August 16, 1989. Cali funk-rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers turn tragedy into triumph and put themselves on the map for their forth studio album.
You would’ve forgiven the band if they’d packed it in instead of packing into the studio. With the death of founding guitarist Hillel Slovak in June of 1988 and the departure of founding drummer Jack Irons soon after that, the Red Hot Chili Peppers had hit a low point. But instead of quitting, they hit the studio, with new recruits John Frusciante on guitar and Chad Smith on drums.
The sessions for Mother’s Milk were frenetic and fraught with friction. 19-year-old Frusicante clashed regularly with producer Michael Beinhorn, favoring funkier, slinkier guitar sounds over Beinhorn’s preference for heavy metal riffs. And the whole process was rushed, with the new members still trying to acclimate themselves to their roles in the band, all while while fine-tuning and recording songs.
The result, however, was so very together. If Blood Sugar Sex Magik was the Chili Peppers’ career-sparking grand slam, Mother’s Milk was the album that put the runners on base. “Knock Me Down” charted new, introspective territory for the band lyrically, and their covers of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” are, well, fire. Get lit below.