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Credit: GeHatNa

Music

Revisit the moment Red Hot Chili Peppers took on a blues classic

@TylerGolsen

California funk rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers had plenty of eclectic influences that helped shape their sound. First and foremost was the gonzo style of George Clinton, whose double act of fronting the bands Parliament and Funkadelic became the blueprint for much of the Chili Peppers’ early material. Flea had a punk background, briefly joining L.A. hardcore gods Fear, but also took lessons learned from Larry Graham to get his signature slap technique down. Chad Smith was originally a metal drummer, while John Frusciante was a fan of everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Captain Beefheart.

One genre that doesn’t seem to have pervaded the Chili Peppers’ sound is blues. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are not solemn or sorrowful: they’re high-energetic party animals ready to funk you up and lay you down. They’re pretty much the exact opposite of a blues band, living life to the absolute fullest and not letting the darker sides of the world bring them down. Sure, songs like ‘Scar Tissue’ and ‘Otherside’ deal with the harsh realities of addiction, but they’re not bluesy by any stretch of the imagination.

Anyone who stuck around to the very end of their blockbuster 1991 album Blood Sugar Sex Magik, however, got to hear the Chili Peppers take on a blues track that was recorded all the way back in 1936. Not only is ‘They’re Red Hot’ as genuine as old-school delta music gets, but it was also penned by the most legendary blues musician of all time: Robert Johnson.

‘They’re Red Hot’ was probably the most appropriate of Johnson’s songs for the Chili Peppers to cover considering it wasn’t a dark dirge-like ‘Hellhound on My Trail’ or a satanic ride through Hell like ‘Me and the Devil Blues’. Instead, ‘They’re Red Hot’ is basically a joke song, using the sale of hot tamales as a euphemism for sex. It’s the same kind of offbeat and lascivious goofiness that made the Chili Peppers the Chili Peppers, and the fact that the band’s name is partially in the song title certainly helps solidify the connection.

In order to capture the song, the band trekked all the way to the top of a Los Angeles hill just outside of their recording space to record the song early in the morning hours. Chad Smith doesn’t even use drum sticks, opting instead to simply slap out the rhythms of the song with his hands a-la John Bonham. The results are silly, simple, and a wonderfully wacky to end Blood Sugar Sex Magik.

Check out the Red Hot Chili Peppers recording ‘They’re Red Hot’ down below.