2006 June Blender

After nearly 25 years of abusing themselves – not to mention countless tube socks – these rap-rock pioneers have somehow managed to not die. But it’s not for a lack of trying.

01 ANTHONY KIEDIS WAS A 12-YEAR OLD DRUG MULE

Kiedis was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on November 1, 1962. His parents split when he was 3, and at age 12 he moved to L.A. to live with his dad, Blackie, a small-time actor… and big-time dope smuggler. One memorable father-son trip found them exchanging seven suitcases of pot for $ 30K in cash. “We were partners in crime,” Kiedis says. “Without his influence, I’d be pushing pencils somewhere.”

 

02 HE ALSO SLEPT WITH CHER – IN EIGHTH GRADE

Blackie’s connections made him quite popular on the Hollywood club scene, and young Anthony met dozens of ’70s-rock superstars: Keith Moon, Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper and… Cher? “We used to tool around in her little turquoise Ferrari Dino,” Kiedis recalls. One night she was babysitting and the two fell asleep on her bed – but there was no funny business. “We were friends,” he says with a smile.

 

03 A SCHOOLYARD FIGHT BROUGHT THE BAND TOGETHER

Fairfax High, fall 1977: Kiedis, 14, had just enrolled after being kicked out of another district, and had so far made only one friend – “The geekiest guy in the whole school.” When future Chili Peppers bassist Flea – who, unbeknownst to Kiedis, was also pals with the nerd – jokingly put the kid in a headlock, Kiedis intervened. “I said, ‘If you lay another hand on him, it could be the last thing you do today.’ The rest was history.”

 

04 EVEN AS KIDS, THE PEPPERS LIKED TO “EXPERIMENT”

“I thought I was a juvenile delinquent, in my nice suburban Midwestern neighborhood,” says drummer Chad Smith. “But those guys would do a fucking gram, smoke two joints, drink a sixpack of beer… and then go to school!”

 

05 THEY STARTED AS AN ART PROJECT

“Flea, Hillel [Slovak, the band’s first guitarist] and I were friends way before we formed a band,” Kiedis says. “We’d go to clubs together, go up to San Francisco and do drugs together.” But it wasn’t until a pal asked them to perform one song as an “art-funk installation piece” that they started playing together. “It was so electrifying. We all thought, ‘We have to do this again next week.'”

 

06 THEY COULD HAVE BEEN “SPIGOT BLISTER AND THE CHEST PIMPS”

Kiedis and Co. went through several awful names (the La Leyenda Tweakers, Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem, the above mentioned Pimps) before finally settling on RHCP. “It’s an American tradition, like Louis Armstrong and the Red Hot Five,” he explains. “There was a time in the ’90s when it seemed childish and fanciful, but today I like it.”

 

07 COCK SOCKS: LIKE A SPEEDBALL, WITHOUT THE PESKY DYING!

The band debuted their infamous socks-on-dicks routine at L.A. strip joint the Kit Kat Club. “The first time you wear a sock onstage, it’s like a drug,” says Kiedis. “Like you’re floating a few feet off the ground, in this vortex of netherworld.” Smith, meanwhile, has a tip for those at home: “The key is to get it around the balls. People don’t realize that.”

08 NEVER, EVER LET THEM ORDER PIZZA

In the fall of ’83, the band enlisted Gang of Four guitarist Andy Gill to produce their first album, but hated the “bubblegum pop” sound he was going for. “We were such street-punk little fuckers,” says Kiedis. “One night Flea took a shit in a pizza box and we presented it to Andy in the control room. To his credit, he remained fairly unflappable.”

09 DON’T MESS WITH ANTHONY’S MAMA

When the Peppers played Grand Rapids on their first-ever tour, the local newspaper ran a review headlined, “If I Had a Son Like That, I’d Shoot him” – prompting an outraged letter from Kiedis’ mom. “She completely had my back,” Kiedis says. “Moms are the shit.”

10 GEORGE CLINTON TOOK THEM FISHING IN HIS BACKYARD

As longtime P-Funk fans, the band were thrilled when George Clinton agreed to produce their second record – and even more thrilled when he let them crash at his Detroit estate. “We were all expecting this bigger-than-life funk superhero,” Kiedis says. “Instead he was like, ‘You see that lake out there? Let’s go catch breakfast!'”

