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(Credit: Stefan Brending)


Hear the isolated bass part from Flea on 'Tell Me Baby'


How the Red Hot Chili Peppers ever made it to 2006 is a complete and total mystery. To anyone who might have heard the upstart band playing around L.A. clubs during the early 1980s, this punk-funk-rap outfit seemed like nothing more than a goofy novelty band of bro-tastic white boys ripping off George Clinton any chance they could.

But somehow, after 20 years of surviving drug deaths, band changeovers, and even some broken bones along the way, the Chili Peppers stood triumphant on the other side to record 2006’s Stadium Arcadium, the final album from their initial run of global superstardom. Having stretched out their success through two decades, at least three major guitar players, and a boatload of albums, the Chili Peppers were somehow one of rock’s most resilient and reliable bands.

The Chili Peppers were right in their wheelhouse on Stadium Arcadium, knocking off thoughtful heartfelt tracks like ‘Snow (Hey Oh)’, wild funk excursions like ‘Hump de Bump’, Tom Petty pastiches like ‘Dani California’, and even some on-point uncomfortable forays into sexual politics like ‘She’s Only 18’. But one song managed to bridge the gap and combine everything that made the Chili Peppers great: ‘Tell Me Baby’.

Not unlike the title track to the band’s previous LP By the Way, ‘Tell Me Baby’ combines the more thoughtful and melodic side of the Chili Peppers with the funky and aggressively harebrained side of the band. The Chili Peppers had more sides to them than perhaps even they knew, and by the time Stadium Arcadium rolled around, they were more willing to exploit their diverse stylistic tendencies than ever before.

One member eager to show off his versatility was Flea. Forever loved as the bare-chested, bass-clapping, wild-face-making party animal that held down the low end, Flea had a distinctive style that carried him through most of his career. However, on previous tracks like ‘Scar Tissue’ and ‘Californication’, Flea had learned to lean back and play less busy lines. Since Stadium Arcadium was a celebration of everything that made the band special, Flea brought in both sides of his playing style on ‘Tell Me Baby’.

That includes the frantic slap-happy bass runs that Flea is synonymous with, as can be heard in the wildly loose verse lines. But on the song’s chorus, his ear for melody comes back, featuring contrasting parts that perfectly complement John Frusciante’s sparse guitar playing and Anthony Kiedis’ impassioned vocals. He’s still slapping, but it’s not just a rhythm deluge like his verse lines are. This is Flea bringing his chops together with his strange sense of restraint that he became an expert at employing throughout the 2000s.

Check out the flashy and funky bassline for ‘Tell Me Baby’ down below.