Review of ‘Out in LA’ by Hamish Duncan

Some of you may have seen posts mentioning a new book about the Red Hot Chili Peppers. ‘Out in LA’ is by Hamish Duncan and it’s an in-depth look at RHCP’s first year in existence. Here’s my review:
Short review: This is the best book ever written* on RHCP!
[*Tony Woolliscroft’s book, ‘Me and My Friends: Red Hot Chili Peppers’ is also amazing. This and ‘Out in LA’ are the two must have books on RHCP in my opinion. [I haven’t included Fandemonium here as it’s primarily about the fan base]. Tony Woolliscroft’s book is a very different work to Out in LA hence the * qualification. It’s a collection of the author’s memories of meeting & photographing the band along with a wide selection of his iconic photographs.]
Long review:
Very few people were there to see the inception of RHCP. As fans, we’ve pretty much all jumped on the RHCP bandwagon at some point later on. This book not only takes you back to the beginning, but it sits you slap bang right on the front row with VIP access to the first year of the band’s existence. And not only the band’s existence, but you’re fully immersed into the LA sub-culture of the time. I came away from each session reading it feeling like I’d actually been in LA witnessing the events portrayed as it’s so descriptive & informative (I was continually blown away by Hamish’s knowledge on so many areas).
It is well written, easy to read (but hard to put down) and the trained historian in me loves how excellently researched this book is. I knew Hamish was trawling through magazine articles on my websites but I had no idea just how well researched this was until opening the published edition. Everything is cross-referenced with notes, an appendix, et cetera (but done subtly so it doesn’t interfere with the narrative if you’re not interested in the minutiae of detail). Any inference made is clearly stated as such but with evidence given to support assumptions made (and to offer alternatives).
Probably the strongest point in this book is its use of primary evidence; band fliers and adverts in the press have been uniquely utilised to form and prove points made. Early photos were scrutinised and even a weather report used to suggest dates on one occasion. And probably most importantly, people who were there to witness the band’s early history have been given a voice. Their evidence (memories and photos) have led to unique details and insights. Fab, Gary Allen et al. are included and that’s exactly how it should have been.
This attention to original detail not only provides the foundation for the weaving of the vivid narrative, but it also throws up some shocking (for some especially as it goes against the traditionally accepted view), information. I knew Hamish has been postulating that RHCP began before their long accepted February 1983 date and I was like, “Yeah, whatever… I’m sticking to February ’83),” but I’m now fully convinced Hamish is correct because the evidence he’s amassed leaves absolutely no room for doubt; RHCP undoubtedly played their first concert in late 1982.
The book details the band’s creation and the concerts they played within that first year-in fact, everything is set against the chronological backdrop of said concerts. It talks about the writing process and the creation of their first songs (and when they were played live for the first time). It discusses the band’s rise out of underground obscurity while many of their fellow bands failed to do so. Recording demos, appointments of key staff & the signing of contracts are examined in a fresh way. It’s also fascinating to see names of friends and fellow musicians mentioned who we now know would later take on key roles throughout the band’s career e.g. several names mentioned are involved in The Silverlake Conservatory of Music today. It answers questions in new detail which have only been skimmed over before; most notably why RHCP, rather than the more likely What Is This, was the band which was the successful out of the two. It discusses the growing relationship between Flea and Anthony which has provided the rock of stability for the band throughout their whole career. Everything is included but it’s never overload.
I’m always concerned when sent an edition of a book with the intention I review it (I know Hamish intended it as a thank you but his publisher was hinting at a review). Even more so when I know the person who wrote it. “What if I don’t like it?” offers a dilemma of what I should then say in my review if that proves to be the case. But there was no such dilemma for this book and I would want to recommend it anyway as so many fans will appreciate it too and Hamish deserves the support for his incredible work.
Hamish ought to be the band’s official biographer. RHCP’s ‘An Oral/Visual History’ should have been produced to the standard of ‘Out in LA.’ It’s embarrassing for the band that a ‘mere’ fan can produce something of this high standard when they didn’t manage it themselves (yes, I know the sad details concerning its publication but someone really should have checked the content so it wasn’t published riddled with inaccuracies).
There are two drawbacks. One is that the book only covers 1983. I want one for every album/tour! (Although I know that’s an unreasonable wish because of sheer amount of work involved). The other drawback is that the people within the band are only represented through their words in interviews and autobiographies and they don’t always address the queries that crop up, but that isn’t Hamish’s fault. That fault lies with the band who are now so ensconced in their ivory towers that not only can’t mere mortals access them, but the stepladders have been cast aside so there’s no management you can easily contact for information either. And that point sadly also means it’s unlikely any of the band members will ever read this book. And that’s beyond a shame as it’s so exceptional. And if they read it, they might finally even use the correct date for their first concert they ever performed …
Please support Hamish’s outstanding work by buying this book. Any true Chili Pepper’s fan will be very glad they did!
This entry was posted in Red Hot Chili Peppers, RHCP General by Squitherwitch. Bookmark the permalink.

About Squitherwitch

I've been a RHCP fan ever since I heard Under The Bridge way back in the mists of time. I brought BSSM and then their other albums but RHCP were just another band I listened to (I was a massive GNR fan at the time) but that changed once I heard Californication! I've been involved with the online RHCP scene since 2006, getting more heavily involved as time passed, and eventually the time was right to set up my own website dedicated to the band and thus, TheChiliSource was born. Since then I've also set up along with various Twitter, Facebook & Tumblr pages connected to my websites and RHCP.