In 1983, a bunch of sock clad, chemical infused white boys took the LA music scene by storm with their energetic blend of punk rock, rap, and funk. Spearheaded by the elastic slap grooves of a prodigal gap-toothed bassist by the name of Flea, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have since become one of alt-rock’s most commercially successful acts, with many regarding the bassist to be one of the greatest of all time.
In celebration of his 54th birthday, we trace Flea’s immense musical career to pinpoint the Australian-born wunderkind’s finest four string moments.
15. ‘Pretty Little Ditty’
This three minute cut from 1989’s Mother’s Milk showcases Flea and guitarist John Frusciante’s musical chemistry, combining melodic upper neck grooves with a scorching slap passage. This tune is also infamous for its interlude being sampled as the hook for Crazy Town’s 2000 hit ‘Butterfly’ – itself a key example of the lameness of rap-rock in its heyday.
14. ‘Go Robot’
A musical highlight from the Chili’s latest effort The Getaway, ‘Go Robot’ is an irresistible disco jam that features TWO insanely different bass lines being played simultaneously.
13. ‘Before Your Very Eyes…’ (Atoms For Peace)
Atoms For Peace awakened every alt-rock nerd’s fantasies in 2013, with members from Radiohead and Red Hot Chili Peppers (plus Beck’s drummer) forming to make an album full of Afro-beat infused electronic jams. Flea’s syncopated bass compliments the pulsing synths and Thom Yorke’s ghostly falsetto to create a memorably woozy opening track.
12. ‘Don’t Forget Me’
2002’s By The Way was a departure from the Chili Peppers’ previous funk stylings, with the band placing groove to the side to focus on melodic songwriting. A fan favourite in the band’s live set, ‘Don’t Forget Me’ centres around Flea’s uncharacteristically strummed bass line, interacting with Anthony Kiedis’ moody reflections on substance abuse to form a haunting musical soundscape.
This four-string funk workout breaks free from the monolithic (and often monotonous) guitar heavy mould of Stadium Arcadium, with Flea showing off some classic finger busting muted bass moves on this severely underrated Chili’s jam.
10. ‘Soul To Squeeze’
Fondly remembered by some from the soundtrack of the bizarre 1993 film Coneheads, ‘Soul To Squeeze’ is a soulful tune from the Red Hot Chili Peppers golden era, featuring some of Flea’s most melodic bass work from the 90’s. What a tune.
9. ‘Bust A Move’ (Young MC)
It’s often forgotten that Flea played bass on this Grammy-winning one hit wonder from Young MC back in 1989. Nowadays, this sample heavy tune acts as a time capsule to showcase the corny hip-hop aesthetics of the late 80’s – check out Flea’s stuffed animal pants in the music video.
8. ‘Hump De Bump’
Another groove infused number from Stadium Arcadium, ‘Hump De Bump’ echoes early Chili Peppers tracks by demonstrating Flea’s insanely diverse musical prowess, featuring both sizzling funk bass licks AND a tastefully jazzy trumpet solo.
7. ‘By The Way’
A staple addition to alt-rock FM radio, the title track from the Chili’s 2002 album is one which every budding bass player attempts to tackle at some point. Fusing a thunderous overdriven verse with a smooth fingerpicked chorus, ‘By The Way’ is undoubtedly one of Flea’s finest recorded moments.
6. ‘Sir Psycho Sexy’
Probably the most Red Hot Chili Peppers song ever written. This wah-wah drenched eight minute odyssey from Blood Sugar Sex Magik is by far one of the band’s best songs as a collective, featuring irresistible Bootsy-esque Q-tron bass, hormone teasing lyrical references, and a gorgeous Hendrix inspired outro. It really doesn’t get much more Chili Peppers than this.
5. ‘Get Up and Jump (Demo Version)’
Diehard fans rejoice! This deep cut from the Red Hot Chili Peppers first demo from 1983 is the second song the band wrote, epitomising the primal origins of the band. This hectic bass workout is a jaw dropping, thumb popping punk-funk workout that establishes Flea’s funk chops from day one.
Many fans were bamboozled with the band’s 1995 effort One Hot Minute, marking a departure from their funk rock sound to accomodate for guitarist Dave Navarro’s hard rock stylings. Nevertheless, Flea’s work on bass shines across One Hot Minute, with choice cut ‘Aeroplane’ being a slap bass highlight which certainly peaks at his minute long fret-spanning concluding bass solo.
3. ‘Mellowship Slinky In B Major’
Another fan favourite from Blood Sugar Sex Magik, this track shines a light on the rhythmic brotherhood of Flea and drummer Chad Smith. Despite often being overlooked, ‘Mellowship Slinky in B Major’ displays the Chili Peppers’ stripped back funk ethic of this era at its absolute best.
2. ‘Higher Ground’
This cover of the Stevie Wonder classic unarguably brought the Red Hot Chili Peppers from being underground LA cultists to internationally acclaimed funksters, as well as inadvertently creating the hybrid genre of funk-metal. ‘Higher Ground’ is spearheaded by the furious slap bass line provided by the man with the prodigal thumb throughout this track. Once again, watch for the stuffed animal pants in the music video.
1. ‘Around The World’
Textbook Flea. The opening track from 1999’s Californication begins with a gnarly distorted bass intro, then goes into a neck wrangling frenzied funk seizure, before settling on a sultry, tastefully plucked chorus – all within one minute. ‘Around The World’ showcases all that Flea has to offer and more, resulting his all time greatest bass moments.