Now, this is a story all about how
The world’s best band turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute just sit right there
I’ll tell you how they became…well, still my favourite active band but one that has been equal parts fascinating & frustrating over the last 17 years.
This is a story about a family, let’s call them the Radio H family. No no, that’s too obvious, the R Heads.
The eldest child, Pablo, started school in 1993. He was often quieter than his colleagues, was a self-described weirdo/creep, but was full of potential. He may not have seemed exceptional at the time but looking back, there was something special about him.
The second child started school in 1995. Even though his class was one of the strongest in recent memory, he still rose above the rest, producing work at quality levels rarely seen before.
Though the third child’s peers were not as impressive, he arrived to high expectations in 1997. And he did not disappoint. His work was different from his predecessor, yet on par if not superior. He dazzled, leading teachers to question what heights, previously thought to be unattainable, their students might be capable of reaching.
When the fourth child, let’s call him Kid A, arrived in 2000, he was greeted with bemusement. Why wasn’t he like his older brothers??? But after some time, the staff realized, hey, there’s something to this kid after all. His talents weren’t as immediately obvious but by finding a new path, instead of trying to emulate the successes of his siblings, that was something worth celebrating.
Unfortunately, when child #5 appeared the following year, the magic had gone. While he demonstrated he was tech savvy like child #4, he didn’t produce anything terribly memorable.
There’s nothing more exasperating than when a student doesn’t perform up to his or her ability; in this case at least, the child seemed more interested in experimenting than excellence. There were a few above-average moments during the year but for the most part, this was a child who had lost his way.
Teachers at the school wondered aloud if the family could ever regain its former glory. At least child #5 had left on a high note: with his final assessment, Life in a Glasshouse, there was reason for optimism.
Fortunately, our tale also has a happy ending. The staff would have to wait a couple years but in the end, children #6 & #7 (and hopefully more offspring still to come) would bring honour to the family name.
My thanks to the fictional Ben Wyatt and my non-fictional wife for inspiring this post!
Time to get back.
Back to where I (once) belong every September.
Back to school.
As you might have guessed, I’ve recently found myself singing The Beatles’ Get Back, in particular the line about California Grass.
I have a sneaking suspicion Sir Paul McCartney wasn’t talking about the school-approved GRASS method for problem solving. Nevertheless, I will conveniently pretend he was and use the GRASS method to try and figure out the Red Hot Chili Peppers and their fasciantion with the state of California.
Before listening to Californication, this is what I suspected would be the case:
Time for the GRASS method to see if my hypothesis is correct (and who says you never use this stuff in “real life”) :D
In 1999, The Red Hot Chili Peppers released the album Californication, produced by Rick Rubin. It marked the return of ace guitarist John Frusciante and was commercially and critically successful.
Based on the album title and Anthony Kiedis’s penchant for singing about his home state, do the lyrics actually contain any other words?
A: Application (what strategy will be used to solve the problem)
I will record the number of times the prefix “Californi-” is said/sung. Next, I will prepare a properly labelled line graph using Excel.
Here are my results.
I was pleased to see Kiedis was capable of name-checking other geographic locations. Although it seemed like California was referenced all the time, it turns out the state tends to feature prominently in the singles but not so much in the rest of the album tracks.
Confession: I like, but don’t love the Red Hot Chili Peppers. At least not when listening to music by myself.
That being confessed, I still admire them more than perhaps any other active musicians.
- Frusciante’s guitar work is never flashy but always exactly appropriate.
– Flea’s bass prowess is well documented and his turn as Needles in Back to the Future II & III remains criminally underrated
– Kiedis has that instantly identifiable quality that I look for in a lead singer
– And let’s face it, Will Ferrell can really play those drums!
For whatever reason, that admiration doesn’t translate into craving the Chilis.
I’d probably put them in the same respect-but-don’t-really-listen-to-category as The White Stripes.
In fact, I’ll borrow a rating I used in one of my White Stripes reviews: I’d be thrilled to listen to any of these Californication tunes…if it came on in a friend’s car.
This album reminds me of driving in cars with friends towards the end of high school. That sort of nostalgia rarely hurts an album’s case and this RHCP revisit was no exception.
