Chili Peppers dig up roots in "Oral/Visual History"

Fri Nov 12, 2010 7:10pm EST
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Michael D. Ayers

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Most artists cringe at the idea of showing compromising photos taken in public, but rockers the Red Hot Chili Peppers relish the idea.

In fact, they've compiled many of those moments in their first book, "The Red Hot Chili Peppers: An Oral/Visual History."

The coffee table hardback, which recently hit bookstores worldwide, examines the band's storied career, starting with their early days in the Los Angeles underground punk rock scene through their rise to arena favorites in the 1990s and 2000s.

Known for alt-rock hits such as "Under the Bridge," "Give It Away" and "Scar Tissue," the band's early days were steeped not only in music, but in drug use, nudity and cross-dressing.

Chili Peppers bassist Michael "Flea" Balzary told Reuters that along with serving as a biographical account of the band, the book revels in a past where culture still existed within a localized scene and the band was just one more act among many.

"We started our band in 83 -- the Internet phenomenon of constant documentation didn't exist then," Flea said. "But still, we took pictures and we were a part of a scene that people took pictures of. (It) was a real colorful situation. There was a vibrant underground music scene, and it was very creative and not regimented or divided up into a bunch of different cliques, like it is now."

Throughout the band's early days, they had a few key personnel changes -- notably original guitarist Hillel Slovak died in 1988 of a heroin overdose. Original drummer Jack Irons permanently left the band soon after.

Lead singer Anthony Kiedis and Flea then recruited guitarist John Frusciante and drummer Chad Smith, the lineup that would record their first Gold album, 1989's "Mother's Milk" and 1991's breakout, "Blood Sugar Sex Magik."   Continued...

<p>The Red Hot Chili Peppers lead singer Anthony Kiedis performs during the Live Earth concert at Wembley Stadium in London, July 7, 2007. REUTERS/Stephen Hird</p>