– Linden Horber-Safwat
The Red Hot Chilli Peppers. The band that made me worship music. Not just music but words. And if we’re being completely honest, it was the people singing the words that I worshipped the most. I worshipped the four guys that wore socks on their cocks, like I worshipped The Care Bears, as a kid, or more specifically, “Brave Heart Lion”. I remember it was the summer before Grade 11. We were going on a family trip to Germany. I was in one of those weird teenage phases where you hate everyone, and believe that the only people who understand you are the bands you listen to because their words are so “real” and “relatable”. I went on this trip believing that Anthony Kiedis (aka Antoine the Swan), was the only person who truly understood me. To compound my resentment, I lost my ipod on the plane on the way over which meant, for the remainder of the trip, anytime I wanted to listen to music, I had to carry around my laptop. And that’s exactly what I did.
My twin sister and I share everything: clothes, music, friends. We did (and still do) most things together. So when my heart was entirely, lovingly consumed with the The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and more specifically Antony Kiedis, I had to get my sister on board. He was unusual and freakish. He posessed this electricity about him that’s eutrophic and explosive. He embodied this, “I don’t give a fuck” personality and even stranger attire that made him hard to resist. There was something unconditionally sexy about a man with bronzed, wheat-like hair, who wore bizarre, unconventional, zebra print hats and bandanas, black shorts, high socks, and colourful 80’s high top Nike sneakers. Kiedis often wore no shirt at all. And if he did, he would rip it off, within two minutes of their set. Sigh. Über appealing to their audience, The Chilli Peppers wanted to be naked. Kiedis, who was the lead singer, (or as he refers to himself, the ‘poet’ in the band), was no exception.
My sister and I faced jet lag, we woke up early every morning. So I took this as the perfect opportunity to share with her what she’s been missing. I woke up, it was raining. Raindrops were falling down the sides of the windows. Fog was starting to form from the clouds. Staring at me was a blue boat, with red trim, dry docked, rusting in someone’s backyard. I got up, threw my bathrobe on, and washed my face. I clicked the kettle, opened the window, and called for my sister to come into the kitchen. We had our own little “apartment” in the house we were staying at in Germany. It was just my sister and I. The rest of my family was downstairs sleeping. I poured two cups of tea and set them on the counter. I opened up my laptop, and as she sat down I told her, “Listen”. I played my favourite Chilli Peppers song “Soul To Squeeze”. The melody of the song reminds me of a lullaby my mother sang to me as a kid. Slow but strong. I knew she would love it, and I was right. From then on, every morning of our trip we would wake up, open the window, make a cup of tea, and listen. Now, we were both fans.
The Red Hot Chilli Peppers were a rather late addition to my musical repertoire. My friends had already been listening to their music for years, but that never bothered me. I quickly became an encyclopaedia of all things Chilli Peppers and considered myself an ‘expert’ of the band’s work. I knew everything and anything, and what I didn’t know, I researched. I printed out song lyrics and memorized all the hits. Once I thought I had them down, I would throw on my “John Lennon” wannabe sunglasses, crank the tunes, and dance. My friend and I would send each other “SnapChats” back and forth playing their music and imitating their insane mannerisms on stage. (“SnapChat” is the social media app that allows for the senseless, reckless teen, to send a photo or video and have it disappear within 1-10 seconds of being opened.) And when people would say to me, “he’s like, 50 now”, (referring to Kiedis), I would respond, “So?”. In my mind he is just as sexy at 50 walking around in shorts and UGGS in the middle of summer, as I thought he was at 20 with his ragged hair, and calm, seducing baby face.
That summer was my second time reading Kiedis’s autobiography Scar Tissue. It was the jarring bolt that made me decide Anthony Kiedis was the man for me. His persona was mesmerizing. He was this completely deranged, unhinged mad man, mesmerized by the female body. Kiedis was constantly talking about the women he had fucked on tour describing one woman’s tits as “enormous missiles that projected out from her elbows to the end of her hand” (Kiedis 158).
I grew up sheltered in the privileged neighbourhood of Lawrence Park. School was only a five-minute walk, and my grandmother lived across the street. Perhaps that’s why I became so infatuated with the way this man acted, wrote and spoke. His experiences seemed so wild and unimaginable to me. His being on tour, doing drugs all day, everyday, fucking fans while they recite poetry to him. I was awestruck. Did I feel the same way all teenage girls felt at that age? Thirsty for male attention and fantasizing about ‘bad boys’. I wanted to rebel. I wanted to fuck that rock star. I wanted to do drugs. I wanted to be a groupie and go on tour. I wanted to move to L.A.