11 HILLEL’S DEATH WAS A WAKE-UP CALL…

In 1988, Slovak died of a heroin overdose. “That seemed like as low as it could get,” Kiedis says. “Best friend dead, drugs not working, nowhere to run. But it actually turned out to be a blessing. For the first time, it got me interested in finding another way, instead of getting high.”

12…BUT NOT FOR LONG

Kiedis eventually got hooked again, and in a moment of cash-strapped desperation traded a Rolling Stones-autographed Stratocaster for a mere 10 minutes’ worth of junk. “That’s how unmanageable it had become for me,” he says. “I just hope somebody was able to put lots of food on the table.”

13 CHAD’S NOT ACTUALLY IN THE BAND (SHHH!)

After Slovak’s death, drummer Jack Irons quit the band and Smith auditioned to replace him. Impressed by his thunderous sound, the Peppers said the job was his – if he’d shave his head. Smith’s response? “Fuck you.” “I think they thought that was pretty cool,” he says. “But they never officially told me I was in. I’ve just been sorta hanging around for 18 years.”

14 THEY AIN’T AFRAID OF NO GHOSTS (EXCEPT FOR CHAD)

For their first album with Rick Rubin, 1991’s septuple-platinium Blood Sugar Sex Magik, the band rented an old, supposedly haunted house in L.A.’s Laurel Canyon. Kiedis, Flea and guitarist John Frusciante all moved in; the wary Smith did not. “I mean, I’m not scared of ghosts,” he insists. “But I felt… a presence.”

15 “THE BRIDGE” IS A REAL PLACE

“Under The Bridge,” the melancholy ballad that made them international superstars, was inspired by an actual L.A. drug den. “It’s one of those hard-to-get-to spots in the shadows of the Harbor Freeway, where like 12 different overpasses come together,” Kiedis says. “I only went once-this Mexican gang controlled who could get in, and the guy I was with was apparently in their good graces. But I didn’t buy anything; it was more a BYO kind of deal.”

16 THEY’VE GOT A SERIOUS BASKETBALL JONES

“Basketball is how we first bonded,” says Smith. The band has had courtside Lakers seats for years, and Smith and Flea used to play together on a team called the 69ers. So who’s the Jordan of the group? “Flea’s a better outside shooter for sure,” Smith admits. “But nobody can take me in the paint.”

17 THEY ONCE HEADLINED ALT-ROCK’S ULTIMATE BILL

At a few West Coast shows in 1991, Pearl Jam and Nirvana were the Peppers’ opening acts. “We were supposed to have Smashing Pumpkins, too,” says Kiedis, “but Billy Corgan backed out because of his history with Courtney Love.”

18 THEY PLAYED WITH FIRE… AND GOT BURNED

When the band headlined Lollapalooza II, the highlight of every night was their legendary “fire helmet” encore. “It was basically just a propane tank and a hardhat,” Smith says. “The first time we did it, in San Francisco, it was so windy that my drum tech couldn’t get the flame going. But all of a sudden the wind died down and WHOOOSH! -this huge ball of fire. From then on we were more careful.”

19 THE PEPPERS GO THROUGH GUITARISTS LIKE SPINAL TAP THROUGH DRUMMERS

Between 1983 and 1995 the band went through seven different guitar players. “I wish it was as mythical and light-hearted as the death of the Spinal Tap drummers,” Kiedis said in 1996, during the tenure of Lucky No. 7, Dave Navarro. “But I don’t think it’s any kind of hex or curse.” Two years later, Navarro was out.

20 NO ONE THOUGHT JOHN FRUSCIANTE WOULD LIVE TO SEE 30

Before he kicked drugs and rejoined the group for 1999’s Californication, the guitarist was all but dead. His teeth were falling out; his skin was peeling off; he was quite literally rotting away.” John was embracing it, says Smith. “He wanted to be a junkie. You do that, you’re gone.”

21 KIEDIS STILL OWES COURNTEY $20

At a ’91 concert with Nirvana, Kiedis spied Love- at the time Kurt Cobain’s girlfriend-and thought she looked familiar.  Turned out they’d known each other in the early ‘80s, when Love was stripping in L.A. “I used to pick you up hitchhiking down Melrose in the middle of the night,” she told him. “I lent you 20 bucks!” Kiedis grins. “I still haven’t paid her back.”

