The very first time I saw, and heard the Red Hot Chili Peppers was in 1987.
The local video shop, Fountain Flicks, had a new release on the wall called Tough Guys, starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. Of course, I’d seen them in other films, both together and separately, but this looked like a comedy of sorts, it seemed a bit oddball. So, after reading the blurb on the back, I hired it, and ‘double taped’ it, as we had two VCR’s at home. I was a naughty boy at age 12.
In the movie, there’s a club scene with a band playing. Naturally, I thought the band was a ‘movie band’ as was often the case, but the name stuck with me because I watched that movie over and over. The band was the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
The song, "Set It Straight" was written for the movie and never released, but it resonated with me, as I was skating pretty hard at the time and discovering new music. I should mention, I didn’t know they were a real band yet. It wasn’t until a mate, Jason, played me "Fight Like a Brave" in late ’87 in high school, that I put two and two together.
It was unlike anything I’d heard. Especially the bass. It was so predominant and stood on it’s own. What was this? Funk rap rock punk? I was in.
I soon learned that the bass players name was Flea. And I bought an Ibanez bass guitar off a guy at school, Darren, because I wanted to be like Flea. I also soon learned that one does not simply buy a bass guitar and become Flea.
But here are ten RHCP tunes that prove Flea is one of the great bass players of all time.
Yes, this is one of the many covers the band has done over their time, but from the moment you hear Flea chomping at the bass, you know you’re in for a good time. This is a fantastic celebration of a great song and highlights his abilities and would be remiss of me to leave it out.
This is pure Flea magic. Beautifully intricate lines and passages that completely suck you in to thinking this song will go for longer than it does. It leaves you wanting more, and will have you replaying it over and over.
Like the rest of the world who was a teenager at the time, I fawned over this album. The cassette lived in my car until the CD replaced it, and then replaced it again with a CD because the first one got too scratched. What an album, what a song. I think it was this album that made me realize just how integral Flea was to the sound. No one could take his place in that band.
Easily the best song on the album. A return to roots and so infectious is the groove that I challenge you to sit still listening to it. I also think that watching Flea play only adds to his sound, he is the most manic live player, never sitting still, I love that and am envious of his energy. So awesome.
Who among us hasn’t done air bass and tried to replicate Flea’s bassline by mouth to this iconic and classic hit? Impossible not to. Boom, b-booom boom! That slide will getchya every damn time.
This album and tune were mixed a little more level than normal. What I mean by that is that whilst you can still hear the instrument separation, Flea’s bass has been brought back into the mix a touch. Still there, but not as ‘up front’ as it had been on previous songs. That is until the breakdown at around the 3:20 mark, then it’s guns blazing. Flea’s bass takes this from an ok song, to a ripper.
A much maligned album from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, despite featuring some great tunes, like Walkabout. The attraction to this, for me, was the simplicity in what was otherwise a sometimes dark and heavy album. This was laid back, fun, funky, and interesting, thanks to Flea’s walking lines. I always found this one better with headphones on so you can totally immerse yourself in it.
Put aside the raunchy lyrics of this absolute classic for a moment and focus on what is a sensational bass line. What makes it great? Apart from the line itself, Flea’s distorted wah effect is a hot topic of discussion amongst bass players everywhere due to being so unique in sound. For the tech heads, legend has it that it was a vintage Mu-Tron phaser that had a dodgy battery in it, combined with some overdrive. Please yell out if you know more!
I remember the first time I heard the intro to this I was ready for some serious heavy ball bustin… and then.. Ya got me RHCP. Ya fooled me. I thought you were going gangbusters but you stripped right back and got funky. And HOW! That staccato bass line from our man is an instant winner and serves the song beautifully.
Frusciante and Flea are at their complimentary best on this tune. Bouncing off each other effortlessly and to great effect. Still the best guitar/bass combo the band has seen by far. Fleas is on fire in this tune, using effects and clean sound to funk the hell out of this one. Turn it up and get into it.
There you have it, 10 rippers from Flea to cement his place in bass playing history. His body of work is so vast, however, that you could just name an entire album, like Blood Sugar, as an example of why he is great. Flea is so versatile and serves songs the way they should be served. With every over the top piece of brilliance, he can be as equally subdued, and that’s what makes him one of the best. As always, I’d love to hear your favourites of his, so please, load em up, the world needs more Flea!
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