It took some discipline not to shorten the subject to “R”tists.
It also took some editing to trim the list down to 5!
5. Refreshments, The
They may have over-committed to the ‘bandits on the run to Mexico’ motif but their two mid-90s records (Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big and Buzzy & The Bottle and the Fresh Horses) are keepers. Their King of the Hill theme song is also Top 5 Theme Songs-worthy.
Has there been a better trio?
There are better albums than Automatic for the People. But not many.
A band with 2 of my Top 5 albums. Tough to argue with those credentials.
The Chili Peppers and one of my least favourite Radiohead discs are up next, enjoy!
Well it took until album #338 but it appears I finally hit a point where the project felt a bit like work.
Through no fault of the album however; I am completely responsible for 3 reasons!
1) My self-imposed themes
Up until now, even in the alphabet series, I’ve had an abundance (or as Cheri OTeri would say on SNL, abbondanza) of choice. Alas with the ‘Q’s, I’d already completed the other albums and so this was my one and only option for a Q review. It’s the first time I felt I ‘had’ to listen to a record and as I move along with the project, I know it won’t be remotely close to the last.
2) I’m on summer holidays
My preferred way to listen to music in the summer? On my first generation 1GB iPod nano (not meaning to brag) while out for a run. I didn’t have a digital copy of this record and it was a struggle to fit in uninterrupted 50+ minute listening sessions indoors.
Vacationing without the right music on my iPod? Imagine the hardships!
3) I hang out with small kids
I enjoy when there is unexpected overlap between the 1001 albums & my daughter’s music selections. Last summer, there was a week of surprising Johnny Cash & Raffi parallels. This year, it’s Happy Trails and the Brave soundtrack.
We’ve had Brave playing in the car a fair bit recently. It’s a strange album format:
- It opens with a few minutes of more conventional songs/song structures
- These are followed by long instrumental stretches, occasionally dropping down to incredibly sparse almost inaudible arrangements. Just as I’m about to check the speakers, the bagpipes come blaring back in.
- I’m all for recurring themes and I enjoy variety in dynamics. When there’s at least one daughter sleeping in the car, I was hesitant to, to borrow a Christian Slater movie title, Pump Up the Volume.
As you might have guessed, replace ‘bagpipes’ with ‘lead guitar’ & ‘the car’ to ‘her bedroom’, and the above observations also apply to my Happy Trails home listening experience.
Although I initially considered complaining about the audio levels (the lead guitar tended to overpower the other instruments), I do appreciate when live recordings are kept as perfectly imperfect documents (a la Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison).
This Quicksilver Messenger Service record also doesn’t do anything to dissuade me from 1969 being anything less than the finest year for popular music.
I’m looking forward to checking this one out again at some point.
I’d say when it’s on my own terms but in this case, it’s my terms that were the problem!
With some help from a couple of princesses…
Last week I posted a “Q”uiz with the seemingly insurmountable challenge: without search engines/peeking at record collections, list as many “Q” artists as you can in 60 seconds. That is, artists without the 5-letter sequence Q-U-E-E-N.
Colour me impressed.
I managed a meager 2: Quiet Riot and Finley Quaye.
Many of you wow-ed me by topping my score, others restored my faith in humanity by confessing the inadvertent counting of ineligible groups.
One blogger takes the cake with 7 – congrats to Bruce @ Vinylconnection!
His quick-recall artists:
…that’s good enough for me!
There were a plethora of “P” artists but I had a bit of a quandary when I arrived at the “Q” artists.
So instead of me making a top 5, it’s time for a pop quiz!
If the quiz doesn’t go well, don’t be discouraged: I made the quiz and I only got a score of 2. If someone hits the elusive score of 5, my eternal respect!
The Rules (because what’s more fun than adhering to strict quiz policies):
1) No google searching/looking at computer playlists or personal record collections!
2) Set a timer for 60 seconds. Start the timer once you finish reading all the instructions.
3) Make a list of all the artists you can think of beginning with the letter Q that DO NOT contain the 5-letter sequence Q-U-E-E-N.
Once the 60 seconds have expired, write down the number of artists you were able to recall (but not their names!) in the comments section.
Your 60 seconds begin…now.
Thanks for playing!