22 KIEDIS GOT CLEAN WITH HELP FROM A MAGICAL ELK

Christmas, 1994: Kiedis, strung out on coke and heroin, was driving home to Michigan with his girlfriend when a “gigantic super-elk” leapt into the road. “It [was] an omen,” he wrote in his memoir, Scar Tissue. “The spirit of that elk was saying to me, ‘Wake up, motherfucker, because you’re dying.'”

23 THEY STOPPED SMOKING THE BUDDHA, AND STARTED STUDYING HIM INSTEAD

“Rick Rubin turned me on to transcendental meditation about eight years ago,” said Flea in a 2002 interview. “It helps me to just be in the moment and not be scared of pain and anxiety.” Kiedis and Frusciante are also devotees, and Smith is “getting into yoga.”

24 KIEDIS ALMOST KNOCKED LIAM GALLAGHER’S LIGHTS OUT

During an Oasis show in 1996, Kiedis and a girlfriend ducked into an electrical closet for a little what’s-the-story-morning-glory. Flush with passion, they accidentally flipped a switch, plunging the room into darkness; a few inches left and they’d have cut the lights to the whole arena. “We were,” Kiedis wrote, “one lever away from bringing the concert to a grinding halt.” So to speak.

25 LADIES LOVE TO SUCK ANTHONY’S KISS

Kiedis, a lifelong bachelor, has a list of exes that would make George Clooney jealous: Heidi Klum, Sinead O’Connor, Sofia Coppola, Ione Skye, Sporty Spice. His secret? Easy, says Smith. “He’s charismatic, handsome, powerful, rich and smart. If I were a woman, I’d get with him.”

26 WOODSTOCK ’99 WASN’T THEIR FAULT…

When the peace festival erupted into blazes and brawls, many blamed the Peppers’ riotous closing set, which they capped with a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire.” Not fair, says Smith. “There might have been one little bonfire waaaaay in the distance, like a mile away. But everyone we saw was having a great time.”

27…AND NEITHER WAS FRED DURST

The Peppers may have singlehandedly invented rap-rock, but that doesn’t mean they’re proud of all they spawned. “The world should not hold us accountable for limpbizkit,” Smith says with a laugh. “Please-it’s not our fault!”

28 THEY’RE ACCOMPLISHED THESPIANS

Flea has several screen credits to his name (The Big Lebowski, Psycho, The Wild Thornberrys), and Kiedis was a child actor who played Sly Stallone’s son in the forgettable Teamster drama F.I.S.T. “I went to his trailer to get into character with him,” Kiedis says. “He started screaming, ‘Get this kid outta here !'”

29 THEY ONCE MOONLIGHTED AS THE SPICE GIRLS

For Flea’s daughter’s tenth birthday-at the height of Spice Girl Mania -the band staged a mock concert, starring Flea as Baby Spice, Frusciante as Sporty, their drum tech as Scary and Kiedis as Posh. (Ginger had already left the group.) “Imagine these poor girls’ horror when they realized we were a bunch of grown men with beards and hairy legs,” Kiedis laughs. “They’re probably scarred for life.”

30 THEY LOVE L.A.

“Every single thing I write is about Los Angeles, either directly or indirectly,” Kiedis says. “We rehearse in the Valley, we record in Laurel Canyon, I’ve lived everywhere from Hollywood Boulevard to Malibu – it’s just in us. It’s a magical spot.”

31 THEY REALLY DO GIVE IT AWAY, GIVE IT AWAY, GIVE IT AWAY NOW

Since 2000, the Peppers have quietly donated a quarter of their tour profits to charity. “We try to focus on the kids, the environment, women, old folks – anyone who needs a little leg up,” says Kiedis.

32 THEY ARE IMPERVIOUS TO AGING

Despite a combined eight-plus decades of drug and alcohol abuse, the band look almost frighteningly fit. “Our performances are very physical,” explains Smith. “I saw Lynyrd Skynyrd on TV the other night, and they’re just these huge fat guys – they don’t jump around or anything”.

33 THEIR NINTH RECORD IS “JUST THE BEGINNING”

Stadium Arcadium is the band’s boldest statement yet: a sprawling double CD produced by Rubin in the same Hollywood mansion as Blood Sugar. “I think it’s our best ever, but it’s just a preview,” says Kiedis. “I’m still just a freshman in the college of music. We’ve got some other cool shit in us.”

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