One Hot Minute….

    • Martha Bartha

      Yeah, that’s a great album! Has Pea on it!

  • Martha Bartha

    I love that album. It’s got Pea on it. Dave Navarro cooks on that album!

  • — J —

    I think this is by far their best, and most creative album. BSSM is close but ultimately wasn’t as explorative musically. I wish they had done one more album with Navarro.

    • Mr. K

      Agreed. Would love to listen to some of the other stuff they did with him that was never released.

      • — J —

        There’s only one song. “Circle of the Noose”

        It will never be released, most likely.

  • Mr. K

    One Hot Minute holds a VERY special place in my heart and I still listen to the hell out of it. Definitely the “heaviest” RHCP album in my mind and I enjoy it more thoroughly than most of their later stuff with Frusciante.

  • Tadgarden

    the only RHCP record I still listen to

  • Felonious Thunk

    This was definitely their most interesting album, with the least-annoying Anthony Keidis vocal performance and lyrics. Some of their most artistic stuff is here, including Warped, Aeroplane and Transcending.

    The album sessions also yielded some of their worst, including Melancholy Mechanics, which is hands-down one of the shittiest songs recorded by anyone ever.

  • Wam Meesly

    Remains my favorite RHCP album. They were two different bands-one up until OHM, and one other after. I cannot stomach the later works, too pop oriented and family friendly for my taste. One element to remember is during OHM, they were all in their 30s, grown men, and on their second or third career relapses. They knew what they were doing with the drugs, and it generated their best work IMO. I mention the drug use because EVERYONE does, I ask why. What does it matter what they, or any band were using, at any time in their career. The result is music which remains worth listening to, unlike much of their catalog sadly.