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(Credit: Carlos Delgado)

Music

The first time John Frusciante ever heard Red Hot Chili Peppers

@josephtaysom

Red Hot Chili Peppers without John Frusciante is like a foot without a shoe, and as we’ve seen other the years in which he departed the band, they need him dearly to reach the summit of their capabilities. In a story akin to a boyhood dream, the Chili’s were a group Frusciante adored growing up, and little did he know that one day he’d be their guitarist.

Born in 1970, Frusciante is the youngest member of the Chili’s by several years, and he was just 13 when they formed. In the beginning, the band only managed to accumulate a cult fanbase with their eponymous album, which was released in 1984 and produced by the late Gang Of Youth leader Andy Gill. Despite their small following, a young Frusciante was one of them.

It seemed implausible that he’d be a member of one of his favourite bands in a few short years, yet that’s the John Frusciante story. Before him, the role of guitarist was a poisoned chalice in the band, but when Frusciante stepped up to the mantle, the Chili’s finally found the right person.

Hillel Slovak didn’t participate on their debut album because he wanted to focus on his other band, What Is This?, and only saw the Chili’s as a side project. Instead, Jack Sherman played on the record, but he didn’t click with the rest of the band. Shortly after, Slovak began to rue his decision and asked Flea if it would be possible for him to re-join the group, which was music to the bassist’s ears. However, his addiction issues worsened, and his behaviour became erratic before Slovak passed away in his Hollywood apartment in 1988.

This heartbreaking situation left the band grieving and opened the door for Frusciante’s arrival. In an episode of Rick Rubin’s Broken Record podcast, he opened up about his journey as a Chili Pepper and also recalled the first time he heard their work.”The first time that I remember hearing the name of the band was that I had a guitar teacher named Mark Nine,” Frusciante explained. “He was the only guitar teacher I was ever excited about, and I felt that I got good things from”.

Adding: “At the time that I started playing guitar, I was into punk, and every teacher I’d take a listen from would start insulting punk right away. I’d tell them it was my favourite music, and they’d tell me it wasn’t music”.

However, Mark was different, and he had previously played with Pat Smear, which made Frusciante hero-worship his tutor. He gave him recommendations, and without Nine, he might never have developed his obsession with the Chili’s. Frusciante continued: “At one point, he came and explained there was a band called the Red Hot Chili Peppers that he was auditioning for and hoping to get in. He played guitar and bass, so it got stuck in my head that he was auditioning for bass. About a year later, I saw the video for ‘True Men Don’t Kill Coyotes’ on MTV, and I was like, ‘Nobody could replace this guy’, but it turned out to be the guitar.”

After developing a friendship with Flea, Frusciante was asked to join the new look Chili’s line-up in 1988, and from the start, it was a match made in heaven. Although his relationship with the group has been a rollercoaster, there’s no doubt they desperately need one other.

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