When the Red Hot Chili Peppers Got All ‘Freaky Styley’
After getting off to a shaky start with their self-titled debut, the Red Hot Chili Peppers began to find their voice with Freaky Styley, which came out on Aug. 10, 1985. While their sophomore effort didn't move a ton of units, it did prove to be a sort of calibration point that the band used to refine their sound afterward.
The band wasn't satisfied with the producer of their first album, Gang of Four guitarist Andy Gill, who kept insisting that the band simplify their songs to make them more radio-friendly. So, for their second album, they decided to shoot for the moon, requesting Parliament-Funkadelic founder George Clinton produce their second album.
After listening to some demos, Clinton agreed to take the job. Unlike Gill, and everyone else the band was considering, Clinton didn't push for a more easy-to-consume sound. Clinton and the Chili Peppers decided to go for broke. They got along famously, and Clinton proved to be a heavy influence on the album. Flea described his experience in an interview with the Guardian shortly after the album's release.
"The only click track we had was George clapping, stamping and dancing around us", he said. "And when he was in the control room, he’d scream into the mic, 'Yeah, kick it! Do it! Get deep! Throw it down!' When George is doing that in your ear while you’re playing, you just go [emits a pop-eyed, speed-crazed yelp!] 'Whooooho whoooheeeooh!' That’s great. George is really spiritual like that, which is why he’s 43 and still blowing it out."
While Freaky Styley, which saw original guitarist Hillel Slovak return after missing out on the first record, more closely represented what the band wanted to be doing, it failed to impress the masses. Its punk-rock take on funk and soul proved to be too strange a brew for the radio-listening public. But below the surface of the sea of radio plays and MTV videos, the Chili Peppers were picking up speed.
Around this time, the Chili Peppers were cultivating a reputation as perpetually horny, rude jokesters with a sense of humor that stopped developing sometime during puberty. That impression was bolstered by "Catholic School Girls Rule." Freaky Styley also contains a few covers, including their take on '70s funk group the Meters' Africa, which they titled "Hollywood (Africa)":
With Clinton at the production helm, the Chili Peppers had access to some amazing resources, including funk legend James Brown's horn section. The horns are especially effective in the the straight-up funk song, "The Brothers Cup":
Sadly, Slovak would record only one more album with the band before succumbing to heroin addiction. But the Red Hot Chili Peppers live on, now enjoying a spot among global rock royalty.
Red Hot Chili Peppers Albums Ranked in Order of Awesomeness