Thursday, September 11, 2008

Under a Bridge with the Chili Peppers

As I mentioned last week, I recently completed a 96X Anthology or, as I affectionately call it, "The definitive musical chronicle of my youth and adolescence."

Remember all the awesome music from the 90's and the local station who played all your alternarock favorites? Yep, I made a gigantic mix of that in chronological order, '91-98ish. Thirteen Volumes. Done.

Anyway, I'm going to pick a song from each volume and talk a little about it...

Volume 1: Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Under the Bridge"
This single came out in the summer of 1991, in anticipation of the September release. While the rest of the world waited in pre-Nirvana purgatoroy, I was in summer camp, doing what seven year-olds do: making fun of girls, running real fast, showing disdain for figures of authority (insert "were you seven or twenty-four" joke here).

Anyway, Lausanne's summer camp had periods, like school. You know, music at 8am, ballet at 9am, whatever. After swimming outside (maybe 2pm?), we'd go to arts and crafts. Every day we walked into arts and crafts, the counselors (who seemed 35 at the time and were probably 16) had a radio on in the background. And every day as I walked into arts and crafts "Under the Bridge" was on. I didn't know anything about music at this point, I just knew that this song was on the radio at the exact same time every day and that the arts and crafts counselors liked it. To this day, that song smells like watercolors.

A few years later, it was the first song I learned on bass. "Under the Bridge" is kind of the "Stairway to Heaven" for nascent bassists--everyone learns it. It's good, and it's fun to play, and it sounds impressive, but it's not difficult to learn.

A year after that I picked up the guitar and fell in love with John Frusciante, realizing just how good he always was. The guitar work in "Under the Bridge" is not complex, but so incredibly sharp, and vibrant--it's really an intermediate lesson in rhythm guitar playing.

A few years after that, my interest in recording and producing picked up and (not coincidentally) I read a lot about Rick Rubin. How they recorded Blood Sugar Sex Magik, how he didn't like some of the older songs the band brought in and encouraged Keidis to create something new, to actually write from a more immediate and honest place. How they put this poem to music in the studio, and that became their first and biggest hit. How that's a great lesson for any artist--push yourself to do something newer, and more urgent, and more immediate. How to create lightning in a bottle.

The 9o's went on and the RHCP became one of the biggest bands in the world. 96X spun more and more of their newer hits, and "Under the Bridge" became the seminal, breakthrough song that everyone appreciates but nobody ever plays (too, you know, "obvious"). But it's always been my favorite Chili Peppers song, and the one that's meant something different to me at every stage. Great songs do that.

And it still smells like watercolors.

P.S. In what should've been the easiest layup on the planet six freaking years ago, Lucero just signed a four-album deal with Universal. Seriously, this is awesome news for them and I'm stoked. It just goes to show that if you do things the right way, make great music, move tens of thousands of records, sell out every major venue across the country, generate boatloads of critical acclaim and attract a huge overseas fanbase...major labels only take 10 years to find you. A tip of the cap to you, Industry.


Michael said...

Camp Lausanne! WHAT WHAT?!

I was a counselor there...and I was 35 then. Oh how the last -12 years flew by.

ross k. said...

Chris, good man. I am in full support of this new series, although I haven't had a chance to read everything till today. These were the bands and songs of my musical awakening as well, and curiously, 95.7 is also a kickass station in Louisville which I still listen to, although it was never alternative, it's dinosaur rock like Zeppelin and Floyd and Kansas.

Anyway, unlike people who just reminisce about the nineties, I think I'm neurologically nostalgic, meaning that I can't be sure that it isn't still the nineties. This probably explains why I don't have a phone, haven't heard a new record since 1998, and am still hoping to catch some episodes of Headbangers Ball and The State. Btw, did you notice Jon Stewart has this whole other show now?

This is fun. Keep it coming.

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