I’m watching interviews of the band, and I’m thinking, “Shit. These guys are really weird”. My initial obsession was based purely off looks, and then sound. But shortly after, it came from their weirdness. Maybe I thought, “Hey if these sexy, rich, famous musicians can be so weird, and that’s makes them cool, then maybe I can be too.” The Red Hot Chilli Peppers made it not just “ok” to be weird, but cool.
My mom was never a Chilli Peppers fan. In fact, she rarely listened to music. Although to her credit, when she did, it was usually Leonard Cohen (RIP), or Neil Diamond. Both appreciable. She says she didn’t hear the words when she heard the Chilli Peppers, all she heard was a lot of loud banging and fast talking that she couldn’t understand. I tried to get her on board. I failed. My sister tried. She failed. On a very rare occasion I would walk into the kitchen, and my mom would be sitting at the table, on her laptop, playing Leonard Cohen on YouTube. I’d say, “Hey ma”. “Whatcha up to?” Bopping her head to the music like one of those disturbing bobble heads while attempting to sing along, she’d say, “Your dad and I used to always dance to this song.” And then she’d keep singing Cohen’s, “you saw her bathing on the roof, her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya”. Anyone who knows my mother knows that she is horribly tone deaf, and the sound of her singing sounds like a cawing crow. Unfortunately I inherited the same lack of skill. Regardless, I am thankful for my mother’s love of Leonard Cohen because it made me a lover too. I’ll have to keep pushing her with the Chilli Peppers.
Every high schoolers music taste is forged from false pretenses of “cool” and “alt”. Everyone claims to be an expert of bands like Guns ‘n Roses, Aerosmith, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, The Stones, and The Beatles. It was considered “cool”. The goal was to be “alternative”. Being “alternative” became the high-school fad. It meant that you listened to rock ‘n roll and/or indie music, and dressed like a homeless hippie bum, mixed with a little bit of emo. Think Carly Simon mixed with Billy Idol. Both of which made no sense to me. It irritated me how people categorized people based off the kind of music they listened to, or whether they dressed a certain way. Who really cares?
One night, my friend was throwing a house party. I was in Grade 12 and I was wearing my friend’s Red Hot Chilli Peppers t-shirt. A guy at a party approached me and quizzed me on the band. I guess he thought I was a “poser”.
He asked me, “Can you even name all four band members?”
I laughed and responded, “Chad Smith, Anthony Kiedis, Flea, John Frusciante, and now Josh Klinghoffer has replaced John as lead guitarist. Nice try.”
I chuckled and took another sip of my drink. I got up to go tell my friends about the encounter.
“How annoying! Ugh I hate when people do that” I told them.
“Most ridiculous thing ever”, my sister responded.
This experience bothered me afterwards. If I wanted to wear a t-shirt that had a band on it, even if I didn’t listen to that band, why should anyone else care? Maybe I just liked the t-shirt. Why did I have to be an expert? What if I wasn’t?
The Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ debut studio album titled, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, released August 10, 1984. Their second album Freaky Styley debuted in 1985 featuring the song “Sex Rap”. Kiedis raps for one minute and fifty five seconds about sex. He roars lyrics like, “Time to swing a little melody, to make you all feel something sexually…..Open your legs to the sensual sounds, with the beauty of the beat on your pretty wet mound”. I first heard that song when I was fifteen. I had never done anything more than make out with a guy. Kiedis singing about making a woman come, and her wet pussy, was something that didn’t play on the radio everyday. I was attracted to Kiedis, because he was the one singing those sexual songs. He was the one who was talking about doing all those, freaky things, to women. That made him the sexy one. The one who women wanted to be fucked by.
Fandom is a strange thing. When you become obsessed with an artist, or an actor, or a band, as a teenager, they steal your every thought. All you do is dream about them. Wish that you could somehow meet them. Fantasize about randomly bumping into them on the street. Researching everything there is to know about them. They become a part of you. You not only want to be with them, but you want to be them. The Chilli Peppers were my ultimate obsession. They made me grow up. They talked sexually, they swore, they wore weird clothing, they did drugs, they fucked, and most importantly, they sang freely about it. They told us about it. They showed me it’s ok to be weird, to dress weird, talk weird, act weird, have sex weird. Anything goes.
I‘m seventeen and I’m sitting at home in my living room, my twin sister walks in and says,
“Hey, do you listen to Guns ‘n Roses”?
“Not really…..but I want to get into it”, I respond.
“Listen”, she says…..and all of a sudden the obsession begins to swell again…..and Sweet Child of Mine starts playing…..
Kiedis, Anthony, and Larry Sloman. Scar tissue. New York: Hyperion, 2004. Print.